LGBTQ+ Catholics recall ‘tremendous damage’ Pope Benedict XVI caused during his ‘painful’ reign

Pope Benedict XVI died aged 95.

By Patrick Kelleher

Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned as head of the Catholic Church in 2013, died on Saturday (31 December) aged 95, the Vatican confirmed in a statement.

As tributes poured in for the Pope Emeritus, LGBTQ+ Catholics recalled how his time in the Vatican marked a dark, painful era for queer people.

Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of LGBTQ+ Catholic organisation DignityUSA, said Pope Benedict XVI’s words harmed queer people and damaged families.

“The death of any human being is an occasion of sorrow. We pray for Pope Benedict’s soul and express our condolences to his family, friends, and loved ones,” Duddy-Burke said in a statement.

He refused to recognise even the most basic human rights for LGBTQIA+ people.

“However, his death also calls us to reflect honestly on his legacy. Benedict’s leadership in the church, as Pope and before that as head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), caused tremendous damage to LGBTQIA+ people and our loved ones.”

Pope Benedict XVI leads the Ash Wednesday service at the St. Peter's Basilica on February 13, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. Ash Wednesday opens the liturgical 40-day period of Lent, a time of prayer, fasting, penitence and alms giving leading up to Easter.
Pope Benedict XVI leads the Ash Wednesday service at the St. Peter’s Basilica on February 13, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican.

She continued: “His words and writings forced our community out of Catholic Churches, tore families apart, silenced our supporters, and even cost lives.

“He refused to recognise even the most basic human rights for LGBTQIA+ people. Many of us experienced the most harsh and blatant religiously justified discrimination of our lives as a result of his policies.”

Pope Benedict XVI labelled queer people ‘objectively disordered’

DignityUSA pointed out that, as leader of the CDF, Pope Benedict XVI was responsible for a 1986 letter which labelled gay men and lesbians as “objectively disordered”.

The same letter said same-sex sexual relationships were “intrinsically evil” and “essentially self-indulgent”.

It is impossible to overstate the damage Pope Benedict’s repeated dehumanising of LGBTQIA+ people has caused.

Furthermore, DignityUSA condemned the former pontiff for banning the distribution of condoms by Catholic health and social services agencies – a move which impacted the spread of HIV.

In 2012 – during his final year as leader of the Catholic Church – he spoke out against same-sex marriage, saying it “destroyed the essence of the human creature”.

He also said allowing same-sex couples to adopt represented an “attack” on the “traditional family”.

“It is impossible to overstate the damage Pope Benedict’s repeated dehumanising of LGBTQIA+ people has caused,” Duddy-Burke added.

Pope Benedict XVI attends his final general audience in St. Peter's Square on February 27, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican.
Pope Benedict XVI attends his final general audience in St. Peter’s Square on February 27, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican.

“Individuals, families, and whole communities across the globe suffered tragic consequences, many of which are still felt today.

“We pray that the church will use the period of reflection following Pope Benedict’s death to acknowledge that in many cases he used his power in ways that failed to further the gospel message of love, human unity, and the responsibility to care for the marginalised.”

‘God’s Rottweiler’

Pope Benedict was a polarising force within the Catholic Church, and he was dubbed “God’s Rottweiler” during his time as pontiff for his careful adherence to traditional interpretations of church doctrine.

One of the biggest challenges he faced when he took over from Pope John Paul II was to tackle various sexual abuse scandals within the church – but he ultimately failed to take appropriate action.

In January 2022, a report found that he failed to take action against priests who abused children during his tenure as archbishop of Munich, even though he knew of allegations against them.

Honouring Pope Benedict XVI now is not only wrong. It is shameful.

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), an organisation that advocates for survivors, described Pope Benedict XVI as an “abuse enabler” in a press release shortly after news of his death was confirmed.

“Any celebration that marks the life of abuse enablers like Benedict must end,” the group said.

“It is past time for the Vatican to refocus on change: tell the truth about known abusive clergy, protect children and adults, and allow justice to those who have been hurt.

“Honouring Pope Benedict XVI now is not only wrong. It is shameful.”

Complete Article HERE!

In US, sharply contrasting views on Benedict XVI’s legacy

By DAVID CRARY

In the United States, admirers of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI remembered him warmly for his theological prowess and devotion to traditional doctrine. However, some U.S. Catholics, on learning of his death Saturday, recalled him as an obstacle to progress in combating clergy sex abuse and expanding the role of women in the church.

Professor Kathleen Sprows Cummings, director of the University of Notre Dame’s Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism, depicted Benedict as “a man of unwavering faith, deep conviction and towering intellect,” yet added that he left “a complicated legacy.”

She noted that last February, following a report that implicated him in the cover-up of sexual abuse during the years he served as Archbishop of Munich, Benedict “acknowledged his failure to act decisively at times in confronting sexual abusers.”

Steven Millies, a professor of public theology at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, noted that Benedict – before becoming pope – had a lead role in enforcing church discipline at a time when the sex-abuse crisis was making headlines in the U.S. two decades ago.

“When he was elected to succeed John Paul II as pope in 2005, Benedict XVI was the person who was most knowledgeable about clergy sexual abuse.” Millies said via email. “Yet, the crisis continued to fester throughout Benedict’s papacy past his resignation in 2013 and even today.”

Millies suggested that Benedict’s most important legacy was his resignation, arising from “his recognition that he could not fix the abuse crisis or accomplish much else in the face of the deeply entrenched power of the Vatican’s centralized bureaucracy.”

