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Friday, April 08, 2011

Fr. Bourgeois will not recant

America magazine's blog has a post about Fr. Bourgeois and the letter he's written in response to the demand he recant his beliefs about women's ordination. I thought I'd post the letter here ......


Rev. Edward Dougherty, M.M., Superior General
Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers
P.O. Box 303 Maryknoll, NY 10545

April 8, 2011

Dear Father Dougherty and General Council,

Maryknoll has been my community, my family, for 44 years, so it is with great sadness that I received your letter of March 18, 2011 stating I must recant my belief and public statements that support the ordination of women, or I will be dismissed from Maryknoll.

When I was a young man in the military, I felt God was calling me to be a priest. I later entered Maryknoll and was ordained. I am grateful for finding the happiness, meaning and hope I was seeking in life.

For the past 20 years I have been speaking out and organizing against the injustice of the School of the Americas and U.S. foreign policy in Latin America. Over these years I discovered an injustice much closer to home – an injustice in my Church.

Devout women in our Church believe God is calling them to be priests, but they are rejected because the Church teaches that only baptized men can become priests. As a Catholic priest for 38 years, I believe our Church’s teaching that excludes women from the priesthood defies both faith and reason and cannot stand up to scrutiny for the following reasons:

(1) As Catholics, we believe that we were created in the image and likeness of God and that men and women are equal before God. Excluding women from the priesthood implies that men are superior to women.

(2) Catholic priests say that the call to be a priest is a gift and comes fromGod. How can we, as men, say: "Our call from God is authentic, but your call, as women, is not"? Who are we to reject God’s call of women to the priesthood? I believe our Creator who is the Source of life and called forth the sun and stars is certainly capable of calling women to be priests.

(3) We are told that women cannot be priests because Jesus chose only men as apostles. As we know, Jesus did not ordain anyone. Jesus also chose a woman, Mary Magdalene, to be the first witness to His resurrection, which is at the core of our faith. Mary Magdalene became known as "the apostle to the apostles."

(4) A 1976 report by the Pontifical Biblical Commission, the Vatican’s top Scripture scholars, concluded that there is no valid case to be made against the ordination of women from the Scriptures. In the Episcopal, Methodist, Lutheran, United Church of Christ, Presbyterian and other Christian churches, God’s call of women to the priesthood is affirmed and women are ordained. Why not in the Catholic church?

(5) The Holy Scriptures remind us in Galatians 3:28, "There is neither male nor female. In Christ Jesus you are one." Furthermore, the Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution on The Church in the Modern World states: "Every type of discrimination … based on sex. .. is to be overcome and eradicated as contrary to God’s intent."

After much reflection and many conversations with fellow priests and women, I believe sexism is at the root of excluding women from the priesthood. Sexism, like racism, is a sin. And no matter how hard we may try to justify discrimination against women, in the end, it is not the way of God. Sexism is about power. In the culture of clericalism many Catholic priests see the ordination of women as a threat to their power.

Our Church is in a crisis today because of the sexual abuse scandal and the closing of hundreds of churches because of a shortage of priests. When I entered Maryknoll we had over 300 seminarians. Today we have ten. For years we have been praying for more vocations to the priesthood. Our prayers have been answered. God is sending us women priests. Half the population are women. If we are to have a vibrant and healthy Church, we need the wisdom, experience and voices of women in the priesthood.

As Catholics, we believe in the primacy and sacredness of conscience. Our conscience is sacred because it gives us a sense of right and wrong and urges us to do the right thing. Conscience is what compelled Franz Jagerstatter, a humble Austrian farmer, husband and father of four young children, to refuse to join Hitler’s army, which led to his execution. Conscience is what compelled Rosa Parks to say she could no longer sit in the back of the bus. Conscience is what compels women in our Church to say they cannot be silent and deny their call from God to the priesthood. And it is my conscience that compels me to say publicly that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is a grave injustice against women, against our Church and against our God who calls both men and women to the priesthood.

In his 1968 commentary on the Second Vatican Council’s document, Gaudium et Spes, Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, said: "Over the pope … there still stands one’s own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else, if necessary, even against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority."

What you are requiring of me is not possible without betraying my conscience. In essence, you are telling me to lie and say I do not believe that God calls both men and women to the priesthood. This I cannot do, therefore I will not recant.

Like the abolition of slavery, the civil rights movement and the right of women to vote, the ordination of women is inevitable because it is rooted in justice. Wherever there is an injustice, silence is the voice of consent. I respectfully ask that my fellow priests, bishops, Church leaders in the Vatican and Catholics in the pews speak out and affirm God’s call of women to the priesthood.

Your Brother in Christ,

Roy Bourgeois, M.M.
P.O. Box 3330
Columbus, GA 31903



Blogger Jeff said...

Nor should he recant for merely saying what he believes. I'm surprised the Maryknolls are putting the arm on him so heavily. That just goes to show how much things have changed in recent years.

Meanwhile, Fr. Corapi's order (SOLT) has merely placed him on administrative leave while an investigation into misconduct with multiple women goes forward. With all the hue and cry in the blogosphere, you'd think he was being sent to the guillotine.

3:13 PM  
Blogger Denny said...

