"I know you know what you're doing," Janice Sevre-Duszynska told Father Roy Bourgeois when he agreed to co-preside and give the homily at her ordination Mass, "but do you know what you're doing?" About a month ago I shared Janice's story of ordination, spotlighting her struggle for justice in the Catholic church and the long road she'd walked for years leading up to August 9, 2008, the day of her ordination Mass.
But now, as was the concerned subtext of Janice's question to Fr. Bourgeois, the spotlight is on him. One week after his participation in the Mass, he was questioned and asked to submit a dissenting priest form. A month passed, and then a letter came. Dated Oct. 21. 2008, the letter from the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith presented Father Roy with a choice: recant or be excommunicated. He was given 30 days to retract, in writing, his belief and support for women's ordination, and those 30 days are up this week -- one day before the 19th annual vigil of SOA Watch, a group he founded to protest the School of the Americas.
Women priests such as Janice are immediately excommunicated from the Catholic church, as they are never considered legitimate, but according to the New York Times, "Father Bourgeois is the first priest to face discipline for his involvement." Though his 36 years of service in the priesthood may end because he chose to stand in solidarity with a sister and an equal, he is not wavering in his conviction and has told the Vatican that he will not recant.
"Conscience is very sacred," Bourgeois wrote back to the Vatican. "Conscience is what compels women in our Church to say they cannot be silent and deny their call from God to the priesthood.