The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has dismissed and canonically stripped Fr. Roy Bourgeois (a Maryknoll priest for 40 years) of his status as a Catholic priest, because of his public support for the ordination of women in the Roman Catholic Church.

CNWE, a Canadian grassroots organization for women’s equality in both the church and the world, decries the Vatican’s decision based on three criteria:

i) the ‘primacy of place’ that following one’s informed conscience has in Catholic teaching,
ii) Fr. Roy’s work for justice and peace as a Maryknoll priest
iii) the hypocrisy inherent in the Vatican’s dismissal of Fr. Roy, when Catholic bishops who have covered up clergy sexual abuse remain in ‘good standing’ with the Vatican.

From years of work for justice and from conversations with women who felt called to serve the church in priesthood Fr. Roy Bourgeois determined that “when there is an injustice, silence is the voice of complicity.” Fr. Roy began to speak about his support for women’s ordination in the Catholic Church and attended the ordination of Roman Catholic WomenPriest Janice Sevre-Duszynska in August 2008. The Vatican responded by asking Fr. Roy to recant his support for women’s ordination or face excommunication. When Fr. Roy responded that it would go against his conscience to recant, he was dismissed and laicized (meaning that in the eyes of the hierarchy he is no longer a priest). In July 2010, the Vatican reinforced the prohibition against women’s ordination by labeling it a “grave crime” in the Catholic Church.

As a Maryknoll priest, Fr. Roy served the poor in Bolivia and El Salvador in the 1970’s. Since then, he has been instrumental in mobilizing a movement against the US School of the Americas that served to bolster dictatorships in Latin America through the use of military torture for political dissidents. Fr. Roy’s Christian zeal for justice has driven him to go where others fear to tread.

The greatest hypocrisy of this harsh ruling against Fr. Roy, is that, although the Vatican document also names clergy sexual abuse a “grave crime”, numerous Catholic bishops who covered up these crimes remain as Bishops in ‘good standing’ in the Church.

CNWE stands in solidarity with Fr. Roy as his conscience has led him to prophetically witness to the fundamental equality of all baptized women and men in the Catholic church.

For over thirty years members of the Catholic Network for Women’s Equality have shared a faithful commitment to social justice for all women. We celebrate the fact that we are part of a long history of women’s contributions to the Christian faith. Our movement embraces a broad range of Catholic women and men across Canada for whom an inclusive church that is accountable to all of its members is important. Our work for women’s equality in church and world is internationally respected and part of a network of pro-change Catholic movements around the globe. For further information, see or visit us on Facebook at “Catholic Network for Women’s Equality – Canada”.

November 28, 2012