Fr. Helmut Schüller, Austrian Reformer Banned in Boston, Begins U.S. Tour This Month

July 9, 2013

Fr. Helmut Schüller

Fr. Helmut Schüller, noted for his efforts at church reform in the Archdiocese of Vienna, has been banned by the Archdiocese of Boston from publicly speaking in a Catholic facility when begins a fifteen-city speaking tour next week to hold conversations about church reform with Catholics across the United States.

Fr. Schüller was scheduled to speak at St. Susanna Parish in Massachusetts, but National Catholic Reporter reports Cardinal Sean O’Malley prohibited him from using archdiocesan property because the priest raises controversial issues. The parish’s director of faith formation, Deacon Larry Bloom, said St. Susanna has a history of open dialogue and raising questions without a speaker being banned in the last eleven years.

The program, titled “Catholic Tipping Point,” extends the work Fr. Schüller currently carries out in Austria as the founder of the Austrian Priests’ Initiative, whose 400-plus members released a 2012 document, “Appeal to Disobedience,” to begin conversations on pressing issues within the Church. National Catholic Reporter explains the document, and the larger initiative, as a product of the Austrian Church’s challenges:

“A main impetus of the Austrian Priests’ Initiative, according to its manifesto, is the reduced number of priests available to serve established parish communities, which threatens the right of baptized Catholics to celebrate the sacraments, especially regular access to the Eucharist.

“The church hierarchy’s response to fewer priests has been to close and consolidate parishes, destroying existing communities and creating impersonal mega-parishes, the manifesto says.”

Other issues raised included married and women priests, healthier practices for Eucharistic liturgies, and expanding Communion to all the faithful. The Austrian priests have been criticized for raising these issues, but also responsible for aiding other priests’ associations find their voice globally. European Catholics’ experiences, and the responses of those like Fr. Schüller, instruct American Catholics grappling with new realities in the Church says Nicole Sotelo:

“Fr. Helmut…is organizing priests to resist exclusionary church policies and create churches where power is shared and Catholics participate equally, no matter one’s gender, marital status or sexual orientation.

“These Austrian priests are not alone. Priests are coming together in places like Ireland, India and Australia to look at critical issues facing the church and to work with local Catholics on solutions. In the United States, the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests will convene next week…

“More and more, Catholic officials like Fr. Helmut are recognizing the church needs to engage everyone equally, not only because it is the right thing to do but because the church is suffering without the presence and contribution of those who have traditionally been excluded.”

LGBT people, their loved ones, and their allies are among those harmed by exclusionary church policies, and these issues will be part of his speaking agenda on the U.S. tour. Both New Ways Ministry and DignityUSA are among the sponsors of Fr. Schüller’s visit. Other sponsors include Call to Action, Catholics in Alliance for the Common GoodCORPUSFutureChurch, the National Coalition of American Nuns, Voice of the Faithful, the Quixote Center, and the Women’s Ordination Conference.

For a full listing of dates and locations, including the rescheduled event in Boston, visit the “Catholic Tipping Point” website here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


‘Dirty Hands’ Action to Be Repeated at NYC’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral

May 13, 2013

dirty handsThe “dirty hands” action staged at New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Sunday, May 5th, will be repeated on Sunday, May 26th, as a response to Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s recent blog post where he compared welcoming lesbian and gay people to church as comparable to inviting guests for dinner, but asking them to wash their hands first.  Those who took part in the May 5th action arrived at the cathedral with their hands blackened with coal, and said they would pray in vigil when they entered the church building.  However, they were barred from entering the cathedral by NYC police officers and church staff, who, despite promises to the contrary, feared those taking part in the action would disrupt the 10:15 a.m. Mass.

Joseph Amodeo, a gay Catholic who organized the first action, explained the details of the upcoming event on his Facebook page:

“Join us on Sunday, May 26, 2013 as we return to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in response to Cardinal Dolan’s article that called upon gay people to wash their hands before entering the church. Again, we’ll be attending with hopes of participating in the 10:15am Mass with ash rubbed on our hands, so as to stand in solidarity with LGBT people.

“As a reminder: This will not be a protest, it will be a silent and powerful witness to our belief that God welcomes all. Therefore, there will be no disturbance during the Mass, no signs, etc.

“We’ll begin to meet in front of Barnes & Noble on 5th Ave and 46 St at 9am. We’ll distribute the ash there and then proceed as a group to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. We will head to St. Patrick’s Cathedral at 9:45am.

