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


LGBT Injustices Central at Loretto Community 200th Jubilee Celebration in DC

September 19, 2012

Loretto Sisters, Co-members and Friends at the USCCB

LGBT issues were front and center when 40 people gathered in Washington, D.C. to celebrate the Loretto Community’s 200th Jubilee.

Planned on the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, the DC gathering included visits to seven sights of injustice where the group prayed and sang a litany of saints and heroes. Sites visited were the US Supreme Court, the US Capitol, the DC Jail, the Vietnam War Memorial, the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, the Vatican Embassy, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) headquarters.

Sr. Jeannine Gramick, a Sister of Loretto and co-founder of New Ways Ministry, and Matthew Myers, a co-member of Loretto who currently chairs New Ways Ministry’s Board of Directors, joined Sr. Maureen Fiedler of the Sisters of Loretto and Eileen Harrington, a co-member, in leading the afternoon’s celebrations.

Amongst the injustices called to mind were those committed against the LGBT community. These included the exclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons from equal protections under the law at the Supreme Court and the campaign against marriage equality launched by Catholic bishops that makes LGBT persons objects of discrimination.

Sr. Jeannine Gramick of New Ways Ministry and Sr. Maureen Fiedler

In the Loretto tradition of  ‘working for justice and acting for peace,’ the saints and heroes who struggle for equality and conscience were called to mind as well.

In the political and legal realm, those gathered sang the names of John Lawrence, plaintiff in the case that decriminalized same-gender consensual sex, as well as President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, who have refused to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act.

In the ecclesiastical realm, theologians Hans Kung, Charles Curran, and Margaret Farley were sung at the Vatican Embassy for their progressive views on human sexuality and the Vatican censures that followed. Bishop Thomas Gumbleton was intoned at the USCCB for his outspoken voice for LGBT rights within the Catholic Church.

Fittingly, Sr. Jeannine was included in the litany, along with several other women religious. The program described Sr. Jeannine in the following way:

“Loretto Sister who advocates for LGBT persons in the face of continual Vatican opposition.”

In 1992, after the Vatican had directed U.S. bishops to pull back from their support of civil rights’ legislation for lesbian and gay people, the Loretto General Assembly issued a statement in support of lesbian and gay civil rights which included the following:

“. . . as U.S. citizens, we believe that our constitutional tradition–properly understood and interpreted–ought to guarantee basic civil rights and equal protection of our laws to all citizens regardless of sexual orientation. It saddens us that the Vatican would enter the U.S. political arena by encouraging a departure from the finest ideals of our political tradition, ideals which promote equality and basic civil rights for everyone.
“Consequently, we call upon our political leaders to guarantee the civil rights of lesbian and gay persons in the law of our land. We call upon the U.S. Catholic Bishops to support such legislation as an authentic expression of the gospel call to respect the intrinsic human rights and dignity of all persons.”

New Ways Ministry applauds Loretto for 200 years of powerful witness to working for justice and acting for peace because of the Gospel’s urgent call.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Convention Speeches by Catholics Spark Controversy

September 8, 2012

Prominent Catholics took to the podiums at both the Republican National Convention (RNC) and the Democratic National Convention (DNC) this year, leaving other Catholics tasked with interpreting the speeches. Sr. Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK, a Catholic social justice lobby, addressed the DNC last Wednesday, while Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York gave benedictions for each party.

Dolan’s prayers are stirring up already-present Catholic controversies because of the differences in remarks aimed at Republicans and at Democrats, the latter receiving 156 additional words.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan

The Huffington Post reports on some of those added words:

“And making what seemed to be a allusion to same-sex marriage, which President Barack Obama and the DNC have endorsed, Dolan said: “Show us anew that happiness is found only in respecting the laws of nature and of nature’s God. Empower us with your grace so that we might resist the temptation to replace the moral law with idols of our own making, or to remake those institutions you have given us for the nurturing of life and community.

“Dolan mentioned morality at the RNC, but not remaking ‘institutions [God] has given us.’ At the RNC, he said, ‘May we know the truth of your creation, respecting the laws of nature and nature’s God, and not seek to replace it with idols of our own making.’”

The Advocate notes changes Dolan made for the Democratic convention, including the above potential reference to marriage equality:

“Dolan used no such language about ‘remaking institutions’ in his prayer to the RNC last week. Republicans approved a platform calling for a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and the affirmation of DOMA, positions more in line with Catholic Church teaching.”

Mainstream commenters quickly identified this discrepancy in language as condemning the Democratic Party’s adoption of marriage equality and LGBT rights as part of its platform.

