Saturday, August 16, 2008

Holding on to a Hero

photo caption: Janice Sevre-Duszynska, newly ordained Roman Catholic priest, appears second from the left. Church authorities regard such ordinations as valid but not licit.
Photo Caption: myself, Fr. Roy and Anne Herman (former Prisoner of Conscience for action against the School of the Americas) taken April 2007 in Las Cruces, NM

On Saturday August 9, 2008 Janice Sevre-Duszynska was ordained a Catholic priest in Lexington KY. Those present called it an inspiring concelebrated ceremony with many women priests joined by Maryknoll priest Fr. Roy Bourgeois, who preached an inspired homily at the service.

Roy Bourgeois, a priest for 36 years, was the very first male Catholic priest in good standing to openly participate in the ordination of women as Catholic priests. Janice Sevre-Duszynska has been a long-time peace activist and active in the School of Americas Watch movement. She spent several months in federal prison for crossing onto Ft. Benning to protest the training of human rights violators by our government.

Now Roy is summoned to an August 18 meeting with his superiors in the Maryknoll community at their home office in NY – apparently at the request of Cardinal Egan of New York. Roy faces suspension from the priesthood, dismissal from the Maryknoll community, and even excommunication from the Roman Catholic church.

In the realm of church politics, his was a symbolic act of non-violent self-immolation. Roy--who I understand is battling cancer--has spent his entire adult life as a voice for the vulnerable of Central America railing against the U.S. School of the Americas. This clip from his homily proclamation is revealing:

Conscience is something very sacred. It gives us a sense of right and wrong and urges us to do the right thing. Conscience is what compelled Franz Jagerstatter to refuse to enlist in Hitler’s army. On this day, August 9, 1943, this humble farmer was executed for following his conscience. Conscience is what compelled Rosa Parks to say, “No, I cannot sit in the back of the bus anymore.” Conscience is what compels Janice Sevre-Duszynska and the other women to say, “No, we cannot deny our call from God to the priesthood.” And it is our conscience that compels us to be here today. How can we speak out against the injustice of our country’s foreign policy in Latin America and Iraq if we are silent about the injustice of our church here at home?

If you'd like to support Fr. Roy Bourgeois and womenpriests, send emails to his Superior General, John Sivalon at and to the three-member Maryknoll Council at mklcouncil@ and/or fax to 914-944-3600.
Write to: Maryknoll Council, P.O. Box 303 Maryknoll, NY 10545


Robert Rouse said...

I am not a Catholic, so I suppose I do not understand the reasoning behind the church not allowing women to be ordained. That said, the way I understand the Bible - and yes, I do happen to read it quite often - is that women have always played an important part in Christianity. Mary Magdalene was just as much of a disciple than the other twelve - in fact, she stayed the course better than Judas (who betrayed), Peter (who denied) and Thomas (who doubted). I think deep down, most Catholics realize that the entire problem in the church is because of antiquated beliefs in male supremacy. But, what do I know, like I said, I'm not a Catholic.

Missy said...

As a Catholic, I've given some thought to this, of course. To go into detail would be a complete comments hijacking.

I just don't feel I can support the woman priest movement as it exists right now, because to do so is schismatic and I've always felt that you can't change anything from the outside looking in.

Then again, if you're not a priest, you are an outsider regardless of whether you're in "full communion" or not. They've got a real lock on this.

I pray. I try to be a good Christian. If I ever find more I can do than that, I will.

thailandchani said...

I support anyone doing the thing that most closely follows his or her calling. There's no reason why only men should be priests. In fact, the idea of male and female makes most sense. It's the best balance.


Randal Graves said...

Apparently, cardinals aren't just birds or baseball players, but enablers of the system.

Border Explorer said...

Robert: As a cradle Catholic, I think you know a lot.

Missy: I hear you. I'll follow your link. "They've got a real lock on this"=well said. I'm not into the woman priest movement either. I'd rather put my energy into other things.

