Father Roy Bourgeois: Connecting Political Violence with Vatican Discrimination

Father Roy Bourgeois is the well-known founder of the School of the Americas Watch (SOAW) movement in Fort Benning, GA. SOAW seeks to close the US Army School of the Americas—which is now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security and Cooperation (WHINSEC). SOA/WHINSEC trains soldiers from Latin America who are responsible for a slew of murders and kidnappings including the murder of six Jesuit priests, Archbishop Oscar Romero, four US Churchwomen, and countless others. Every November, thousands travel to Fort Benning to protest the SOA and promote nonviolence throughout Latin America and the world.

On August 9, 2008, Father Bourgeois attended and gave the homily at the ordination of Janice Sevre-Duszynska—a woman ordained within the Roman Catholic Womenpriest (RCWP) movement. At a time when the US bishops are cracking down on men and women religious who take part in Church reform movements, this was a significant gesture from Father Bourgeois—a Maryknoll priest. In his homily at the ordination, Father Bourgeois stated, “No matter how hard we may try to justify discrimination, in the end, it is always wrong and immoral.”

Father Bourgeois has drawn the connection between nonviolence and women’s equality in the Church, frequently articulating the notion that violence—whether physical, emotional, spiritual, economic, or structural—is always “wrong and immoral.” He notes that the violence that comes out of School of the Americas is linked to the violence that comes out of the Catholic Church itself. Unfortunately, the wider institutional Church is still unable to draw these connections. While the Vatican and Church hierarchy make moving statements about war, poverty, and discrimination—they still have not seen how these declarations relate to their own institution.

On August 18, Father Bourgeois met with his superiors at Maryknoll. While the Maryknoll community remains supportive of Father Bourgeois, an investigation will be carried out and a report will be sent to the Congregation on the Doctrine of Faith. Father Bourgeois has also received a Canonical warning not to participate in similar events. It remains to be seen whether Father Bourgeois will attend the upcoming RCWP ordination in Chicago.