Friday, November 21, 2008



By Kevin A. Stoda

Democracy Now did a lengthy interview with Father Roy Bourgeois this past week on the surprisingly strong threat he has received from Pope Benedict to be excommunicated before this weekend if up if he doesn’t disavow his belief and support of women taking over leadership and ministry of the Catholic Church.

Democracy Now describes Father Roy as a “Maryknoll priest facing excommunication. For the past two decades, he has [also] organized the annual protest against the US Army’s School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia”.

As DN interviewer Juan Gonzales, has noted: “The Vatican has threatened to excommunicate well-known Catholic priest and longtime peace advocate Father Roy Bourgeois this Friday unless he recants his support for the ordination of women into the priesthood.”


On the one hand, it appears that there is possibly some disturbing connection between the rapid (i.e. 30-days notice) threat of ex-communication by the Vatican and Father Roy’s politics siding with the poor and victims of torture.

NOTE: Is it paranoid to ask this question, Catholics: “Could it be that some Latin American or North American Catholics are angry at the good father for his siding so often with the poor and victims of torture?

This apparent connection is because the Vatican’s response to the good father’s letter promoting “women’s calls to the priesthood” (i.e., to be supported and accepted by the Catholic church) has been extremely rapid—almost as though, marbles have long been lined up to fire at SOA Watch’s major supporting priest in Fort Benning..

In contrast to the rapid response to try and expel him, Father Roy has asserted in his DN interview, it had taken male-church leaders in the Vatican nearly 5 decades to respond to the child abuse scandals, which have haunted the Roman Catholic in recent years.

On the other hand, it is possible that the Vatican has not been tainted by adverse or poison pen reports on Father Roy over past decades. Perhaps it is truly in fact only Father Roy’s vocal-ness on women’s rights in the church,--rather than his speaking for the disenfranchised--, which has put him on a crash course with the Vatican and/orBishoprics of the Northern Hemisphere.

Father Roy explains his stand, “As a Catholic priest for thirty-six years, in conscience, I cannot remain silent about injustice in my Church. I and many have come to the conclusion that the exclusion of women in the Catholic Church is a grave injustice, and I simply must—I cannot, in conscience, accept the Vatican’s demand that I recant my belief and my public statements in support of women’s ordination. This is simply wrong.”


Father Roy has served in Bolivia and in El Salvador in recent decades with the Mary knoll community. He has shared, “Any institution, organization that’s controlled where the power is in the hands of any particular group, whether they be men or women, is not healthy. Our Church, the Catholic Church, is going through a real crisis. There are thousands of churches that are being shut down because there is a lack of priests. The sexual abuse crisis has really rocked the Church to its roots. I am convinced, of course, that if we had women priests and women bishops, that sexual abuse and the silence during those years would not have been possible. Women simply would not have been silent. I’m also convinced, if we had women priests and women bishops, there would not be such silence about this war in Iraq. I’m convinced, too, that there would be, if we had women priests and women bishops, they would have called for the closing of this School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia. We need women priests in our Church for it to be healthy, for it to be complete.”

In the end the powers that be have decided to step on Father Roy as though he is an ant. The fact is, however, there are many who support women taking up their callings regardless of what that call is—to be a priest even.

In the interview with Amy Goodman, Father Roy explains further, “Well, Amy, I have poked as many—a number of beehives in my life. This is the biggest beehive I have ever poked. I’ve poked the beehive of the patriarchy. I think I and others, priests and women and bishops—I’m not alone in this—who call for the ordination of women, I think what we’re threatening at its very core is the power, is power, privilege. I mean, let’s face it, this is an all-boys’ club. And we are card—I and many others are card-carrying members. Again, in conscience, I felt I had to break my silence. I’ve broken that silence many times over the years, and I’m calling on my fellow priests and Catholics and Church leaders to break their silence.”

Father Roy continues, “But what we have here, at its very core, is the sin of sexism. And like racism, no matter how hard we try to justify it or bring in, you know, God to bless discrimination, in the end it is always immoral.”

