Priest expelled because of woman's ordination, activism

Louisville, USA — A Roman Catholic priest excommunicated for ordaining a Kentucky woman four years ago now has been kicked out of the religious order to which he has belonged for four decades.

The then-Rev. Roy Bourgeois of Georgia defied Roman Catholic teachings by participating in an August 2008 ordination service at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Lexington, Ky., for Janice Sevre-Duszynska.

"What I'm going through now is the rejection of being kicked out," said Bourgeois, 73, in a phone interview after being informed that he was expelled from the Maryknoll, N.Y.-based Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers. "But it's just sort of a glimmer of what women in the Catholic church and gays in the Catholic church experience daily."

He refused calls from his superiors to recant.

"To recant would have been to betray my conscience," he said. This week he planned to return to his native Louisiana to break the news of his ouster to his elderly father and other relatives.

The ordination and others like it around the United States and Europe are part of a movement known as Roman Catholic Womenpriests. The movement defies what it considers an unjust church law on women's ordination.

But the repercussions followed immediately. Lexington Bishop Ronald Gainer declared the ordination invalid and the women's ordination movement in direct opposition to church teaching. A Vatican statement told Bourgeois that by his actions, he had automatically incurred excommunication.

He had remained a member of the Maryknolls, a missionary order generally known for its progressive and activist stances. But Bourgeois stood alone in his open defiance of Catholic teaching on ordination of women.

A Maryknoll statement issued earlier this week said the order and the Vatican had, "with patience," sought to reconcile Bourgeois with the church.

"Instead, Mr. Bourgeois chose to campaign against the teachings of the Catholic church in secular and non-Catholic venues," it said. "This was done without the permission of the local U.S. Catholic Bishops and while ignoring the sensitivities of the faithful across the country. Disobedience and preaching against the teaching of the Catholic church about women's ordination led to his excommunication, dismissal and laicization (defrocking)."

It said it would help Bourgeois in his transition.

Bourgeois is a Vietnam War veteran and longtime peace activist who says he has been driven to work for justice in reaction to his questioning of U.S. policy in Vietnam and later in Latin America.

He worked as a missionary among the poor in Bolivia and said he was eventually arrested and forced to leave for questioning that country's American-backed rulers. He also protested American involvement in the El Salvador civil war in the 1980s after the murders of American churchwomen, including two of his friends.

Bourgeois also served prison time for his protests of the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Ga., which critics link to human rights abuses by its Latin American alumni.

Sevre-Duszynska also has participated in protests at Fort Benning, serving a 90-day sentence for trespassing in 2002. She called Bourgeois "a priest and prophet of the grass roots. He is helping to midwife, to nourish the beginnings of a new church."

In a statement, Bourgeois said he joined the Maryknoll order "because of its work for justice and equality in the world."

"To be expelled from Maryknoll and the priesthood for believing that women are also called to be priests is very difficult and painful," he said. "The Vatican and Maryknoll can dismiss me, but they cannot dismiss the issue of gender equality in the Catholic church."