A group of "priests in good standing within the Roman Catholic church" wrote to Maryknoll superiors last month to support the priesthood of Fr. Roy Bourgeois "and his right to speak from his conscience." The letter bore the signatures of 157 priests.
Bourgeois, 73, has been threatened with dismissal from Maryknoll, a New York-based missionary order, for his public support of women's ordination and participation in such events.
"The priests felt the need to stand in support of, not only Fr. Bourgeois, but their own right to speak from their conscience," the July 21 letter said.
The letter is addressed to Fr. Edward Dougherty, superior general of Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers.
"While we understand the difficulty of your position we hope that seeing support of ordained priests in good standing will help you come to a fair and just conclusion," the letter said.
The letter does not specifically address the issue of women's ordination, only that the signees support the right to speak from conscience. The letter and the signatures have not been made public, but NCR obtained a copy of the letter with the names.