In the Catholic community, however, there is debate about how much can be read into Dolan’s remarks. Chuck Colbert reports in the Windy City Times on differing opinions:

“One view is that Dolan offered a subtle theological take on gays as freaks of nature, even idolaters in advocating-same-sex marriage.

“’The reality is that gay people, too, are part of God’s nature, and therefore we are a part of the laws of nature. We need to remind Cardinal Dolan and the Church that God created gay people to be fully who we are; we are not a “mistake,”’explained [Charles] Martel [of Catholics for Marriage Equality] over the telephone and in e-mail correspondence….

“…Francis DeBernardo, executive director of the Maryland-based New Ways Ministry, a pro-gay group for LGBT Catholics, their friends, families, and the Church, viewed the prayer favorable light.

“’Cardinal Dolan does not mention anything about LGBT issues, which I think is a good thing,’ explained DeBernardo. ‘Some people may think that his mention of natural law refers to lesbian and gay people or our society’s move towards marriage equality, but I do not agree. Lesbian and gay people are well within the bounds of nature’s law and the desire to live as a committed couple is a perfectly natural thing to do.’”

However, as Colbert reports, some view Dolan’s remarks as moderate and hopeful:

“’From a LGBT Catholic perspective I see this as indication that in the cultural wars Dolan is recognizing public opinion is overwhelmingly opposed to his far right position on the cultural hot button issues, and this might be an indication that he is trying to move his position to a more moderate one. What can I say I believe in the Holy Spirit,’ [Joe] Murray [of the Rainbow Sash Movement] added.”

As for Dolan’s comments at the DNC, New Ways Ministry’s DeBernardo had this to say:

“Cardinal Dolan seems to be alluding to the institution of marriage in his reference to remaking ‘those institutions you have given us for the nurturing of life and community.’  What he fails to grasp is that marriage equality laws do not re-make the institution of marriage, but simply expand the institution to include all couples who want to commit in love to one another and carefully protect all families within our society.”

Sr. Simone Campbell

Sr. Simone Campbell addressed the Democrats in a heavily pastoral manner drawing from her time with ‘Nuns on the Bus’ earlier this year:

“In June, I joined other Catholic sisters on a 2,700-mile bus journey through nine states to tell Americans about the budget Congressman Paul Ryan wrote and Governor Romney endorsed….

“[A woman in Pennsylvania] wishes they, and the rest of the nation, would listen to one another with kindness and compassion. Listen to one another rather than yell at each other. I told her then, and I tell her now, that she is not alone.

“This is what we nuns on the bus are all about: We care for the 100 percent, and that will secure the blessings of liberty for our nation. So join us as we nuns and all of us drive for faith, family and fairness.”

Given both Dolan’s history and the benediction texts from each convention, how are his remarks to be interpreted? Are the bishops seeking a more pastoral tone like that of the sisters? What do you think of Sr. Campbell’s comments? Please post your comments below.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Support the Sisters by Re-Directing Peter’s Pence Donations

June 21, 2012

NunJustice.org, the coalition of Catholic organizations which has formed to support Catholic nuns in the wake of the Vatican’s challenge to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, is recommending an alternative donation option to a popular Catholic Church fundraising project.

On June 24th, the Vatican will be sponsoring its annual Peter’s Pence, a worldwide collection of donations from Catholics to support the pope’s private charities.  The NunJustice.org coalition is asking Catholics to donate, inste ad, to a community of nuns in their local area, as a sign of support for the nuns, and a sign that Catholics disagree with the Vatican’s critique of women’s religious life in the U.S.

The NunJustice.org  website is NOT collecting any funds for this effort, but they are asking Catholics who donate to a local women’s religious community to visit the website and let them know how much was donated, as a way for them to track how much money was actually raised by donating to local women’s communities.

The website also has a comment about the lack of transparency concerning Peter’s Pence donations:

“Jason Berry’s recent book Render Unto Rome: the Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church exposes a shocking misuse of charitable donations by people who administer the finances of the Catholic Church. An investigative journalist, Berry’s meticulous documentation reveals that Peter’s Pence donations are frequently used to cover Vatican operating costs even though Catholics are told the money will be used for the Pope’s private charities. There is no public accounting of Peter’s Pence contributions as would be expected of other charitable organizations in the US and around the world.”

The Vatican’s critique of LCWR was in part motivated because of the Sisters’ public support of LGBT ministry and justice generally, and of New Ways Ministry in particular.

