Saturday, August 9, 2014

Homily at Holy Spirit Catholic Community , 19th OT A, Aug. 10, 2014 by Beverly Bingle, RCWP

God had sent Elijah as prophet to Israel.
But Elijah runs away in fear and despair,
hiding in the desert,
not standing before the people as God’s prophet,
praying to die.
So God feeds Elijah and tells him to go to the mountaintop
and stand there in front of God.
Elijah goes to the side of the mountain… and hides in a cave.
That’s where we find him in today’s first reading.
Elijah is neither in the place God tells him to be,
nor does he take the stance of prophet God tells him to take.
But God stays with Elijah, speaking to him
not in the wind, or the earthquake,
or the fire, but in “a gentle voice.”
Scholars say that the Hebrew text defies translation,
so Elijah’s experience has also been described as
“a sound of sheer silence;” “a faint murmuring sound;”
“a still small silence;” and “a tiny whispering sound.”
____________________________________
So God asks gently in that immense quiet:
What are you doing here, Elijah?
Why are you here instead of where I sent you?
And then God sends Elijah once again
to fulfill the duties of prophet.
Elijah takes courage
because he knows he is not alone;
God is with him;
all will be well.
______________________________________
Today’s Gospel brings us a parallel lesson.
It’s the story of the storm on the lake.
Jesus, after the feeding of the five thousand,
has gone off alone to pray.
Very often in scripture we see this pattern,
with Jesus going off to pray by himself in nature.
Just like us, Jesus needs both kinds of prayer—
the communal prayer with the people,
and the periods of silent personal prayer in contact with nature.
___________________________________
And the disciples in the boat, like Elijah in the desert,
found themselves in danger,
afraid first of the storm
and then of the ghostly appearance of Jesus so near the boat.
The incident ends with Jesus’ comforting words:
Don’t be afraid; I’m here with you.
Their circumstances did not change, nor did those of Elijah.
The disciples were still at sea during a storm,
and Elijah was still being threatened by Jezebel.
But both the prophet and the disciples were able to go on
because the divine presence
gave them the courage to do so.
___________________________________
We’ve all been there.
The storms of life hit us hard—
the death of a loved one, loss of a job,
diagnosis of serious health problems.
When we focus on the storm, we panic.
When we center ourselves in prayer,
we find strength to get through it,
even to reach out to calm the fears of the others
in the boat with us.
____________________________________
What are we doing here?
There’s a storm on our lake, too.
Last week it was toxic algae bloom.
People gathered and prayed.
They helped one another.
We got through it.
Every day we hear more warnings
that last week’s water crisis will happen again.
Climate change threatens not only the water we drink
But also the food we eat,
the air we breathe.
Scientists tell us that the storms are going to get worse
unless we do something now.
_____________________________________
I was both pleased and dismayed
when I heard the media calling us
to recycle all those water bottles last Tuesday.
I was pleased to think that people
would not be adding them to landfills
or throwing them in the streets or in the water.
But I was dismayed that they were not filling them with tap water
and keeping them handy for the next crisis.
It’s a simple thing,
and it’s not so costly
that it couldn’t be done by almost everyone.
My stash of emergency water fits easily in my basement.
When there’s no crisis, I rotate the bottles
by using one or two to water my indoor plants
or fill my steam iron, then refill them from the tap.
I don’t have to stand in line for water,
or travel long distances,
or pay price-gougers.
I have enough to share with my neighbors.
The only folks who couldn’t do the same are the homeless,
who have no place to keep it,
and people who are so poor
that they can’t afford running water.
There are other things we can do—
stop over-fertilizing our lawns,
organize our errands to use less gas,
turn off lights and appliances when we aren’t using them.
___________________________________
We can pay attention to the tiny whispers
that are telling us to look for waste and extravagance
in our lifestyles
and do what we can to make sure that everyone has enough
before we use more than our fair share.
___________________________________
Our psalm today sings out:
Blessed be God who is over all!
And it is God’s presence, God’s spirit,
that fills us with the courage to take action.
_______________________________________
Though we may stumble and falter along the way,
we will all get through, listening to that sound in the silence,
the still small voice that whispers,
Do not be afraid. I am with you.