Archbishop Timothy Broglio, who heads the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, and is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, praised Benedict as “a superb theologian” and recalled how the announcement of his resignation “shocked the world.”

“He recognized the great demands made of him as the chief shepherd of the Universal Church of a billion Catholics worldwide, and his physical limitations for such a monumental task,” Broglio said in a statement. “Even in retirement, retreating to live out a life in quiet prayer and study, he continued to teach us how to be a true disciple of Christ.”

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who was appointed archbishop of New York and nominated as a cardinal by Benedict, praised the pope emeritus as a “erudite, wise, and holy man, who spoke the truth with love.”

Dolan held a special Mass for Benedict at St. Patrick’s Cathedral; its bells tolled 95 times before the Mass — reflecting Benedict’s age when he died.

President Joe Biden — a church-going Catholic who differs with church teaching on abortion and some other social issues — issued a statement evoking a meeting with Benedict at the Vatican in 2011. Biden recalled Benedict’s “generosity and welcome as well as our meaningful conversation.”

“He will be remembered as a renowned theologian, with a lifetime of devotion to the Church, guided by his principles and faith,” Biden added. “May his focus on the ministry of charity continue to be an inspiration to us all.”

Monsignor Kevin Irwin, dean emeritus at Catholic University of America, called Benedict a “theology professor extraordinaire… a clear thinker who was a quiet contributor to the church’s continuity after Pope John Paul II.”

Irwin said Benedict’s resignation left him stunned.

“But, in the end it was about understanding he was overwhelmed and letting him go,” Irwin said.

Monsignor Stephen Doktorczyk, vicar general for the Diocese of Orange in Southern California, remembered Benedict as a gracious leader who had the ability to build bridges and foster reconciliation.

“There was this unfair perception that he was there to cut people off at the knees,” said Doktorczyk, who served for five years — from September 2011 to December 2016 – in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican office responsible for processing clergy sex abuse complaints. “He tried to be a peacemaker. When there was a way to reconcile, he tried to look outside the box.”

Others were more critical, including Kate McElwee, executive director of the U.S.-based Women’s Ordination Conference, which seeks to enable women to be ordained as Catholic priests.

“For many Catholics, Pope Benedict’s papacy is a chapter of our church’s history that we are still healing from,” McElwee said. Her statement asserted that Benedict, as head of the Vatican’s doctrine office and as pope, “orchestrated a rigid campaign of theological suppression on the question of women’s ordination, creating a culture of fear and pain within the church.”

Also offering a harsh judgment was David Clohessy, a longtime leader of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

“In more than 30 years as a mighty Vatican bureaucrat – nearly 10 of them as the world’s top Catholic figure – Benedict enabled countless child sex crimes and cover-ups to continue by virtually refusing to publicly expose even one child molesting cleric or a complicit church official,” Clohessy said via email.

“With his extensive power and bully pulpit, he could have prevented hundreds or perhaps thousands of kids from being sexually assaulted. But he didn’t. Instead, he chose, time and time again, to side with ordained clergy over vulnerable children.”

The Survivors Network’s leadership, in a statement, said honoring Benedict now “is not only wrong, it is shameful.:

“Benedict was more concerned about the church’s deteriorating image and financial flow to the hierarchy versus grasping the concept of true apologies followed by true amends to victims of abuse,” the statement said,

The leader of a Maryland-based group that advocates for LGBTQ Catholics, Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry, noted that Benedict — prior to his papacy — helped shape a document that called homosexual orientation as ”an objective disorder” and a Catechism describing sexual activity between people of the same gender as “acts of grave depravity.”

“Those documents caused — and still cause — grave pastoral harm to many LGBTQ+ people,” DeBernardo said,.

Complete Article HERE!

The Catholic Church expelled me for supporting women joining the priesthood

Father Roy Bourgeois discusses his life of religion and activism.

By Chris Hedges

As a young man, Roy Bourgeois enlisted to fight in the Vietnam War. After being injured, he became a volunteer at a local orphanage and was inspired to become a priest upon his return to the US. Bourgeois became a priest in Bolivia during the dictatorship of General Hugo Banzer. He decided he could not be an apolitical priest. He spoke out against Banzer’s political repression, leading to his arrest and expulsion from Bolivia. Back in the US, Bourgeois organized protests outside Fort Benning, Georgia where the US was training Salvadorian soldiers to fight the leftist insurgency. He was imprisoned twice for illegally entering the base during planned direct actions against the war. In 2012, Bourgeois was excommunicated by the Catholic Church for supporting the ordination of women.

Roy Bourgeois is an American activist, a laicized Roman Catholic priest, and the founder of the human rights group School of the Americas Watch (SOA Watch). He is the author of Stop the Killing: My Journey from Silence to Solidarity and Male Supremacy in the Catholic Church: An Insider’s View.

Studio: Adam Coley, Cameron Granadino, Dwayne Gladden

Post-Production: Dwayne Gladden, Adam Coley

Transcript

Chris Hedges:  Welcome to another podcast from The Chris Hedges Report. I’m Chris Hedges, and you can find more of my work at chrishedges.substack.com.

When one makes a commitment to become a Christian, he or she, if they are serious, are required to lift up and bear the cross. This is not a rhetorical thing. If you take this call seriously, it means a life in perpetual opposition to power, including the institution of the church itself, and a commitment to always stand with those the theologian James Cohen called “the crucified of the earth”. It is a hard and lonely road, one that will see you, if you truly stand with the oppressed, soon treated like the oppressed. Roy Bourgeois takes this call seriously. He has paid the price. Born in a small Cajun town along the Mississippi River in Louisiana, he played football in high school, and after graduating from the University of Louisiana, joined the Navy eventually ending up in Vietnam as a lieutenant where he would be wounded.

