Sr. Joan Chittister: Anti-Gay Religious Beliefs ‘Just As Deadly’ As Racism, Sexism

March 20, 2014
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Sr. Joan Chittister, a renowned Catholic nun, author, and advocate for social justice, wrote about anti-LGBT discrimination in a recent column for the National Catholic Reporter. In it, she parsed out the two types of religious believers which have existed throughout history and challenges Catholics to stand on the right side of history.

Chittister begins by laying out these two types of religious thinking:  the ‘Do unto others as you would have others do unto you’ kind and the ‘Get thee behind me, Satan’ kind. In this dichotomy, the former welcomes people in and the latter pushes people out. Of the latter kind, she writes:

“Some people have lived restricted lives and even died at the hands of those who sought to restrict them — some for trying to eat at white lunch counters or sitting down on buses; some for having ancestors in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago; some for serving soup that was cold or not ironing the shirts right.

“The important thing to remember is that it doesn’t really matter how the transgressions were defined. What matters is that the arguments in defense of doing it were always the same: God didn’t want mixed races, or God wanted women to obey men, or God wanted Jews punished because the Romans crucified Jesus. Go figure.”

Those who wish to discriminate against LGBT people upon religious grounds are the most recent group of exclusionary believers, who Chittister calls “just as deadly.” Having learned nothing from past discrimination and segregation, those sponsoring anti-gay laws in Arizona and elsewhere are seeking to use religious liberty as the justification for their discrimination. In response, the ‘Golden Rule’ believers are standing up to religious-based prejudices. Chittister writes:

“After more than a century of segregation, people across the country stood up to refuse another century of shunnings in the name of God.

“We have all watched our gay children committing suicide to avoid the bullying and social discrimination that dogged their lives. This time, Arizona said, ‘Enough of that.’

“We all see young gay women and men doomed to lives of rejection and ridicule for choices not their own, and people everywhere are beginning to say no to that.

“We all remember Matthew Shepard’s beaten and bloodied body hanging cruciform on a farm fence in the name of the one whose own crucifixion was due to his defiance of exclusion. And courageous people are now saying ‘Never again’ to that.

“So now, the exclusionists whose ‘religion’ defies the very principles of the God who created the others as well as themselves are working again to sequester and silence those who are other than themselves. And all for simply wanting to share the services the rest of us take for granted in the public square.”

Questioning what the future looks like for all people in a country where discrimination for anything using religious justifications becomes law, Chittister concludes:

“From where I stand, I would caution against complacency about this issue. After all, there are already other states with movements to write ‘moral’ discrimination into law under the guise of ‘religious freedom,’ among them, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon and Utah.

“After all, the next time, you may be what someone considers ‘morally offensive to their deeply held religious convictions.’ Just as were Jews, Catholics and blacks to the Ku Klux Klan in the United States. Or gypsies to the Nazis. Or now, homosexuals in Uganda. All of them by very religious people, they tell us. The other kind.”

You can read the article in full by clicking here.  New Ways Ministry salute and thanks Sister Joan for this insightful and penetrating analysis.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Support LCWR with a Christmas Card to the Nuncio and the Bishops!

December 5, 2012

The Nun Justice Project, a coalition of Catholic church reform and social justice organizations including New Ways Ministry, is urging Catholics to send Christmas cards to leading prelates in support of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

Launched after a harsh Vatican critique of LCWR in early 2012, the Nun Justice Project asks the nuns’ supporters to write with gratitude for the prophetic ministry of the American sisters and to request a withdrawal of the Vatican-imposed mandate against LCWR.

The Project is targeting the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganó, and the three bishops charged with implementing Vatican-mandated reforms to LCWR, Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle, Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo, and Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, IL. You can add your support through this link.

As reported previously on Bondings 2.0, with links provided below, the Vatican’s critique of the nuns partially emerged out of their support for LGBT persons and organizations. Specifically named by the Vatican was New Ways Ministry, which has benefited greatly in its 35 years from the unequivocal and sustained support of communities of women religious.

