a feminist priest

Bourgeois tells Maryknoll: ‘I cannot lie, I cannot recant’ | National Catholic Reporter.

Can a man be a feminist? This question usually starts a lively discussion in any women`s studies class. Sure, there are pro-feminist men who believe in equal rights and opportunities for women. But who should be leading the struggle to ensure that these equal rights and opportunities become a reality in our homes, our church, and our world?

During the first wave of feminism (late 19th and early 20th centuries) and the second wave (1960`s and 1970`s), women`s issues were seen as just that. Women`s issues. Many unfair generalizations about feminists from this era continue to haunt women`s rights movements to this day – feminists are militant, anti-family, male-bashers. (Note to self – the term `feminist` is not welcomed in Vatican circles, unless it refers to the `new feminism` promoted by John Paul II.)

It is as impossible to categorize all feminists as it is to categorize all women. At its simplest, a feminist believes that women deserve all the equal rights and opportunities that are accorded to men. Yes, I believe that men can be feminists. I know many, and happened to marry one. Even priests can be feminists…

Fr. Roy Bourgeois has publicly stated that he will not recant his belief that God can, and does, offer a priestly vocation to both men and women. Therefore, the ordination of women priests should be allowed. For this public disobedience to his superiors and the official teachings of the Church, he faces probable dismissal from the congregation of Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers and laicization from the Vatican.

I have the deepest respect for the courage and conviction of this man. Upholding the teaching of a male-only priesthood is a litmus test of obedience for priests and bishops. There are many who quietly believe that women should be priests. But, how many ordained men are willing to stand publicly beside women in their struggle for the priesthood? How many would sacrifice their financial, professional, spiritual and emotional security in order to be true to their own conscience?

Only a woman can speak from a woman`s experience. And we need to have our voice heard, for others have spoken for us for too long. But, we need to work side by side with like-minded men to break into the glass ceilings of the corporate and political world. And, we need to work side by side with like-minded men in our Church to break through the marble ceiling that has kept us from having a voice in decision-making and leadership. We need men like Fr. Roy Bourgeois.

According to the NCR article, 6,000 persons signed a petition of support for Bourgeois. I wonder how many, if any, priests signed this petition. We all know that petitions signed by lay women and men hold little clout in official circles. What would happen if hundreds of priests stood up and publically stated their support for women`s ordination? In this time of priest shortages, would they all be threatened with laicization? Or would they finally force open the doors for discussion?

5 thoughts on “a feminist priest

  1. Or would they finally force open the doors for discussion? (Isabella)
    Isabella, your last sentence says it all! I believe the awakening is happening…and there is no turning back. We need to create a new awareness for women (and men)…feminist doesn’t mean we we dislike men,
    it means equality in every corner.

  2. I am linking the Old Testament story of Suzanna in today’s readings to the blog. Like Suzanna, we women need men to stand with us and speak out for us in our defiance of injustice. And it takes an especially strong priest or vowed religious to publicly defy Church authority. They have taken a sacred vow of obedience and their disobedience has potent consequences (as Fr. Roy B knows).

    And I also understand the position of the Maryknoll Order. If they appear to not go along with the official Church position (as in not sanctioning or “laicizing” Fr. Roy), could the Pope take them off the list of “recognized” Orders? Would the Pope do that? Would the Order risk testing him?

    It is very complicated and individual responses can be very different from “official” responses. I wonder what official Church groups who supported Galileo did in that time? How did they respond? And what were the “lench pins” that finally broke open that issue for discussion and resolution? Maybe doing some study of history might help us along now…

    • Yes, Marceta, the Church would do this! In the 1967 The IHM Sisters of CA in the process of renewal of their order based on the directives of
      Vatican II stopped wearing the traditional religious habit and made other changes to their rule of life. Cardinal MacIntyre , the bishop of LA fired all of IHMs working in the LA diocesan schools. When they still did not knuckle under, he used his “Cardinal Card” in Rome.
      Three hundred and fifteen (315) of the three hundred of and eighty (380) sisters in the order received unrequested dispensations from their vows in the mail from Rome.
      I would expect a hundred years from now the 315 sisters will be canonized as the “Virgin/Martyrs of the Great Renewal”. Fr. Roy will be declared the “Patron Saint of Diocesan Women Clergy”. That is our Church!
      The astonishment of the depth and breath of its’ wisdom/folly keeps some of us hanging in there with her.

    • I wonder if the dear Cardinal thought the religious order of women was expendable? Would the Cardinal have reacted in this harsh, bullying manner if all the priests in his diocese stood together in defiance of him? Where would he be if all his priests were all given forced laicizations? Just wondering…..

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