Vietnam, he writes, became a turning point in his life. He worked in his off-hours with a Catholic priest and two nuns who ran an orphanage, seeing in their work a compassion and love that was in stark contrast to the violence and death of war. He went to seminary and became a priest. He worked in the slums in Bolivia during the US-backed military dictatorship of general Hugo Banzer. He decided he could not be an apolitical priest, only saying mass and baptizing babies. He spoke out against the political repression, leading to his arrest and expulsion from Bolivia. This was just the start. He organized protests outside Fort Benning, Georgia, where the US was training Salvadoran soldiers to fight the leftist insurgency. He illegally entered the base to broadcast a taped message by the assassinated Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, calling on Salvadoran soldiers to stop the repression, an act that saw him sentenced to 18 months in prison.

In 1990, he entered the base again, sprinkling his own blood along with the blood of other protestors, including medal of honor winner Charlie Littky, over photographs of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and daughter murdered by US-backed death squads in El Salvador. He went to prison for another 16 months. He defied the Catholic hierarchy by actively supporting the ordination of women. And for this act of justice, he was expelled in 2012 from the priesthood.

Joining me to discuss his remarkable life of resistance and his steadfast fealty to the Christian call is Roy Bourgeois, author of Male Supremacy In The Catholic Church: An Insider’s View.

So Roy, I want to begin early on in the book where you don’t talk about it in detail, but I’d like you to explain it. You are in a, I believe, a barracks or somewhere, you’re attacked. I think there are eight people who were killed, you yourself are wounded. Can you tell us what happened?

Roy Bourgeois:  Yes. I was transferred to the space thinking it was near Saigon, I would be safe there. But then I learned there was no safe place to be in Vietnam. And one night, actually it was about 4:00 in the morning, we were attacked, and we just had to take cover. We were trained to do that just in case this would happen. And it was totally by surprise, and I regret to say that some friends were lost, there were a number killed, many wounded. I was very fortunate, I was among the wounded. But really, that experience causes one to really reflect. And I began to realize how fortunate I was to… I remember then just months later my year in Vietnam had ended, my tour. I was four years in the military as a young lieutenant, and I was going home. And as that plane left Saigon, returning a plane load of us to return back home, many of us wept. We were alive. We lost some friends there, and we were just grateful to be alive. It was a new beginning. It was a new beginning.

Chris Hedges:  So as you know, my father was a Presbyterian minister. He served in World War II. What was interesting about him and his generation is that so many of the other ministers around him came out of the experience of war and entered the church because of their experience in war. And I’m wondering if Vietnam served that same role for you?

Roy Bourgeois:  It was a turning point in my life. I mean, I volunteered to go to Vietnam. I didn’t have to go. I was two years aboard ship after I became a young officer. I went to Greece at a NATO station for a year. And then when they were asking for volunteers, I believed our country’s leaders. I was also very conservative, traditional Catholic. Many bishops like Cardinal Spelman, they were calling for, saying that the cause was noble. That it was a noble thing to go there to stop the spread of communism. I believed them and I went.

And I later learned, especially after that experience there and meeting Father [Livier], caring for all these children, a few hundred children, I would go there with my buddies to try and help them with food and medicines. But I began to see the war for the first time through the eyes of the victims. And this priest had a big influence on my life. I had never met someone like him. He was a healer. He was really, in a sense, I was learning for the first time the meaning of that word, solidarity. Solidarity. And I talked to an Army chaplain. My fourth year was coming to an end, I expected to make the military a career, but that changed now. I wanted to become a missionary priest like Father [Livier] here and be a healer in our world, a peacemaker. And I came home and later joined the Maryknoll Missionary Order.

And I just felt again, once again, it was a new beginning. I was alive. And when I entered the seminary, I must say my life had a lot of meaning. I felt joy and hope once again.

Chris Hedges:  There was a line in your book that I thought was important. You’re at the orphanage, you’re volunteering your off-hours with this Catholic priest and the nuns, and you say that he wasn’t trying to convert anyone to Catholicism, most of these people were Buddhists. And I thought that was really an important point. It’s about bearing witness. I want you just to expound upon that.

Roy Bourgeois:  Yeah, I was just very moved because, to be very honest, I was never that, while I grew up a traditional Catholic in Louisiana and we were taught never to question the church’s teachings. But this priest was the first priest I ever got to know. And what really inspired me was that he was just filled with compassion for the children who were being killed. So many of their parents, these were orphans, their parents had been killed by our bombs and napalm and our bullets. And he was a healer. He stood out. He was from Canada and had been in Vietnam for years. He had gone there as a young missionary priest.

And one thing that inspired me, too, he was not trying to convert these children who came from Buddhist families. He wanted to just try and get them to be healed. Many of them were sick, wounded by our bombs, again. And he stood out. And I thought, really, I no longer wanted to spend my career in the military. I started thinking of being a missionary priest like this priest. And I talked to an Army chaplain about doing that, and he recommended the Maryknoll Missionary Order headquartered in New York, New York, with missions in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. And I remember I just felt, wow, this is what I want to do. And I returned home again feeling some new hope, joy. And it was again, once again, a new beginning. I was alive.

Chris Hedges:  Let’s talk about seminary, because when you entered seminary 40-plus years ago – Maryknoll no longer, I think, has a seminary – Vocations have fallen dramatically. This will get to the whole point of your book in many ways. But let’s juxtapose what it was like in the seminary in terms of vocations, in terms of the strength of the church and what’s happened today.

