School of the Americas Watch founder and spokesperson keynotes Latin American Solidarity Committee Event

Father Roy Bourgeois  photo: Langelle

Fr. Roy Bourgeois                                        All photos: Langelle

7 May 2015, Daemen College- Father Roy Bourgeois is best known for his work with the School of the Americas Watch (SOA Watch), a nonviolent organization that exposes the U.S.-based school and its role in training Latin American soldiers in repressive tactics and deploying them throughout the region. Father Bourgeois founded SOA Watch in 1990 after witnessing the killings of thousands in Central America in the 1980’s.

After his experience serving in Vietnam, he became a priest in 1972 with the Maryknoll Society, an American Catholic organization.

*DSCN4724_LASCHe went to Bolivia where he worked with the poor.

He was ordered to leave the country after speaking out against the government of General Hugo Banzer Suarez, which arrested, tortured and killed many dissidents.

From there he went to El Salvador.


In 1980 renowned Liberation Theologist Archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated by “death squads.” According to the United Nations Truth Commission Report on El Salvador, former El Salvador Major “Roberto D’Aubuisson gave the order to assassinate the Archbishop and gave precise instructions to members of his security service, acting as a ‘death squad’, to organize and supervise the assassination.”

The El Salvador’s “death squad” network, was organized by D’Aubuisson, a 1972 graduate of the the School of Americas.

Bourgeois witnessed numerous human rights abuses that the Salvadoran government committed against its own population and fellow members of foreign religious organizations, including the murder killing of three nuns and a lay activist by the Salvadoran National Guard. Financial support and military tactical aid of the United States government was evident to Bourgeois, Bourgeois then focused on the School of the Americas, where these soldiers were receiving their training.

Fr. Bourgeois listens to a question form the audience.

Fr. Bourgeois listens to a question form the audience

SOA Watch grew from a handful of protesters to hundreds, and eventually into thousands today – with international recognition. Bourgeois and SOA Watch were nominated as a candidate for the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.

The School of the Americas, feeling national and international pressure, changed its name in 2001 to the Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC).

Graduates of the school include former Bolivian dictator Hugo Banzer Suarez, and Honduran General Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, who was a vital player in the recent coup there that ousted President Manuel Zelaya in June 2009. The coup brought an end to a democratic government.

*DSCN4735_LASCGraduates of the SOA, who head Honduras’ state security forces under the post-coup regime of Porfirio Lobo, work in complicity with private security forces to repress small farmers and cooperatives from defending the lands that provide their sustenance.

Repression by SOA graduates also continues today in Colombia, Mexico, and throughout the Americas.

*DSCN4756_LASCIn 2012, Father Bourgeois traveled to Ecuador and Nicaragua, where he met with President Correa and President Ortega, who announced during their respective meetings that Ecuador and Nicaragua will no longer send soldiers or police to be trained at the School of the Americas/ WHINSEC. Ecuador and Nicaragua join Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay and Venezuela, who are also no longer sending troops to the SOA/WHINSEC.

*DSCN4698_LASCFather Bourgeois is also an outspoken proponent of women’s ordination in the priesthood saying, “There will never be justice in the Catholic Church unless women are allowed to be ordained. Who are we to say that a woman’s call [to priesthood] isn’t valid?” said Bourgeois. “God initiates the call to priesthood, and like racism, sexism is a sin,” he added.

Due to his outspoken beliefs in defense of woman having the right to be ordained in the Church, Bourgeois was told that the Vatican “dispenses” him “from his sacred bonds.” [1]

The Buffalo event was the 34th Annual Father A. Joseph Bissonette Latin America Event presented by the Latin American Solidarity Committee of the Western New York Peace Center.

SPONSORED BY: The Father A. Joseph Bissonette Memorial Foundation • The Latin American Solidarity Committee of the WNY Peace Center • Pax Christi (WNY) • Daemen College History/Government, Foreign Languages• Canisius College.Dept of Modern Language, Literature & Culture • St. Joseph’s RC University Church Social Concerns Comm. • Riverside Salem UCC & DC Peace Education Fund

The majority of the above information was edited from SOA Watch.

Note [1]

From the National Catholic Reporter:

Roy Bourgeois: They finally got him
Tom Roberts  |  Nov. 20, 2012

Ah, they finally got him, as we all knew they probably would. Eventually. And with a press release it was done: Fr. Roy Bourgeois, a Maryknoll priest for 45 years, was told that the Vatican “dispenses” him “from his sacred bonds.”

And the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, caught in the culture that finds advocating for women’s ordination such a grievous and unpardonable offense, “warmly thanks” Roy “for his service to mission and all members wish him well in his personal life.”

And so it goes, as Vonnegut would say. So it goes.

Bourgeois’ case is a prime illustration of what, today, the institution can and can’t tolerate. Bourgeois’ major offense, the sin that is unforgiveable in the eyes of the church, for which penalty is removal from the order which he has served for nearly half a century and dismissal from the community, was advocating for women’s ordination.

It’s a clear case: the priest attended a woman’s ordination ceremony and, as the release noted, his “disobedience and preaching against the teaching of the Catholic Church about women’s ordination led to his excommunication, dismissal and laicization.” READ MORE