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Saturday, April 30, 2011

New wine, old wineskins?

Yesterday we had ten people at morning prayer. Only three were Society members. Things improved (?) at Evening Prayer when we had four Society members, but then we had 22 visitors.

Our guests were permanent deacons and their wives from around the United States who came to Maryknoll for a weekend symposium on the diaconate and mission. Organized by Deacon Steve DeMartino from our vocations office, this annual event helps foster a mission spirit among the growing number of permanent deacons.

I gotta say, I was impressed with the way the deacons' wives deftly navigated the macrame complexities of the breviary ribbons during the Octave of Easter.

Maybe this (many guests/few Maryknollers) is a foreshadowing of a not-so-bad future where a small and (one can only hope, still) vital part of the Maryknoll Society acts as a focal point and catalyst for a much larger and dynamic ministry to mission by other groups.

But between here and there there is fixed a great abyss. We have to somehow slough off our present situation if new possibilities are to emerge. Getting to there from here won't be easy. Or pretty.

Mistake #1 happened right after our building renovations ended and there was much hope-filled talk of a Mission Center, with various groups coming to imbibe the mission spirit here at the Knoll whilst planning ministries for the new millennium. That plan required setting aside the R-Wing rooms exclusively for these visitors. Alas, ensconced missioners (an oxymoron if ever there was one) refused to move to other sections of the building reserved for permanent members. The result was that when visitors come, we must intersperse them all over the building.

Mistake #2 happened as our headquarters slowly devolved over the years into a retirement home. The ever-growing tail has been wagging the shrinking dog more and more. As one very influential Maryknoller noted, "We owe members a place to stay, but it doesn't have to be here at the Center." But if the Administration couldn't get Members to move to another wing, can you imagine them trying to get Members to move away altogether? One solution may be to empty the R Wing of Maryknollers by attrition. Assign no Members a room there, either temporarily or permanently. Should some die-hards dig in their heels, they forfeit any right to complain about the noise or disruptions caused by visitors. Yeah, like that's gonna happen.

Mistake #3 is the on-going lack of communication, conversation and transparency, those lofty ideals that wafted from the last Chapter and have remained elusive ever since. Oh, we have communication, usually one way and only after the cat is out of the bag. Conversation of any import seldom makes it past the salad bar. And forget transparency. That too seems one-sided, where hoi polloi are expected to be totally open about all our plans without any reciprocity, like passing through the emotional equivalent of a full-body scanner.

Case in point: no one in the dining room seems to know just where Roy Bourgeois stands vis-a-vis the Society. (Or rather, thems that know aren't talking). Did the Second Letter get sent? Did the Third Letter get sent? What happens if too much time elapses between letters and there is no action? Of course, we'll find out what happened just as soon as the National Catholic Reporter tells us.

In the meantime, as we prepare for our Regional Assembly at the end of May, will anyone dare suggest discussing a radical idea: that the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America, as it is currently defined and established, can no longer meet the challenges of announcing the Reign of God nor fulfill the demands of mission in our time ?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Joseph Veneroso has recommended an article from

Joseph Veneroso thought you might like this story from

Paths of Conscience

Since the day Martin Luther refused to recant his beliefs, declaring “Here I stand. I can do no other,” the unyielding integrity of the solitary hero of conscience has been an icon of the Western imagination. But conscience is a subtle power, and it sometimes also ties people of principle to the very communities against whom they protest. Socrates followed his daimon but also submitted to the verdict of Athens, the city that had given birth to his quest for virtue. The Second...

To view the rest of the article, click here.

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Crossing over to risen life

As has been my experience every Easter since being ordained in 1978, Jesus comes out of the tomb just in time for me to go in and get some shut-eye. This year was no exception, what with our vocation retreat, holy week services at the Knoll and my regular Masses at the Korean church in Queens, I was dead tired. Now that I have rested up and have risen from the dead, a report is in order.