“All people are welcome to join us in this act of solidarity. Please be sure to arrive on time at 9am at Barnes & Noble. If you have questions, email me at joseph.amodeo@gmail.com.

“Respect for the sacred nature of the Eucharist is of the utmost concern of the organizers. In light of this, we are encouraging those who are participating and who wish to receive the Eucharist to wash their hands using a supplied “handi-wipe” as they prepare to receive the Eucharist or as an alternative can receive the Eucharist on their tongue. Upon returning to the pew, those who washed their hands may wish to re-soil. This action will not only maintain respect and reverence for the Eucharist, but will also hold a symbolic meaning — we are all clean before Christ even if some members of the Church’s hierarchy view us has having dirty hands.”

James Lescene

James Lescene

Several commentators on The Huffington Post reflected on some of the implications of the original May 5th action.  James Lescene, co-founder of The Trevor Project,  noted that though he left the Catholic church as a young adult,  today’s youth seem more willing to stay in the church and try to change it:

 

“. . . as I’ve traveled around the country over the past year talking with LGBTQ young people, I’ve been surprised to discover that many of them are not so willing to walk away as I once did. They refuse to leave their churches and mosques and temples, and they will not allow themselves to be persuaded to turn away so easily from the promise of God’s love or to deny their own innate sense of spirituality. As far as they’re concerned, faith is as much a part of themselves as their sexual orientation or gender identity — all of it complex, mysterious and ultimately unknowable except through experience. They are more likely to wonder what’s ailing the institution that has closed its doors and heart against them than they are to question the validity of their own love. Certain that God does not want them to be cast out of anything, they are hanging in there, challenging their pastors and priests and continuing to be a burr in the side of their congregations.

“For these young people, ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ is no longer an acceptable response to the complex reality of their lives. They want more. Like anyone else in this world, they want the opportunity to love and to be loved, and they are ready to fight for that right. Even when parents send them packing, a few are able to hold to the idea that God won’t give up on them so easily.”

Michael Pettinger

Michael Pettinger

Michael Pettinger, a gay parishioner at St. Francis Xavier parish, Manhattan, wrote an open letter to Cardinal Dolan, reminding the prelate not to pre-judge an entire group of people:

“So what about queer Catholics? From what should they wash their hands? Your Eminence, I can’t answer that question without looking closely at the lives of each and everyone one of them. Neither can you. They are so varied, and have been so long ignored by the Church hierarchy, that there is no one place in the Tradition to which I can point and say, ‘Look there.’ The one thing I can say is that Nature — which might be the God of some atheists, but is certainly not our God — is not the standard by which to understand the lives of LGBT Catholics. Look for grace instead. If you want to see what God is making with our lives and our loves, if you want to help us grow further in that love, you need to spend more time listening to us. A lot more time.

“And you need to share what you hear with our brothers and sisters across the globe. Because the real challenge we face as a Church is not an attitude of ‘anything goes.’ Our real problem is that, like the resentful brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son, we are all afraid that someone is getting away with something while we are being good. Till he comes again, Jesus has placed you and your brother bishops, our elder siblings, in the role of the Father, who needs to tell us all, ‘Rejoice! Your brothers and sisters, married, celibate, and queer, were all dead, and now they are all alive!’ “

Joseph Amodeo

Joseph Amodeo

Joseph Amodeo, the actions’ organizer, reflected on these witnesses by putting them in the context of a November 2012 meeting he had with Cardinal Dolan about welcoming LGBT people into the church:

“Toward the end of our time together, Cardinal Dolan asked me what I expected him to do in light of Church teaching. In turn, I asked Cardinal Dolan to write a letter of welcome to the gay community. I suggested that he avoid sexuality and instead focus on the person. To my surprise, he agreed to write the letter and suggested that Catholic New York or his blog might be an appropriate venue. It’s what he said next that caught me off-guard: He said that he would share the letter with me in advance so as to make sure that it would be viewed as pastoral and sensitive to the LGBT experience. Sadly, that is not what ended up happening. And I wouldn’t mind if the resulting letter was a ‘welcome,’ but his recent blog post, ‘All Are Welcome,’ came with caveats and conditions. In many ways, a welcome with conditions is no welcome at all.”

