I Stand with Fr. Roy Bourgeois by Gina Messina-Dysert

“The Vatican and Maryknoll can dismiss me, but they cannot dismiss the issue of gender equality in the Catholic Church.” – Fr. Roy Bourgeois 

While many have said it should be no surprise that Fr. Roy Bourgeois has been excommunicated from the Catholic Church, I was and am utterly astounded, not to mention deeply saddened.

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.

As a Catholic feminist I would like to respectfully respond to some of the comments and thoughts expressed in response to the “Breaking News” post released on FAR regarding Fr. Roy’s dismissal.

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!

The following is a statement from Fr. Roy Bourgeois shared by the Women’s Ordination Conference.  

November 20, 2012


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.  

In Solidarity,

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.

Author: Gina Messina

Gina Messina, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Ursuline College and Co-founder of Feminism and Religion. She writes for the Huffington Post and is the author or editor of five books including "Faithfully Feminist" and "Jesus in the White House: Make Humanity Great Again." 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 is a widely sought after speaker and has presented across the US at universities, organizations, conferences, and in the national news circuit including appearances on Tavis Smiley, MSNBC, NPR, and the TEDx stage. She has also spoken at the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations to discuss matters impacting the lives women around the globe. She is active in movements to end violence against women and explores opportunities for spiritual healing for those who have encountered gender-based violence. Connect with Gina on Facebook, Twitter @GMessinaPhD, Instagram @GinaMessinaPhD, and her website http://www.ginamessina.com.

11 thoughts on “I Stand with Fr. Roy Bourgeois by Gina Messina-Dysert”

  1. I am a protestant (baptist) feminist, working on my doctoral thesis on puertorrican feminist theology. Although in my own denomination we do not have the ordination problem anymore, we still have other big problems affecting our full humanity rights, in our case the worst is the inability to recognize specific areas to work with an inclusive view, say for example violence againt women. I feel conected with all the women in the world an especially with men that have assumed the women’s issues as theirs. Yes is a shame that after a whole life dedicated to work for what we as christians are called to ( justice), Roy is now a victim of the ecclesiastical patriarcal system. The vatican adds to the mountain of sins commited in the name of the distorted view of a “god of tradition” that is the worst idol ever.


  2. I’m wondering if anyone remembers Matthew Fox. He was a Dominican who was first silenced, then also excommunicated. Why? Because he worked with Starhawk, a witch. Fr. Bourgeois sounds like another good man who is way too good for the Catholic hierarchy. Let’s keep in mind that the current pope was formerly the head of the inquisition.


  3. Priests can murder people, they can rape children, they can have sex with women or men. Priests can do all these things, and still not be excommunicated. You have to understand the mentality of patriarchy–its rules and regulations. What Roy did was go against catholic teaching in a very dangerous way. So they got rid of him. It is not a church of justice at all, it is a system of male domination and control so incideous, that even women continue to put up with it.

    So this has perfect logic to it; it’s what patriarchy is, the purest form of it. And I am under no illusion that it has anything to offer women who want freedom from male dominance, control, violence and evil.

    I was pretty sure this would happen. But what confuses me is that men like this stay in a place with this policy. We are outraged when male corporate leaders continue to patronize whites only places, male only places etc. I would never ever be a part of an institution that discriminated against anyone as a matter of policy. That is my bottom line. So really, this is the best thing. If he is serious about the liberation of women, then he’ll do his best work to educate men, to be outraged over the male rape of the world. To get the boys off our backs. That’s a good role for men.


  4. Matthew Fox was one of the founding persons of the Sophia School within Holy Names University. (It was Holy Names College, at that time.) I am a graduate of that Wisdom school. It changed my life forever, by giving me a language and a sense of community for geo-ustice, eco-justice, and scientific proof, through quantum physics, of the oneness of all.

    Although I am not Catholic, I am catholic in my understanding of the universality of God’s love and mercy. The very issues that most keep me from becoming Catholic, are the church’s treatment of women, gender identity, and the demand that priests not marry. I have seen the terrible pain and suffering of those who serve the Catholic church, both men and women, who must live double lives.
    Thank you for bringing Fr. Roy’s case to our attention. We stand together on the edge of change.