The women religious of LCWR were one of those things the staff of New Ways Ministry was most thankful for this year and we stand with the sisters in these challenging times. New Ways Ministry strongly encourages Catholics and LGBT advocates to write to the bishops and express your support for the nuns who have adamantly struggled for equality within the Church and society.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Previous posts relating to LCWR:

August 11, 2012: LCWR Will Continue to Work Towards Dialogue With Vatican Officials

July 22, 2012: LCWR President Offers “Fresh Air” on Vatican Challenge to Nuns

June 21, 2012: Support the Sisters by Re-Directing Peter’s Pence Donations

June 12, 2012: Report on LCWR Meeting With the CDF at the Vatican

June 1, 2012: LCWR Responds to the Vatican with a Vision of Equality, Hope, and Dialogue

May 28, 2012: Support Our Sisters: Pray at a Vigil!

May 11, 2012: Sister Jeannine, Cardinal Ratzinger, New Ways Ministry, and Solidarity with LCWR

May 1, 2012: Round-up of Actions and Commentary on LCWR

April 23, 2012: Message to Nuns: ‘Be Not Afraid’

April 22, 2012: Comments on LCWR Action from National Catholic LGBT Organizations

April 21, 2012: Support for U.S. Nuns Spreads Quickly Among Catholics and Others

April 20, 2012: Can There Really Be “Collaboration” Between the Vatican and LCWR?

April 19, 2012: Sister Joan Chittister & Sister Simone Campbell Respond to Vatican Action Against U.S. Nuns

April 18, 2012: Vatican Action Against U.S. Nuns; New Ways Ministry’s Response


Happy Anniversary!

November 28, 2012

Today marks the first anniversary of Bondings 2.0!

One year ago today, I came to the New Ways Ministry office and typed the words “how to start a blog” into Google, and by the end of the day, I had a blog post. A few more days followed the same pattern of just taking a stab at writing, and before I knew it, I had not just blog posts, but an actual blog!

When I started, I didn’t know which direction the blog would go in other than that I wanted it to contain material that would interest people who follow Catholic LGBT issues.  Over the past year, we have kept to that direction with a  mixture of news stories, opinion pieces, personal reflections, and spirituality.

Our aim evolved into providing readers with important information, but also with a perspective designed to build up the Catholic Church and the growing movement of Catholics who support LGBT equality and justice.  For the past full year, we have posted something every single day, some times twice or three times a day, when the news was lively.  I mention this not as a point of pride, but as evidence to the fact of how important the relationship between the Catholic Church and LGBT issues is.  There has been something important to write every single day about this relationship, and it doesn’t look like things will be slowing down any time soon.

What does our blog contain?  In addition to daily updates of news, opinion, theological and spiritual reflections, we also have developed some occasional features:

  • ALL ARE WELCOME:  a series which focuses on Catholic gay-friendly faith communities
  • NEWS NOTES: an occasional feature which provides brief summaries of news articles with links to the original sources
  • QUOTE TO NOTE: an occasional feature which provides witty or insightful quotations from news articles
  • CATHOLIC LGBT CALENDAR: a listing of Catholic LGBT events around the U.S. and the globe
  • CAMPUS CHRONICLES: a series which focuses on Catholic LGBT issues on college campuses.

Some interesting data about the blog and our readers:

I started out as the sole contributor to this blog, but since its beginning, we have had a few guest contributors, and we have added a new regular contributor, Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry’s Coordinator of Young Adults and Social Media.   Bob covers general news stories, as well as news about LGBT issues on Catholic college campuses.

One year ago, I started out on this venture, not really knowing what I was doing.  (Some might justly argue that I still don’t know what I’m doing!)  I started out having fun, learning a new skill, and, building on some older skills.  I thought I was helping to build a resource of information and opinions for people interested in Catholic LGBT issues.

It seems, however, thanks to the magic of social media, that what has emerged is a community of people who are eager to share ideas and perspectives, passions and reflections.  I have benefited immensely by the experience of being a part of this community, and I look forward to continuing the conversation with all of the wonderful readers and commenters.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


LCWR and Girl Scouts Investigations Are Part of the “War on Women”

May 27, 2012

LGBT issues have been an important factor in what has been dubbed “the war on women” taking place in society. “War on women” refers to the political trend to dis-empower females in society, particularly in regard to health care and sexuality.  The “war on women” has been playing out in the Catholic Church in the recent investigation of the Leaderships Conference of Women Religious (LCWR, the leading organization of heads of religious communities of nuns) and the Girl Scouts of America.

Two recent commentators have provided insight on these two topics:  Ted Frier, on Slate.com, tackles the LCWR case, while Marianne Duddy-Burke looks at the Girl Scouts story.

