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Defrocking an Anti-American Leftist By: Mark D. Tooley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, November 20, 2008

Catholic Priest Roy Bourgeois has spent 19 years protesting against the U.S. Army’s alleged "School of the Assassins" at Ft. Benning, Georgia. But now the Catholic Church may be on the verge of defrocking him, not for his semi-Marxist brand of Liberation Theology, but for his role in the unauthorized ordination of a female priest.

The "School of the Assassins" is actually the former School of the Americas, now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC). Since 1946, it has trained over 60,000 Latin American military officers. Its left-wing critics assert that hundreds of its graduates are implicated in human rights abuses, and that the school is itself responsible for the misdeeds of Latin militaries across the decades. That the school includes democracy promotion and human rights protection in its curricula is inconsequential to foes like Father Bourgeois, who portray the U.S. as the ultimate oppressor of Latin America’s poor and oppressed.

Of course, all of Latin America’s rightist dictatorships are now long gone, and the only remaining tyrannies are left-wing: Castroite Cuba and Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela. But Liberation Theology’s true believers do not allow the passage of time to affect their worldview, which is firmly anchored in the 1970’s. In that era, Bourgeois served as an activist missionary in Bolivia and El Salvador. "It was there that the poor became my teachers," he explained recently to a sympathetic blogger. "Liberation theology is the theology of the poor. It's theirs. They name it. It's where they discover a God who does not want them to suffer."

Belonging to the radical Maryknoll order, Father Bourgeois preached in August at the "ordination mass" of Janice Sevre-Duszynska at a Unitarian Universalist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. The priest and the "priestess" met each other in his group, the School of the Americas (SOA) Watch, which claims that the U.S. Army has deliberately trained Latin American military officers to torture and murder.  Of course, SOA Watch has never really provided any evidence of his charge, except for the purported "torture manuals" publicized in 1996. The booklets, largely left over from the Vietnam era, actually offered no training in torture; it’s not even clear if they were ever actively used in any SOA classes. Out of hundreds of pages of text, there were a dozen or so sentences or clauses cryptically referring to information gained involuntarily. But nearly every news release from Father Bourgeois cites the supposedly infamous "torture manuals."

Bourgeois and his followers are routinely arrested at their annual street theater demonstrations outside Fort Benning, with the next scheduled civil disobedience being November 21-23. Sevre-Duszynska, who is claiming Catholic ordination through a group called "Womenpriests," has spent 3 months in jail for her civil disobedience on behalf of SOA Watch, one of Bourgeois’ 250 "prisoners of conscience."  Bourgeois’ website claims that he has spent four years in prison over the decades for his anti-SOA protests. The annual rite of protesting against the SOA typically includes cutting the gate locks and trespassing onto Fort Benning. 
Incredibly, Bourgeois likened the Roman Catholic hierarchy to corrupt Latin American militaries. "The SOA is about men in Latin America who abuse their power in order to control the lives of others," he observed. "Just as soldiers in Latin America and inmates in prison abuse their power and control others, it saddens me to see the hierarchy of our church abusing their power and causing so much suffering among women." In his sermon, Bourgeois wondered: "How can we speak out against the injustice of our country’s foreign policy in Latin America and Iraq if we are silent about the injustice of our church here at home?"

The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith wrote Bourgeois last month, asking that he disavow the female ordination or face excommunication. Once again, the often imprisoned Bourgeois will be a martyr. According to the New York Times, Bourgeois’ excommunication would mean the loss of priestly benefits and his $1,000 monthly living expenses. He courageously told the Times, "If I am without health care, I will be joining millions of people in the U.S. who don’t have health care." And he told the Associated Press: "I won't be able to say Mass in Catholic churches, but my ministry in SOA Watch and speaking at colleges and churches will continue."  

Father Bourgeois speaks in other venues, as well. He went to Venezuela in 2004 to meet with strongman Hugo Chavez and to experience his socialist revolution. Naturally, Bourgeois loved what he found. "Talking to the people and hearing their excitement—just seeing in their eyes hope and joy," he enthused to a left-wing interviewer. "They’re talking about schools, literacy programs, health care, hands-on stuff that they are involved in. And how they talk about 'their president' who has now brought them into a whole new future. You know, it is revolving around them and not around the rich. And, oh man, this is so rare!"

Bourgeois complained about all the “lies” in the U.S. about Chavez’s Venezuela. "We are not getting the right information, just as we never got the right information about El Salvador, or about Guatemala, or Bolivia, or about Chile in those days, and on and on,” he complained. Calling his interview with Chavez "wonderful," Bourgeois gushed: "The United States and George Bush are here to do everything they can to make sure that this revolution fails. Because if it succeeds, if the poor here will get justice, if there will be a real redistribution of the resources here." Dwelling in his usual time warp, he warned: "The U.S. is pumping money into Venezuela as we pumped money into Chile when Allende was there."

Bourgeois’ full-time job for much of the last two decades has been running SOA Watch. He lives in an apartment outside the gates of Ft. Benning. Last year, his anti-SOA demonstration attracted 19,000 activists. Presumably SOA Watch, which employs five people in addition to Bourgeois, will  more than be able to supplement whatever Bourgeois loses in priestly income. 

Excommunication likely will not seriously affect Bourgeois’ zeal for shutting down the SOA, under the banner of yesterday’s discredited causes. Nor will Bourgeois’ absence from the priesthood pose any loss for Roman Catholicism, which has more important work for its clergy than promoting Marxism-lite.

Mark D. Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. He is the author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church.

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