  5. In 1993, Fox’s conflicts with Catholic authorities climaxed with his expulsion from the Dominican order for “disobedience”, effectively ending his professional relationship with the church and his teaching at its universities. Cardinal Ratzinger ordered the expulsion after Fox refused to respond to a summons to discuss his writings with his superiors in the Roman Catholic Church. Among the issues Fox was asked to defend were that he: called God “Mother”;” preferred the concept of Original Blessing over Original Sin; worked too closely with Native American spiritual practices; did not condemn homosexuality; and taught the four paths of creation spirituality—the Via Positiva, Via Negativa, Via Creativa and Via Transformativa instead of the church’s classical three paths of purgation, illumination and union.[9]



  6. I have great respect with those who work to change institutions. However, I could not ally myself with an institution that in its practice, teaching, and liturgy is harming women around the world, by doing everything in its power to crush our independence of thought and action, and our right to make decisions about our own bodies. I was raised in part in the Catholic tradition and I practiced Catholicism in graduate school for five years, until I could no longer.


  7. In case you were wondering:

    In Roman Catholic canon law, excommunication is a censure and thus a “medicinal penalty” intended to invite the person to change behavior or attitude, repent, and return to full communion.[1] It is not an “expiatory penalty” designed to make satisfaction for the wrong done, much less a “vindictive penalty” designed solely to punish.

    Excommunication can be either latae sententiae (automatic, incurred at the moment of committing the offense for which canon law imposes that penalty) or ferendae sententiae (incurred only when imposed by a legitimate superior or declared as the sentence of an ecclesiastical court).[2]

    Excommunicated Catholics are still Catholics and remain bound by obligations such as attending Mass, even though they are barred from receiving the Eucharist and from taking an active part in the liturgy (reading, bringing the offerings, etc.).[3] However, their communion with the Church is considered gravely impaired.[4] In spite of that, they are urged to retain a relationship with the Church, as the goal is to encourage them to repent and return to active participation in its life.

    Excommunicated persons are barred from participating in the liturgy in a ministerial capacity (e.g., as a reader if a layperson or as a deacon or priest if a clergyman) and from receiving the Eucharist or other Sacraments, but they are not barred from attending these (e.g., an excommunicated person may not receive the Eucharist but is not barred from attending Mass). They are also forbidden to exercise any ecclesiastical office or the like.[5] These are the only effects for those who have incurred a latae sententiae excommunication. For instance, a priest may not refuse Communion publicly to those who are under merely automatic excommunication, even if he knows that they have incurred this kind of excommunication.[6]

    However, if the excommunication has been imposed or declared, stricter effects follow, such as (1) the obligation on others to prevent the excommunicated person from acting in a ministerial capacity in the liturgy or, if this proves impossible, to suspend the liturgical service and (2) the invalidity of acts of ecclesiastical governance by the excommunicated person.[7] Those affected by this kind of excommunication are not to be admitted to Holy Communion[8] (see canon 915).

    In the Catholic Church, excommunication is normally resolved by a declaration of repentance, profession of the Creed (if the offense involved heresy), or renewal of obedience (if that was a relevant part of the offending act) by the excommunicated person and the lifting of the censure (absolution) by a priest or bishop empowered to do this. “The absolution can be in the internal (private) forum only, or also in the external (public) forum, depending on whether scandal would be given if a person were privately absolved and yet publicly considered unrepentant.”[9] Since excommunication excludes from reception of the sacraments, absolution from excommunication is required before absolution can be given from the sin that led to the censure. In many cases, the whole process takes place on a single occasion in the privacy of the confessional. For some more serious wrongdoings, absolution from excommunication is reserved to a bishop, another ordinary, or even the Pope. These can delegate a priest to act on their behalf.


  8. Thank you, Carol and Debra for sharing that info about Matthew Fox. Also, thank you Carol for your additional information about excommunication. Also, Carol I so appreciate what you said about no longer being able to stay in the Church. I think your work is so crucial because many have learned from your own experience that they too can leave if they choose. That is an important option to realize that we all have. I think there is room for both – women and men who leave, and women and men who stay. Both options lead to important work that creates change and healing. Thank you!


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