--
Holy Spirit Catholic Community
at 3535 Executive Parkway (Unity of Toledo)
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m.
Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
www.holyspirittoledo.org

Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
419-727-1774

Homily: "Faith in the Wind" for 8/10/2014 by Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP


http://judyabl.wordpress.com/2014/08/08/faith-in-the-wind-rev-judys-homily-for-sunday-8814-ot-19/


Faith in the Wind: Rev Judy’s Homily for Sunday 8/10/14 OT 19

People are saying that the weather has gone crazy. With our poor stewardship of the earth global warming and pollution seem to be taking a heavy toll. There are tornados where they never were. Huge hailstones in summer, and hurricanes have not touched Florida in years. Yet we can all remember Andrew and Wilma and Charley, with winds raging, trees falling on everything, roofs blown off and power gone. Wind is a powerful thing. That is probably why it is a symbol for God’s presence in the Scriptures, And, when there are strong winds in our lives we desperately need the presence of God.
In the reading from Kings (19:9-13) we see the prophet Elijah fleeing from the city where his life is threatened to the mountains and a cave. Elijah is afraid and running for his life (9:3). He has done all that God asked –he was God’s messenger, and with the usual response, the messenger was to be killed. Elijah says to God, “I have been zealous for you …. but they have broken your covenant, they have killed your prophets and now they are trying to kill me too” (19:10). The job of God’s prophet is so often a thankless and dangerous one. Only rarely does the city repent and the people turn their lives around although it happens. But not for Elijah. I wonder if he isn’t beyond frustration to being consumed by anger at the way things are turning out? But, God does not abandon Elijah despite his fear, frustration and anger. God stays in constant communication with Elijah and promises him Presence. So Elijah again does what God asks and steps out on the mountain. There “a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart”. And poor Elijah grabbed the nearest rock and held on, but God was not in this shattering wind. Then there was an earthquake and a fire. Fire is another symbol for God’s presence, but God was in neither of these. And after Elijah risked all of this he must have been about to give up and crawl to the back of the cave and die as he wanted to do before this when he reached the desert and sat under a tree and prayed to die. “I have had enough” he said to God (19:4)”take my life…” Well, God provided for him and urged him on in his journey until now he stood, clinging to the mountain as the wind and fire raged on. Did you ever feel like Elijah -did you ever feel you had enough. You tried to do right but nothing worked and you simply had enough-and then the storms kept raging. I have felt that way. And ultimately I had to stand before God and wait for God’s presence and word right there in the midst of the great raging winds of my life. And, finally, finally, the gentle voice of God came and calmed the storm, and also gave direction that worked so Elijah could indeed fulfill his mission. One of the things that worked for Elijah was doing as God asked in choosing Elisha as a prophet for Elisha also loved him and stuck by him no matter what: “I will not leave you” Elisha said as Elijah and he walked toward Elijah’s final moments on earth (2 Kings 2:2,6). Not only did God remain present to Elijah but God gave him a friend and one who would carry on after him. What a beautiful gift God gave Elijah as the winds abated. Oh, if we could have the faith of Elijah who did God’s work no matter what.
In the Epistle to the Romans we hear Paul’s anguish and grief for those of his own Hebrew people who could not accept the Good News of Christ. Paul was so distraught that he said “Indeed, I would cut myself off from Christ it that would save my sisters and brothers, my kinfolk…” (Rom. 9:1-5). Paul would give up his all for his people, for God’s own people, even as Elijah did. And the winds would rage. Paul was very much aware of his own clay feet, but his love for his people was constant. With their rejection the great raging winds of sadness almost consumed him. And yet, like Elijah, Paul lived by faith and hope that in God’s loving kindness all of Israel would be saved (Rom. 11:26) and loving as Christ loved would save the day for all (Rom 12 and 13). Both Elijah and Paul faced deepest despair and found God’s presence there.
In our ministry we have been working with a woman who lost everything. Job, home, physical and mental health and worries for her children and her own life. And yet as we shared reflections in our Tuesday worship service she shared: “I can tell you for sure that when things were so bad and I hit the bottom, it fell through and I went lower still-but I found the most wonderful thing. God was there and God provided for people to come and lift me up and the people are right here” she said looking around the room. “All of my needs are met and I don’t have a penny. I will get a home this week and this is my greatest joy. God is there when you fall lower than you ever thought you could fall. God is there”. And after the silence, everyone clapped.
That too is the meaning in the Gospel (Matthew 14:22-33). Jesus has recently heard of the horrific death of his cousin and prophet, John the Baptist. He had tried to get away by himself to grieve and pray but was met by the huge group on the mountain side. He healed, he preached, he taught, he fed. He must have been exhausted. He sent the disciples away in the boat and he finally had some time to himself. I think every parent, teacher, social worker, counselor, preacher, pastor and parish priest knows how he felt. In the middle of the night he woke up and saw the boat full of disciples tossed about in the waves by the fierce wind (14:24). So Jesus got up and walked across the water toward them. We are to see his God-ness in this for he walked on the water-but we can see it even more because he couldn’t even get a full night’s sleep without responding to the needs of his people. Full of grief, sadness and exhaustion he got up to help them. But here they were in a heavy storm at night and they saw him coming toward them and were “terrified” (v. 26). “Take courage, It is I, don’t be afraid” he said. In the terrible storms of our lives we can hear these words and know God is with us. Indeed we do take courage and we are no longer afraid. We may even try, like Peter, to walk on water. Doing something new and unheard of is walking on water. Being a woman Roman Catholic priest is walking on water. But one has to keep one’s eyes on Christ or we flounder and sink. Still, and this is the miracle, still, Christ is there with us catching us before we go under. God is there in the raging storm at sea. Jesus got in the boat and the wind died down. Let us know deeply that although the storms of life may rage, if we listen, we can hear Jesus saying “Courage, I am here, don’t be afraid”. And the winds die down. AMEN!
photo 3






Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, Roman Catholic Woman Priest
Pastor of The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Church, Fort Myers, FLorida

Interview with Fr. Roy Bourgeois by Nancy Fornasiero in the Huffington Post

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/nancy-fornasiero/women-priests-roy-bourgeois_b_5658339.html
Janice Sevre-Duszynska, ARCWP, in Rome  for Conclave that  elected Pope Francis

"Why shouldn't women be called to the Catholic priesthood?"
This is the question that Roy Bourgeois has been asking out loud since the RCWP ordination of his friend Janice Sevre-Duszynska, six years ago on August 8, 2008. It's the question that landed him in a boat-load of hot water with the Vatican ..
RCWP stands for Roman Catholic Women Priests: a grassroots global movement that includes about 200 women priests, bishops and deacons. The Vatican says their ordinations aren't valid and they have no authority to lead; Canon Law 1024 clearly states that only baptized males can be priests.
It's been almost two years since Bourgeois' defrocking by Pope Benedict -- he likens this period of rejection and grieving to the aftermath of a difficult divorce. Like others who suffer because of a broken relationship, he's gradually healing from his painful experience.
From left to right  Erin Hanna, Women Ordination Conference, Donna Rougeux, ARCWP,
Ree Hudson, RCWP, Roy Bourgeois, Janice Sevre-Duszynska, ARCWP

In June 2014 a new RCWP parish sprang up in Toronto -- one of nine across Canada. This development, combined with the anniversary of the event that caused Bourgeois' life to spin out of control, make it an appropriate time to see how he's doing and hear his thoughts about the growing RCWP movement.
A: This injustice toward women and God had become so clear to me and I used to go to my friends and say, "I think we have a problem." They'd say, "Roy, it's not about equality, it's about roles. We're not prejudiced, we just have different roles." And I would say, "Are you sure it's not about power? Or sexism?" This all reminded me of my growing up in the South during segregation when we would claim that it wasn't racism at work, but of course it was. But back to my fellow priests...the core of the problem of them not supporting me is that they don't want to lose their power, privileges, and good standing. Simple as that. Fear.
Q: This week marks the anniversary of the ordination of your friend Janice. Tell us about it.
A: That event was a big breakthrough. I didn't just attend, I gave the homily. Five women priests were ordained. I knew there would be consequences. We gave thanks to God for calling Janice and to Janice for accepting her call, especially at a time when so many of our churches were closing because of a lack of vocations. I really remember the joy there. It was so joyful.
Q: What do you make of the new RCWP community in Toronto?
A: The church hierarchy is not going to give up its power, so change has to come from the bottom up, in part from courageous women like these RCWPs in Toronto. It will come from people in the pews who support the ordination of women. This movement cannot be stopped. There were many who tried to stop the suffragette movement, including leaders in the Catholic Church. But they couldn't. Same thing goes for the civil rights movement. These movements were of God. They were rooted in justice, love, and equality...."
Thanks Nancy for an excellent article about our movement. Bridget Mary Meehan, www.arcwp.org