I and many Maryknollers I spoke with were impressed with the high calibre of the 13 young men who came to spend the Triduum with us and learn about Maryknoll and our mission work. And like the Society they are checking out, the retreatants came in different colors, categories and convictions. A young priest from Fr. Benedict Groeschel's Franciscans of the Renewal, who worked in Southern Sudan and is applying to join our Associate program, seemed right at home with us. Two other guys got into lively debate at supper over taxes and government spending (sign 'em up!) and seven of them played kick-ass volleyball.

Following the movie "Of Gods and Men" about the true-life drama surrounding the Trappist community's gut-wrenching discernment to stay in Algeria in the 1990s which ultimately led to their martyrdom, one prospect expressed some disappointment our Maryknoll community in Juarez would "abandon the people there" to the violent situation by closing that mission. Not having been part of that decision-making process, I simply stated that each Maryknoller has to decide for himself what is best. But he would have none of it. His feeling was that without guys willing to take risks for Christ, young men like him will not be attracted to overseas mission and Maryknoll's future is "dim", to quote how one resident at St. T's put it. I countered that Maryknoll's main purpose is not its own survival, but rather announcing the reign of God. As long as we are doing that, whether we go out of existence through attrition or martyrdom, is inconsequential. All seemed to be in agreement on that. If Maryknollers are true to the Gospel, new members will come.

One young man from the Korean parish is inclined to join Maryknoll but wisely wants to experience mission first. His plan is to go to college for a year, then take some time off to explore a short-term volunteer program with Maryknoll overseas to help him discern. If he gets "bit by the mission bug" he may consider applying to the Society.

Later, up in the Third Floor Rec Room following the Easter vigil service, while six guys played Monopoly, Fr. Dave LaBuda, from the vocations team, spoke with me about an effort by five Society members to enter into a conversation in Chicago with Fr. Ed Dougherty, superior general, and somehow dissuade or convince him not to send the dreaded Second Letter to Fr. Roy Bourgeois, which would set in motion the final 15 day deadline till the Third Letter of dismissal from the Society and appeal to Rome for laicization.

Dave was quite candid in thinking there wasn't really much wiggle room. Roy deliberately painted Maryknoll leadership into a corner, and as long as we want to keep that Catholic portion of our C.F.M.S.A. title, Doc has little choice but to blast a whole in that corner. Just what is the status of that Second Letter. Dave didn't know. The retreatants who listened to our discussion, in fact, hadn't even heard about Roy or this recent piece of drama and, when brought up to speed on developments, seemed to side with Doc.

Life and death issues during Holy Week. Appropriate enough. A blessed Easter to all. Click on the Alleluia YouTube entry above on the right. The third installment of a video meditation on our Maryknoll Centennial Missa ad Gentes, by Michael Joncas.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday @ the Knoll

Next year, instead of the annual contest to guess how many jelly beans are in the jar, I propose a far more daunting challenge: guess how many times we'll change keys during the singing of the Passion.

1,201 was the magic number of jelly beans, with the First Prize going to Fr. John Moran who "guessed" 1,200. Oddly enough, he's won the past several years.

Providentially, this was also the number of times Frs. Paul Masson, Mike Duggan and I changed keys during the singing of the Passion.

We had the foresight to ask the people to sit, otherwise more than the Lord would have suffered.

Breaking with our vocation retreat tradition, we had no outdoor Stations of the Cross at Maryknoll this year. Instead, the group went to the outdoor reenactment of the Stations held by the Hispanic community of St. Ann's parish, where former Maryknoll Associate Fr. Ed Byrne is pastor. The forecasted rain never materialized, so all went well.

Actually, going to an ethnic parish had been part of our vocation retreats in years past. One year we brought the retreatants down to the Korean parish in Queens, another year to Transfiguration in Chinatown, and when the retreat was at Los Altos, to a local Vietnamese parish.

Another departure from previous retreats was the showing of a NEW movie besides "The Mission" and "Romero". Today's offering was the 2010 movie "Of Gods and Men", based on the true events faced by Trappists in Algeria during the 1990s.

Whether to stay with the people during the increasing terrorism and violence or close the mission and return to France forms the core of this at once disturbing yet edifying movie, befitting Good Friday.

One of the young Koreans who is attending this year, said the retreat was way more interesting than he thought it'd be. So to that degree, it's a success.

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Washing of Feet

Do THIS in memory of me!