Roy Bourgeois:  I mean that was way back in 1966 when I entered the Maryknoll community, I went to their seminary in Glendale, Illinois, outside of Chicago. At that time there were over 300 seminarians. They had over a thousand priests working in Asia, Africa, Latin America. Well that has all changed. I mean today, fast forward, there’s only 16 seminarians, only four in the United States. The seminary has since closed. They’re down to 250 priests. The majority, more than half of the 250 are over 70 years old. In short, Maryknoll is on life support. And Maryknoll is just a microcosm of what’s going on in the bigger church, the Catholic Church.

Once again, I think because it became clear, but not in the seminary. When I went to the seminary, we didn’t question the all-male priesthood. We didn’t have a problem with women, but something happened to us over the next six years, as I look back on that experience. Little by little being put on a pedestal, we were told that we were special, called by God, and what we could do, women could not do. We were the chosen ones to be leaders in the faith community. And again, little by little we become addicted to… I could see that as I look back, addicted to power. And how we began to see women as a threat to our power and very privileged lifestyle. And that addiction to power only accelerates, really, when we become ordained and we are treated differently. And it took me years, actually, in the seminary. We didn’t really have anyone calling for the ordination of women.

But then it was years later that I began to meet very devout Catholic women in my ministry. And as a priest, I must say I was very happy. I found the meaning and the joy and the hope I was seeking in life and went about my ministry and got a lot of support from the Maryknoll community. My fellow priests working on this issue of the School of the Americas military, US military involvement in Latin America and how we were causing a lot of suffering and death. And when we started the School of the Americas Watch protest and went to prison, I among the many, my fellow priests supported me, came to our vigils at Fort Bennings to protest.

But something happened when I began to meet Catholic women in my ministry talking about this injustice of US foreign policy in Latin America. I discovered an injustice closer to home. It was in my church, the Catholic Church. I began to meet devout Catholic women who said to me they were called like I was to the priesthood. And what I heard from these devout women, many of them in the movement I was a part of, the School of the Americas Watch, it kept me awake at night. I began to ask basic questions: who are we as men to say that our call to the priesthood is authentic, but the call of women is not?

Galatians 3:28, the holy scripture said very clearly, it’s not complicated. It says very clearly that men and women are created of equal worth and dignity. They’re one. They’re one. Men and women are one, and both are called, of course, to the priesthood. And I started to ask my fellow priests, why can’t women be ordained? And I remember I thought I would get a better response, but I underestimated… Let me put it this way. I underestimated the depth, the depth of the sexism and the misogyny in the church and in the priesthood. I was quite surprised at the resistance and the anger I got when I started asking my fellow priests, why can’t women be priests? As we’re called, they too are called. And that was only the beginning of my being expelled from the priesthood.

Chris Hedges:  Well, you eventually take part in a kind of ad hoc ordination service for women, and this leads to your expulsion. You write in the book, “The crisis in the Catholic Church is not complicated. If the patriarchy that dominates the church is not dismantled and women are not treated as equals, the church will continue to diminish and eventually die.”

Roy Bourgeois:  That’s what I began to see. It became very clear that we were in trouble. The Maryknoll Missionary Order was but a microcosm of the larger Roman Catholic Church. It’s in a crisis. And at the core of that crisis is the all-male priesthood. At the very core is male supremacy. And how men, how we somehow… We were not that way when we entered the seminary, something happened to us. And of course over the years, many of the ordained priests left and married, and they of course were expelled and they did not fear women or see them as a threat. They married and they were expelled. Somehow I just cannot see Jesus expelling someone in front of one of his followers who said that he was going to get married, that they had to leave the community. But let me just say the church is in a big crisis. The sexual abuse scandal, of course, contributed to that. But at the very core is the all-male priesthood, men who see women as a threat.

Chris Hedges:  You write, “Among the thousands of Catholic priests who raped and sexually abused thousands of children, the vast majority were not expelled from the priesthood or excommunicated. Every woman who has been ordained as a priest in the Catholic Church has been expelled and excommunicated by the Vatican.”

Roy Bourgeois:  Yes, I was very upset, in a sense saddened by the letter I got from the Vatican. After I attended, it came to the point where it was time to cross the line, and I did the unspeakable. I actually attended the ordination ceremony of one of the many women called by God to the Catholic priesthood in Lexington, Kentucky. And her name is Janice [Seversisnisky], a longtime Catholic, a teacher in school, and a longtime friend. And when she invited me to attend her ordination, I thought about it. I knew it was a serious invitation and I could get in trouble. And I wrote back after much reflection and said, it would be an honor. And I went, and hundreds came for the ordination.

But when I returned from the ordination, I was summoned. I was summoned by Maryknoll to go to the headquarters. I had to go before the Superior General and the General Council, the leaders of Maryknoll. And they sent a report to the Vatican, Pope Benedict, who was Pope at the time. And it didn’t take long. They sent the report and I had to explain the ordination ceremony was the same as when we were ordained, and it was such a joy for everyone to be there. But I must say my fellow priests did not share our joy. They were very upset, very angry. And they wrote to the Vatican about my participation in this ordination. And it didn’t take long to get a letter from Pope Benedict, the Vatican, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In the letter stated that I had caused grave scandal in the Catholic Church by believing in the ordination of women.