Thilandchani, welcome & thanks for your comment which sounds so very reasonable to me.

That's classic, Randal (as usual). Cardinals also benefit from the system.

FranIAm said...

Oh - what a powerful post. You know the first time I read it, earlier this morning, I did not even take in that you know Roy. My friend Jane R does as well, I believe.

In any case, I am in a slightly different position from my friend Missy... I do, as she does, choose to work from within.

BE, other readers and perhaps most importantly Missy, someone who I have come to treasure as a sister in this bloggy community, I say what I do with complete respect.

That said, in this case, I am in support of these ordinations for a few reasons.

The first is that they do make me slightly uncomfortable, even though I do support them. If I am challenged in that way, I know I often must lean into my discomfort.

Second is this - as I understand and experience the world, the change must happen outside the circle first and then make its way in from the liminal fringes.

In any case, regardless of one's position on this or other matters, I am always brokenhearted when the term ex-communicated enters the picture.

As a deeply committed Catholic Christian, nothing would break me more than that and I cannot bear for others to have to withstand that.

To me it amounts to a threat that I do not understand or can even comprehend in any fashion.

And I am not surprised to see the name of Egan here - I won't say another word beyond that at this point.

Thank you BE for this post.

Missy said...

Fran, I totally respect your opinion. Just thought I'd throw that out there. ;)

'Cause you are so Fran-a-licious.

Border Explorer said...

Fran, I appreciate your comments. Don't worry about expressing differences of opinion or persuasion here. [Thanks, Missy, for your support of that, too.] To clarify: I don't really know Roy, my friend Anne did. While I'd rather put my energies into other issues, I completely believe in women's ordination. Finally, yes, it's sickening that it comes down to excommunication as the ultimate threat. Yet I guess every group has a right to define its membership rules. It's just that in this case--who writes the rules? How fair is that?

Mariamariacuchita said...

Forgive me for this being so long. First of all, want to say I respect all differences of opinions. When it comes to a vocation, I do not believe that men only are called to be priests.

I was raised in the Catholic Church, went to Catholic schools, etc. so I have some small experience with observing the issues from within the culture.

I see the Patriarchy of the church as a huge problem and as a way that women are kept from being seen and treated as equals and from having an equal voice. Christ never said to keep women subordinate. In his Sermon on the Mount, he said Love God and love your neighbor. This exclusion of women was a political decision. I believe that women can have a direct relationship with God in every way that men do, and do not need male intercessors.

I have also seen first hand (as a licensed psychotherapist) how this patriarchal relationship has enabled domestic violence within the family and child sexual abuse, because some, perhaps many male priests have not gotten this issue, and have actually made it worse, counseling women to stay in abusive situations that are both dangerous/lethal to them and traumatic to their children.

I also have observed that a "male only" priesthood also contributed to a strong lack of responsibility to report predatory sexual behavior, as there were few women gatekeepers in the recent sex scandals that nearly bankrupted many parishes. This was a betrayal of the weakest of their parishioners, the children. I have worked with survivors of priest abuse and their level trauma is life-disrupting, to say the least. I have wondered how this would have been different if there had been women in the rectory with authority to stop it. The worst thing is that many of these children lost their faith in a God who would protect them.

I believe that there is a gender balance that is sorely lacking and desperately needed in order for the church to survive. If it does not change, I am not sure it will survive.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

I love the bit about conscience that you quoted, and I am always so impressed by people who take great risks for their conscience. Their example makes me wonder if I would do as much.

I totally support ordination for women. I have been so enriched by moving from the Catholic church to an Episcopal parish where a married couple serves as the priests.

Border Explorer, I also want to thank you for visiting my blog today.

Border Explorer said...

Maria, that's a powerful testamony to the damage you've seen from your privileged position due to a patriarchal system. We need as a church to arrive at a healthier place. Thanks for sharing. (That wasn't too long at all!