NunJustice.org has already succeeded in collecting over 57,000 signatures, one for each of the nuns in the U.S., on a petition against the Vatican’s challenge to LCWR.  The coalition presented these signatures to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops at their recent semi-annual meeting in Atlanta, Georgia.  You can read about the petition delivery in a New York Times article here.

Please be as generous as you can to your local sisters for two important reasons:  1) to thank them for their presence and ministry in our church; 2) to show the Vatican that Catholic support is with the Sisters during this important crisis.

–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


From Standing Ovation to Twitter, Catholics Are Speaking Out

April 24, 2012

In two of the biggest Catholic LGBT news stories in the nation over the past few weeks, Catholics have been letting their voices be heard loud and clear, via both traditional and ultra-contemporary methods.

A standing ovation, a traditional method of showing support, was used by Catholics in Seattle to show their approval of their pastor’s decision not to allow their parish to be used as a location to collect signatures in a petition drive to put repeal of Washington State’s new marriage equality law on the ballot this November.  According to a Seattle Post-Intelligencer article:

“The congregation at Seattle’s Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church gave the Rev. Tim Clark a standing ovation Sunday when he announced that the parish would not gather signatures for a referendum to repeal same-sex marriage.

“The parish became the sixth in Seattle to opt out of the petition drive for Referendum 74 that has been endorsed and foisted on parishes by Archbishop J. Peter Sartain.

“ ‘I am happy to report that Our Lady of the Lake parishoners have been overwhelmingly and, thus far, unanimously supportive of the decision I made NOT to gather signatures in support of this Referendum,’ Clark wrote in response to an e-mail.

“ ‘The standing ovation experienced during one of the Masses says less about me and much more about the health of this parish.  I only wished the archbishop could have experienced the sustained applause — the “sensus fidelium” — of the people.  He needs to listen to this “voice.” That is my prayer.’ ”

Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church joins five other Seattle-area parishes who have refused the archbishop’s request. The others are St. James Cathedral, St. Joseph Church, St. Mary’s Church, St. Patrick Church, and Christ Our Hope Catholic Church.   Bondings 2.0 reported on some of these other parishes’ refusals in a post earlier this month.

Rev. Clark explained the motivation behind his decision:

“ ‘When I first read the archbishop’s letter[asking parishes to collect signatures]  I was troubled by the content and his intentions,’ Clark wrote.  ‘In conscience, I could not allow signatures to be gathered, to allow the faith to be politicized in this way.

“ ‘What troubles me is the message this whole approach sends which I find discriminatory and insensitive.  To follow through with his wishes would be hurtful, divisive and a countersign to what we are trying to foster in this Catholic community in Wedgwood.

“ ‘I deeply believe, and say this with boldness, that this approach is not in the mind of Christ.’ ”

Rev. James Martin, SJ

In the continuing story about the Vatican’s attempt to suppress the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Catholics are using a Twitter hashtag–“#WhatSistersMeanToMe“–to express their solidarity with U.S. nuns.  The hashtag was established by Fr. James Martin, SJ, the popular Catholic author on spirituality.  In a HuffingtonPost.com article about the Twitter campaign, Martin explains his reason for establishing the hashtag as a place where people can show their support for the embattled Sisters:

“Catholic sisters are my heroes. In light of the Vatican’s desire to renew and reform their main organizing body, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, I thought it would be a great time to speak a word of support for Catholic sisters, and to acknowledge the hidden ways that these women have generously served God, served the poor and served this country.”

You can read the tweets to this hashtag here.

The Sisters’ support of LGBT people and issues has been one of the reasons that the Vatican is attempting to suppress their leadership conference.  Bondings 2.0 has been reporting on this story for the past six days; you can read the background by following the posts on this blog since April 18th.

Archbishop Peter Sartain

Interestingly, and perhaps not coincidentally, Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle is involved in both these stories.  In the first one, he requested that parishes in the Seattle Archdiocese collect signatures at their churches.  In the second story, he is the person appointed by the Vatican to oversee the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

These two stories indicate that Catholics are at a point where they are eager to speak their minds, hearts, and consciences on important church issues–and that they will use all the means at their disposal, both traditional ones and modern ones, to let their voices be heard.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Support for U.S. Nuns Spreads Quickly Among Catholics and Others

April 21, 2012

The attempt this week by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) to control the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), the leading national organization of Catholic nuns in the U.S., is being widely criticized by Catholics and others, as people across the country start to express outrage at the decision and support for these women of faith.

A group of Catholics concerned about the religious sisters have organized an online petition at Change.org which has already attracted over 4,000 signatures in less than two days.  The petition’s text:

“On April 18, 2012, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) launched a crackdown on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), an umbrella group that represents more than 80 percent of the 57,000 women religious in the United States.