Though the actions have been called “protests,” Amodeo explained that protest is not the intent, but that they are there to witness to human dignity:

“Lastly, over the past few days, I have been reflecting on the greatest protest of all that occurs in churches around the country every Sunday: the sign of peace. In that moment, Christians around the world protest the very barriers that on the surface appear to divide us. At the instance upon which we share the sign of peace, we protest a world of judgment and violence to discover a moment of serenity defined not by differences, but by our common humanity.

“In the coming weeks, we will return to St. Patrick’s Cathedral with clean hearts filled with charity and our hands bearing witness to our own humanity. We can only hope that we will be permitted to share in the sign of peace, so that we may help to change hearts and minds to slowly see the inherent dignity of all people without exception.”

Amen to that!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 


NYC Catholics Denied Entrance to Church Due To ‘Dirty Hands’

May 6, 2013
Charcoaled hands outside of St. Patrick's Cathedral

‘Dirty hands’ outside of St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Catholics in New York City held a public witness this past weekend objecting to recent comments made by Cardinal Dolan, who wrote that welcoming LGBT people into the Church is equivalent to asking someone to wash their dirty hands before dinner.

Advocates attempted to enter St. Patrick’s Cathedral for 10:15am Mass on Sunday with hands covered in charcoal, symbolically alluding to the cardinal’s statements about dirty hands.  The demonstrators were denied access by church security, and the NYC’ Police Department’s LGBT liaison informed them that only after washing their hands would they be allowed to enter.

One participant, Joseph Amodeo, wrote about his experiences in The Huffington Postand the pain the literal exclusion of those witnessing from Mass:

“Today, myself and others knocked at the door of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, but the door was not opened, rather it was slammed in our faces…until today, I have never been denied a seat at Christ’s table. In fact, today marks the first day that I have ever felt disowned, abandoned, and lost…

“In response to the Archdiocese’s threat of arrest, we opted to remain outside where we stood in silent vigil with our palms turned out facing toward the main doors of Cathedral…[that] doors closed as we stood outside seem now to capture well the chill that we felt from the Cathedral’s staff as well as the Cardinal. Our peaceful presence was responded to with a resounding ‘you are not welcome.’…

“As someone who was reared Roman Catholic from the moment of birth, I have always known the Church and its community of believers to be a place of welcome and affirmation…Today, this childhood experience of ‘church’ stands in stark contrast to the cold and heartless response of the Archdiocese of New York and Cardinal Dolan to our presence at the Cathedral earlier today.”

However, even with emotions raw and the rejection still present, Amodeo realizes that it is not those standing outside who are most challenged, but the clergy and staff inside:

“I realize now that it is not I who stands at this crossroad, but rather the Cardinal himself. He stands at point at which he can choose to see the inherent dignity present in all people or to follow a path laid with judgment and accusation.

“Today, I don’t stand at a crossroad, but rather I find myself standing at the threshold of a door. I and others are standing at the doorway to the Church knocking, seeking, and asking. By this action, I hope that the doors of the Cathedral will be opened to us not on a conditional basis, but rather with the understanding that we are all created in the image and likeness of God.”

A related action in Detroit occurred this same weekend, as parents of LGBT children witnessed outside archdiocesan offices after Archbishop Vigneron told supporters of LGBT equality to refrain from Communion. Clearly, more and more Catholics, LGBT and allies alike, are recognizing the problem is with those who would exclude, are also finding the energy to stand up and speak out. New Ways Ministry applauds both groups who witnessed this weekend.

For more photos of the event, click here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Catholic Parents Protest at Detroit Archdiocese in Communion Debate

May 5, 2013
Catholic parents protesting at the headquarters of the Archdiocese of Detroit.

Catholic parents protesting at the headquarters of the Archdiocese of Detroit.

Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron’s suggestion that Catholics who support marriage equality in  his diocese should not receive communion has sparked a protest led by Catholic parents of LGBT people.

The Detroit Free Press reports that

“. . . supporters of gay Catholics gathered for a prayer vigil in front of the Archdiocese of Detroit’s chancery headquarters. . . .

“About 25 people sang, ‘All are welcome in this place,’ and marched with rainbow flags in front of the downtown chancery building, saying they had gay relatives and friends.