Friday, August 8, 2014

A Roman Catholic Sister, Frances Croake Frank, reflected a link between ordination and eucharist, and reflected on Mary as the mother of Jesus



OFFERING FROM A CATHOLIC SISTER

Did the woman say,
When she held him for the first time
   in the dark dank of a stable,
After the pain and the
   bleeding and the crying,
   "This is my body; this is my blood"?

Did the woman say,
When she held him for the last time
   in the dark rain on a hilltop,
after the pain and the bleeding
   and the dying,
   "This is my body; this is my blood"?

Well that she said it to him then,
For dry old men,
Brocaded robes belying barrenness,
  Ordain that she not say it for him now.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Catholics support Leadership Conference of Women Religious and Sr. Elizabeth Johnson! /Sign Petition to Pope Now


As the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) gathers for their annual assembly from August 12 - 16, 2014, Catholics all over the United States and the world are downloading the NunJustice prayer resources and gathering together to support LCWR and Sr. Elizabeth Johnson! 

Standing strong in support, over 11,100 people have signed the petition to Pope Francis asking him to remove the mandate.  If you haven't signed, please do so now by CLICKING HERE!


Follow FutureChurch on Facebook and Twitter (@FutureChurchUSA) as Deb Rose-Milavec and Sr. Chris Schenk head to the 2014 LCWR Assembly to support and stand in solidarity with LCWR and Sr. Elizabeth Johnson. 


Equal in Faith-Women Fast for Gender Justice

Equal in Faith 2.0  Take Action Monday
Women of faith will mark National Women's Equality Day on Tuesday, August 26 together in interfaith regional gatherings. Alongside interfaith fellowship, local organizers will collaborate and plan for an interfaith event for gender justice and equality in their faith traditions to be held on International Women's Day, March 8. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Tell Speaker Boehner: Stop blocking resolution honoring Pope Francis/Now this is really hard to believe!

"Republicans in Congress love to make common cause with right-wing Catholic bishops to attack President Obama.
But now the GOP is blocking a routine resolution honoring Pope Francis because they think he's "too liberal" and is "sounding like Obama."
Of the 221 representatives who have co-sponsored the resolution recognizing Pope Francis for his inspirational statements and actions, only 19 are Republicans.
So far House Speaker John Boehner is even refusing to allow a vote on the resolution -- presumably because it would be embarrassing to publicly reveal that many Republicans only invoke Christianity when it suits their right-wing agenda."
Tell Speaker Boehner: Stop blocking resolution honoring Pope Francis

August 6 and 9: Launch of the Nuclear Age H. Patricia Hynes

https://portside.org/2014-08-04/august-6-and-9-launch-nuclear-age

"On the anniversary of the U.S. dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nine countries - the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea - possess the demonic capability to annihilate the human race and render the Earth uninhabitable.  Combined, these countries have 16,300 nuclear warheads, 93 percent of which are maintained and deployed by the United States and Russia, now locked in hostilities over the Ukraine.  In fact, serious conflicts fester in every region of the other nuclear nations: South and East Asia, the Korean peninsula and the Middle East..."

Allow the Water of God's Blessing to Wash Over You by Patty Zorn, ARCWP Candidate

