Maryknoll reinstates School of Americas Watch funding

Maryknoll Fr. Roy Bourgeois speaks to a supporter at the SOA Watch vigil outside the gates of Fort Benning, Ga., Nov. 21. (NCR photo/Joshua J. McElwee)

U.S. missionary order Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers has reinstated grant funding to School of Americas Watch, the antimilitary organization founded by Maryknoll Fr. Roy Bourgeois.

Maryknoll suspended their support of the group in May because Bourgeois publicly supports women’s ordination. The reinstatement of funding came after talks with Maryknoll Fr. Michael Duggan, SOA Watch organizers told NCR yesterday.

“This is a real expression of solidarity and it means a lot to us,” Bourgeois told NCR “Like all grass-roots organizations, we’re struggling. So we are very happy.”

A spokesperson for Maryknoll confirmed the news today. "SOA Watch has given us assurances that the funds will be used strictly for their work and that's why we restored those funds," Maryknoll's Mike Virgintino told NCR.

A check for the grant, which totals $10,000, was sent to SOA Watch in December, SOA Watch organizers said. The news became public when Call to Action sent an e-mail to supporters yesterday.

The grant will be used to pay for part of the production of Presente, the newspaper of the movement, which aims to close the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation located at Fort Benning, Ga, said Hendrik Voss, SOA Watch national organizer.

In a May 24 statement regarding its original decision to pull its support of SOA Watch, Maryknoll wrote it could not “continue its financial support of that organization without giving the impression that it also supports the actions of its leader concerning the issue of women’s ordination.”

Since the decision to pull funding, 19 separate church and social justice organizations signed onto a letter to Maryknoll encouraging its reinstatement, Call to Action said in their e-mail.

Among the groups signing on to the letter were Voices for Creative Nonviolence, the Women's Ordination Conference, and the Mexico Solidarity Network, Call to Action told NCR yesterday in an e-mail exchange.

While Bourgeois said he didn’t know why Maryknoll reconsidered its support now, he said the news “brought joy to my heart.”

Said Bourgeois: “I’ve been with the community for 42 years, a priest for 38 years with them, and Maryknoll is my family, my community. To be very honest, I really don’t understand why Maryknoll, who is so well known for its work for justice, will not address this injustice of the exclusion of women as equal members in our church. And so we were very happy. This is a real expression of solidarity and it means a lot to us.”

Voss said the funding would allow Maryknoll to further its own mission.

“The newspaper is used to educate people on the reality of U.S. foreign policy in Latin America,” said Voss. “Maryknoll...has people across the Americas who work along the same lines and work for the same goals.”

[Joshua J. McElwee is an NCR staff writer. His e-mail address is]

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