“Artemae Anderson, 69, of Detroit said she attends mass regularly, receives communion and supports gay marriage. ‘It’s very hurtful,’ Anderson said of Vigneron’s comments. ‘If we just follow the gospel message of Jesus, we’ll be OK.’ “

The demonstration was organized by Linda Karle-Nelson, president of Fortunate Families, a national network of Catholic parents of LGBT people, and her husband, Thomas Nelson. Another Free Press article quotes their thoughts on the protest:

Linda Karle-Nelson and Thomas Nelson

Linda Karle-Nelson and Thomas Nelson

“ ‘He’s [Vigneron] not going to keep me from the Eucharist,’ said Nelson, 83, a retired engineer from Farmington Hills. ‘Somebody’s got to stand up and say, “Enough.” ‘

“ ‘We’re not going to change churches,’ said [Linda] Karle-Nelson, 72, a speech pathologist. ‘We can plant seeds. Our theme has been sharing stories, and sharing stories is a way of changing hearts.’ ”

A local Catholic pastor noted the ridiculousness of Vigneron’s suggestion:

“The Rev. Norman Thomas, who is a pastor of Detroit parishes Sacred Heart and St. Elizabeth, said Vigneron’s statement ‘was kind of insensitive.’

“ ‘Are people expected to exempt themselves, or is there going to be a check-off right there at the (communion) line?’ Thomas said.”

The Huffington Post  quoted one of the founders of Fortunate Families responding to protest:

“Mary Ellen Lopata, who is the co-founder and on the board of directors of Fortunate Families, said it’s a ‘sad situation’ that many children have left the Catholic church over its lack of acceptance of gays and lesbians.

” ‘We encourage people to speak up, because the bishops don’t know our children and they need to hear our children, and understand that our children are every bit as whole and holy,’ Lopata said.

” ‘We’re starting to see tiny glimmers of hope that pastors and members of the hierarchy might be willing to talk,’ Lopata said. ‘We do believe that if they would just talk to us and talk to children and listen to what they would have to say, their hearts would be changed.’ “

Parents of LGBT people are some of the strongest justice and equality advocates in the Catholic Church.  They love both their children and the church, and they are not willing to let their be animosity between these groups. Catholic parents of LGBT people have had to go on a journey of understanding, acceptance, and love, and, as a result, they have a LOT that they can teach the rest of the church about understanding, accepting, and loving LGBT people.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related Posts

April 27, 2013: Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson Chastises Archbishop on Communion Issue

April 19, 2013: Bishop Gumbleton Preaches on Christ’s Radical Welcome for All

April 12, 2013: Gumbleton to Pro-Marriage Equality Catholics: ‘Don’t Stop Going to Communion’


Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson Chastises Archbishop on Communion Issue

April 27, 2013
Bishop Gene Robinson

Bishop Gene Robinson

Bishop Gene Robinson, the Episcopal Church’s first openly gay bishop, has criticized Archbishop Allen Vigneron, the Roman Catholic head of the Archdiocese of Detroit, for the recent comments had made suggesting that Catholics who support marriage equality should not receive communion.  Bondings 2.0 reported earlier on Vigneron’s statement, as well as two responses from Detroit’s retired Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton.  You can read Bishop Gumbleton’s responses, which contradict Vigneron, here and here.

In an essay on the Washington Post’s “On Faith” blog, Robinson provides Vigneron with a theology lesson on the Eucharist:

“I believe that using Communion as such a manipulative tool surely profanes the sacrament. Perhaps these Catholic leaders should revisit their church’s theology of the Eucharist. Reception of the body and blood of Christ at Communion is God’s gift to God’s people, not a reward for right behavior. We receive Communion not because we are worthy of it, but because God’s offers us the body and blood of Christ despite our unworthiness.”

Robinson points out that excluding people from communion seems be based on arbitrary judgments:

“While some are seeking to withhold Communion from pro-choice and pro-marriage-equality Catholics, I have heard no call to withhold Communion from priests and bishops who have engaged in horrific sexual abuse against vulnerable children, nor their enablers. Bernard Cardinal Law, whose administration actively facilitated the moving around of known pedophile priests to other unsuspecting parishes, has not been denied Communion, but instead been rewarded with a prestigious church in Rome.”

The Catholic hierarchy is dangerously pursuing a path which separates them further and further from the faith-experience of Catholics:

“American Catholics have a long and honorable history of discerning their own consciences in matters of human life and dignity. For instance, 98 percent of Catholic women have gone against church law and used birth control. Indeed, individual conscience is a core value in Catholic teaching. It seems that Catholic laity are refusing to be treated like morally ignorant children who cannot think for themselves. At a very minimum, Catholic laity (and many of their local clergy) know that these issues should be discussed in an open and faithful way. They also know that people of faith will disagree on some of the ramifications of trying to live out the Gospel.”

