A Catholic priest has been dismissed from his order for refusing to relent in his campaign to have women ordained as priests, and his case again sheds light on the divisive issue of women and church leadership.
The Rev. Roy Bourgeois, a member of the religious order Marryknoll Fathers and Brothers, received a letter notifying him that he was being dismissed due to his “disobedience” and “defiant stance” in regard to official church policy on the ordination of women.
The letter, signed by the Rev. Edward Dougherty, Superior General for the Order, reads:
“Your numerous public statements and appearances in support of the women’s priests movement continues to create in the minds of many faithful the view that your position is acceptable to our Church.”
The warning, Bourgeois’s second, was dated July 27, 2011, and informed Bourgeois that he had 15 days to rectify the situation.
“They want two words: I recant,” Father Bourgeois told the New York Times. “And they can’t get that out of me. For me, the real scandal is the message we are sending to women: you’re not equal, you cannot be priests, you’re not worthy.”
Bourgeois, a priest for nearly 40 years, insists that the Roman Catholic Church’s argument for the exclusion of women from the priesthood “doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.”
In a written response dated August 8, the Catholic priest wonders, “Who are we to reject God's call of women to the priesthood?”
Citing Galatians 3:28, Bourgeois continues, “How is it possible for us to say that our call from God, as men, is authentic, but God's call of women is not?”
Bourgeois, who was automatically ex-communicated in 2008 for attending a women’s ordination, said to recant would make him a liar.
“This I cannot do, therefore I will not recant. I firmly believe that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is a grave injustice against women, against our Church, and against our God.”
In the letter, Bourgeois did not appeal to remain a part of the order, but that the Roman Catholic Church would allow women who feel called by God to be ordained as priests.
The issue of women leading in the church is not one exclusive to Roman Catholics, as it has also been debated in Protestant churches for years.
Although various Christian denominations allow and encourage women to be ordained in roles of leadership, some churches are adamantly opposed to women preaching from the pulpit, finding it offensive and against Scripture.
However, a 2009 survey by the Barna Group shows that women in mainline Protestant churches were making gains when it comes to attaining leadership roles.
The Barna Group survey reveals that between the early 1990s through 1999, only five percent of the senior pastors in Protestant churches were women. That figure doubled to 10 percent in 2009, according to the survey.
Most of these women, 58 percent, were affiliated with Baptist, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, and Presbyterian denominations.