Sister Joan Chittister

In his article, “Catholic on Catholic civil war brewing,”  Frier focuses on Sister Joan Chittister’s response to the Vatican’s investigation of LCWR, and his insight into Chittister’s response follows her example of not mincing words:

“The question is. . .where has all this energy for empirical destruction come from in a Church now projecting its own serious problems with sexual issues onto everything that moves?”

Chittister’s analysis goes beyond the immediate issues at hand and tackles the larger question of how the church is governed:

“Sister Chittister is directly attacking the authoritarianism at the heart of the current political campaign by the Pope and US bishops to impose dogmatic conformity on American Catholics. She even goes so far as to excavate unflattering Church history in order to warn of the dangers of neo-fascist tendencies which inherently lurk within an institution that operates in secret and is led by an all-male hierarchy that occasionally claims it possesses powers of absolute infallibility.

“Chittister concedes that it is not easy to run a ‘universal’ church which must take account of so many different cultures. But the Vatican needs to try harder, she says.

“The Catholic leadership must have sympathy and respect for the national cultures and traditions and values where it is attempting to evangelize, she says, and for the workings of the society itself. And for American bishops, says Chittister, that means appreciating that ‘The American tradition comes out of a commitment to freedom of speech, freedom of thought and democratic participation in the political process.’

“But this is exactly where the Church falls short, since it is America’s democratic traditions which Chittister says ‘the Vatican has always suspected and indeed has never liked.’ “

Her solution to current problems honors the response of New Ways Ministry’s co-founder, Sister Jeannine Gramick, during her own run-in with the Vatican:

“Chittister’s response to the Vatican’s crack-down was roughly the same as that of Sister Jeannine Gramick of the New Ways Ministry when her group was told to cease writing or speaking about homosexuality or advocating on behalf of gays and lesbians in the Church: ‘I do not choose to collaborate in my own oppression.’

“Chittister has suggested the LCWR follow the example of Gramick’s much smaller New Ways Ministry and simply disband in order to reconstitute itself as a non-canonical institution outside the Vatican’s purview. . .”

In “Is the Catholic Church sending a message to women?,”WashingtonPost.com On Faith commentary on the investigation of the Girl Scouts by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Marianne Duddy-Burke, DignityUSA executive director and a partner in the Equally Blessed coalition, notes:

“It is tempting to laugh off this news as further evidence of how profoundly out of touch many of our bishops are with the lives and concerns of the people who fill their pews. But the hierarchy’s attempt to exert pressure on an organization that has helped millions of girls grow into strong, self-reliant and public-spirited women is only the most recent episode in an increasingly troubling sequence of events.”

She then enumerates the recent cases which make up the “war on women:  the USCCB investigation of theologian Sister Elizabeth Johnson, Susan G. Komen Foundation’s attempt to de-fund Planned Parenthood, the contraception issue in the healthcare debate, and, of course, the LCWR case.  Her conclusion:

“The bishops may not acknowledge it, but our church’s moral authority has been weakened by their pursuit of an agenda that demonstrates a passion for power, rather than for service, and a willingness to put women’s lives and ministries at risk to achieve their political ends. At first glance it may seem that the hierarchy’s investigation of the Girl Scouts provides an opportunity to have a good laugh at the bishops’ expense. But it is women and girls who are paying the price.”

In the past, many have noted that homophobia is intimately linked to misogynist tendencies.  In the LCWR case, the nuns’ support of LGBT issues–particularly New Ways Ministry’s programs–was an explicit factor in the Vatican’s investigation of them.  In the Girl Scouts’ story, a number or reporters noted that the a Denver Girl Scouts’ troop had recently accepted a transgender child as a member.  One is reminded of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous line from his 1963 Letter from a Birmingham Jail: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Round-up of Actions and Commentary on LCWR

May 1, 2012

Over the past week, actions and commentary on the Vatican’s attempt to control the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), the largest association of Catholic nuns in the U.S., have been abundant.  Because of the high volume of material, it has been difficult for Bondings 2.0 to post everything about it, while at the same trying to provide news and commentary on other Catholic LGBT stories.

To familiarize readers with actions and opinions on the LCWR case, we are providing lists of ACTIONS and COMMENTARY that may be of interest to readers.  Bondings 2.0 has a particular interest in the LCWR story because the nuns’ support of LGBT issues was a significant factor in the Vatican’s investigation of them.  Background on this story can be found in previous Bondings 2.0 articles (listed at end of this post) which include links to earlier news and commentary.