Thanks for posting Fr. B's letter, Crystal. I was not aware of the 1976 Pontifical Biblical Commission's report. The letter is very compelling. I never bought the "Christ never ordained women and so we can't either" argument... That was very, very "lame." So was the effort to drape this conclusion in papal authority.

For people like me, this calls for much thought and prayer.

3:41 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Jeff,

Yes, I wonder why the order is so ready to dismiss him. He has been what seems like a great Maryknoll priest - he won the Pax Christi USA Pope Paul VI Teacher of Peace Award and the Thomas Merton Award for his work.

Fr. Corapi - I was just reading about him somewhere. It does seem like it doesn't matter how bad you are, it's really about sassing the church that gets people in trouble.

4:50 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Denny,

Yeah, I hadn't known about that 976 Pontifical Biblical Commission's report either. I must look that up.

4:52 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Oh, I see the report can be found here ...

4:55 PM  
Anonymous Victor said...

Speak UP Lord Jesus but I for one, I mean my conscience knows why You chose not to have woman as priest and "IT" is not because God did not love woman as much as HE loves Men as some might believe.

"IT" is so easy nowadays to follow what we think our conscience desires and then bring out reasons from scriptures or from where ever that might claim to prove what You Lord Jesus really believe.

For example Lord Jesus, I believe that with the help of science, I can't prove that You Love each and everyone of my cells equally and if You so chose to, You Lord Jesus could place the universe in each and every one of them and that could be done by simply thinking about "IT".

I also believe that when some of Your cells yelled out while dying, My God, My God, why have You deserted me but I believe that You really didn't say those words, "IT" was simply human cells who had grouped together at the start and were determined to stay the course and Yes Lord Jesus, You gave them refuge and manage to convert them to Your Way of Thinking but sadly not all who suffered greatly during Your crucifiction on the cross with You were prepared to start again. They somehow have lost "Faith" and their conscience no longer care to accept the cross that you left for them over two-thousand years ago and every year during Lent You come for them and all they must do is wait at earth's milky way as alien gods that they NOW think they are and You'll give them Eternal Life.

Lord Jesus, my conscience believes that You are in about 5% of my cells and most would say that is not much control of my house but they forget that I've given "IT" all to You.

Now if to day, science was to count 5% of my reality cells, they might say that "IT" comes to about 150 Trillion cells and my conscience believes that you could give each and everyone of them Eternal Life and for good measure throw in the universe by simply thinking about "IT" but does that make "IT" right for me to think that way. "Am I" wrong to think that way? I'm sure that probably millions could team UP and their conscience would tell them that I'm wrong and some might even want to put me to death if YOU let them Lord Jesus.

Well Lord Jesus, You know that I could go round and round probably chasing my tail around as a spiritual dog who was born in 1946 and as long as You're with me Lord Jesus, "IT's" perfectly Ok!

So can we hear from You Lord Jesus and please don't be too hard on U>S (usual sinners) if our conscience is wrong.

I guess as usual crystal, we'll have to continue to agree to disagree but is "IT" not wonderful what our conscience can think about as we go round and round with God's Help and we only need to answer to the God we chose if we're wrong? :)

Keep praying for me crystal cause I'm going to go and pray for you NOW.

God Bless Peace

6:49 PM  
Blogger crystal said...


Yes, I will. Thanks :)

10:11 PM  
Anonymous Henry said...

Hey Crystal! How is your Lent going? I haven't been checking blogs and/or writing on them but I decided to take a quick look today.

Thanks for the link to the post at America site - the comments there and here are interesting. One there, by this guy Juan Lino struck me and I thought I'd share it here so that you and your readers can hear "the other side" - here's his post:

I thought I’d share another point of view on this situation by posting what one wrote on another blog. I especially encourage everyone to listen to the talk he mentions in his post:

“I would like to give a little history of my struggles with the idea of “women priests”. After 25 years of Atheism I came back to the Catholic Church in 2005. I did not understand everything that the Church taught and was advised by a very devout Priest to study reliable Catholic books especially the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Catechism and daily Mass helped tremendously and I grew in my love for the Church. However I could not find anything that, for me, would adequately explain the Churches teaching against women becoming Priests.

Then in 2007 I came across Peter Kreeft’s talk Women and the Priesthood. (

This 64 min talk answered all my questions and I recommend it to anyone still looking for answers.

Halifax, NS, Canada

If you listen to it, send me an e-mail or post a quick note here (I'll check your blog later today but then I won't be checking blogs again until after Easter) and let me know what you think.

Have a blessed Easter my friend! I wish you and your sister His immense and gratuitous peace!

11:08 AM  
Blogger Mike L said...

I would just say that neither did Jesus choose any Germans as Apostles, or any gentiles for that mater, but we can manage to ignore that.


Mike L

4:07 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Mike,

How are you?

Yes, Sandra Schneiders, a NT scholar at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley wrote a paper on that theme - about Jesus and who he picked, and how it could just as easily be said that he only wanted Jews to be apostles, etc.

5:41 PM  
Blogger cowboyangel said...

Good for him. What a bunch of absolute crap. If only the people making these decision would have to stand before Christ and explain themselves.

7:39 PM  
Blogger crystal said...


8:17 PM  

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