Friday, November 21, 2008

"More from dissident NCRep on Bougeois’s excommunication"

From Fr. John Zuhlsdorf:

"The ultra-lefty National Catholic Reporter presents another exercise in adulation of probably soon to be former Fr. Roy Bougeois, MM.

Bougeois is a longtime professional protester, dissident and now heretical supporter of women’s ordination.

It was especially his active participation in a fake ordination of a woman last August, at which he also spoke, which stirred the Vatican to action.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will probably send the notice of his excommunication fairly soon. There remains the question of his continuing in the clerical state and as a member of the Maryknoll Mission priests. Bougeois was given an opportunity to rethink his favorable position on women’s ordination. He obstinately and publicly refused to stop supporting what the Church definitively teaches is an impossibility. Therefore Bougeois has also fallen into contumacious heresy, which he spreads publicly, thus also causing additional scandal. His political protests were one thing, but this is another entirely.

Let’s have a look at the NCRep’s latest encomium. My emphases and comments.

Support, criticism swirl around Roy Bourgeois

By Tom Roberts
November 20, 2008

Letters, petitions go to Rome about priest threatened with excommunication [I wonder if "promise" wouldn’t have been a better word.]

The news that peace activist Fr. Roy Bourgeois was threatened [Note how the writer sets up the contrast of "peace" on the one hand, and "threat", on the other.] with excommunication for his support of women’s ordination unleashed a storm of commentary and reaction from various Catholic interest groups and around the blogosphere.

If the issue is settled for Rome, it is still wide open in some Catholic circles. [Roma locuta est, causa disputatur.] In addition to the expected sharp division between those who applaud Bourgeois’ action and those who find it scandalous, people have posed thoughtful questions about conscience, and how and whether the church can force someone to violate his conscience. Others, in what amounts to a fairly robust discussion of the question of women’s ordination, raise issues of history and women’s place in the early church based on an understanding of scripture and archaeological evidence. [Several points are front loaded here for the article. First, the writer paints the critics of the Holy See as "thoughtful". You have already been told that the Holy See is threatening. Also, placing this in the sphere of "conscience" will probably strike the thoughtful reader as pandering to their usual readership. These days, conscience is king, regardless of how poorly formed it might be. Also, there is "robust" discussion. "Robust" here signals approval. The (impossibility) of the ordination of women should be talked about and talked about and talked about… until it happens. "Robust", therefore, is approval, when applied to the "question". Also, there really is no question about this if you are a faithful Catholic. Finally, the writer panders a bit more by tossing in the suggestion that women have been mistreated and that, in the finest Da Vinci Code fashion, there is evidence out there which will prove Bougeois and the women to the right after all.]

[Now watch how the issues are confused.] Another thread that runs through much of the commentary asks how the church could act so swiftly against Bourgeois when decades passed before the church even began to investigate cases of sex abuse of children by priests. [On the one hand, priests committed vile sins, which are also crimes, and bishops and religious superiors who shamefully did too little exercised scandalously bad judgment. On the other hand, Bougeiois is a public heretic, which is a matter of doctrine. On the one hand there were moral delicts, on the other damage to the Church’s doctrine about a very important teaching and practice. They are both very serious, but they fall into different categories. They are not moral equivalents. However, we can agree that the Holy See didn’t act with the speed we could have hoped. But in the interest of being consistent according to the call of the NCRep we hope the Holy See will now act to remove from their positions all priests who support the ordination of women together with those who have been proven beyond doubt to have abused children.] Meanwhile, Bourgeois, a Maryknoll priest of 36 years, is trying to meld [another nice word] issues that normally operate in separate spheres by claiming that the ban on ordaining women is as serious an injustice within the church as the injustices he has confronted in the realms of the political and military. [So, the issue of the ordination of women is simply reduced to the "fairness" argument. What this reflects is a fundamental misunderstanding of what the Church teaches priesthood is all about. For the NCRep and Bougeios, priesthood is about the functions and about one’s own subjective feeling about them. If priesthood is only about what people do, then it makes sense that we should chose people who are competent and available to do those tasks, regardless of their sex. But priesthood is not only about what priests do. It is about who they are. Also, the Church calls men to the priesthood, men don’t call themselves. Whatever feelings or thoughts they have about priesthood are tested and verified by the Church, which also considers many other factors, including the Church’s perennial practice and Tradition and Magisterium. In the end they are only saying "it’s not fair".]

