PRESS RELEASE: For immediate release 24 November 2008

Worldwide network protests excommunication of Maryknoll priest Roy Bourgeois

Women’s Ordination Worldwide (WOW) is deeply angered at the Vatican’s threatened excommunication of Father Roy Bourgeois, the Maryknoll priest who has spoken in support of the ordination of Roman Catholic women.

Father Roy, a priest for 36 years, served as a missionary in South America and is well-known for his opposition to the USA’s military activity in the former ‘School of the Americas.’ He is the latest in a distinguished line of courageous men and women who, over the years, have risked censure or disciplinary proceedings from the Roman Catholic hierarchy by speaking out on women’s ordination. At WOW’s first international conference in Dublin (2001), Vatican pressure forced the withdrawal of the keynote speaker, Aruna Gnanadason, of the World Council of Churches. Considerable distress was caused to two other speakers, Sister Joan Chittister OSB and Sister Myra Poole SND, who were threatened with serious consequences if they attended. WOW reminds the Vatican of the words of Chittister’s Prioress, Sister Christine Vladimiroff, who, in her statement of support for Chittister, wrote, ‘There is a fundamental difference in the understanding of obedience within the monastic tradition and that which is being used by the Vatican to exert power and control and prompt a false sense of unity inspired by fear.’

WOW has sent a strongly-worded letter on Fr Roy’s behalf to the American papal nuncio and to the Vatican, and has also written to the Maryknoll community. ‘Since Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, Roman Catholic women who feel called to ordained ministry, and those who support them, have been silenced,’ commented Jennifer Stark, coordinator of Women’s Ordination Worldwide. ‘They have no voice within the Church’s structures to make their views heard. In this context, as many others have pointed out, excommunication is a penalty out of all proportion to the supposed offence.’

The support that continues to flood in for Father Roy demonstrates that the Vatican is tragically out of touch with the people it is supposed to serve. It is also failing to uphold the Roman Catholic Church’s own teaching on the primacy of conscience. It is time to call a halt to this bullying of committed Catholics whose concern is to make the Gospel message of love, justice and compassion a reality for the world, and to enable the Church to serve all of humanity by enabling the gifts of men and women alike. Father Roy’s stance has grown out of a lifetime’s work on peace and justice issues, inspired by that very Gospel message. WOW urges the Maryknoll community to support his right to speak on this issue, and calls on the Catholic faithful, including bishops and church leaders everywhere, to oppose the decree of excommunication.

Women’s Ordination Worldwide was founded in 1996 at the First European Women’s Synod in Gmunden, Austria. It is an ecumenical network of fifteen national and international organizations working for the full inclusion of women in all ordained ministries.