A Georgia priest facing excommunication for supporting the ordination of women said Friday he plans to visit the Vatican with a contingent of fellow priests and a bishop to appeal the decision.
Roy Bourgeois, 69, a Maryknoll priest and nationally known peace activist, ran afoul of Vatican doctrine by participating in an Aug. 9 ceremony in Lexington, Kentucky, to ordain Janice Sevre-Duszynska, a member of a group called Roman Catholic Womenpriests. Recent popes have said the Roman Catholic Church cannot ordain women because Christ chose only males as apostles.
"Who are we as men to say to women that our call to the priesthood is valid, but yours is not?" Bourgeois said in a telephone interview. "As Catholics we profess that the invitation to priesthood comes from God, and I believe that we are hampering with the sacred when we say that women must be excluded from being priests. That invitation is from God."
Bourgeois said the toughest part of the ordeal was informing his 95-year-old father, a devout Roman Catholic. He said he drove to his family's home in Lutcher, Louisiana, near New Orleans, to tell him, and that his father shed tears and then told his family that God had protected Bourgeois before, and would continue to today.
"When he said God will take care of him, I wept," said Bourgeois.
Bourgeois' excommunication likely would be automatic, requiring no further action from the Holy See, said the chief Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi. Excommunication is the most severe penalty under church law, cutting off a Catholic from receiving or administering sacraments. The ordained woman, Sevre-Duszynska, also faces excommunication.
Bourgeois said that he recently received a letter from the Vatican's doctrinal watchdog, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, offering him a chance to recant within 30 days to avoid excommunication. But Lombardi said he did not know of such a letter, and Bourgeois said he has informed the Vatican he will not repent.
Bourgeois, a Vietnam veteran, served as a missionary in Bolivia and El Salvador. Concerned by what he had witnessed, he returned to the United States and formed School of Americas Watch, a group that holds annual demonstrations against a Fort Benning school that is now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. He lives in an apartment outside Fort Benning's main gate.
The deadline for his excommunication is Nov. 21, Bourgeois said — just one day before the start of the 19th annual protest at the school by his group. Even if he is excommunicated, Bourgeois said he will remain active in SOA Watch and the church.
"I won't be able to say Mass in Catholic churches, but my ministry in SOA Watch and speaking at colleges and churches will continue," he said.