Sunday, August 10, 2008

Male Fear, Another Ordination, More Excommunications

By Tom Roberts, National Catholic Reporter

Maryknoll Fr. Roy Bourgeois, long associated with the cause of Christian non-violence and attempts to close the international school for military training at Fort Benning, Ga., today staked his conscience to a different cause: the ordination of women in the Catholic church.
Bourgeois was a concelebrant and homilist at the ordination of Janice Sevre-Duszynska, a longtime peace activist and advocate of women’s ordination. The ordination occurred Aug. 9 at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Lexington, Ky.

In an interview Aug. 7, two days before the ordination, Bourgeois told NCR that he had thought long and hard about participating after receiving an invitation to the ceremony. “I consulted a lot of friends, I’ve done a lot of discernment, spoken with a lot of women friends. I felt in conscience -- this matter of conscience keeps coming up and I don’t know what other word to use -- if I didn’t attend her ordination, I would have to stop addressing this issue as I do” in speaking engagements at parishes and other Catholic venues around the country.
Read Bourgeois’homily

Though Bourgeois is best known for leading a movement to oppose the training of foreign troops at what once was known as the School of the Americas, he has also long maintained, as a matter of conscience, that women should be ordained. The SOA watch annually draws tens of thousands to Ft. Benning in November for a weekend of teach-ins and demonstrations. The school’s official name was changed in 2001 to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.
When questioned, Bourgeois said he knew there could be “serious implications” if he openly participated in a women’s ordination ceremony. While other priests may have attended other women’s ordination ceremonies incognito, a spokesperson for the Women’s Ordination Conference said Bourgeois was the only active male priest to openly participate in such an event.
“For me it seems very right,” he said in the interview. “I would have a problem sleeping at night in the future if I didn’t put my body where my words are.”

In considering the implications, he said, “I don’t know how I could continue to be silent in the church, this is such a big issue for me.

“Over the years and listening to women friends – if one listens, just shuts up and listens to their stories, their faith journey and, in some cases, their call by God to ordination to the priesthood in the Catholic church – there is a problem for us guys in the church. What are we saying? God is calling us but not you? This is heresy. We’re tampering with the sacred here.”

He also speaks about exclusion of women from ordination as discrimination. “We cannot justify discrimination no matter how hard the bishops may try. In the end, it is wrong. It is a sin. That’s how I see it and that’s why I am going to be there Saturday.”

He said he had not spoken to any other media or to his religious superiors before the event.
However, he has been outspoken about the issue for some time. In 1998, as he noted in his homily, he wrote a letter to the rest of his community in which he called sexism a sin. “As people of faith,” he wrote, “we profess that God is all powerful and the source of life. Yet, when it comes to women being ordained, it seems that opponents are saying that this same God …. somehow can not empower a woman to be a priest. Suddenly, we as men believe God becomes powerless when women approach the altar to celebrate Mass.”

(Tom Roberts is NCR editor at large and news director.)


Add Fr. Roy Bourgeois to Fr. Marek Bozek as another of the few priests who are willing to go where their consciences lead. Add his voice to the list which also includes Bishops Geof Robinson and Tom Gumbleton. Slowly but surely the list of men committed to the vision of an inclusive church is growing. This is just as important as the women who are standing for ordination, and the open gays who are asking for acceptance.

What is excommunication anyways but an empty gesture from men desperate to protect their own vested interest. There is no hell to be sent to in the terms we're expected to understand it, and no community to fear being expelled from when one's conscience says the community is terribly flawed.

Christianity in it's inception was a break away movement from Judaism. Jesus was an internal member of Judaism whose mission was seen as so threatening, he wasn't excommunicated, he was crucified. And yet His mission and life were so powerful, the break away dissenters thrived and two millenia later have well over one billion adherents.

One billion male and female adherents with an authority structure which still refuses to see women as truly equal in the eyes of the creator. An institution that will go so far in maintaining this exclusivity, it dares to claim God is powerless to give them the authority to raise women to the ordained teaching authority. In essence they demand we believe in a God who is not only vindictive but discriminates against His own people and is so locked into these mindsets that He can't change. This inability to change makes God quite a bit less than 'all powerful'. It makes Him very male and a very fearful male at that. Vindictiveness and discrimination are products of fear. Fear of the other.

I don't know that Jesus ever intended a church based on the restrictive notions of male fear. Except that's the first thing that He had to deal with was male fear. He actually had to make an appearance in the upper room where His male disciples were hiding in order to make it experientially known to them the He had risen from the dead. None of these brave men were with Him at the foot of the cross except the 'beloved apostle' from John's gospel. The apostle who comes across as most feminine and appears only in John's gospel. These brave men were unable to actually follow Jesus's commission until their fears were overcome by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. So I guess one could say this is a Church that was founded in male fear and continues to be controlled by male fear. As it was, so it is.

We have to change this. Spiritual systems cannot be controlled by male fear and still function in the coming energy. Energy which in fact is with us now. This energy is far more feminine than masculine. It's an energy centered in creation, compassion, love, nurturing, and an inherent sense of the balance of things. It contains nothing at all compatible with fear, competition, predation, exploitation, discrimination, judgment and domination. In other words, it's not very masculine at all.

If fear driven men, and the women who follow them, don't get this fact, they will not find their notions of 'sexual complementarity' supported in this new energy. What they will see is some of the very people they marginalized doing very spectacular things and they will become even more fear filled. They will feel their god has abandoned them when in fact, they never found God. They never understood Jesus essentially taught a feminized spirituality. His spirituality emphasized love, compassion, creation, non judgement, and finding the inner connection with the Divine. If obedience was part of His message He would have stoned the adulterous rather than saving her life and releasing her from sin. He followed His conscience and His inner light showed her her truth. He was the Way, the Truth, and the Light. His is the way of the new energy.

Thirty years ago I never envisioned a time in my life in which I would be standing as a voice calling the Church back to the path of Jesus. I thought, in the heady days of Vatican II, that the Church was finally on the path. I was content to be a member. I was fortunate to have a compassionate bishop. That bishop was Raymond Hunthausen.

In retrospect, Archbishop Hunthausen was the first of the Jesus bishops to fall to the axe of Rome. His mistakes were that he was gay friendly and that he refused to pay the portion of his taxes which went to the Reagan build up of our nuclear arsenal. He was a man of conscience. Ronald Reagan considered him a pain in the ass and his good friend John Paul II took care of Ronnie's little problem. In the process John Paul II sent quite a message to the USCCB. The USCCB has been pretty much castrated since then. Male fear all around.

If our male clergy keep it up, this acting from fear, they will find themselves leading a remnant church in energy which does not support it. They can continue to marginalize and send to hell, because in the end, other than making them feel better, it will mean zip, zero, nada. That's the trouble with actions taken from fear, underneath they are delusional powerless actions, and have only as much ability to control others as those others choose to let them.

In the end the traditional conservatives in the Vatican should be afraid. The time of their energy is truly coming to an end. It's no longer about fear based obedience, it's about fearless love.


  1. Colleen, beautiful meditation--and there's interesting synchronicity in the fact that it comes out simultaneously with the publication of Tom Doyle's address to SNAP last month. Today, Catholica Australia published the text of that speech on its website. Your text and Tom Doyle's read like a diptych to show what is wrong with the church at this point in history, and to point the way forward.

  2. Tom Doyle's article was really well done. I was going to take excerpts from it for today's post, but the St. Stan's thing is a good introduction to what Tom is talking about.

    What a mess St. Stan's is getting to be.