To keep up with the coverage of the LCWR case, The National Catholic Reporter (NCR) webpage has set up a special section on their site entitled “Sisters Under Scrutiny” to gather all of the newspaper’s news stories, opinion pieces, and blog posts about the controversy.  It is a very good resource.

ACTIONS

The following is a list of actions being promoted to support the Sisters:

NCR has set up a Facebook page,  Support Our Catholic Sisters,  where people can post messages of testimony, hope, and encouragement.

A group of Catholics concerned about the religious sisters have organized an online petition at Change.org.

Share-El Salvador is coordinating a signature-ad in the NCR in suppport of the nuns.  Information can be found by clicking here.

New Ways Ministry has instituted a letter-writing campaign can be found on our previous blog post, “Message to Nuns: ‘Be Not Afraid.”

COMMENTARY

The following is a list of note-worthy commentary on the case:

Mollie Wilson O’Reilly, “Moving Beyond the Church? The CDF and the LCWR,” , dotCommonweal Blog, April 19, 2012.

VIDEO INTERVIEW WITH Scott Appleby, University of Notre Dame Catholic Historian, WSBT.com“Notre Dame historian says Vatican crackdown on nuns ‘inappropriate and humiliating’ “ , April 21, 2012.

Francis X. Clooney, SJ, “Sister Laurie Brink OP and the CDF,” America “In All Things” Blog, April 22, 2012.

Jamie Manson, “LCWR: A radical obedience to the voice of God in our time,”National Catholic Reporter, April 23, 2012.

Michele Somerville, “Gunning for the Nuns,”  HuffingtonPost.com, April 23, 2012.

Benedictine Sisters of Erie, “Benedictine Sisters of Erie Support LCWR,”  http://www.ErieBenedictines.org, April 24, 2012.

David Gibson, “LCWR and the Beguines,”dotCommonweal Blog, April 24, 2012

Mary C. Johnson, “American Nuns Will Not Be Bullied,”HuffingtonPost.com, April 24, 2012.

Tom Roberts, “LCWR earthquake snaps tension present since Vatican II,” National Catholic Reporter, April 24, 2012.

Garry Wills, “Bullying the Nuns,New York Review of Books, April 24, 2012.

Carol Lee Campbell, “Our Sisters in Health Care, Then and Now,”EmpowerHer.com, April 25, 2012.

Mary E. Hunt, “We Are All Nuns,ReligionDispatches.org, April 25, 2012.

James Martin, SJ, “LCWR to ‘Move Slowly’ “America “In All Things” Blog, April 25, 2012.

Ivone Gebara “La inquisición actual y las religiosas norteamericanas”Adital.com.br.   English Translation: “The current inquisition and the North American nuns,”  http://www.iglesiadescalza.blogspot.com, April 26, 2012

James Martin, SJ, “What Sisters Mean to Me,”WashingtonPost.com “OnFaith” Blog, April 26, 3012.

Joshua J. McElwee, “LCWR annual assembly to go forward,National Catholic Reporter, April 26, 2012.

Nicole Sotelo, “Resurrection, the sisters and the power of people,”National Catholic Reporter, April 26, 2012.

Maureen Dowd, “Bishops Play Church Queens as Pawns,”New York Times, April 29, 2012.

Nicholas D. Kristof, “We Are All Nuns,”New York Times, April 29, 2012.

Marian Ronan, “Rome vs. the Nuns,” ReligionDispatches.org, April 29, 2012.

Previous Bondings 2.0 posts on the CDF-LCWR story (with some of the links each post contains):

April 18:  Vatican Action Against U.S. Nuns; New Ways Ministry’s Response
Links: Associated Press article; CDF document.

April 19:  Sister Joan Chittister & Sister Simone Campbell Respond to Vatican Action Against U.S. Nuns“
Links: National Catholic Reporter (NCR) article; Religion News Service article by David Gibson; New York Times article.

April 20:  Can There Really Be “Collaboration” Between the Vatican and LCWR?“
Links:  Cardinal Levada’s letter; NCR article on how LCWR learned of the Vatican’s action; NCR article on canon law relevant to the case.

