Yes, well, first things first!
Michael J. Bayly, co-editor of The Progressive Catholic Voice, is helping to publicize the case of Fr. Roy Bourgeois who has refused to recant his support of women's ordination into the priesthood and therefore faces dismissal from his community at Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers. This failure to recant means that the Vatican will proceed with its threatened laicization.
Yesterday Bayly published a nice excerpt from Bourgeois' open letter to the Superior General of Maryknoll, Fr. Edward Dougherty in his personal blog, The Wild Reed: Thoughts and reflections from a progressive, gay, Catholic perspective. It being open and all, I'm stealing it... because who doesn't love and want to support someone standing up to speak truth to power? *
. . . 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 Catholic priests see the ordination of women as a threat to their power.Bayly lists several avenues of support for Fr. Bourgeois at the end of his post, and this link to a petition on the Women's Ordination website, as well as some suggested background reading and relevant previous postings at The Wild Reed.
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 the 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. . . .
– Roy Bourgeois
|Father Roy Bourgeois (center) presides during the ordination of Janice Sevre-Duszynska (far right). |
*The phrase "speaking truth to power" goes back to 1955, when the American Friends Service Committee published Speak Truth to Power, a pamphlet ii at proposed a new approach to the Cold War. Its title, which came to Friend Milton Mayer toward the end of the week in summer 1954 when the composing committee finished work on the document, has become almost a cliche; it has become common far beyond Quaker circles, often used by people who have no idea of its origins.
To speak truth to power sounds so much like an integral part of Quakerism that some modem Friends have simply assumed the phrase goes back to the seventeenth century rather than arriving late in the middle of ours. It reflects what many contemporary Friends would like to believe is the characteristic Quaker stance toward political authority, hallowed in practice if not the exact words. Yet in its origins it was a political statement, entitling an explicitly political document.
Let me recall the origin of the phrase. According to Steve Cary, the phrase just came to Milton Mayer one day, as he was thinking about the pamphlet. Everyone on the drafting committee liked it and asked where it came from.
Milton Mayer thought he recalled it from some early Quaker writing, but no one subsequently found it, though Henry Cadbury made several attempts to find the phrase. In short, it would seem to have been original with Milton Mayer, though in sound and attitude it feels like an authentic expression of early Quakerism. It has its meaning for us, in part, because it is so concentrated and vivid an expression of an attitude toward government and other institutionalized forms of power. Surely it was the perfect title for a pamphlet challenging the behavior of the two antagonists of the Cold War. They represented raw, terrifying, unreflective and deadly power. What was called for to transform that power was bold and uncompromising truth.