These are my thoughts, and my thoughts only.
Fr Roy Bourgeois’ expulsion from Maryknoll and dismissal from the priesthood by the Vatican ought to give all of us food for thought. What is our role these days? Is it simply to mouth what is given to us from church authority, or to live in a personal relationship with Jesus, and go wherever this takes us and do whatever we feel we are called to do? These days the two seem mutually exclusive. Roy’s situation reminds us again how dangerous it can be for any of us to prayerfully follow our own conscience as opposed to blindly following the hierarchy’s dictates. Basically any priest who says something authority doesn’t like can be tossed out. This is already happening on the world wide level. When will it happen on a local level? There have been hints recently in the area of same sex marriages where it seems already to have begun. Standing up for what we believe these days can get us thrown out of the church to which we have given a large part of our lives.
I am not proposing any specific course of action, only raising questions. I would not tell anybody what to do, since I can’t figure out for myself what to do. Many folks claim to have the answers and often are self-righteously abusive to any who question them. I enjoy having questions much more than having answers. For me Jesus is more in the questioning than the stock answers.
I see in the hierarchy’s mode of operating reflections of totalitarian governments throughout history, including many of the extremist attitudes of today. Some groups say, for example, if anything does not fit with our world view, we will destroy it, as is reflected in the destruction of ancient statues of the Buddha. Some will not allow women to be educated because they might be a threat to their power, and so they attempt to silence permanently any who disagree, even if they are only ten years old. The difference in the church these days is only in degree, not in fundamental philosophy: “leadership” will destroy what it cannot control. The attitude is that of a bully who abuses people simply because he can, because nobody stands up to him. There are numerous examples of this style of knuckling under to bullies in the last few centuries by groups who seem just plain afraid of higher authority. Perhaps the matter of the imposing the missal translation and the recent USCCB choosing to update the breviary translation are examples. “Please, sir, may I have some more?” What is going on? Do I really want to tolerate or be part of a system that abuses people this way? Hmmm . . .
The hierarchy has more control over priests than over laity, simply because they can take away the priest’s livelihood, while the laity don’t need the church in order to survive. So this puts most of us in an unenviable position. Somehow this is part of our prayer journey, so our prayer life has to be very important to us. Nothing surprising here. The fact that priests are being overworked and often mistreated has to be considered prayerfully. What is Jesus calling each of us to do? It can well be that we are called to different things according to what our particular ministry is.
I see a great difference between the hierarchy and the local parish. I am privileged to help out in several parishes, and I see tremendous good happening there. Each parish is doing its best to meet the needs of its folks, and it is a privilege to make even a very small contribution, and to support wonderful pastors who are overworked and often worn out, and terrific parish staffs.
A question here is what to do about this. Just stand idly by? Get involved? I don’t know. “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.” I don’t know if this applies here. I don’t know if what the hierarchy is doing is evil, or just annoying to me. There are some things I resent, but my resenting them doesn’t necessarily make then evil.
Also, the church teaches we are ordained priests forever, except, it seems according to the letter from Maryknoll, when the convenience of the Vatican deems otherwise. For me he will always be Fr Roy.
Some worthwhile questions might be, who’s next?, what now? Huh?
Lead me, Lord.
Just sayin . . .