Holy Week Vocation Retreat

One sure sign of the End Times was seeing 25 guys at Morning Prayer today. Even if you subtract the 13 men here for the discernment retreat, that still means 12 Society members deigned to gather for the Liturgy of the Hours. Surely the End is near.

It was great welcoming the retreatants from all over the country (world, actually, if you count the one from India and Nigeria, and don't consider Texas a foreign country.)

Their presence here since last evening certainly interjected energy into our community and lowered the average age down to about 43 from its current 77.

The guys represent various backgrounds: lawyer, army captain, opera singer, parish administrator, personal trainer, college students and even high school seniors.

Speaking of Call To Action (?), there were indeed many phone calls --about 515-- from those supporting Fr. Roy Bourgeois and asking our superior general to reconsider the formal dismissal for breaking his vow of obedience by continuing to publicly speak out on behalf of women's ordination.

Which brings us to Holy Thursday and the institution of the Eucharist and the priesthood. Although my observation stands: if woman cannot be priests because not was present at the Last Supper, why do they receive Communion?

I guess consistency is not a characteristic of contemporary Carholicism.

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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Book Review by Fr. Jack Keegan, M.M.

Fr. Jack Keegan sent the following book review via email. Of particularly timely import is his observation in the very first paragraph:
"We Roman Catholics worry more whether the candidate for this calling (to the priesthood) is male rather than female, celibate rather than married, but we worry not nearly enough whether that candidate has a firm grasp on Christian wisdom."

I found it particularly edifying as we approach Holy Week, when we commemorate Jesus' "dismissal" from his society for suggesting maybe their hearts, thoughts, traditions and religion weren't sufficiently open and big enough to contain God's revelation.



Julia Gatta, THE NEARNESS OF GOD: PARISH MINISTRY AS SPIRITUAL PRACTICE (New York, Morehouse Publishing, 2010) 141 pages.

Some books occasion happiness in their readers. Such a one is Julia Gatta’s THE NEARNESS OF GOD: PARISH MINISTRY AS SPIRITUAL PRACTICE. For a priest, reading it is much like being on retreat. Julia, with her twenty five years of experience is the retreat master. That she is a woman and married vindicates a complaint I used to mutter to myself many years ago when I was a seminary professor.

We Roman Catholics worry more whether the candidate for this calling is male rather than female, celibate rather than married, but we worry not nearly enough whether that candidate has a firm grasp on Christian wisdom. She has it, and shows it throughout the five chapters that make up this slim volume. In them she reflects on ordination, the eucharist, preaching and prayer, pastoral care, and temptation in ministry.

The central theme pervading her reflections on the priesthood is borrowed from Karl Rahner. “This is the life of the priest: to dwell completely in the explicit nearness of God.” Her companion is Urban T. Holmes who “was one of the first to call the priesthood of the church back to its theological and spiritual roots” so that priests might “reclaim their vocation to mediate the transcendent mystery of God.”

Priests can get bogged down in thinking of themselves as counselors and managers, leaders of their congregations and communities, another ‘helping profession.’ Underneath her reflections, although she never says so, stands a theology of grace, the saving presence of God that gifts every human life. It is to that the priest is related. It awaits the mediation of the priest in the mundane where “we are more apt to discover these blessings in the wide spectrum of exchanges that reveal our common humanity."

“Profoundly religious assumptions,” she later says, “are lodged quietly in worldly concerns,… the kinds of things people talk about when they do not think they are talking religion.” The Trinitarian presence of God embraces every human life, and the priest is oriented toward it as mediator to its becoming explicit in consciousness and behavior. And “Grace often takes us by surprise.”

This might have led these reflections on the priesthood toward a wider field of concern. Reviewing this book in SEWANEE THEOLOGICAL REVIEW (Vol.54, No. 1, p.86), Elizabeth Orens wonders “what she might say about the role of the priest who is called to witness in a social and political context.” In so wondering, she, no doubt, is groping toward a vision of the priesthood that focuses on its essentially missionary nature. While priests are ordained by and within a Christian community, they are not ordained only for it. They are also SENT by the Christian community to the mystery of grace irrupting in the wider world.

