.- The Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers have notified Father Roy Bourgeois he will be dismissed from their order unless he renounces his âdefiant stanceâ against Catholic teaching on the ordination of women.
Denver-based canon lawyer J.D. Flynn said the continuing disciplinary action against the excommunicated priest is about restoring justice and repairing scandal.
âThe issue is that Fr. Bourgeois is in a position of public ministry in the Church. He is perceived to be speaking for the Church. When he says things which arenât consistent with what we know to be true, it can lead people into sinfulness,â Flynn told CNA on Aug. 9.
âWhen the sacraments are simulated, we are all wounded by that,â he added. âAll of us in the Church suffer when we lose clarity about the sacraments and run into error. No priest should be permitted to lead us into error.â
Flynn said the disciplinary action is âreally about the Church trying to make clear that a person who is leading us into sinfulness is not acting as minister of the Church.â
Fr. Bourgeois is a human rights activist who founded the group SOA Watch which monitors the U.S. governmentâs training of military personnel in Latin America. He was excommunicated in 2008 for participating in an attempted ordination of a woman to the priesthood at a Unitarian church in Lexington, Ky.
Maryknoll superior general Fr. Edward M. Dougherty in a July 27 letter warned Fr. Bourgeois of his imminent dismissal on the grounds that he had shown âobstinate disobedienceâ to his superiors in violation of his oath about a âgrave matter.â The letter also cited his âdiffusion of teachingsâ opposed to the âdefinitive teaching of John Paul II and the Magisterium of the Catholic Church as well as the âgrave scandalâ he has caused to the people of God, to the Church, and to many Maryknoll priests and brothers.
The order gave the priest 15 days after receiving the letter to renounce publicly his stand on womenâs ordination, or face dismissal.
Fr. Bourgeoisâ Aug. 8 reply said that Catholic Church teaching âexcludes women from the priesthoodâ and âdefies both faith and reason and cannot stand up to scrutiny.â He said the teaching is ârooted in sexism,â which âlike racism, is a sin.â
He said the instruction to recant is âtelling me to lie and say I do not believe that God calls both men and women to the priesthood.â
âThis I cannot do, therefore I will not recant,â he said.
Flynn defended Catholic teaching, explaining that the Catholic Church âholds definitively that ordination is reserved to men only.â
âThis doesnât mean that Catholic Church thinks that women are less, or that that they have less of a role in church. What that doctrine really means is that we believe that people are called to different roles in the Church, different kinds of vocations, but they are all equal in dignity. Itâs St. Paulâs idea that there are many parts to the body.â
âWomen are called to many different kinds of ministry and service in the church and in the world, and so are men, but just as a man couldnât become a mother, which is perhaps the noblest vocation, a woman is unable to become a priest, deacon or bishop,â Flynn added.
The Catholic Church ordains only men âbecause Jesus ordained men,â he said. âWe take seriously the idea that genders are different and have different roles to play in the Church.â
He said that Jesus had âgreat love for women,â but didnât ordain even his revered mother Mary.
âIn following that example, we believe it was the intention of Our Lord to recognize the distinction between fatherhood and motherhood, between masculinity and femininity, to create men as deacons, priests and bishops in the Church.â
Flynn suggested that American society in general rejects Catholic teaching on ordination because it confuses âequality in function with equality in dignity.â
âWe believe that for people to be equal they have to be able to do all of the same things â¦ Weâve done away with the idea that people can have different functions and yet be equal in dignity and be equal in love of the Lord.â
This results in the loss of the idea that some roles are reserved for women and some roles are for men.
Fr. Bourgeoisâ case will proceed to the Vatican where he faces formal removal from the priesthood, a process known as laicization.
As an excommunicated priest, he cannot be a minister of the sacraments and his participation in the life of the Church is limited, Flynn explained.
However, he is still a member of the Maryknoll order until he is dismissed and he is still recognized as a priest under church law.
âThe process of laicization removes him from the clerical state, to clarify that he has no ability to exercise ministry in the Church,â Flynn said.
Bourgeoisâ excommunication was a âmedicinal penaltyâ intended to evoke repentance.
âWhen that didnât work, and only when that didnât seem to work, and Father perdured, did the Church begin the formal process sheâs using now, which is separating Father from the formal ministry of the Church,â Flynn told CNA.