Monsignor Harry J. Byrne, JCD * * * Comment/

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Location: 3103 Arlington Avenue,, Bronx, NY 10463, United States

November 21, 2008


Maryknoll Father Roy Bourgeois, well-known peace advocate, recently published an open letter, which he had sent to the Vatican Congregation of the Faith in response to its letter to him giving him thirty days "to recant my belief and public statements that support the ordination of women in the Church" or he would be excommunicated. If Bourgeois accurately describes the content of the Vatican's unpublished letter, one can only be puzzled as to how the Vatican could demand the recanting of one's belief. It could demand that he cease his public statements on that issue, but it is a far reach to demand recanting one's belief. Belief, Bourgeois insists, is a matter of sacred conscience. He provides examples of this in Franz Jagerstatter' refusal to serve in Hitler's army and Rosa Park's refusal to sit in the back of the bus. The Nicene Creed professes faith in the one God in three persons and other matters de fide. It does not proclaim the belief that a woman can not be ordained a priest. Pope John Paul II tried to make it a matter of divine faith, but did not succeed. Nice try, Your Holiness, but no cigar! If you or your predecessors did not succeed in making it a matter "de fide", how can your successor try to make it "de fide" for Bourgeois?

An observer will see this Vatican exercise as a further illustration of the patriarchal ethos of our Church, maintained by its higher authorities. At the lower levels, parish priests and the faithful, more exposed to actual experience and distrustful of abstract deductions, have substantially moved away from this ancien regime mentality. A priest friend at his two Masses last Sunday, commenting on the pending excommunication of Bourgeois, asked his congregations how many believed that women should be ordained. Two thirds of each congregation raised their hands!