Bourgeois receives official Vatican letter dismissing him from priesthood | National Catholic Reporter

Bourgeois receives official Vatican letter dismissing him from priesthood | National Catholic Reporter.

I wrote an article for the December 5th issue of the Prairie Messenger titled If a pure church is the goal, new evangelization is not needed. It was a reflection on the Vatican expulsion of Fr. Roy Bourgeois from the Maryknoll Order and the priesthood. His crime was neither paedophilia nor the cover-up of sexual abuse of children in the church. These crimes seldom garner such swift and mean-spirited ecclesial condemnation and punishment. His crime was the refusal to renounce his support for women’s ordination.

Well, Fr. Roy has finally received his official letter from the Vatican; three months after the initial announcement. The letter does not come as a surprise. The tone and message, on the other hand, left me gob-smacked.

First of all, the letter was written in an officious Latin. This, in itself, speaks of the mind-set currently present in curial halls. Latin, at one time, may have been a language of unity in worship and official communications. Today, it has become a symbol of ecclesial elitism and power that divides rather than unites. When a bishop stands up and addresses his fellow bishops in Latin, most are scrambling for the translation head-phones.

Here are some quotes from the English translation of the letter provided by the National Catholic Reporter.

The Ordinary of the place, as far as possible, should ensure that the new condition of the dismissed presbyter would not give scandal to the faithful

This would be laughable if it wasn’t so depressing. The faithful, in large numbers, are already scandalized by this event. Fr. Roy was well respected for his work for peace and social justice. His honest stance for women’s ordination was seen as an act of courage. Many Catholics, priests included, struggle to accept the church’s teaching on a male only priesthood. Few, though, have the courage and conviction to remain true to their conscience in the face of ecclesial reprimands. Scandal? That barn door has been opened and won’t be shut any time soon.

The notification of the dismissal and of the dispensation can happen either personally,through a notary or an ecclesiastical secretary or by registered letters. The dismissed priest must give back one copy duly signed as a proof of reception and at the same time of acceptance of the same dismissal and dispensation, and of the prescriptions, but if he does not do so, the effect of this Decree remain in its entirety.

Bourgeois has decided not to send back a reply as a protest. Signing the letter would be acknowledging acceptance of the punishment. There is also one glaring omission in the letter – no crime is mentioned. What is he being accused of? Why is he being stripped of the priesthood and expelled from his order? In any court of law, the crime would be named as the punishment is announced. The accused, and the people, have a right to know if the severity of the crime committed warrants the severity of the punishment.

Moreover, at an opportune time, the competent Ordinary should report briefly to the Congregation about the completed notification, and also, should any astonishment take place among the faithful, should give a prudent explanation.

Sadly, the faithful are becoming immune to astonishment. As the new year begins, I continue to cling to optimistic hope in the Year of Faith and its call for a new evangelization, but my optimism is wavering. Forgive me if I keep repeating myself, but we are getting conflicting messages.

We are called to focus less on rules and regulations and turn to the heart of our faith, to seek a personal relationship with Jesus and to embrace more fully the gospel message. Yet, we see church leaders who equate faithfulness with obsessive obedience and submission to doctrinal teachings.

We are called to enter into dialogue with those of other faiths and no faith. Yet, we are denied the right to dialogue within our own church.

We are called to love. Yet, we continue to see a glaring lack of love shown in mean-spirited judgments and denouncements.

Evangelization is all about the message. What message are we receiving from our church leaders? What message are they giving to the world?

the bourgeois story and the new evangelization


Here is my latest catholic dialogue column for the Prairie Messenger. The expulsion of Fr. Roy Bourgeois from the Maryknoll Order and the priesthood for his support of women’s ordination has made headlines around the world. Top-down, disciplinary actions and demands for doctrinal purity and unquestioning obedience seem to be increasing. How do these disciplinary actions affect the perception of our Church? What effect do they have on the new evangelization?

If a pure church is the goal, new evangelization is not needed

praying with john xxiii

I’m back from Rome, still heavy headed from jet-lag. I didn’t have much time for extra reading while I was there. The days were filled with meetings, and discussions continued into late night hours. Today, I tried to catch up on church news. And, what news!

photo by Isabella R. Moyer

At last month’s Synod of Bishops, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, made an announcement that all clergy visiting the Vatican should wear cassocks. The foundation for the request came from a 1982 letter written by Pope John Paul II asking priests to wear the more formal dress as a “distinguishing mark” which contributes to “the beauty of the priest in his external behavior.” It must be clarified, that this request was made during a Synod devoted to the New Evangelization; studying ways and means to bring disaffected, disillusioned and distanced Catholics back into the folds of the Church.

The second piece of news was the announcement that Fr. Roy Bourgeois, a member of Maryknoll for 45 years who had come under scrutiny for his support of women’s ordination, was dismissed from the order by the Vatican’s doctrinal congregation in October. The National Catholic Reporter has been updating the news all day.

Reaction to the first story has been one of incredulity. Yet again, the men at the Vatican appear to have lost all sense of reality. With all the crises that face our world and church, they are focusing on garments. At a time when many women and men are disgusted with clericalism, they want to bring back an old symbol of clerical exclusivity.

The dismissal of Fr. Roy Bourgeois, from both his religious order and the priesthood, has discussion boards fuming with the obvious injustice of it all. Priests and bishops, who were found guilty of sexual abuse of children, or the cover-up of that abuse, were not treated as harshly. Some, like Cardinal Law, ended up in cushy Vatican positions. The crime that will get you kicked out in record time is to speak out, publicly and loudly, for women’s ordination.

My one goal with this recent trip to Rome was to spend time at the tomb of Blessed John XXIII. We sat quietly in prayer, ending our meditation with a recitation of the Creed to commemorate the Year of Faith. The Creed is the foundation of our faith. It is the prayer we recite, or is recited for us, as we are welcomed into the Church – the Body of Christ. We believe in God our Creator. We believe in Jesus Christ, God’s son and our redeemer. We believe in the Holy Spirit, giver of wisdom and of life. And, yes, we believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. But, it is getting harder and harder to believe some of the nonsense that is coming from our church.

photo by Isabella R. Moyer

Pope John XXIII inspired the church to fling open her windows so the stale air of centuries past may be open to the freely blowing breezes of the Holy Spirit. He urged the people of God to ignore prophets of doom and gloom, to embrace the good news of the gospel so it may be lived in all corners of the world. He opened his arms to the world and other religions, so we may celebrate what unites us and collaborate in bringing justice and peace to all.

Blessed John XXIII…..pray for us.