Robinson concludes with an important reminder for bishops and laity alike:

“If those who have fallen short of God’s moral desires for humankind are to be denied Communion, then none of us can in good conscience receive the body and blood of Christ. The good news message of Jesus Christ is that despite our failure to be all that God would want us to be, we are all welcome at the Lord’s Table anyway. Until the Roman Catholic hierarchy gets that right, they might prayerfully consider quieting their judgmental rhetoric and contemplating the humility Jesus suggested as a value to be lived by all.”

The Archdiocese of Detroit had no comment on Robinson’s essay.  According to the Detroit Free Press:

“Asked for a response and to describe the reaction that Vigneron experienced in the wake of his comments, an Archdiocese spokesman Wednesday declined giving details.

“ ‘With respect, we’ll not be offering a response to the op-ed or discuss the responses people have given to us,’ said spokesman Joe Kohn. ‘We don’t really keep a scorecard of those types of things anyhow. Any individual who has a specific concern or question, we just try to answer as best we can.’ ”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Gumbleton to Pro-Marriage Equality Catholics: ‘Don’t Stop Going to Communion’

April 12, 2013
Bishop Thomas Gumbleton

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, retired auxiliary bishop of Detroit, has told Catholics to ignore Archbishop Allen Vigneron’s recent statement discouraging pro-marriage equality Catholics from receiving communion.

Gumbleton, who is a long-time supporter of LGBT people, said in a MyFox2 interview:

“Don’t stop going to communion. You’re okay.”

Gumbleton explained his position from a pastoral point of view:

“If you look at it from a pastoral point of view where you’re trying to reach out to people, trying to draw them in, then the last thing you want to do is impose a penalty or make them feel like they have to impose a penalty upon themselves.”

His explanation also was based on the importance of Catholics using their own consciences to make decisions about receiving communion, something that Bondings 2.0 stressed in our reporting of Vigneron’s statement:

“Gumbleton says it’s a matter of conscience, which is deeply personal.

” ‘Not everybody’s going to come to the same conclusion at the same time, so we have to keep on working with people and trusting people that they’re trying to do the right thing,’ he remarked.

“Gumbleton read from a pastoral letter penned years ago at a bishop’s conference called ‘Always Our Children.’

“Judging the sinfulness of any particular act is a matter ultimately between God and the individual person.”

“He also says that an individual person must choose whether or not to receive communion.

” ‘Their conscience is the ultimate voice they have to follow,’ Gumbleton explained. ‘A person coming up to communion has a right to make their own decision about am I in a state of grace?… Am I ready to receive? Well, that’s for the person to decide not for the minister or not for any bishop.’ “

Bishop Gumbleton is the 1995 recipient of New Ways Ministry’s Bridge Building Award. He has served on New Ways Ministry’s Board, and has spoken at several of our national symposiums and other programs.

Kudos to Bishop Gumbleton for speaking so forthrightly about the role of conscience–something that too few bishops seem able to do.  Thanks to him, too,  for promoting good pastoral directives about who gets to decide about who will receive communion.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Minnesota Catholic Woman Offers Valuable Spiritual Insight on Marriage Question

October 27, 2012

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:  A wonderful by-product of the often contentious debates surrounding marriage equality has been that it has motivated people to go deeper into their faith for spiritual nourishment.

The latest example of such depths is a letter to the editor by Maren Ortmeier to InForum, a news organization for the metropolitan area of Fargo, North Dakota, and Moorhead, Minnesota.  As you may know, Minnesota voters will be going to the polls to vote on a proposed constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality.

Ms. Ortmeier’s letter reveals a deep spirituality, rooted in traditional Catholic practices and images but open to new understandings of the modern world:

“Christ in the Eucharist has the ability to transform us, often motivated by love or suffering. Since Jesus’ agenda was solidarity with suffering itself, our hearts are invited into the pain of the ‘other.’ Many homosexuals have suffered deeply and have been denied their life potential as society and religion tried to shame them. But not only was Jesus present in their suffering, he also never played the ‘shame game.’ Ironically, it was the act of accusing that made Jesus mad, not the so-called sinner. . . .

“In times of motherly despair, I picture Mary standing at the foot of the cross. She knows a mother’s pain. I know many Catholic mothers who have gay children and who feel betrayed and isolated by the church. Mother Mary knows their pain. We all desire to feel loved and respected. . . .

