Roy Bourgeois Wins Standing Ovation at APP Talk By James McCarville

Roy Bourgeois won a standing ovation at the close of the second event in the Association of Priests’ Speaker Series September 1, with over 150 persons in attendance. His theme, “My Journey from Silence to Solidarity: The Struggle for Justice and Equality”, also sparked a lively discussion. The series is held at the Kearns Spirituality Center in Allison Park.

Roy spoke of his personal growth from a Naval Officer in Vietnam, and a witness to the suffering there, to a Maryknoll priest in El Salvador and Bolivia where he said the suffering was worse. What hurt him most, he said, was that he found out that the people inflicting the suffering were being trained by the US at School of the Americas (SOA) in fort Benning, Georgia.

His activism first got him in deep trouble in Bolivia, from which he was deported. He then returned to the US. After learning that the soldiers who had assassinated the six Jesuits in El Salvador had been trained at SOA, he established SOA Watch. Each year now, on the weekend before Thanksgiving, thousands of people arrive at Fort Benning to protest the use of American funds for this purpose. Last year the number grew to over 15,000.

For his activism he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. For the same reason, he also spent four years in federal prison. He called that the best long retreat he had ever been on.

While back in America, he said, he became aware of a different kind of suffering, that of the women who were denied equality in the priesthood. He called it a “grave injustice…deep sexism” in the Catholic Church. While his order had warned him about his inconsistency with Catholic teaching on this subject, he continued to speak out. Shortly after a live 15-minute interview on Vatican Radio, he was notified that he had been “separated” from the Maryknoll order. The interview was supposed to be about the SOA, but, he said, and it was for the first 13 minutes. For the last minute, however, he could not remain silent on gender issue either. Just like the path he followed in Latin America and at Fort Benning, It was a question of conscience and of solidarity.

In 2012 the Vatican “dispensed” him from his sacred vows. When asked if anything good came out of that, with a smile he says, he “spends a lot less time in meetings now’. Nonetheless he remains upbeat on the reforms he hopes to see in the Catholic Church.

Solidarity was the theme throughout the presentation, and the importance of not remaining silent. For his outspokenness, in 2011 he received the “21st Century Prophet Award” from Call to Action – PA.

The next speaker in the series will be Dr. Daniel Scheid, a theology professor from Duquesne University speaking on Pope Francis’ encyclical, “Laudato Si, Be Praised: On the Care for Our Common Home”. It will take place on October 7, 2015, at 7:00 pm, also at the Kearns Center, 9000 Babcock Blvd, Pittsburgh, PA, 15101.

The Association of Pittsburgh Priests (APP) is a diocesan-wide organization of ordained priests and non-ordained women and men who act on our baptismal call to be priests and prophets to carry out a ministry of justice and renewal, rooted in the Gospel and Spirit of Vatican II. For more information on APP contact John Oesterle at

For information on the Speaker Series, contact Sr. Mary Joan Coultas at

For more information on the School of the Americas Watch, see

Jim McCarville is a freelance writer who lives in the North Hills, he can be contacted at