Former Catholic Priest Calls for Women's Ordination

By Erika Mahoney

February 19, 2013 Updated Feb 19, 2013 at 12:07 PM EST

Town of Union, NY (WBNG Binghamton) After more than 35 years as a man of the cloth, then-Catholic Priest Roy Bourgeois received word that rocked him to his core. But it wasn't entirely unexpected.

On Nov. 19, he received a letter that told him he was a priest no more; all because of his stance that the Roman Catholic Church should accept ordained women.

"Numbed by it," Bourgeois said. "That turned into real hurt and pain."

Pope Benedict XVI excommunicated him after 36 years in the priesthood for refusing to recant his support for the ordination of women.

"I wrote back by saying you can dismiss me, but you can not dismiss the issue."

The excommunication was abrupt and new, but the reason behind it is not.

"What I'm experiencing in the way of hurt is but a glimpse what women in the Catholic Church and society have experienced for centuries, their rejection, their suffering."

But his dismissal has strengthened his fight.

"These movements are unstoppable simply because they're rooted in justice and equality," he said.

And people are listening as he tours New York spreading his message. More than 100 people turned out Monday night in Endicott to hear him speak.

"I know many women who would make great priests and deacons," said Marge Mangan, an audience member..

'I think when Christ bestows a vocation on someone it's not about their DNA," said Kate Madigan, also an audience member. "We've lost many, many wonderful women to the Episcopalian faith and other faiths because they weren't welcome."

He's not a lone voice, but opposition stands in his way.

Also Monday night, a group gathered outside of the church where he was speaking to protest his words.

"I'm here because I'm a faithful Catholic," Anne Marie Donlon said. "The Catholic Church has taught from its inception, as when it was created by Christ, that men are the priests. If you are a priest, you are an alter Christus, which means another Christ. I'm a women how could I be another Christ."

With the retirement of Pope Benedict on the horizon, Bourgeois hopes for a step towards change.

"I hope to see a more inclusive church," he said. "I hope to see church leaders who see everyone as Jesus did, you know, at the tables as equals."

He says he's confident that one day, there will be a woman pope; but first, a church that holds on high equality in the cloth.

To submit a comment on this article, your email address is required. We respect your privacy and your email will not be visible to others nor will it be added to any email lists.