The Vatican’s decision to excommunicate the Rev. Roy Bourgeois from the Roman Catholic Church and to dismiss him from Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers is senseless and heavy-handed.
Bourgeois wasn’t defrocked because he committed some immoral or illegal act; he was pushed out because of his outspoken support for the ordination of women priests.
His crime was questioning the Vatican’s authority. Worse, he challenged the church's interpretation of Jesus’s teachings. Many Catholics support the Vatican’s position, which doesn’t permit women to become priests. They take an orthodox view and they don’t want to see the church change.
But the society that the Catholic Church served a 1,000 or even 500 years ago isn’t the same society we live in today. And the spiritual needs of all Catholics aren’t the same, either.
Bourgeois recognizes this, as do many other Catholics. Allowing women to become priests would not destroy or diminish the Catholic Church in any way. But honoring hypocrisy will.
Bourgeois was in Rochester yesterday for the showing of “Pink Smoke Over the Vatican” at the Cinema Theater. I had the opportunity to speak with him this morning, before he returned to Atlanta. He was obviously shaken by the announcement from Maryknoll and still grieving.
But what struck me most about the brief conversation is his compassion and his capacity for forgiveness. The Vatican hasn’t silenced Bourgeois, and it hasn't ended the controversy over the ordination of women.
At best, it’s made an old priest’s life harder.
For many Catholics, however, the Vatican’s decision validated Bourgeois’s concern: the church’s treatment of women is shameful.