Chris Hedges:  I want to ask you about El Salvador. It’s where we met. I was covering the war. You were very involved in Salvador, you started the America’s Watch. But before, I just want to, as an aside, you’ve also been very outspoken about GBLTQ, right? So one of the things you did, you write about in the book that I thought was great, you wrote to all your friends in the priesthood who you knew or assumed were gay and asked them, you don’t have to come out of the closet, but you do have to stand up for GBLTQ rights. And of course I believe none of them did.

Let’s talk about Salvador. You go to El Salvador on a fact-finding mission. There was a famous moment where you disappeared in El Salvador. I think you went off with the FMLN or something. But talk about Salvador, and it of course deeply affected me, I was there for five years. And you just became one of the champions after that visit. And of course set up this… because Salvadoran soldiers were being trained at Fort Benning, but talk about Salvador.

Roy Bourgeois:  After being expelled from Bolivia after my ministry there for five years, I must say I came back to the United States and then became very involved in El Salvador after Archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated, gunned down at the altar while saying Mass. And just months later, four US church women were raped and killed by the Salvadorian military. And two of them, Moira Clark, Anita Ford, were Maryknoll sisters, nuns, and good friends. And I must say what happened to them really was very serious.

It was then later that I went to El Salvador, and I had never seen anything quite like El Salvador, reminded me of the violence and the death of Vietnam. But when I came back from El Salvador, I could not be silent. It was a slaughter of the innocents. And what hurt too was to see my country, the United States giving millions of dollars in military aid, and of course training the military [inaudible] at the School of the Americas at Fort Benning.

And when I was invited to go to El Salvador on another trip, that’s when I was invited to join the landless farm, the Compacinos, who were being killed, to go off with them. And that was very serious. I was missing for a while, I was alive, but way out in the mountains, and they thought I had been killed. I was alive. And when I came back from that experience, it was another great opportunity to let the people know in the United States that we have to speak out, and our silence on US foreign aid, military aid to El Salvador was a grave injustice.

When there’s an injustice – This is what I learned – When there’s an injustice, silence is complicity. And I couldn’t be silent about El Salvador. I couldn’t be silent about this issue of the all-male priesthood. Silence when there’s an injustice is complicit in that injustice. But I came back, I must say once again, death is very close in El Salvador. I came back grateful to be alive, grateful.

Chris Hedges:  I want to talk about prison. Your first bout in prison, you get out and go to, I believe to a Trappist monastery. I think you last about five months, which is five months longer than I’d last there. But talk about the effect of prison on you. There’s a wonderful line in there, I think, where you said that you were freer in prison than you were in seminary. Is that right?

Roy Bourgeois:  I know prison, family and friends, I know it was a hard thing to understand, and I’ve always appreciated that sort of unconditional love from my family, my dear parents and two sisters and a brother in Louisiana. The support I got from them and friends. Going into prison, protesting and going to prison for nonviolent protests is very difficult for a lot of people. But for us, it’s trying to be true to ourselves, to be true to our experiences in life, which is different from others. And I and others have been in the movement, over 250 who have crossed the line, done protests and gone to prison. I’ve served a total of a little over four years in federal prisons over the years.

But to be very honest, when I got to prison, I did well. It was some of the best retreats I’ve ever had. I’m a great lover of solitude, I’m an activist, but I really feel in my life it’s important to have quiet time. And prison was a time to… I was in solitary confinement for a couple of months, and that was challenging. But there, too, I was able to read. I had access to books of the great theologians like Thomas Merton and many others, John of the Cross, and men and women, really what was spiritual… Gave me courage there.

And I always got out of prison feeling, though this happened when I got out of prison, I was in solitary confinement, and became very much of a contemplative. And there was a time when I got out of prison, I thought I was being called to the contemplative life. And I used to make retreats with the Trappist monks in Georgia outside of Atlanta. And I joined their community thinking this is where I was being called. It was all leading to this, Vietnam, Bolivia, El Salvador was leading to the monastery to be a contemplative monk.

But I was there only five months and I realized that I’m not a full-time contemplative. Meditation, silence, solitude, spiritual reading is very much, very important to me. But I’ve got to integrate that in my active life. Most people do not live in a monastery, are not full-time contemplatives, but we need some quiet time, especially at the end of a long day. So many called family members, friends, couples, and I too have learned, tried to learn to keep that balance.

But I came back from the monastery, it was a good experience, and returned to Maryknoll, and really got much more involved in the protesting of US foreign policy to Latin America – With the support of my Maryknoll community, I must say. But when it came to the issue of, again, women being treated as equals, honoring and accepting the call of women to the priesthood, they just couldn’t somehow handle that. And that’s when I got in big trouble. I was told, in a letter from the Vatican, Pope Benedict said that I must recant my public support for the ordination of women, my belief that women can be ordained. I had 30 days to recant or I would be expelled from the priesthood. And I remember going on a retreat, giving it a lot of thought, and going to the Trappist monastery to think about that. On return, I realized I could not recant. This would be a betrayal of my conscience. It would do violence to what I believed in.

And I wrote the Vatican and said, what you’re asking of me is not possible. Our loving God calls both men and women, both men and women to the priesthood. We are created equal. And I will honor that. And that day will come, I said. But what hurt, too, was how I and all the women are automatically excommunicated, expelled, but the many, many priests who raped, sexually abused thousands according to the USA, in the US alone, over 5,000 Catholic priests raped, sexually abused over 12,000 children, and these priests were not excommunicated, nor were the bishops who knew of their crimes and just transferred them to another parish. And of course that had caught up with the church. The truth comes out. And a big part of the crisis in the Catholic Church today, of course, is that sexual abuse scandal, combined with the all-male priesthood. And the church, if it does not change and start ordaining women, it will go the way of the dinosaurs.