Bourgeois, who concelebrated an ordination of women in Kentucky in August, responded to the Vatican’s warning that he recant his position or face excommunication with a letter stating that he considered the ban on ordination of women an injustice within the church and that he could not recant what he considered a matter of conscience. [Conscience is supposed to confirm his own choices. The Vatican is supposed to accept this. Imagine. Bougeois: "Women must be ordained because I feel it’s unfair they aren’t". Vatican: "What part of the Church’s teaching do you not understand? No." Bougeois: "I insist." Vatican: "No. And furthermore, stop saying these things or you will be disciplined." Bougeois: "I won’t stop because I really want to do this." Vatican: "Wellll….. okaaayy…. you win."]

He expects to receive final notice of excommunication from the Vatican in the very near future.

In a homily delivered during the August ordination, Bourgeois declared, “Just as soldiers in Latin America abuse their power and control others, it saddens me to see the hierarchy of our church abusing their power and causing so much suffering among women. Jesus was a healer, a peacemaker, who called everyone into the circle as equals.” [Bougeois compared the Holy See, the Holy Father and all bishops back through the centuries to brutal soldiers of regimes trying to repress Communists guerrillas, "freedom fighters".]

Roman Catholic Womenpriests, who sponsored the ordination that precipitated the Vatican action against Bourgeois, asked [this is a good one] in a release how the Vatican could “excommunicate women who honor their call to the priesthood and, in the case of Fr. Roy, the men who support them, but not the priest s and bishops who have perpetrated sexual abuse of children?” ["How could you! How could you be so mean!" More seriously, must excommunication the penalty for everything now? People toss this around so lightly. Let’s dig for a moment. First, priests who were proven to be abusive were punished with a serious penalty: dismissal from the clerical state. What is excommunication for? It is intended to help people return from their sinful state and to prevent them, to the extent possible, from doing additional damage to themselves and the Catholic faithful. The Church also uses excommunication for some sins to do its part in underscoring that certain actions are heinous when the state no longer does its part. I have in mind the case of the American bishops once asking the Holy See to permit the imposition of excommunication on people who sold drugs to minors. This was eventually rescinded, probably because in the civil sphere there are strong laws in this regard and there is a strong social stigma about that. Consider the case of abortion. Abortion carries an excommunication, though with murder does not. Why? Probably because states have become callous regarding the unborn and so the Church does her part to underscore the sanctity of human life from its very beginning in the face of a loss of this sense in society, in a culture of death. To be fair to the argument used above (which is still ridiculous), I think some abuser clerics should also have been excommunicated. Take for example those priests who were not merely sick and doing sick things in private, but who made a public case for what they did, as in the case of that creep involved with the organization promoting child abuse. IMO, he should also have been excomm’d because he went beyond the mere acts of abuse, bad as they were. There are many priests, sadly, who think women should be ordained. They are not being censured with excommunication because they don’t push it to the point Bougeois did, to real scandal, and harm of the unity of the Church and her doctrine. Excommunication has to serve a function. That function is not just retribution. The Church doesn’t apply penalties as retribution. They are remedies. Excommunication also states to the Catholic faithful that what the person did is a grave offense against the unity of the Church, that it is not Catholic. The Church doesn’t excommunicate people just because they are "bad people", as retribution. I think this is where the people involved with that fake ordination business have gotten the argument wrong, even though there is a grain of truth in the suggestion that some abuser clerics should have been excommunicated.]

In a series of questions, the group also asked why the Vatican continued to ignore “the voice of the community,” citing surveys that regularly show a heavy majority of Catholics would approve of women priests. [Because majority rule should guide us?]

“Why do you continue to deny the documented archaeological evidence [This is just DaVinci Code fluff not to be taken seriously.] that supports the spiritual leadership of women as deaconesses, priests and bishops for the first 1200 years of church history?” the group asked.

