Yesterday at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church on the University of Pennsylvania campus Father Roy Bourgeois, a priest recently excommunicated and “laicized” by former Pope Benedict for ordaining and advocating the ordination of women openly into the Catholic Church, spoke about his experience with war and militarized violence – first in Vietnam as a soldier and then in Latin America as a clergyman – which led him to found School of the Americas Watch, an organization that campaigns internationally for the closure of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) at Fort. Benning, GA .
The Institute, formerly known as School of the Americas, is notorious as a graduate-level training camp in “anti-insurgency” methods for military forces of nations friendly to US policy, training with a tragic, bloody record of realization in the torture and murder of innocent people. With a personal moral imperative as slogan, “We cannot leave,” Father Roy moved in to an apartment in Columbus, where the Fort and Institute are located, in 1990, and indeed has not left since (with the exception of traveling to countries where WHINSEC graduates operate, and a residency in federal prison totaling more than 5 years for his activism at the School).
We ask Father Roy, whose talk included the implication for entrenched military spending on our schools and neighborhoods, for a message to share with Philadelphians, as school closures, poverty, and violence are very much on minds in the City of Brotherly Love. He tells us about school closures in his own town, and his simple message about the costs of war, and how war maintains inequality.