Bourgeois concludes his charge against the Catholic hierarchy by summing up his rationale for speak up as follows, “[A]t its very core, we’re dealing with power, those in power who have had that power and control for centuries, who simply don’t want to give it up. But I have to say, they must give it up. They will be, in a way, forced to give it up. There are many similarities about, you know, what’s going on in Latin America. We’ve learned that all of these repressive militaries that have held onto their power for so long were not going to give up that power and the abuse of their power through the goodness of their heart. And I’m sad to say that the patriarchy of faith communities, like the Catholic Church and other faith traditions, they will have to give up their power because of the grassroots movement from the bottom up organizing, like in Latin America, so many saying, ‘Basta! We will simply not allow you to repress us as you have been doing for so long.’”


Sometime ago, I began to read Karen Armstrong’s the HISTORY OF GOD. In perusing Armstrong’s work, I noted that both the Western and Middle Eastern concepts of God as being masculine rose prominently only during the later years of the first millennium and at the start of the second millennium in Western Europe.

In other words, Armstrong in her well-respected history on the God of monotheism, outlines that reactionary (or male-revisionist) movements in Judaism, Islam and Christianity rose only or primarily in the last 1000 years.

In short, these male-revisionists tried successfully to turn back the clock on the calling of women. This has marginalized many women from leadership in their faiths for centuries

For example, Judge Deborah, in one of major characters in one of the earliest books in the Old Testament, served as respected main leadership of Israel, i.e. long before King David or king Solomon came on stage.

Likewise, both Jesus in his days on earth encouraged women’s active participation, and later even apostle Paul--obviously a chauvinist in a chauvinist era—often lauded the active role of women in the early church. (See last chapter of Paul’s first epistle, Romans.)

Finally, in the early years of Islam, both Khadija and Aisha, daughter and wife of the Prophet Mohammed, through their own words and influence positively effected doctrines, practices, and beliefs for all generations of Muslims.

For some of my readers, it is certainly not a new concept that practices of a monotheistic faith have never necessarily specifically banned women (or excluded them) from the role of leadership.

Father Roy clearly noted that his own decades-long review of biblical writings and practices underpinning his own faith does not rule out the role of women being called to serve in leadership roles.

As a matter of fact, many Western European countries, from Scandinavia to Netherlands to the UK have nothing in their laws of the land (or rules of the state churches) to prohibit women from being the head of the Church.

Meanwhile, in other Catholic or Orthodox lands of Europe--where queens or empresses have reigned--, these countries, too, have seen women serving as the number one defenders of their monotheistic faiths.

Some other women leaders, such as Jean D’Arc in France, have even led their armies into battle while serving as prophetess and mystics of their particular eras.
Similarly, even as the inquisitorial backlashes washed across the now-male dominated catholic church landscape of 16th century Spain, St. Theresa of Avila, showed a way for a woman to be independent and successful in faith, poetry, and life. Sor Juana in Mexico made similar permanent imprints on the church.

In short, women have served as leaders of kingdoms in faith and leaders of various states for many millennia. (Even Israel, under Golda Meier, was led again by a woman in the 1970s.)

So, in some ways, it should come as certainly surprising that an organization, such as the Catholic Church, still wishes to maintain (unquestioned) the old-Boy’s network against the logic of scriptures and real needs of the millions of Catholics short of leadership as the 3rd Millennia begins.

Let me end this writing with a caveat of my own personal walk with Catholicism and the choice of a woman I personally know eventually followed her calling by God to serve as leader, i.e. minister of a church.

Nearly 50 years ago, my father Ronald John Stoda--a serious & practicing Roman Catholic from birth, married my mother--Deloris Whisner. Both of my parents admitted to each other that at several junctions in their early lives they felt called to the ministry.

Around 1976, my mother, then named Deloris Stoda, finally decided that she had to follow her decades long calling to become a leader of a church.
My father supported her. Within a year, my mother was shepherding three United Methodist Churches in central Kansas. My mother continued in the ministry full time up until 2006.

In short, as a son of both a practicing Catholic and the son of a female minister of a church for 3 decades, I cannot fathom why the Catholic Church or Bible based churches, like the Church of Christ, and real students of Synagogues still do not permit women to lead their fellowships.

I would imagine the same introspection is needed by those in Islam.§ion=0&article=60721&d=20&m=3&y=2005

In the meantime, I encourage all Catholics to support Father Roy Bourgeois in his fight for women in the church (who are called by God) to lead.

Father Roy Biography--Inside the School of the Assassins,

Quest to become UK’s first Imam,

Sadowski, Dennis, Despite Vatican Warning, Priest Still Firm on Women’s Ordination,



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