April 21:  Support for U.S. Nuns Spreads Quickly Among Catholics and Others”                                                                                           Links:  Online petition in support of nuns; New York Times editorial supporting nuns; U.S. Catholic magazine analysis of CDF document.

April 22: Comments on LCWR Action from National Catholic LGBT Organizations“
Links:  MSNBC interviews with New Ways Ministry’s Sister Jeannine Gramick and DignityUSA’s Jeff Stone; Washington Post article.

April 23, “Message to Nuns: ‘Be Not Afraid’ ”    Link: NCR article on canon law germane to LCWR.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Sister Joan Chittister & Sister Simone Campbell Respond to Vatican Action Against U.S. Nuns

April 19, 2012

We’re continuing our coverage of the news which broke yesterday that the Vatican has appointed an overseer to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the association of heads of nuns’ communities in the U.S.   The National Catholic Reporter (NCR) article on the action highlights the tasks that the appointee, Archbishop Peter Sartrain of Seattle, will undertake:

  • Revising LCWR statutes;
  • Reviewing LCWR plans and programs;
  • Creating new programs for the organization;
  • Reviewing and offering guidance on the application of liturgical texts; and
  • Reviewing LCWR’s affiliations with other organizations, citing specifically NETWORK and the Resource Center for Religious Institutes.

“According to the [Vatican] letter, Sartain’s mandate runs for ‘up to five years, as deemed necessary.’ Sartain is also expected to set up an advisory team including clergy and women religious, to ‘work collaboratively’ with LCWR officers and to ‘report on the progress of this work to the Holy See.’ “

Sister Joan Chittister

LCWR has yet to issue a statement concerning the statement from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), but the NCR article quotes  a response to the announcement from Sister Joan Chittister, OSB, the renowned Catholic author and speaker, who is a past-president of LCWR:

“Although LCWR officers did not immediately return requests for comment on this story, a former leader of the group told NCR that the appointment and the order for the group to revise itself was ‘actually immoral.’

” ‘Within the canonical framework, there is only one way I can see to deal with this,’ said Benedictine Sr. Joan Chittister, who has served as president of the group as well as in various leadership positions. (Chittister also writes a column for NCR.) ‘They would have to disband canonically and regroup as an unofficial interest group.

” ‘That would be the only way to maintain growth and nourish their congregational charisms and the charism of the LCWR, which is to help religious communities assess the signs of the time. If everything you do has to be approved by somebody outside, then you’re giving your charism away, and you’re certainly demeaning the ability of women to make distinctions.’ “

David Gibson, a premier reporter on Catholic issues, noted in a Religion News Service story appearing in USA Today, that concern about the nuns’ silence on marriage equality was referred to in the Vatican directive:

“. . . ‘[C]rucial’ issues like ‘the church’s biblical view of family life and human sexuality, are not part of the LCWR agenda in a way that promotes church teaching. Moreover, occasional public statements by the LCWR that disagree with or challenge positions taken by the bishops, who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals, are not compatible with its purpose.’ “

The criticism of LCWR’s approach to lesbian/gay issues is also explicitly referenced in the Vatican document:

“In this wider context, the CDF notes the absence of initiatives by the LCWR aimed at promoting the reception of the Church’s teaching, especially on difficult issues such as Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis [in which the pope said there could be no discussion on women’s ordination in the church] and Church teaching about homosexuality.”

As Bondings 2.0 reported yesterday, the Vatican’s criticism of LCWR’s approach to lesbian/gay issues also included nuns’ support of New Ways Ministry.  From the Vatican 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.”

You can read New Ways Ministry’s response to this criticism here.

Sister Simone Campbell

Besides New Ways Ministry, another Catholic organization, NETWORK, a national social justice lobbying group, was also cited in the CDF’s criticism of LCWR.  The New York Times article explains the reference and reports NETWORK’s  reaction:

“ ‘I’m stunned,’ said Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobby founded by sisters. Her group was also cited in the Vatican document, along with the Leadership Conference, for focusing its work too much on poverty and economic injustice, while keeping  ‘silent’ on abortion and same-sex marriage.

“ ‘I would imagine that it was our health care letter that made them mad,’ Sister Campbell said. ‘We haven’t violated any teaching, we have just been raising questions and interpreting politics.’ ”

In 2010, NETWORK supported President Obama’s health care bill, while the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops opposed it.

Bondings 2.0 will be following the news and commentary on the decision about LCWR in the coming days and weeks.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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