The author of THE NEARNESS OF GOD might have had this in mind when she rightly draws our attention to the fact that it is “natural for us to mark the beginning of a new priest’s ministry with a first celebration of the eucharist.” She then goes on to recall “a wonderful scene at the conclusion of the movie PLACES IN THE HEART that captures how the eucharist makes present the ‘age to come’” It looks forward to a final reconciliation of all human beings “sharing in the eschatological power of Christ’s Body and Blood.”

The author comes closest to affirming the missionary nature of the priesthood when focusing on a certain uneasiness she has with the term Pastoral care. “Whatever else ‘pastoral’might mean, then, “ she says, “it is a calling that must keep the paschal mystery well in the foreground.” For, “each human being contains unfathomable depths.” People experience the paschal mystery (often a kind of entering into the death of Christ without any feeling for the resurrection) not quite knowing what is happening in their lives. And, we priests “are invited into these places of pain and weakness simply because we are the priest; were it not for our ordination, we would not be there.”

This little book focuses on the priesthood within the Christian community. It is concerned with parish ministry as spiritual practice. It is here that its author displays both her experience and her wisdom. Nowhere is this more evident than in her chapter THE SUPPER OF THE LAMB: CELEBRATING THE EUCHARIST. She observes: “In some quarters, however, emphasizing liturgy as the ‘work of the people’ has become a pretext for endless human invention, while correspondingly little attention is paid to liturgy as Christ’s gift and action among us.”

This perspective carries over into the way she introduces her chapter on SERVING THE WORD: PRAYER FOR PREACHING. Her opening paragraph situates the two. “Preaching prepares the congregation for prayer, for their participation in the sacred mysteries.” It is clear that she has homiletic preaching in mind. She is quick to explain. “It refreshes the cleansing, transformative grace of baptism. It cultivates our ongoing conversion to Christ. It forms in us the perspective of the gospel. It sharpens our vision of the kingdom of God.”

This most rewarding chapter, wherein she intertwines prayer and preaching, was doubly effective for me because I was also reading Lewis V. Baldwin’s
NEVER TO LEAVE US ALONE: THE PRAYER LIFE OF MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. at the same time. She is helpful and suggestive as to how to go about preaching, but she is not adverse to doing a little scolding. “Those who feel themselves called to the priesthood but who shy away from preaching and teaching are captured more by a sacerdotal archetype than by a calling to the real work of priesthood.”

A final chapter, DEFYING AND DEFINING LIMITS: TEMPTATION IN MINISTRY, is quite intriguing. “Grace confronts on all sides in a world saturated with the presence of the Risen Christ,” she reminds us, but priests must also remember that there is a close connection between ministry and temptation. The synoptic gospels attest to it, and “we would be naïve to suppose that the Holy Spirit is the only spirit around, that all the influences that press upon us are benign.”

The demonic is real, however we want to explain it. We can be tempted by the good. Remember the temptations of Jesus. They now weave their way into priestly ministry seducing priests to misuse their power, or to ask to be saved from self inflicted disasters, and to fail to honor the limitations of their
human nature. All by way of proposing the good that can come from it.

There is one aspect of this demonic assault on the ministry of the priest that remains inarticulate in her reflections. It was anticipated in her preface when she wrote: “For too long…the Church has subscribed to an essentially ethical understanding of IMITATIO CHRISTI to define the goal of Christian life and ministry. Jesus was not first and foremost a teacher of ethics. Part of his ministry was devoted to teaching and part of his teaching was devoted to ethical concerns. But, the last thing a priest wants to do is to wean people away from the cruciform character of human existence. Moral integrity is laudable, but priests have an eye and a nose for how the paschal mystery is woven into the flesh and blood of human existence.

Our ministry is not fundamentally to the moral integrity of humans, as laudable as that may be. Priests have to resist the temptation to undermine the gospel not by way of something evil, but through something good. The satanic temptation comes through when the moral life is promoted as the epitome of Christian living, displacing the mystery of life-through-death. True morality needs the paschal mystery for its foundation.

