Today is the sixth anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood, Aug. 9, 2008, the feast day of Franz Jaggerstatter, who I didn't know about until Roy Bourgeois spoke about him during the homily he gave in support of women priests. Franz refused to fight in the Nazi army because he was following his conscience. Roy says our conscience is sacred and he follows it to support the equality of women in our church as women priests.
Solidarity and love,
"The Vatican Dismissed This Man for Supporting Women Priests"
Huffington Post Aug 9, 2014
"Why shouldn't women be called to the Catholic priesthood?"
This is the question that Roy Bourgeois has been asking out loud since
the RCWP ordination of his friend Janice Sevre-Duszynska, six years
ago on August 8, 2008. It's the question that landed him in a
boat-load of hot water with the Vatican who insisted that he recant
his position. When he refused to, he was excommunicated despite
decades of exemplary service in the Catholic Church.
RCWP stands for Roman Catholic Women Priests: a grassroots global
movement that includes about 200 women priests, bishops and deacons.
The Vatican says their ordinations aren't valid and they have no
authority to lead; Canon Law 1024 clearly states that only baptized
males can be priests.
It's been almost two years since Bourgeois' defrocking by Pope
Benedict -- he likens this period of rejection and grieving to the
aftermath of a difficult divorce. Like others who suffer because of a
broken relationship, he's gradually healing from his painful
In June 2014 a new RCWP parish sprang up in Toronto -- one of nine
across Canada. This development, combined with the anniversary of the
event that caused Bourgeois' life to spin out of control, make it an
appropriate time to see how he's doing and hear his thoughts about the
growing RCWP movement.
Q: You've described your excommunication as a "painful struggle." In
hindsight, would you have handled things differently?
A: True, there have been many dark nights of the soul. Having said
that, I wouldn't have changed my position. I have no regrets. Our
conscience is very sacred; I was always taught that as a Catholic, and
it's our lifeline to God. Even with all the pain, rejection, and
loneliness, underneath there is peace in knowing you did the right
thing. I followed my conscience. I followed God.
Q: Even after all this rejection, you're still convinced that you're
on the right side of this issue?
A: Listen, the majority of Catholics in North America support the
ordination of women and the issue is not going away. How can we say
that women are not called? How can we say that when God says we are
equal? Think of Galatians 3:28: There is neither male nor female, you
are one in Christ Jesus. I keep coming back to the fact that this is a
matter of conscience. I have to follow my conscience to be at peace.
Q: Is it possible that none of your fellow priests share your views on
A: This injustice toward women and God had become so clear to me and I
used to go to my friends and say, "I think we have a problem." They'd
say, "Roy, it's not about equality, it's about roles. We're not
prejudiced, we just have different roles." And I would say, "Are you
sure it's not about power? Or sexism?" This all reminded me of my
growing up in the South during segregation when we would claim that it
wasn't racism at work, but of course it was. But back to my fellow
priests...the core of the problem of them not supporting me is that
they don't want to lose their power, privileges, and good standing.
Simple as that. Fear.
Q: This week marks the anniversary of the ordination of your friend
Janice. Tell us about it.
A: That event was a big breakthrough. I didn't just attend, I gave the
homily. Five women priests were ordained. I knew there would be
consequences. We gave thanks to God for calling Janice and to Janice
for accepting her call, especially at a time when so many of our
churches were closing because of a lack of vocations. I really
remember the joy there. It was so joyful.
Q: What do you make of the new RCWP community in Toronto?
A: The church hierarchy is not going to give up its power, so change
has to come from the bottom up, in part from courageous women like
these RCWPs in Toronto. It will come from people in the pews who
support the ordination of women. This movement cannot be stopped.
There were many who tried to stop the suffragette movement, including
leaders in the Catholic Church. But they couldn't. Same thing goes for
the civil rights movement. These movements were of God. They were
rooted in justice, love, and equality.
Q: RCWPs are not even "real" priests; how can they make a difference?
A: I'm so inspired by them. They're on to something important --
they're talking about something so basic that we as Catholics profess
but don't often live out. God created everyone of equal worth and
dignity, but over time we came up with Church teachings that
contradict that truth. These women are bringing us back to the idea
that "God is love" and that we are all one: the basics of our faith.
Q: Most Christian denominations have made significant strides in
women's leadership. For example, the Anglican Church recently allowed
women to become bishops. Why is the RC Church so averse to change?
A: I've been a priest for 40 years and I can assure you that we're
talking about a real old boys' club. When we enter the seminary, we
start to be seduced into seeing women as not being able to do what we
can do as men -- we don't even realize it's happening to us. It's very
subtle, but over time we begin to relate somehow to women as lesser.
Unfortunately, Catholic priests and bishops and cardinals...we're a
large group of bullies. We cause suffering to people. We make life
very difficult in support of Church teachings simply because we want
to hold onto power. That's what bullies do: they hold onto their
power. They don't want to be challenged.
Q: Are you optimistic about Canon Law 1024 being someday modified?
A: Yes. Something's got to give. The Church is in such a crisis, and
part of the problem is that we are so rooted in sexism. We're
dominated by a patriarchy that has lost its way. Any organization that
has oppression built into it can only go on for so long.
Q: Is Pope Francis' more progressive tone a sign of encouragement to you?
A: People, especially young people, have become more educated; they're
growing in consciousness. They are the key, not the Pope. Francis?
He's going to die just like all of us. He's a man. Yes, he has a
special charism and the Holy Spirit is at work through him, but he's
not infallible. We are the Church. We need good people to stay in and
push forward these ideals of justice, equality, and love.
Q: What would you say to liberal Catholics who are on the verge of
giving up on organized religion?
A: I understand where they're coming from. It's easier to leave than
it is to stay. But I'd say this: Please think about staying. We need
you. Let's not allow these bullies to claim ownership of our Church.
It's ours, not theirs.
Q: What's next for you?
A: I'm going keep fighting with these women. They give me a lot of hope.
CORRECTION: A previous version of the article read that Janice
Sevre-Duszynska was ordained in August 2002. The correct year is 2008.