Ruth, you can be sure I'll be back to visit your site often. How wonderful that your worshipping community models that kind of mutuality in leadership. Sigh. Sounds so great.
Like you, I'm not sure how far my courage will allow me to follow my conscience. Life-long conversion...

Timothy said...

>"Robert Rouse said...
I am not a Catholic, so I suppose I do not understand the reasoning behind the church not allowing women to be ordained."

The reasoning is that the Church lacks the authority to ordain women as priests.

>For Missy, Maria and others...

Since you all support women's ordination, do you also support the changes and abuses being committed by the womenpriests that you support and admire?

- Use of rice cakes for hosts
- Communion for all, not just baptised Catholics in a state of grace
- Godde versus God
- Christa on the church crucfix
- The four persons of God (mother, father, son and spirit)

The agenda of the RCWP far exceeds mere ordination of women.

Even should authority eventually be found for ordaining women as Catholic priests, any woman ordained a Catholic priest would still be expected to follow the Roman Missal faithfully, would they not?

God bless...


QuakerDave said...

With all the recent Olympic hype and such going on in the media, it's good to hear a story about real heroes for a change.

As in people with principles and beliefs who stick to them and live by them, even under such difficult circumstances.

Border Explorer said...

Bless you, Timothy, and welcome. I admit don't understand your first comment on authority. Perhaps you're implying that God has not granted such authority to the church? As to the other "abuses" you cite, well, these are non-issues to me in a world where the majority live on less than $2/day and every day 30,000 children quietly die of preventable causes.

Yes, Quaker Dave, may we all have the courage of our convictions, if our convictions are correctly formed. That is true heroism.

Missy said...

(I know you're not supposed to feed the trolls, but it's so hard not to jump in.)
Timothy refers to a document known as Declaration Inter Insigniores; at the direction of Paul VI the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published this document. The Declaration concludes that the Church "does not consider herself authorized to admit women to priestly ordination." Primarily for three reasons, as near as I can tell: the first being that Jesus only chose men, the second being that it is the tradition of the church that only men have been chosen; and finally that there are certain Scripture passages that uphold this teaching.

Obviously Timothy didn't fully read my opinion on the matter, but I digress.

Now the thing with Sacred Scripture is that there are so many contradictory passages.

And BE, I think you know my feeling on the logic of the appeals to authority and tradition.

You are quite right--these should be non issues.

+May every child on earth be fed.

eProf2 said...

BE, Dada's favorite publication from Las Cruces has an interesting article on the latest developments at Colonia Lomas del Poleo. Here is the link:

Now, it's very clear why the Zaragozas want the land: a new industrial park and a new highway for "binational development."

Border Explorer said...

Missy, thanks a lot for your explanation. Knowing you don't like controversy, I especially appreciate you hanging in there to help us on this post with your perspective and expertise. I constantly quote Paul VI on his "if you want peace work for justice" but sometimes it is hard to take the plank out of your own eye. Oh well. Those three reasons don't hold water for me either. (I have an MA in Theology/Biblical emphasis, so I know too much to buy some of that.) And I'm still chewing on your post on appeals to tradition/authority. I think you're asking a good question there.

Border Explorer said...

Right, eProf. I'm on the Grassroots Press email list & saw that article. I bet you weren't too surprised at that info, were you?

eProf2 said...

No, not surprised. The article makes clear that the fight will be even steeper than suspected.

DivaJood said...

There are women who are Rabbis in the Reform and Reconstructionist movements (not sure about Conservative Judaism); women Cantors in Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative movements. But not in Orthodoxy. There, it remains a man's world. I don't fully understand this, at all.

Border Explorer said...

Diva, I know you saw this quote today at FranIAm, but for those who didn't, it is one response to your comment:
Tradition is the living faith of dead people to which we must add our chapter while we have the gift of life. Traditionalism is the dead faith of living people who fear that if anything changes, the whole interprise will crumble. --Jaroslav Pelikan