Maryknoll priest Roy Bourgeois expelled over support for womenâÂ?Â?s ordination

(RNS) A long-running struggle between Catholic authorities and the Rev. Roy Bourgeois over his support for ordaining women has ended with Bourgeois’ dismissal from the priesthood and his religious order, the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers.

A statement from Maryknoll on Monday (Nov. 19) confirmed that the Vatican’s office for orthodoxy, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, laicized Bourgeois last month.

The move stems from Bourgeois’ participation in an August 2008 ordination rite in Lexington, Ky., for Janice Sevre-Duszynska. The ceremony was not recognized by the Vatican and took place under the auspices of a group called Roman Catholic Womanpriests, which rejects the church teaching on the all-male priesthood.

Three months later, Bourgeois was notified that he had been automatically excommunicated for his role in the rite. In the ensuing years, Bourgeois and Maryknoll engaged in intensive negotiations aimed at restoring his standing and keeping him in the order and the priesthood. But Bourgeois insisted that his support for women’s ordination was a matter of justice and he could not be silent.

“The Vatican and Maryknoll can dismiss me, but they cannot dismiss the issue of gender equality in the Catholic Church,” Bourgeois said in a statement published Tuesday on the website of the Women's Ordination Conference. “The demand for gender equality is rooted in justice and dignity and will not go away.”

“My conscience compelled me to break my silence and address the sin of sexism in my Church,” he said. “My only regret is that it took me so long to confront the issue of male power and domination in the Catholic Church.” Bourgeois called his dismissal “very difficult and painful.”

In its statement, the Maryknoll order, based near Ossining, N.Y., said it had done everything possible to work things out with Bourgeois. “With patience, the Holy See and the Maryknoll Society have encouraged his reconciliation with the Catholic Church,”

“Instead, Mr. Bourgeois chose to campaign against the teachings of the Catholic Church in secular and non-Catholic venues. This was done without the permission of the local U.S. Catholic Bishops and while ignoring the sensitivities of the faithful across the country.”

Maryknoll thanked Bourgeois for his 40 years of service as a member of the order and said that in “the spirit of equity and charity” it would help him in his transition to life outside the community.

The Rev. Thomas Doyle, a canon lawyer who represented Bourgeois in his dealings with Rome and Maryknoll, said the dismissal took him by surprise. Doyle told the National Catholic Reporter that he and Bourgeois met with Maryknoll's superior general, the Rev. Edward Dougherty, in June, and they did not discuss the issue of a dismissal.

“The idea then was that things would continue and they would not dismiss Roy and they would continue to dialogue,” Doyle told NCR. “And then this just happened, unilaterally.” He said Bourgeois “had no idea.”


About the author

David Gibson

David Gibson is a national reporter for RNS and an award-winning religion journalist, author and filmmaker. He has written several books on Catholic topics. His latest book is on biblical artifacts: "Finding Jesus: Faith. Fact. Forgery," which was also the basis of a popular CNN series.


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  • Both this action and its unilateral nature, so typical of Rome, will cause more scandal to the faithful than anything Fr. Bourgeois has done or said, especially in a Church where the majority of Catholics support the ordination of women. Sadly, Vatican officials just keep losing more credibility with these punitive ways. Perhaps church authorities can “dismiss” and “excommunicate” folks who speak in behalf of justice, but God will not.

  • The Church has rules, like the Ten Commandments and many others, including obeying Church teachings and tradition. There is a vast difference in discussion and out right heresy. – National Christian Association

  • Sr. Fran is so right! Many more ‘home-churches’ will come about, more will leave the church of their Baptism and up-bringing because of this kind of happening, many will find their way to a UCC church that has some ritual, responses that the Roman Catholic Church used to have, and a real welcome to ALL. Other’s will blend and do church in more than one setting finding what inspires and moves them into a real Christian response to all of God’s people. Adult believers won’t stay where they can’t grow, aren’t challenged, and/or where they are just plain board to tears. KatieD

  • It is always encouraging to see the oldest branches of the Church, the Orthodox and Roman Catholics, upholding the teaching of Scripture. And it’s a ray of light when half the women in the Church of England stand against the move to women bishops