|Former Priest Ray Bourgeois and Janice Sevre-Duszynska|
The Rev. Bill Brennan, a longtime peace activist, has been ordered not to celebrate the Eucharist or other sacraments publicly, or to present himself publicly as a priest by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and his religious order, the Society of Jesus. It comes three weeks after Brennan celebrated Mass with Milwaukee native the Janice Sevre-Duszynska during an annual protest at what was historically known as the School of the Americas at Fort Benning near Columbus, Ga. And it follows the excommunication and defrocking of School of the Americas Watch founder the Rev. Roy Bourgeois, a Maryknoll priest who participated in Sevre-Duszynska's 2008 ordination in Lexington, Ky. (The former School of the Americas is now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.) Brennan, who remains a priest and lives with other retired Jesuits in a Wauwatosa retirement home, said he knew he risked censure when he celebrated the sacrament with a woman priest. "Sometimes in our lives we have to trust our conscience and bring about the consequences," said Brennan, a Wauwatosa native who taught at Marquette University High School beginning in 1968 and spent 17 years working in Latin America. "I wasn't trying to show off for the ladies," he said. Fellow peace and social justice advocates voiced disappointment in the censure. And Sevre-Duszynska called it "outrageous" and Brennan "prophetic." "Bill has exemplified with his life the fruits of the spirit," she said.
"He has worked for justice with the oppressed and marginalized, and for the liberation that Jesus teaches in the Gospel."In the Catholic Church, the local bishop -- in this case Archbishop Jerome Listecki -- confers the "faculties" priests require to serve publicly in a geographic area. Jesuit spokesman Jeremy Langford and Listecki's chief of staff, Jerry Topczewski, said it was a joint decision to withdraw Brennan's faculties for public ministry.
Unlike Bourgeois' sanction, the move does not appear to have prompted a Vatican review, at least for now. Both the Jesuits and the archdiocese said they planned to take no further actions against the elderly priest. Brennan, who was arrested during a protest at Fort Benning in 2011, is one of two Milwaukee-area priests who have been sanctioned, at least in part for their actions there.A 75-year-old Franciscan priest and peace activist, the Rev. Jerry Zawada, was suspended by the Franklin-based Franciscan Friars Assumption BVM province after celebrating Mass at Fort Benning with Sevre-Duszynska in 2010 and 2011. His case is pending before the Vatican, said the Franciscan provincial, the Rev. John Puodziunas . Zawada, who served previously in the Tucson, Ariz., diocese, said he's had no assignment since his suspension. The Catholic Church prohibits the ordination of women. Sevre-Duszynska, of Lexington, Wis., is ordained in the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests, which represents about 124 priests and 10 bishops around the world. The group claims legitimacy, saying the bishop who ordained its first women bishops stood in apostolic succession -- the line of Catholic bishops who stretch back to Jesus' apostles. The Vatican rejects that argument. The ordination of women in the Catholic Church is highly controversial, though a majority of Catholics appear to support it -- 59 percent, according to a 2010 New York Times and CBS News poll. Theologians have long debated the legitimacy of the ban, and advocates for women priests often are dealt with harshly.
In 2008, the Vatican decreed that women who seek ordination and those who ordain them face automatic excommunication from the church. And in 2010 it listed the attempted ordination of women as a grave sin on par with pedophilia and heresy.Brennan said his decision to celebrate Mass with Sevre-Duszynska grew not out of some "wild-eyed liberal" protest or heady theological research, but from his deep admiration for his own mother.