Chris Hedges:  I want to talk about Pope Francis. He’s good on many issues, but not on the ordination of women.

Roy Bourgeois:  Exactly. He’s light years ahead of Pope John Paul or Pope Benedict on many issues. He’s much more progressive. But as the CEO of the all-male priesthood, his position on their ordination of women is no different from Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul. In fact, he quoted them, Pope John Paul, he said, and Pope Benedict said, “The door to ordination is closed.” He said, I agree with them, the ordination of women, the door is closed, women cannot be ordained. And that hurt. That hurt.

But let me just say if right now that the church is in a crisis, as I mentioned Maryknoll is closed and many of its missions in Asia, African, and Latin America, they’re down to 250 priests, and more than half are in retirement. And the seminary that I attended, the two seminaries, they’re closed. They’re closed. There are no vocations coming in there. Again, Maryknoll is but a microcosm, and if priests will not be ordained in the Roman Catholic tradition and women will be ordained and treated as equals, the church will continue to diminish and go out of existence.

Chris Hedges:  Do you still think of yourself as a priest?

Roy Bourgeois:  Well, they tell us when we are ordained, thou art a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek, thou art a priest forever. And they teach us this in the seminary. And the many who married, so many, over half of the Maryknoll priests who were ordained are now married. And many of them continue to be good friends, and some of them continue to do mass, say mass for small communities. And so many of us have been expelled. But when we are taught in the seminary, and I feel I was a priest for 40 years and another six years in the seminary, and that has been my life. I feel a lot of hope, but my hope is not coming from the priest or the Pope or certainly not the bishops. They’re not going to change. They’re so addicted to their power, they’re not going to change.

My hope is coming from young people, in Latin America, the change came not from the oppressors but it came from the oppressed, from the bottom up, not from the top down. I learned that in Bolivia, in El Salvador, Nicaragua. And I see this with so many young people. In my own family, nieces and nephews are not a part of the church because of the church’s teaching when it comes to the LGBTQ community, when it comes to women. It’s not complicated theology. So many people in the Catholic Church, especially now, our gay sisters and brothers and women, they are not treated as equal, and there’s a cost for that. And right now, again, many Catholic churches are closing. Where I grew up, there were three churches, back then there were seven Catholic priests. They’re down to one priest. And that church will eventually close real soon because they don’t have the priests coming in to do the work.

But I do believe, perhaps not in my lifetime or during this interview, this is going to happen. But I have no doubt that the Catholic Church will one day have women priests, and they will also have to change that church teaching that homosexuality is a disorder. I remember, let me just touch on that. I remember meeting, after being expelled from the priesthood, I was invited to give many talks. But this mother and father got on your side and wanted to talk and said that their son, high school senior, had committed suicide. He was gay. They accepted him no problem. But they were Catholic, and the priests where they went to mass would ridicule and really was very cruel toward the gay people. And also at the school there was a lot of hurt.

And they said, they told me, I’ll never forget what they said, that the Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality played a part in the suicide of their son. And that prompted me to write to many longtime priest friends in Maryknoll. I was with the community, what, 40 years, and many of them are gay. And I wrote to them and asked in a respectful way, could you please break your silence for young people and call for the church’s teaching to change? God created everyone of equal worth and worth in equality, and there are no exceptions. And the way we, the Catholic Church, is treating, and our behavior, our LGBT brothers and sisters, it’s uncalled for and it’s cruelty. It’s a heresy at its worst.

And I must say I’m sad to say that very few of the gay priests responded to my letter. They too are accepted in Maryknoll, in the priesthood, but on one condition: they cannot break their silence and go against their church’s teaching. And they know if they do, the same will happen to them where they are going to be expelled. They are going to lose their power and many privileges as a Catholic priest. And they are not willing to risk losing their powers. So they are silent. Silence when there’s injustice is complicity. And I just hope that one day they can break their silence.

Complete Article HERE!

Young Catholic Priests In America Are More Conservative Than Older Generations, New Study Finds

By Kate Anderson

A recent study from the Austin Institute (AI), a research group at the University of Texas, showed newer generations of Catholic priests are more likely to be conservative than their older counterparts, despite the leadership of Pope Francis and the Vatican becoming more liberal in recent years.

The study was based on a similar survey from the Los Angeles Times in 2002 that found younger priests were noticeably more conservative and showed that as the age of the priests increased they were likely to identify with a more progressive approach. AI’s study found that among issues like abortion, younger priests still condemned the practice at a high rate in comparison to other issues.

Priests ordained after 2010 expressed concern regarding the direction Francis is taking the Catholic church.

“In the latest cohort of priests, ordained in 2010 or later, only 20.0 percent ‘approve strongly’ of Pope Francis and nearly half (49.8 percent) disapprove, whether ‘somewhat’ or ‘strongly,’” the study pointed out. “Evidence from other survey items suggests this pattern is attributable to the relative conservatism of the recent cohorts.”

Pope Francis became the first Vatican pope to endorse same-sex civil unions in 2021 and in August, he selected then-Bishop Robert McElroy for the position of cardinal. McElroy has voiced support for same-sex marriage and female roles in the clergy, and has denounced Archbishop of the San Francisco Archdiocese Salvatore Cordileone for denying communion to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over her support of abortion.

AI’s survey concluded that there was a “notable conservative shift on ecclesial matters” in comparison to the Time’s survey in 2002.

“[P]riests in the more recent survey were, on average, less in favor of female deacons, less in favor of ordaining women as priests, and less favorable toward married priests compared to the 2002 Times sample,” the study stated. “Likewise, when asked about politics, priests in the recent samples were significantly more likely to describe themselves as conservative compared to 2002.”

