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Bourgeois draws support from Irish priests, Mercy sisters.

A church reform group that represents about a quarter of Ireland's Catholic priests issued a statement of support in early December for Roy Bourgeois, an American priest the Vatican laicized because of his support of women's ordination.

The priests' statement followed a similar one in late November from the leaders of one of the largest groups of Catholic sisters in the Western Hemisphere.

Bourgeois, widely known for his work calling attention to injustices in Latin America, had been a member of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, a U.S. missionary society, for 45 years. The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith dismissed him from the society on Oct. 4, the order announced in a press release Nov. 19.

The dismissal drew criticism from a former head of the U.S. missionary order, who said in an NCR interview that it represented interference "with the integrity of the society" (NCR, Dec. 7-20).

Ireland's Association of Catholic Priests on Dec. 7 called on the Vatican congregation "to cease this type of abuse, to restore Fr. Bourgeois to the full exercise of his ministry and to allow for open and honest discussion on issues that are of crucial importance for the future of the Church."

"We believe that this type of action, ordered by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and implemented by the Maryknoll Order, is unjust, and ultimately counter-productive," read a statement from the association.

The leadership team of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas said Nov. 28 they are "saddened and disturbed" by the Vatican's move.

"We have known and worked with Father Roy as an advocate for justice in both church and society, nationally and globally," wrote the five sisters on the team. "Father Roy's commitment regarding the role of women in the church reflects our own as Sisters of Mercy."

The Association of Catholic Priests, which was founded by eight priests two years ago, has grown to represent about 1,000 of Ireland's some 4,000 active priests. According to the group's constitution, the association aims at a "re-structuring of the governing system of the Church."

One of the association's co-founders, Redemptorist Fr. Tony Flannery, is himself under scrutiny from the Vatican congregation and has been ordered to stop writing and speaking and to go to a monastery for a period to "pray and reflect" on his situation.

While the congregation has not explained the action against Flannery publicly, press accounts indicate it is due to his questioning of the church's official teachings on artificial contraception and obligatory priestly celibacy.

The five writing the sisters' statement head the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, an organization of about 4,000 sisters serving in the U.S. and 11 other countries across the Western Hemisphere in the order founded by 19th-century Irishwoman Catherine McAuley.

In their statement, the sisters point to a document their institute approved in 1991 that committed the sisters to act in solidarity with "women seeking fullness of life and equality in church and society."

"We have heard Father Roy speak with respect and love for his church and find this an extraordinary moment of deep loss for religious life which he loves and to which he has given faithful service," the sisters conclude.

Bourgeois' role in Maryknoll had been in question since his presence at the ordination of Janice Sevre-Duszynska of the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests in August 2008.

Maryknoll asked Bourgeois to publicly recant his support of women's ordination over a period of years, telling the priest in a March 2011 letter that he faced laicization and removal from the order if he did not comply.

In a series of letters and interviews, Bourgeois had said he could not comply with the request for reasons of conscience.

Responding to his dismissal Nov. 20, Bourgeois said, "The Vatican and Maryknoll can dismiss me, but they cannot dismiss the issue of gender equality in the Catholic Church."

"My conscience compelled me to break my silence and address the sin of sexism in my Church," Bourgeois wrote in a statement. "My only regret is that it took me so long to confront the issue of mate power and domination in the Catholic Church."
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Title Annotation:WORLD; American priest Roy Bourgeois who was laicized by the Vatican
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Geographic Code:4EUIR
Date:Dec 21, 2012
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