THE NEARNESS OF GOD is a small book with much in it to be savored, particularly by priests. But, it will surely be welcomed by anyone who wants to spend some time with a true spiritual guide whose wisdom is surely Christian.

John E. Keegan, M.M.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Huffington Post: Pope Appeals To China Over Naming Of Bishops

Our own Fr. Larry Lewis is returning from Rome and a meeting with Pope Benedict even as we blog. Ten days ago he called me up in a panic (Larry, not the pope) having heard from my classmate in Rome (Fr. Clyde Phillips, not the pope) that in the new dispensation, a suit and clerical collar are not sartorially sufficient to come into the papal presence.

"Joe, do you have a cassock I can borrow?"

"Actually I have three. Take your pick!"

He chose the one custom made for me some years ago by the mother of our late Br. Mike Greyerbiehl with the faux buttons hiding a full-length zipper (the cassock, not Mike) and a Maryknoll cincture complete with Chi Rho.

The purpose of Larry's call to Rome was a high-level discussion of Maryknoll's China Formation Project which has helped bring Chinese priests, seminarians and Sisters from the mainland to the U.S. so they could receive solid education in religious matters.

Four (or five?) alums of the program went on to become bishops in China with Vatican and PRC official approval. Larry went to give his assessment of the program.

Now, I'm not saying there's a quid pro quo, but my cassock may have just been the tipping point to the following press release from the Vatican. Just sayin'.

Pope Appeals To China Over Naming Of Bishops
By Francis X. Rocca Religion News Service VATICAN CITY (RNS) The Vatican on Thursday (April 14) lamented China's interference with the Roman Catholic Church, and...

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

"Lord Have Mercy" Maryknoll

THIS is the corrected link to the latest music video meditation of the Missa ad Gentes.

Check it out on YouTube:

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Well-planned activities

Fr. Leo Shea wows the crowd with a PowerPoint presentation of up-coming Centennial events.

House Meeting

Will there be enough life preservers and lifeboats?

Deck chairs at Maryknoll

Fr. Leo Shea addressed a monthly house meeting which was moved up a week because of Holy Week. Eighty events are scheduled around the world. On June 29th, the actual Day, will see all entities of the Maryknoll Movement in attendance. September 15-18 is Alumni Weekend, is being prepared by Mr.Dave Brown. More than 1,000 people are expected. Fr.Eugene Kennedy will be among the speakers.

Mr. Bob Short (MEPD) put together a PowerPoint display shown by Leo of the Maryknoll journey nigh these past 100 years. Portraits of Maryknollers, past and present, reminded us how young and thin we once were. A montage of our Opening Liturgy last January 25 helped those of us with short-term memory loss.

Excerpts from Superior General Ed Doughtery's opening homily celebrated the past and pointed toward the future of mission in Maryknoll.

A new site went up today on our page with a banner announcing upcoming events. Check it out.

Fr. Bob Jalbert described the CTU Mission Symposium in Chicago on October 6-8. Mr. Greg Darr and his staff have been working hard to put together this theme of Mission Ad Gentes. Cardinal Francis George will be the keynote speaker on the U.S. Church in Mission Ad Gentes.

Br. Wayne Fitzpatrick described the daunting tasks faced by the Committee for the October 30 celebration in St. Patricks, which may be streamed live over the Internet as well as Channel 15. Maryknoll will bring flags, flag bearers, ushers, choir and concelebrants. Buses will take people back and forth between Maryknoll and Manhattan. Fr. Peter LeJacq heads this committee of 20. Two archbishops and two cardinals and ten bishops will be in attendance. A reception sponsored by the brother of Fr. Joe Healey will be held for the hierarchy following the Mass.

Ms. Colleen Brathwaite (marketing) explained the Youth Gathering in Indianapolis in November 17-19, expected to draw 20,000 young people. Maryknoll will have four booths there.

Fr. Ed Dougherty described his recent trip to China with Vicar General Father José Arámburu a few months ago. He also talked about the speech he made earlier this month to the Pontifical Mission Societies in Seattle that included an apology for any insensitivites or misunderstandings Maryknoll may have caused in the past. No mention of any elephants in the room.

