Aisha Taylor, Executive Director of the Women’s Ordination Conference, issued the following statement from the main stage of the School of the Americas Watch protest in Fort Benning, Georgia, on November 22, 2008 with thousands of people in attendance.
As a feminist Catholic woman working for women priests and an inclusive, accountable Catholic church, I am proud to be here to speak out against war and torture, and call for the closing of the School of the Americas!
As a young Catholic woman who grew up in the U.S., the only institution that has ever explicitly excluded me solely because of my gender is the Roman Catholic church. The exclusion of women from the priesthood is a grave injustice and it has a disastrous impact on the world.
It is a blatant example of sexism, and a very public one. The Vatican has enormous cultural and political influence in International affairs, with a seat at the United Nations, and the pope has the ability to meet nearly at whim with many powerful heads of state.
With women treated as second class citizens in their spiritual home, the Vatican’s influence on public policy regarding women’s issues around the world has been devastating, especially in Latin America.
The church is operating in the world as incomplete, with only one leg to stand on, and only one hand to extend to solve the complex problems we are facing. In a world divided by poverty, stunned by economic crisis, and continually reeling from sexism, racism, homophobia, and many forms of oppression, it’s long overdue for the Vatican to use all of its resources to work toward solutions. When I consider our challenges, I imagine the transformaiton that could take place if Catholic women were able to fully exercise their leadership. Imagine if women’s ministries had the full backing of the church, with all of its financial, legal, and human resources. If they did, we would to nothing less than change the world. It’s not simply a matter of justice — the world needs women’s leadership.
Fr. Roy Bourgeois understands this. His conscience and his personal relationship with women called to the priesthood compelled him to take a prophetic stance last August, when he participated in the ordination of Janice Sevre-Duszynska as a Roman Catholic woman priest. Less than 3 months later, the Vatican threatened him with excommunication unless he recants his support of women’s ordination within 30 days. He responded, "I can’t recant. And I won’t."
Roy compared the Vatican’s severe and swift reaction to him and all ordained women to the time it took the Vatican to respond to reports of clergy sexual abuse of children — 12 years! It took over 12 years for the Vatican to seriously respond and demand that pedophile priests be removed from ministry. Fr. Roy and the women who are ordained are not criminals, but they are being treated as such, while many criminals have been protected and none have been excommunicated. This demonstrates that there is something seriously wrong with the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.
Two days ago, my organization, with Call To Action and Roman Catholic Womenpriests, sent a petition with over 3,700 signatures to the Vatican and Fr. Roy’s Superior General before the 30 days ended. Stand with us and Fr. Roy and break the silence on women’s ordination. Sign our petition by visiting Erin Saiz Hanna at our table, number 49, and wear a sticker with the campaign slogan "Break the Silence. Shatter the Stained Glass Ceiling."
To show our appreciation, we will present Fr. Roy with a gift, a crystal chalice to continue his priestly work. We also have a journal where you can write a note of your appreciation to Fr. Roy.
Thank you for supporting justice for women in the Catholic Church. Together, we will close the School of the Americas!