“We, the undersigned, stand in solidarity with the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). We are shocked by the Roman Catholic hierarchy’s recent crackdown on nuns in the United States. The mandate forced upon LCWR, which threatens their works of justice, is a prime example of how the hierarchy in the Roman Catholic Church misuses its power to diminish the voice of women. We value the prophetic witness of women religious and appreciate their commitment to social justice. “

You can access and sign the petition here.

A New York Times editorial supports LCWR and nuns’ ministries, pointing out that the Vatican’s accusations are

“. . .a misreading of the very fine work in schools, charities, prisons and impoverished neighborhoods being done by about 60,000 nuns across the nation.

“These nuns and their leaders continued to bolster the reputation of the Roman Catholic Church even as it suffered one of its greatest scandals in the sexual abuse of schoolchildren by rogue priests and the cover-ups by diocesan authorities. . . .

“It would be a tragedy, far beyond the church, if their fine work and their courageous voices were constrained.”

Bryan Cones, managing editor of U.S. Catholic offers an insightful analysis on the magazine’s blog.  His conclusion:

“When you boil it all down, the CDF’s complaints are trumped up, giving the U.S. bishops the excuse to act against a relatively independent Catholic voice that they don’t like—and a warning to others (perhaps such as Sister Carol Keehan of the Catholic Health Association) not to offer an alternative Catholic voice in the national debate. Sister Simone Campbell of NETWORK said it best, I think: ‘I think we scare them.’ ”

Sister Simone Campbell elaborated on that idea in an interview with National Public Radio.  Commenting on what might have motivated the Vatican’s leaders to take such an action, she said:

“. . .it looks like from the outside that they are not used to strong women who took the urging of Pope Pius XII very seriously. Pope Pius XII urged women religious – way before I was in the community – to be educated in theology, to get educated in advanced degrees.

“So we took him seriously, and we did it. The leadership doesn’t know how to deal with strong women. And so their way is try to shape us into whatever they think it should be, not realizing that we’ve been faithful to the call this whole time.”

Responding to a line of questioning as to why the Vatican and U.S. nuns’ differ in their approach to issues, including lesbian and gay issues, Sister Campbell stated:

“There’s certainly an experience difference. We as Catholics believe our experience informs our faith and our faith informs our experience. It’s – how can I say this? When you don’t work every day with people who live on the margins of our society, it’s much easier to make easy statements about who’s right and who’s wrong.”

PreviousBondings 2.0 posts on the LCWR case:

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

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

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


A Habit of LGBT Equality

January 24, 2012

Over the past three years, nuns’ communities in the US have been “visited” by a Vatican appointee to assess their lives and missions.  Though the Vatican said that the reason for this visitation was the welfare of the sisters, Mary Johnson, a writer for Bloomberg.com and a former nun,  has another theory:  “American nuns frighten them.”

In an article entitled “Nuns in Street Clothing Shouldn’t Frighten Vatican,”Johnson examines how and why American nuns have been in the forefront of justice issues in society and in the church.  Singled out for special mention is a nun very dear to New Ways Ministry:

Sister Jeannine Gramick

“Liberal American sisters are courageous women. Sister Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of New Ways Ministry, continues to advocate for gay rights despite official church efforts to silence her.”

It’s no secret–though it’s not well-known, either–that high on the list of Catholic supporters of LGBT equality are nuns.  Communities of women religious have consistently been supportive of education, dialogue, and justice activities for LGBT people since the late 1970s.

After Vatican II, when nuns’ communities re-evaluated their charisms and ministries, they quickly realized that the church had long neglected lesbian/gay rights and that this was an issue that cried for justice.  They responded positively and actively.

Johnson’s article  highlights the reason that nuns can be so steadfast:

“American nuns don’t want to fight the official church, but neither are they likely to sacrifice the integrity of their consciences for the sake of peace.”

At New Ways Ministry,  we are indebted to our Sisters for financial, spiritual, and practical support over our 35 year history.  More New Ways Ministry programs have been held in convents and motherhouses than in any other type of Catholic facility by far.

Their support continues. For our upcoming Seventh National Symposium, 23 women’s religious groups have publicly endorsed the program.  20 more have provided financial and practical support for the program.  The success of the Symposium is always due to the great publicity and promotion of the event that sisters’ communities do for it. For all of our programs, the largest number of participants tend to be nuns.

The Catholic LGBT community–and New Ways Ministry, in particular–is deeply indebted to the Sisters of the church.  We should repay them with our undying support and with the greatest gift with which they have blessed us:  their unceasing prayer.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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