Meanwhile, back at the barricades, Call To Action announced a phone-in for this coming Monday, April 18, asking its 24,000+ members to call our main switchboard to advocate reconsideration of the decision to dismiss Fr. Roy Bourgeois from the Society in the coming weeks.

Iceberg? What iceberg?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Fr. Roy Bourgeois, M.M.

Will Roy's picture be taken down from the hall of Maryknollers once he is formally dismissed from the Society and laicized by Rome?

On Conscientious Objection

Back in my college days in the mid 1960s, I joined the War Resisters League, founded by Mahatma Gandhi, to combat the predominant mentality in society that violence and war can solve our problems. We took a pledge never to refer to another human being in anything less than human terms. No "pigs". No "gooks". No "monsters."

The strength of the movement lay in its followers being willing to participate in acts of civil disobedience against selective laws deemed unjust, and then willingly accepting the consequence of their action. Gandhi clearly stated such action must be selective. If laws are broken habitually then the focus of the injustice is lost. Similarly, Gandhi thought it essential to willingly accept the punishment for the infraction, thus underscoring just how injust, if not absurd, the particular law in question is.

I bring this up in this week before Holy Week as Maryknoll on the one hand prepares to celebrate the Passion, Death and Resurrection of the Lord (the cosmic example of a conscientious objector) while on the other hand preparing to expel (excuse me, DISMISS) Fr. Roy Bourgeois from our Society. [Our resident canon lawyer insists Roy is being dismissed, not expelled. I think the nuance depends on whether or not you open the door before booting someone out through it.]

Like many Maryknollers, I feel saddened, angry yet resigned to the inevitable and unavoidable consequences to Roy's actions these past several years. Let me be honest in the interest of full disclosure: I like Roy, I consider him my brother, and I totally agree with his opinion of women's ordination. I do not, however, agree with his strategy.

By dragging Maryknoll into his cause and putting us on a collision course with the hierarchy and official Church teaching, he forced Superior General Fr. Ed Dougherty's hand. One Maryknoller wanted to pose this question to Roy: would you force a busload of protesters at the annual SOA protest to cross the line and get arrested against their will? This Maryknoller says what Roy did was essentially to hijack Maryknoll and force us over the line.

When Roy was excommunicated in 2009 for participating in an attempted ordination of a woman to the Roman Catholic priesthood in 2008, he acted in the prophetic role of a conscientious objector by accepting the punishment for breaking what he feels in his heart of hearts is an unjust law. But by continually disregarding Fr. Dougherty's explicit instruction to make no further public statements and take no further action in support of women's ordination, Roy sealed his own fate and gave Doc an out to rid the Society of this "meddlesome priest" (cf. Thomas Becket and King Henry II, for those who are historically challenged.)

Perhaps Roy was acting in the style of Martin Luther ("Hier stehe ich, ich kann nicht anders. Gott helfe mir." ["Here I stand, I can do no other. God help me."]) Unfortunately, Doc's letter to Roy clouds the issue by casting the dismissal once again in terms of women's ordination and not explicitly in breaking the vow of obedience we take to our superiors. Inadvertently, then, our superior actually did Roy a favor by making the dismissal from Maryknoll a direct consequence of his public stand against the official Church's barring women from Holy Orders.

Murky ecclesial waters indeed. But for the above reasons, Roy's imminent dismissal from Maryknoll and forced laicization does refocus attention on the Church's ban on women's ordination. This apparent injustice in the Church is highlighted all the more by the recent report by the Boston-based Gavin group that found 55 dioceses are not compliant with the 2002 Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. Two dioceses, Lincoln, Neb. and Baker, Ore. refused to cooperate with the audit. Is it too much to ask the bishops to keep their own promises and be consistent in meting out ecclesial justice by slapping the recalcitrant dioceses with an interdict (a communal excommunication) until they reflect and repent the error of their ways? Or is it true that the official Church considers involvement in women's ordination as grave a sin as pedophilia? (I notice a strange silence about the gravity of the sin of those who permitted the abuses to continue by transferring offenders and hiding their crimes.)

Be that as it may, the Vatican has declared no women shall be called to Holy Orders, ostensibly because none was present at the Last Super when Jesus instituted the priesthood. But by that same logic, let us then be consistent and decree that henceforth no woman is qualified to receive communion.

