“Canonical Warning”

California Catholic Daily

August 20, 2008

Maryknoll priest admonished for participating in ‘woman’s ordination,’ order will join him in "collective discernment” over women’s role in the Church

A Maryknoll priest who earlier this month participated in the attempted ordination of a “womanpriest” has said a subsequent meeting with his superiors over the affair was “productive.”

On Aug. 8, Fr. Roy Bourgeois joined Dana Reynolds, a Carmel-by-the-Sea woman who claims to be a Catholic bishop, in the attempted ordination of Janice Sevre-Duszynska at a Unitarian church in Lexington, Kentucky.

In his homily during the ordination service, Bourgeois equated the Holy See’s teaching that the Church has no authority to ordain women with the segregation of African-Americans in his home state of Louisiana. “No matter how hard we may try to justify discrimination, in the end, it is always wrong and immoral,” said Bourgeois. “As Reverend Nancy Taylor of Boston put it, ‘Prejudice in liturgical clothing is still prejudice.’”

Hearing reports of Bourgeois’ participation in the ordination service, his superiors summoned him to meet with them in Maryknoll, New York. On Aug. 19, Bourgeois told the National Catholic Reporter that he had met with his superiors. They, including Maryknoll Superior General Fr. John Sivalon, agreed, said Bourgeois, that they would join in "collective discernment over issues of justice, including the role of women in the church."

Bourgeois said he told his superiors that Maryknoll and other men’s orders need to be “open enough” and “have courage enough” to discuss with women the matter of ordination. “We don’t have to start ordaining women,” he said, “but can we at least invite women in and just listen? Can we shut up long enough to hear their stories, their experiences of being marginalized in the church? Can we hear the pain they feel?”

Bourgeois said he asked his superiors (who did not respond to the question), “What do we say to Janice and other women who say they are called by God to be priests?”

A joint statement from Bourgeois and his superiors notes that the matter of Bourgeois’ participation in the ordination service has been investigated and sent on to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome. Bourgeois’ superiors gave him a “canonical warning,” informing him of a violation of Church law. A future violation could bring on Bourgeois the penalties of dismissal from his order or excommunication.

Bourgeois told Catholic News Service that he had “no intentions of participating in a similar ceremony in the future."

But what if the Holy See excommunicates him? “I would be very, very sad,” Bourgeois told the National Catholic Register. “I’ve been a Maryknoll priest for 36 years. But if Rome came down with the ax? I’d have to embrace it.”


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