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NATIONAL NEWS | winter 2009

Vatican Justice
Pedophile priests can stay in the Church, but priests who ordain women may be excommunicated

Father BourgeoisWhat happens if a Catholic priest molests children?

Usually, he’s protected by the Church hierarchy. Maybe he’ll eventually have his parish or diocese taken away, or be switched to another one—often after years of serial abuse. But there’s a good chance he’ll stay in the Church.

So what happens if a Catholic priest publicly supports ordaining women? Well, then he’s excommunicated on the double.

“Nearly 5,000 Catholic priests [in the U.S.] have sexually abused over 12,000 Catholic children…but they were not excommunicated,” says Father Roy Bourgeois, who faced the latter scenario after helping celebrate what the Vatican considers to be an illegitimate ordination mass in August 2008. Bourgeois, a Vietnam veteran with a Purple Heart who became a prominent peace activist, stood with the trailblazers of the female ordination movement in Lexington, Ky., to make Janice Sevre-Duszynska a Catholic priest.

For thumbing his nose at one of the most sacred tenets of the conservative hierarchy—that only men are worthy of the priesthood—Bourgeois was swiftly rebuked by the Vatican in a letter two months later, telling him he had 30 days to renounce his actions or face excommunication.

The Vatican’s strong response to Bourgeois’ action stands in stark contrast to its overwhelming failure to punish molesters. Even a homicidal priest, Father Gerald Robinson, who was convicted in 2006 of the satanicritualistic murder of a 71-year-old nun in an Ohio chapel (see “The Nun’s Story,” Summer 2006), has not been excommunicated. The Church doesn’t excommunicate for murder.

Excerpted from the Winter 2009 issue of Ms. - join the ms. community at www.msmagazine.com.

Photo by Jenny Warbug

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