Maryknoll Fr. Roy Bourgeois has received a “second canonical warning” and faces expulsion from his U.S.-based mission society if he continues publicly advocating for the ordination of women in the Roman Catholic church.
In a July 27 letter, Maryknoll Superior General Fr. Edward M. Dougherty, repeated an earlier warning that Bourgeois faced dismissal if he “continued your campaign in favor of women priests and failed to recant publicly your position on the matter.”
The first warning was issued after Bourgeois received a notice in September 20087 from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and again in March of this year during a meeting with the Maryknoll General Council.
In a one-page response today, Bourgeois said he is unable to recant.
“In my ministry over the years I have met many devout women in our church who believe God is calling them to be priests. Why wouldn’t they be called? God created men and women of equal dignity and, as we all know, the call to be a priest comes from God,” he wrote.
Since he was first warned of possible excommunication and expulsion from the Maryknoll Society, Bourgeois has explained that his stance is a matter of conscience. In his most recent letter he once again raises the matter of “primacy of conscience,” a human attribute that he says “connects us to the Divine.”
“What you are asking me to do in your letter is not possible without betraying my conscience. In essence, you are telling me to lie and say I do not believe that God calls both men and women to the priesthood. This I cannot do, therefore I will not recant.”
Atty. Bill Quigley, a professor at University of Loyola School of Law, represents Bourgeois along with canon lawyer Dominican Fr. Thomas Doyle, who is widely known as an advocate for victims of clergy sexual abuse.
Quigley said he has received hundreds of emails supporting Bourgeois and that the priest has received calls from Maryknoll missioners from around the world supporting him and letting him know they are advocating for him with the order.
Quigley said he would like to see the Maryknoll society, which has often taken progressive positions on issues in the wider culture, “reinvest in dialogue about conscience” and how it applies in this case. “If anybody can find a creative way to do this, I’d think our brothers in Maryknoll could.”
Dougherty’s letter, however, seems to leave little hope for continued discussion. Saying that Bourgeois has “remained unmoved” despite being asked by other Maryknollers “to consider the effects of your actions on the Society and the Church,” Dougherty describes the dismissal as “based on your defiant stance as a Catholic priest who publicly rejects the Magisterium of the Church on the matter of priestly ordination.”
If Bourgeois fails to recant within 15 days of receipt of the superior general’s letter, Dougherty said he would “proceed with the process of dismissal.”
The letter concludes by noting that Bourgeois has the right to defend himself against the second canonical warning and the proposed dismissal.