Even though expected, it was with some dismay that I learned that the Vatican has finally expelled Father Roy Bourgeois from the Congregation of Maryknoll Priests and Brothers. True, he was disobedient by preaching a homily at a Mass at which a woman was ordained as a Catholic priest. But this wasn’t even an immoral act, since he was acting in keeping with his conscience. I expect that Pope Benedict XVI wishes he had never written what he actually did when he was just plain Father Joseph Ratzinger, theologian, who was so respected by the bishops of Germany that he was an adviser to them at Vatican II. He wrote that the primacy of the individual conscience is so important that not even a supreme religious leader can command a person to act against his conscience. It is a beautiful statement, it is out, it is done, and once the cat is out of the bag it can’t be pushed back in. Father Roy has spent over half his life working to end the evils of the School of the Americas, run by our Military that trains military personnel from the countries of Central and South America. It is more correctly called the School of Assassins because that is what its graduates do when they go back home. A good friend and colleague of mine, Brother James Miller, was killed in Guatemala. Bishop Oscar Romero was killed while saying Mass, by an officer of the army in El Salvador. Three nuns and a laywoman were raped and killed by soldiers of the same country, as well as six Jesuits and their housekeeper and her daughter. 100,000 is the number of natives and others killed by the military in those countries. How do the 3,500 of 9/11 that has so outraged us stack up against that number? Has anyone in the Vatican ever done anything comparable to save lives? So, where is the balance? Has a single bishop who moved pedophiles around without notifying parishioners of their past ever been punished? Not only was he not punished, Cardinal Bernard Law was put in charge of the most important parish in Rome! Pope Benedict XVI personally ordered Bishop Morris in Australia to resign after he wrote that ordaining women might help solve the shortage of priests problem. He wasn’t even pushing the idea. The question of ordaining women is just an idea. Can the value of an idea ever match the value of 100,000 lives? Balance, anyone?
I imagine that a great many Catholics dislike that I write letters such as this, but keep in mind that Dorothy Day was a thorn in the side of many bishops, but now her cause of canonization is progressing. Back in the 50s, Father John Courtney Murray, S.J., the most highly respected theologian in the United States was censured (had his hands slapped) and silenced for claiming that the standard teaching: “Outside the Catholic Church there is no salvation.” was wrong. Then, when Vatican II was opened, the bishops of this country invited him to be one of their advisers. The upshot of this was that the Council made a formal retraction of this teaching. Some day Father Roy will get his vindication.