Pope Francis speaks as he leads the weekly audience in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican, October 14, 2015. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
Pope Francis speaks as he leads the weekly audience in Saint Peter’s square at the Vatican, October 14, 2015.

Conservative priests were more likely to believe that Jesus was the sole way to salvation at 82% but only 19% of more progressive priests supported this view, according to the study. The average age of new priests that joined the clergy since 1992 is around 37, as opposed to the 1970s when new priests were on average 27.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Austin Institute did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

Complete Article HERE!

Excommunicated

— The women fighting to be priests

By Valeria Perasso and Georgina Pearc

Anne Tropeano is ironing her clothes in preparation for a busy day ahead. She gets out her white alb and her ornately embroidered chasuble, garments worn by Catholic priests around the world. On a calendar on her wall, bold red pen marks that tomorrow is “Ordination day”.

But she is also on the phone hiring a security guard for the service in a church in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she lives – as she anticipates there could be hostility.

“It’s a tense issue, not everybody is open to even considering the possibility of women being called to priesthood,” she says. It’s not only harassment in person that Tropeano is concerned about. Since sharing her hopes of becoming a Catholic priest, she says she’s experienced “breath-taking” online harassment.

Tropeano is one of over 250 women across the world who are part of the Roman Catholic woman priest movement, a group who are taking part in unauthorised ordination services to become priests, in an act of defiance against the Roman Catholic Church.

The Catholic Church does not allow women to be priests. In fact, the Vatican sees it as a serious crime in canon law that is punishable by excommunication. This means the women, once they’ve taken part in an ‘ordination’, are unable to receive the sacraments, including communion, or have a church funeral.

Anne Tropeano
Anne Tropeano campaigns to ‘expand the symbol of the Roman Catholic priest to include the body of a woman’

“Excommunication was the reason I wasn’t able to entertain becoming a priest for a long time,” she says. “I was going to mass every single day. I worked for a parish, my whole life was in the church. So to think about giving that up, I couldn’t even really imagine it.”

Tropeano is a devout Catholic, who after years of doing other jobs including managing a rock band, felt the call to priesthood: “I would hear this. You are my priest, you are a priest. I want you to be a priest.”

The only option open to her as a woman was to serve the Church in another role – such as a nun or as a lay contributor to her diocese. Or she could walk away from Catholicism entirely, to another Christian denomination that would welcome her as a priest.

After years of personal discernment, she realised the limitations of the Vatican rules were not going to let her live out this call: “Once I recognised that this was the next step, the excommunication was just part of the journey.”

Tropeano, and other women like her, are also seeing their choice to be ‘ordained’ as a way to campaign against what they consider a sexist rule by the Church.

Olga Lucía Álvarez in her ordination as a bishop
These ordinations are considered illicit and not recognised by the Vatican

From Reform Judaism to many Protestant denominations, other faiths are open to the ordination of women. Yet for the Catholic Church the ban on women’s access to priesthood is based, among other arguments, on Biblical records that Christ chose his 12 Apostles only from among men, and the Church has gone on to imitate Christ ever since.

For Tropeano, the impact of this rule is far-reaching.

“By the Church teaching through its actions of excluding women from [priestly] ordination, it’s teaching that women are inferior. Women learn this, little kids learn this, men learn this… So they go out into the world and they live that way.”

Ceremony on a cruise

The movement for women priesthood gained visibility in 2002. A group of seven women took part in an illicit ordination service aboard a ship on the Danube River, on international waters to avoid conflict with any ecclesiastical region.

Yet there were reports of previous secret ‘ordinations’, such as Ludmila Javarova’s, who during the Communist rule of Czechoslovakia in the 1970s took part in a service led by a Roman Catholic bishop.

The women’s ordination movement is now mostly a European and US group, but it has expanded its representation in other parts of the world.

Colombian Olga Lucía Álvarez Benjumea was the first female ‘priest’ in Latin America, a bastion for the Catholic Church with more than 40% of the 1.3 billion global Catholic population.

Olga Lucía Álvarez at the altar holding a chalice in her hands
Olga Lucía Álvarez says mass in community centers in Medellin, Colombia’s second largest city

Her ceremony in 2010 was a secret, but she says she has got support from the Church’s local hierarchy: “There was a bishop… a Roman Catholic whose name we do not say so as not to get him in trouble with the Vatican.”

“I was very afraid that people would suddenly start insulting me or throwing things at me at the altar, in this very conservative society I live in.

“So the support I received from people was a great surprise, and that strengthened and reinforced my mission,” says Álvarez. She has now been promoted to bishop within the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests (ARCWP), which is not recognised by the Vatican.

Álvarez comes from a very devout Catholic family but had the support of her mother, a former nun. Her brother, a priest, gave her a gift of a chalice which she sees as a form of silent support.

Álvarez is insistent that there is nothing in Scripture to exclude women from the priesthood: “It’s a human law, a Church law, and an unjust law need not be adhered to.”

This is a sentiment shared by the Women’s Ordination Conference (WOC), a group that lobbies the Vatican for women’s access to the priesthood through calls for dialogue and demonstrations.

Women hold a sign saying Ordain Women
The Women’s Ordination Conference lobbies to change Vatican rules

Executive director Kate McElwee says her favourite work is what they call the Ministry of Irritation – which has seen supporters doing everything from releasing pink smoke during the Conclave to lying in the road as the Pope’s motorcade came through the city. For their actions, they have been detained by Vatican Police.