“Centuries of Catholic monastic life taught us celibacy is best lived in community voluntarily, not in mandated isolation by shame. Mothers know God doesn’t make children who are ‘less than.’ Loving mothers should be a guiding light in this issue, as it is Mary’s love for Jesus that most closely reflects God’s love for us.”

Ms. Ortmeier’s concluding paragraph cites two traditionalist bishops whose message can easily and fruitfully be applied to the marriage equality debate:

“How can we honestly sing songs like ‘All Are Welcome’? How can we remain immune to another’s pain when our traditions call us to act on their behalf? This pre-emptive strike (the amendment) prevents needed and deserved discussion of civil same sex partnership. Cardinal Dolan and Bishop DiMarzio said in a statement: ‘There is too much finger pointing and not enough joining hands. Solidarity is critical to ensure the dignity of all.’ Well said.”

I think Ms. Ortmeier’s argument is “VERY well said.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Vatican Action Against U.S. Nuns; New Ways Ministry’s Response

April 18, 2012

The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has announced that it will appoint an Archbishop Delegate to oversee the activities of  the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), the national association of the heads of nuns’ communities throughout the United States.    An Associated Press article  about this action says the Vatican cited the organization

” . . .for using materials that ‘do not promote church teaching’ on family life and sexuality, for sometimes taking positions in opposition to the nation’s bishops and for being ‘silent on the right to life from conception to natural death, a question that is part of the lively public debate about abortion and euthanasia in the United States.’ ”

You can read the full text of the CDF document here.

Because support for New Ways Ministry was mentioned in this document as one of the factors leading up to this doctrinal investigation of LCWR,  Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director of New Ways Ministry issued the following statement today:

“For all of our 35-year history, New Ways Ministry has been strongly supported by Catholic women religious in the United States.  This support, manifested by so many generous and courageous acts, has, indeed, been the backbone of our bridge-building ministry for lesbian/gay Catholics and the wider church community.

“So, it was with great dismay that we learned that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) today released a document on the recent ”Doctrinal Assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious,” (LCWR) in which the Congregation announced the appointment of an Archbishop Delegate to oversee LCWR’s activities.   We are even more deeply saddened that support of New Ways Ministry by women’s religious communities and by LCWR leaders was singled out as one of the reasons that a doctrinal assessment was undertaken.  From the document:

“ ‘Policies of Corporate Dissent. The Cardinal [William Levada, CDF Prefect] spoke of this issue in reference to letters the CDF received from “Leadership Teams” of various Congregations, among them LCWR officers, protesting the Holy See’s actions regarding the question of women’s ordination and of a correct pastoral approach to ministry to homosexual persons, e.g. letters about New Ways Ministry’s conferences. The terms of the letters suggest that these sisters collectively take a position not in agreement with the Church’s teaching on human sexuality. It is a serious matter when these Leadership Teams are not providing effective leadership and example to their communities, but place themselves outside the Church’s teaching.’

“In 2007, many leadership teams of women’s religious communities wrote to the CDF to express their concern about the CDF’s directive to the Archbishop of St. Paul, Minnesota, to deny permission to our organization to celebrate the Eucharist at our national conference in that archdiocese.  As far as we are aware, the content of these letters questioned the Vatican’s denial of the Eucharist without addressing the other issues of pastoral care of lesbian and gay people or Catholic teaching on human sexuality.

“The CDF’s criticism of receiving letters seems intended to silence discussion of important issues in the church.  Why are Vatican leaders afraid to hear what women religious think on topics such as homosexuality that is being so widely discussed in all other quarters of society?  The Catholic faith is a living faith that requires dialogue and discussion, not only to thrive, but also to be a viable witness of God’s love in the world.

“If the leadership of the Catholic Church is unwilling to listen to the idea of the leaders of some of its most dedicated members, then our Church will never be able to grow or to respond in a Gospel way to the needs of our world. The CDF’s repressive action towards LCWR further erodes Catholicism’s ability to be a vital force in the world.

“New Ways Ministry, in gratitude for all we have received from women’s religious communities, pledges our prayerful support to LCWR and all its members during this period of trial.  We know that our God, who has graced these women with gifts of justice, fortitude, and wisdom, will guide and sustain them at this critical time. “

Stay tuned for news and commentary as this story develops.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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