The Rev. Roy Bourgeois, who refused to renounce his increasingly public campaign to see women ordained as priests in the Roman Catholic Church, has been notified of his dismissal by his religious order, the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers.
A letter to Father Bourgeois, signed by the superior general and the general secretary of the Maryknoll order in the United States, said the dismissal was necessary because of his “defiant stance” in opposition to church teaching.
“Your numerous public statements and appearances in support of the women’s priests movement continues to create in the minds of many faithful the view that your position is acceptable to our Church,” the letter said, adding that Father Bourgeois had caused the church “grave scandal.”
Father Bourgeois has gone further than any other priest in good standing to ally himself publicly with the growing women’s ordination movement. The group Roman Catholic Womenpriests claims to have ordained 120 women as priests and 10 as bishops in the last few years. The Vatican regards the ceremonies as illicit and invalid. Father Bourgeois participated in one such ceremony in 2008, and since then has given speeches around the country in support of female priests.
“They want two words: I recant,” Father Bourgeois said. “And they can’t get that out of me. For me, the real scandal is the message we are sending to women: you’re not equal, you cannot be priests, you’re not worthy.”
The case now moves to the Vatican for his formal removal from the priesthood, or laicization. Father Bourgeois said he had hired the Rev. Thomas Doyle, a canon lawyer known for testifying as an expert witness on behalf of victims suing the church in clergy sexual abuse cases, to represent him at the Vatican.
The order’s move, while expected, nevertheless surprised Father Bourgeois and some of his supporters who had hoped that the Maryknolls, often in the forefront of liberal causes, would stand with their fellow priest. More than 200 priests signed a petition to the Maryknolls saying that they supported his right to follow his conscience.
“I’m disappointed,” said Sister Beth Rindler, a coordinator of the National Coalition of American Nuns, a small group that has long called for women’s ordination. “I thought that with the support that Father Roy’s been receiving, maybe they would yield. It seems to me that the church is trying to teach that women are subservient to men, and I’m just surprised that they hold onto that.”