“We walk with these women in their vocation and they’re waiting for the Vatican to open its doors and really confront its sins of sexism,” says McElwee. “But meanwhile for other women it would be impossible to wait, the call is so loud and so clear from God that they have no choice but to break an unjust law.”

A ‘closed door’

The Church sees these ordinations not just as illicit but also invalid.

After the Danube Seven story became public, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict, declared that since the women gave no indication of repentance, “for the most serious offense they have committed, they have incurred excommunication”.

Pope Francis has himself ruled out a woman ever serving as a priest. In 2016, when asked about any chance this could change, he referenced a 1994 document from John Paul II that said that the “door is closed” to women’s ordination, which the Pope said “stands”.

Cathedral in Medellin during mass
The Catholic Church reserves most of its hierarchical roles solely for men

Sister Nathalie Becquart works from an office in Vatican City, with a picture of her and Pope Francis behind her. In February 2021, she was the first woman to ever be appointed as an Under Secretary to the Synod of Bishops, a body which advises the Pope.

She puts the current position on women priests simply: “For the Catholic Church at this moment, from an official point of view, it’s not an open question.”

“It’s not just a matter of you feeling you are called to priesthood, it’s always a recognition that the Church will call you to be a priest. So your personal feeling or decision is not enough,” says the French nun.

Sister Becquart is one of a few women given key senior roles under Pope Francis’ pontificate. Her position makes her the first woman in the Vatican with voting rights.

She believes there is an evolution happening, allowing more women to take up leadership roles, yet roles that are “disconnected from ordination.”

Sister Becquart
Sister Becquart is the first woman to be appointed as an Under Secretary to the Synod of Bishops

“I think we need to broaden our vision of the Church. There are many, many ways for women to serve the Church,” Sister Becquart says.

But she also notes that change is never easy, and always faces “fears and resistance”.

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What does the Catholic Church say?

  • Catholic doctrine, or its legal interpretation, reference priesthood as being a prerogative of men – stating that “a baptized male alone receives sacred ordination validly” (Canon 1024).
  • A 2021 revised version of Church law (Canon 1379) explicitly criminalized conferring sacred orders on women latae sententiae – a legal term which means that the penalty is incurred automatically, without the need for a judgment.
  • Pope Francis previously appeared to open the possibility of ordaining women as deacons, who cannot celebrate mass but can officiate funerals, baptise and witness marriages.
  • In an unprecedented move, Pope Francis has asked ordinary Catholics for their views on the future of the Church, in a two-year consultation process called the Synod on Synodality. And in a move that made headlines, the Vatican included resources from the Women’s Ordination Conference on the Synod’s website.
  • A recent working document suggests women’s role in the Church will be high on the agenda when bishops gather in Rome next October to discuss the results of the consultation.
  • Sister Nathalie Becquart told BBC 100 Women that “through the Synod on Synodality, we will continue to discern and the Pope will see what will be the next step.”

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A different way

In a hushed Cathedral Anne Tropeano approaches the nave, faces her bishop and proclaims full of emotion, “Here I am, I am ready.”

It’s a day she has waited for for 14 years. The ‘ordination’ ceremony follows a similar liturgy to that which men becoming Catholic priests would experience – including the laying on of hands and prayer of consecration.

During the ceremony, Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan lifted Tropeano’s arms and presented her to the clapping congregation. The newly ‘ordained’ Anne said she felt “embraced”.

Tropeano prides herself on being the face of a different ministry, one with more participation and less hierarchy. As well as one that is open to groups traditionally questioned by the Church.

“Nobody is turned away from communion. Whether or not you’ve been divorced, none of that matters. Everybody is welcome, LGBTQ people are welcome at the table,” she says.

Anne Tropeano at her ordination, October 2021
Anne Tropeano

Anne Tropeano was ordained in a church in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in the US

Olga Lucía Álvarez also sees female priesthood as an opportunity to redefine the relationship of lay Catholics with their altar representatives.

There is an opportunity in the current state of the Church, says the Colombian woman ‘bishop’, given the dwindling number of vocations and the clerical sex abuse scandals that have severely damaged trust in priests.

“How can they say they are the sole representatives of God on Earth? They have no shame,” she says about the series of abuse allegations worldwide.

Pope Francis has apologised to the victims of sexual abuse committed by clerics, and has condemned the Church’s “complicity” in hiding the “grave crimes”.

Álvarez sees women’s ministry as an answer. At 80, she spends her time mentoring younger women who are hoping to become priests.

“It is urgent to show another face of the priesthood. We cannot let history repeat itself.”

Pope Francis at the meeting on the protection of minors in the Church in 2019
Pope Francis has apologised to victims of sexual abuse committed by clerics

The movement for women’s ordination wants an open debate on the ban, as they are confident to have the support of lay Catholics.

In Brazil, the country with the largest Catholic population in Latin America, almost eight-in-ten Catholics said they were supportive of women priests. In the US, the figure was six-in-10, according to a 2014 survey. Yet the movement for women’s ordination has not yet taken off in Africa, the region with the fastest-growing Catholic population.

When it comes to the possibility of change, Tropeano appeals to the Pope himself to open up a dialogue.

“You need to have an audience with women who are called to priesthood. Whether they have been ‘ordained’ as part of this movement or not, you need to hear our experience and take that into your prayer.”

While the fight for women’s ordination to priesthood still looks as though it could be a long one, Tropeano thinks it is vital for the future of the Church.

“The Church will not be able to fulfil its mission unless there’s equal participation. At the moment there is nothing more important.”

Complete Article HERE!