Today is the Feast Day of the Transfiguration of Jesus and what a glorious day it is indeed.
Why is the Transfiguration so important to seekers of the Way?
When we progress spiritually, we have the ability to stand in the light and allow the water of God’s blessings wash over us.
As Jesus stood with his friends on Mount Tabor, he is suddenly transformed into the illumination of Christ as the Light. “As they looked on, a change came over Jesus, and his clothes became shining white—whiter than anyone in the world could wash them.”
As I was sitting quietly contemplating the Transfiguration, I heard a faint sound of rain on my roof.
I looked out the window. The sun was out and it was raining. There was no thunder or lightning, just a quiet rain.
In our section of the world we call this a “Sun Shower”, a wonderful phenomena of renewal.
My spirit pushed me to go outside and I listened.
As I stepped out the door, I looked up at the sun with my arms stretched out.
I was standing in the Light, just as Jesus’ friends did all those years ago.
The rain gently fell. There was a hint of gray, white and blue accompanying the sun in the sky.
I let go. In the moment I felt the presence of God wash over me.
Transfiguration is not about where we are in life, but who we aspire to become.
Sometimes we have to climb up to the top of the mountain in order to find a new path.
On this special day, “Allow the Water of God’s Blessing to Wash Over You” and enfold you in the Light of God’s Love!

Commemorating Hiroshima and Nagasaki -Peace and Justice Events in Kansas City by Georgia Walker, ARCWP

Our remembrances of the two major cities of Japan which were destroyed by nuclear bombs and our solidarity with the many sisters and brothers of Japan who died or have suffered are being commemorated in Kansas City:
 
     Aug 6  with a peace vigil in front of the Kansas City Hall in protest of our city's issuing of revenue bonds of $ 1 billion dollars to build a new Kansas City bomb plant for the Federal government (for Hiroshima and the world)
 
     Aug 7  We are hosting a talk and reception by Simone Campbell of Network--of Nuns On the Bus fame to talk about budget priorities
 
     Aug 9  with a peace vigil at our peace park in Kansas City (for Nagasaki and the world) to recall the tragedies of 69 years ago and to recommit ourselves to saving Earth from nuclear weapons.
 
     Aug 22  A Protest we are calling "DEAD-icated to Death" to protest the dedication of the new nuclear weapons parts plant
 
Dignitaries will gather at the new National Security Campus to dedicate the new nuclear weapons parts plant.  Peace activists will gather at the same time and place, but for a different purpose.  Officials will carry ribbons and scissors and will have positive things to say about the shiny new plant--but will not talk about what is left behind at the old plant.
 
Activists will care signs and a coffin, symbolizing death and destruction--as surely a part of the "new" plant's future as the history of the old plant.  Protestors will wear black armbands in remembrance of those who died from toxic contamination at the old plant, as well as a realistic fear for workers at the new plant.  That fear expands as parts are distributed around the country to arm the U.S. nuclear arsenal!
 
IF WE REMAIN SILENT...WE ARE COMPLICIT! 

Georgia K. Walker

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

After archdiocese's grant withdrawal, Cincinnati Catholic Worker raises more than $9500 and Debra Meyers, a woman priest led prayer

National Catholic Reporter 

by Nicholas Sciarappa

"Over $9,500 in donations flooded into a Catholic Worker house after the Cincinnati archdiocese withdrew $1,000 in GRANT MONEY following the house's announcement that Debra Meyers, a member of the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests, would host a July 20 prayer service at the shelter.
The money promised by the archdiocese was supposed to go toward purchasing a new washer and dryer for the shelter, Lydia's House. The archdiocese said in a statement that the money would instead be given to an organization that supports the homeless, maintains Catholic teaching, and is congruent with the expectations of the archdiocese.
"The archdiocese seems to CARE a lot about what they are against," Mary Ellen Mitchell, a founder of Lydia's House, told NCR in a phone interview. "What we would like to figure out is what are we all for and work together on those things."

The archdiocese's retraction of funds was mentioned in multiple outlets, including NCR, an opinion piece in the Cincinnati Enquirer, a press release from ARCWP, and a post on Lydia's House's Facebook page...:
Bridget Mary's Response:
This is a modern day multiplication of the loaves and fishes story! The Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests  (ARCWP) started the ball rolling with a donation of $1000 to replace the Cincinnati Archdiocesan withdrawal of funds. Catholics demonstrated their generosity to Lydia's House the homeless shelter for women, their displeasure with the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and their support for women priests.  Bridget Mary Meehan,ARCWP, www.arcwp.org 

The lavish homes of American archbishops/CNN Report




http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2014/08/us/american-archbishops-lavish-homes/?hpt=hp_t1





Records reveal that 10 of the country's top church leaders defy the Pope's example and live in residences worth more than $1 million.
Preview by Yahoo