So here we stand, we can do no other. In 100 years, I feel Maryknoll will be but an asterisk next to Roy Bourgeois name. Don't believe me? Can anyone name the superior general who dismissed Father Martin Luther? Didn't think so. God help us, indeed.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Letter from Roy Bourgeois

April 8, 2011

Rev. Edward Dougherty, M.M., Superior General
Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers
P.O. Box 303
Maryknoll, NY 10545

Dear Father Dougherty and General Council,

Maryknoll has been my community, my family, for 44 years, so it is with great sadness that I received your letter of March 18, 2011 stating I must recant my belief and public statements that support the ordination of women, or I will be dismissed from Maryknoll.

When I was a young man in the military, I felt God was calling me to be a priest. I later entered Maryknoll and was ordained. I am grateful for finding the happiness, meaning and hope I was seeking in my life.

For the past 20 years I have been speaking out and organizing against the injustice of the School of the Americas and U.S. foreign policy in Latin America. Over these years I discovered an injustice much closer to home - an injustice in my Church.

Devout women in our Church believe God is calling them to be priests, but they are rejected because the Church teaches that only baptized men can become priests. As a Catholic priest for 38 years, I believe our Church's teaching that excludes women from the priesthood defies both faith and reason and cannot stand up to scrutiny for the following reasons:

(1) As Catholics, we believe that we are created in the image and likeness of God and that men and women are equal before God. Excluding women from the priesthood implies that men are superior to women.

(2) Catholic priests say that the call to be a priest is a gift and comes from GOD. How can we, as men say: "Our call from God is authentic, but your call, as women, is not"? Who are we to reject God's call of women to the priesthood? I believe our Creator who is the Source of life and called forth the sun and stars is certainly capable of calling women to be priests.

(3) We are told that women cannot be priests because Jesus chose only men as apostles. As we know, Jesus did not ordain anyone. Jesus also chose a woman, Mary Magdalene, to be the first witness to His resurrection, which is at the core of our faith. Mary Magdalene became known as "the apostle to the apostles."

(4) A 1976 report by the Pontifical Biblical Commission, the Vatican's top Scripture scholars, concluded that there is no valid case to be made against the ordination of women from the Scriptures. In the Episcopal, Methodist, Lutheran, United Church of Christ, Presbyterian and other Christian churches, God's call of women to the priesthood is affirmed and women are ordained. Why not in the Catholic church?

(5) The Holy Scriptures remind us in Galatians 3:28, "There is neither male nor female. In Christ Jesus you are one." Furthermore, the Second Vatican Council's Pastoral Constitution on "The Church in the Modern World" states: "Every type of discrimination ... based on sex ... is to be overcome and eradicated as contrary to God's intent."

After much reflection and many conversations with fellow priests and women, I believe sexism is at the root of excluding women from the priesthood. Sexism, like racism, is a sin. And no matter how hard we may try to justify discrimination against women, in the end, it is not the way of God. Sexism is about power. In the culture of clericalism many Catholics priests see the ordination of women as a threat to their power.

Our Church is in a crisis today because of the sexual abuse scandal and the closing of hundreds of churches because of a shortage of priests. When I entered Maryknoll we had over 300 seminarians. Today we have ten. For years we have been praying for more vocations to the priesthood. Our prayers have been answered. God is sending us women priests. Half the population are women. If we are to have a vibrant and healthy Church, we need the wisdom, experience and voices of women in the priesthood.

As Catholics, we believe in the primacy and sacredness of conscience. Our conscience is sacred because it gives us a sense of right and wrong and urges us to do the right thing. Conscience is what compelled Franz Jagerstatter, a humble Austrian farmer, husband and father of four young children, to refuse to join Hitler's army, which led to his execution. Conscience is what compelled Rosa Parks to say she could no longer sit in the back of the bus. Conscience is what compels women in our Church to say they cannot be silent and deny their call from God to he priesthood. And it is my conscience that compels me to say publicly that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is a grave injustice against women, against our Church and against our God who calls both men and women to the priesthood.