One of the most high profile clerics to weigh in on the Vatican discipline is Jesuit Fr. James Martin, an author and frequent contributor to America magazine, the weekly Jesuit publication. [He is high profile? Why? Because he writes for America.] In a Nov. 11 blog posting, Martin essentially explained the collision course that was inevitable when Bourgeois clearly violated church teaching by participating in the ordination, no matter that on another level, [watch this] he was following his conscience, an inviolable activity. Martin cites several of the powerful references to conscience in Vatican II documents and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, including the line from Gaudiem et Spes: “Conscience is man’s most secret core, and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths.” [Well, that’s fine. But Bougeois is being censured because of his very public, very defiant, very scandalous heretical statements and his behavior. We hope the excommunication will eventually prompt him to form his conscience according to the mind of the Church, rather than his own musings.]

Martin tacks a “reflection” to the end `of his entry in which he recounts that the excommunication warning was sent to Bourgeois in October, within three months of the ordination ceremony in August. “Would that the church had acted with equal swiftness against sexually abusive priests. Would that bishops who had moved abusive priests from parish to parish were met with th same severeity of justice. [Again, excommunication is not retribution. Furthermore, once the ball did get rolling on handling the abuser cleric cases, the Church did move quickly. I know one case where a man was dismissed from the clerical state in lightening speed, unthinkable in the years before.]

“Were their offenses of lesser ‘gravity?’” he asked. “ Did they cause lesser ‘scandal?’” [Well… they were different kinds of scandal, different categories. Again, I am ready to concede that some of those clerics ought to have also been excommunicated. At the same time I will point out that not all priests thinks women should be ordained are being warned about excommunication. Furthermore, let’s ask a practical question: Say Holy Church would have excommunicated, for example, Card. Law of Boston because of how he mishandled clerics. Because excommunication is a remedy designed to promote repentance for a sin and harm done to the Church, he more than likely would have issued a public statement of sorrow immediately according to the demands of the decree. In that case, the excommunication would have looked like a sham and the whole purpose of having censures would have been undermined. I think they same would go for the larger number of cases of abuser clerics. What would have been the outcome of the censure? What purpose would it have served? REMEMBER: excommunication is not for retribution.]

Many people spoke of writing to Pope Benedict XVI as well as Cardinal William Levada, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican agency that corresponded with Bourgeois.

One long missive that was sent to both the pope and NCR was from Charlotte Therese of Sweden. Near the end of the letter, she states:

[Okay, Charlotte is now going to set everyone straight….]I’ve studied all the arguments against women ordinations in detail and I’ve found that none of them is solid enough to build any teachings upon. It’s rather the opposite way—they all fall down like a pile of cards if they’re slightly touched. [Well… that’s compelling!] I thus hope you will welcome and reopen theological discussions about this in the Vatican, through inviting theologians from all over the world who has (sic) studied the question at depth—both women and men—and both those who based on their studies are positive to change and those who aren’t, and they should all have the right to speak and vote.” [Right. Because the Church has never really studied this before.]

A respondent on one blog who said he accepts “the stand of those in charge at this time[at this time] opposed the action against Bourgeois. “Instead of refuting Fr. Roy’s position, they silence his voice. What does this accomplish? Have those in charge not learned the lessons of history?” [This makes one want to pound one’s forehead on one’s desk.]

Call to Action, the lay reform group that has long supported women’s ordination, was attempting to gather 2,000 signatures [Oooooo…..] on a petition supporting Bourgeois prior to this year’s demonstration at Ft. Benning, Ga.

Bourgeois was founder of the annual event, which attracts thousands and is referred to as SOA Watch after the School of the Americas, the former name of the school at the fort. It was changed in 2001 to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. The protest began in 1990, a year after six Jesuits, their housekeeper and her daughter were assassinated in El Salvador by troops that had been trained at the SOA.

On Nov. 20, Bourgeois was preparing for the crowds that were beginning to arrive. Asked in a phone interview about reactions to his impending excommunication, he said he continues to receive calls of support, but said he had heard nothing further from the Vatican.

As for the SOA protest, Bourgeois said happily that he was finished with his organizational duties. He said he was in charge of arranging for portable potties and had just met the crew that delivered them. “I’m finished for the weekend. My work is done. And it’s one of the most important jobs here,” he joked. [He probably better not quit this day job… now that he has another.]

It is all so sad.

We see the public wreck of a clerical career. It’s an ugly thing to watch an autopsy, but sometimes it must be done. We have to keep cutting up these cadaverous articles for the sake of showing people what caused death.

We also see the NCRep’s sriral around the bowl. It could do so much good. In publishing articles like this, it undermines any good it might do otherwise. Very sad."

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