I have been well aware (and an admirer) of Fr. Roy’s work for sometime; but came to know him personally about one year ago. While I believed my expectations were unrealistic, Fr. Roy not only lived up to, but surpassed the superhero image I had created in my mind. He is an incredibly humble and generous man whose utmost concern is honoring the dignity of every human being. On a personal level Fr. Roy is a friend and mentor; on a social and communal level, I respect his activism, courage, and refusal to comply with demands that violate human rights. In the face of continual threats Fr. Roy stood strong and now pays the ultimate price for following his conscience. Excommunication means that he has lost his position and his home; his livelihood, status, and vocation have been taken away. Fr. Roy is forced into laity and the job market at an age where he should be focused on retiring.
Why am I surprised? First, the obvious – Fr. Roy has been excommunicated for working towards justice when Oliver O’Grady, among thousands of other pedophiles, have been protected by the Vatican. In fact, not one pedophile has been excommunicated. Why is the call for women to stand on the altar and represent Christ more offensive than the rape of children?
Next, when I think of what it means to be Jesus like, I think of being revolutionary, courageous, and standing up for justice. Jesus did not comply with religious and societal rules; Jesus stood in solidarity with those rejected by society and called for the liberation of every person. Jesus was crucified for his refusal to engage laws that he believed were unjust. I see Fr. Roy upholding that mission and experiencing the rejection that Jesus faced.
When I think of what it means to be Catholic, yes, I think of the sacraments, scripture, tradition, and communion of saints; but what stands out to me is the call for social justice. Through Catholic Social Teaching we are called to honor the human dignity of every person, to stand in solidarity with those who have been oppressed, to care for our community by working towards the Common good, to recognize our responsibility in this mission, and to pursue social justice. We experience God in each other and our response to the call for justice allows us to live our faith in relationship with God’s creation. As Fr. Roy has called for the closing of the School of Americas, for the ordination of women, and has stood in solidarity with those who have been oppressed putting his own life at risk, he has answered this call.
Sexism? Yes, the refusal to ordain women is certainly related to sexism. There has consistently been a culture of violence against women in the Catholic Church. An examination of history demonstrates a legacy of relegating women to a subordinate position. Continuing to refuse women their sacramental and human right to be ordained allows the Catholic Church to continue this culture of violence against women.
Why stay? Catholics have a responsibility to bring the innovations of the world to the tradition so that it may grow. In this way, we allow the Church to develop, expand, and continue in an ever changing society. Again, we must remember what it means to engage in the mission of Jesus – it means being revolutionary, breaking rules to work for the betterment of community, and uplifting those who have been relegated to the margins of society. Working for justice is the act of a true Catholic.
Will women ever be ordained? Yes, I believe it will happen; perhaps not in my lifetime, but women’s ordination will be granted because of the continued work of people like Fr. Roy who recognize what it means to be Catholic as well as the responsibility we each carry to end injustice. We must have maturity in our pursuit for justice and realize that while we may not see the end result, our activism will support future activism that will eventually create the change.
What can you do? Please join me in standing with Fr. Roy. You can demonstrate your support by signing the “I Stand with Fr. Roy” Petition here and the petition to Cardinal Timothy Dolan and the USCC Bishops here. You can also mail letters of support to the Women’s Ordination Conference office at P.O. Box 15057 Washington, DC 20003. Fr. Roy’s story, My Journey from Silence to Solidarity, is an important resource and can be downloaded here. Finally, follow the example of Fr. Roy – choose an issue that you care about and work for justice!
November 20, 2012
STATEMENT ABOUT MY DISMISSAL FROM MARYKNOLL
I have been a Catholic priest in the Maryknoll community for 40 years. As a young man I joined Maryknoll 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.
The Vatican and Maryknoll can dismiss me, but they cannot dismiss the issue of gender equality in the Catholic Church. The demand for gender equality is rooted in justice and dignity and will not go away.
As Catholics, we profess that God created men and women of equal worth and dignity. As priests, we profess that the call to the priesthood comes from God, only God. Who are we, as men, to say that our call from God is authentic, but God’s call to women is not? The exclusion of women from the priesthood is a grave injustice against women, our Church and our loving God who calls both men and women to be priests.
When there is an injustice, silence is the voice of complicity. My conscience compelled me to break my silence and address the sin of sexism in my Church. My only regret is that it took me so long to confront the issue of male power and domination in the Catholic Church.
I have explained my position on the ordination of women, and how I came to it, in my booklet, My Journey from Silence to Solidarity. Please go to: www.roybourgeoisjourney.org.
Gina Messina-Dysert, Ph.D. is a feminist theologian, ethicist, and activist; she received her Ph.D. in religion at Claremont Graduate University focused in the areas of women’s studies in religion and theology, ethics, and culture. Gina is Director of the Women’s Living History program at Claremont Graduate University, Visiting Assistant Professor of Theological Ethics at Loyola Marymount University and Co-founder and Co-director of Feminism and Religion. Gina has authored multiple articles and the forthcoming book Rape Culture and Spiritual Violence. She is co-editor (with Rosemary Radford Ruether) of the forthcoming anthology, Feminism and Religion in the 21st Century and is a contributor to the Rock and Theology project sponsored by theLiturgical Press. Her research interests are theologically and ethically driven, involve a feminist and interdisciplinary approach, and are influenced by her activist roots and experience working with survivors of rape and domestic violence. Gina can be followed on Twitter @FemTheologian and her website can be accessed at http://ginamessinadysert.com.