In his 1968 commentary on the Second Vatican Council's document, "Gaudium et Spes," Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, said: "Over the pope ... there still stands one's own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else, if necessary, even against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority."

What you are requiring of me is not possible without betraying my conscience. In essence, you are telling me to lie and say I do not believe that God calls both men and women to the priesthood. This I cannot do, therefore I will not recant.

Like the abolition of slavery, the civil rights movement and the right of women to vote, the ordination of women is inevitable because it is rooted in justice. Whenever there is an injustice, silence is the voice of consent. I respectfully ask my fellow priests, bishops, Church leaders in the Vatican and Catholics in the pews to speak out and affirm God's call of women to the priesthood.

Your Brother in Christ,


Roy Bourgeois, M.M.
P.O. Box 3330
Columbus, GA 31903
Tel/Fax 706-682-5369
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Friday, April 8, 2011

Kingdom of Radical Love

"Exempting no one; excluding no one."

Fr. Miguel D'Escoto Brockmann, M.M.

Breakfast at the 39th St. House turns into a mini retreat for this blogger.

Miguel's mission

An overnight stay at our 39th St. House afforded me some time to chat with Fr. Miguel D'Escoto about his recent activities. He assured me he has no great desire to be Libya's representative at the United Nations, but rather wants to put together an A-List international team of high profile negotiators who can bring a peaceful and just solution to the Libya conflict.

To that end, Miguel had to quickly change his plans to come to the Knoll this weekend. A phone call convinced him to get back to Nicaragua tomorrow.

I have to say, listening to Miguel is like going on a mini-retreat. No matter what question I asked him, he always circled back around to the gospel. Miguel certainly lets his faith illuminate his actions. Quoting Tolstoy, he said "The kingdom of God requires a radical love that exempts no one and excludes no one." This has been his guiding principle throughout his missionary life as well as in recent years when he served as president of the U.N. General Assembly. He dismissed charges that he needed a diplomatic visa to work at the U.N. and flashed a special I.D. badge he has as a former president which gets him anywhere inside the U.N. compound.

"You have no right to criticize someone unless you love them," Miguel said. "Only love gives you the vision to criticize effectively. Without love, criticism may be motivated by jealousy, anger or hatred. Such criticism will never be heard by God nor will it help the person or institution you are criticizing."

Speaking of which, Miguel is about to publish a book proposing a total overhaul and reinvention of the United Nations. Clearly he loves the U.N.

He recalled meeting President George W. Bush for the first time. "What would I say to him? We had 153 items on the U.N. agenda. Finally I offered my hand and said, 'Mr. President, I want you to know that I love you. I love your wife and I love your family.' " Miguel recalls how Bush's face noticeably softened. Probably underestimating the man he was facing, Bush later described Miguel as a pleasant, old gentleman.

I tried to gauge his reaction to the imminent dismissal of Fr. Roy Bourgeois from Maryknoll and from the priesthood. "Roy is paying the price for standing up to the institutional church which has been distorting the Gospel of Jesus Christ for 1,600 years." He then went into detailed description of how Constantine manipulated the Council of Nicea.

At about this time I got a phone call from a former superior general of Maryknoll who shall remain anonymous so as not to jeopardize his teaching position at the University of Scranton. I assured John I had not been silenced again, for the simple reason that I had not been silenced the first time. I try to give an accurate reading of what guys discuss here at the Knoll, but truth be told, how many colonoscopies and seminars on gerontology can one report on in between baseball or basketball games?

That being said, Miguel's taking a long view of things and casting his actions as working out of love to build the kingdom of God, no matter what the personal cost or hardship, helps us understand if not always appreciate what he and Roy and so many lower profile Maryknollers are doing. "What else would you expect if you're following a Crucified Lord?" Miguel said.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Huffington Post: Excommunicated Priest Now Faces Expulsion

Here is how the Huffington Post treated the stories. The comments at the end are a good indication of how the average person views this.

Excommunicated Priest Now Faces Expulsion
By Bruce Nolan Religion News Service NEW ORLEANS -- The Rev. Roy Bourgeois, the Louisiana native and peace activist who was excommunicated three years ago...

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