Records reveal that 10 of the country's top church leaders defy the Pope's example and live in residences worth more than $1 million.
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Editor

"How I would like a Church which is poor and for the poor!"— Pope Francis

Clearly, "lifestyles of the rich and religious" doesn't cut it for Pope Francis.
The pontiff has said it "breaks my heart" to see priests and nuns driving the latest-model cars.
He's blasted "airport bishops" who spend more time jet-setting than tending to their flocks.
And he's warned against church leaders who bear the "psychology of princes."
The Vatican fired one such "prince" last year: German Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst -- aka "The Bishop of Bling" -- who spent $43 million to remodel his opulent pad.
(Bronze window frames? $2.4 million. Getting on the wrong side of the Pope? Far more pricey.)
"God save us from a worldly Church with superficial spiritual and pastoral trappings!" Francis said in his book-length blueprint for the church.
Say what you will, but this Pope puts his preaching into practice.
Previous pontiffs lived here, at the Vatican's opulent Apostolic Palace.
Pope Francis lives here, in a small suite in the Vatican guesthouse.
The message seems clear, no?
But are American archbishops following Francis' lead?
A CNN investigation found that at least 10 of the 34 active archbishops in the United States live in buildings worth more than $1 million, according to church and government records.*
That's not counting hundreds of retired and active Catholic bishops in smaller cities, some of whom live equally large.
Among archbishops, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York leads the pack with this 15,000-square-foot mansion on Madison Avenue, in one of the priciest corridors of Manhattan.


"Conflict with Vatican shadows upcoming LCWR assembly "by Thomas Fox/Time for LCWR to Support Gender Equality including Nuns Called to Priesthood

Bridget Mary's Response:
It looks like the Vatican is once again pushing the  Leadership Conference of Women Religious  (LCWR) to comply or face a hostile take over by the hierarchy. 
You could hear a pin drop at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC when  Sister Teresa Kane, former president of the LCWR  stood before Pope John Paul 11 and asked him to open the door to the full equality of women in all ministries in the church. Talking about rocking the boat of Peter! I am so happy that I am a Sister for Christian Community, that is not under Vatican control!
 Today we have the international Roman Catholic Women Priests Movement rocking the boat of Peter with close to 200. 
Now, the LCWR faces another opportunity to move the church forward by their  prophetic witness. 
 I pray that the LCWR courageously challenges Cardinal Mueller's  hostile take over as an abuse of power.  The LCWR could also issue a public statement calling for gender equality in all areas of the church's life including women priests. Sisters, it is time to rock the boat of Peter again, just like Sister Teresa Kane did! 
Bridget Mary Meehan,  Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests  www.arcwp.org.
Article by Tom Fox in National Catholic Reporter
"U.S. women religious leaders face an uncertain future as they gather Aug. 12-16 in Nashville, Tenn., for their annual assembly.
More than 800 elected congregational leaders will discuss how they plan to react to continued charges of infidelity leveled by the church's top enforcer of orthodoxy, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as well as to the congregation's plans to take over the organization after the assembly.
The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents nearly all the women religious congregations in America, has been under attack by the congregation since 2012. The Nashville gathering will be the third consecutive LCWR assembly in which church infighting overshadows the business of the leadership conference.
The issues are multilayered, involving disputes over the role of religious life, the relationship between religious and bishops, questions of obedience, and differing visions of church priorities and mission.
Beneath these is one more: the role of women in a church that maintains a gender-determined authority system. The conflict between LCWR and the doctrinal congregation has become the most visible manifestation of this highly charged issue.
The congregation upped the ante April 30 by setting a deadline to take control of LCWR. Prefect Cardinal Gerhard Müller, in a harsh statement that reiterated Vatican charges of LCWR's doctrinal breaches, said that beginning in August, LCWR must clear with a bishop overseer future assembly speakers and honorees.
Glance at history
It was in 2009 that the congregation first announced a "doctrinal assessment" of LCWR. In April 2012, it found LCWR had failed to represent church teachings in its assemblies, and it placed the group under the authority of Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, who was designated its "archbishop delegate," with a mandate to revise the group's charter and to restore doctrinal fidelity.
Sartain and the women began a series of closed-door meetings, which the sisters and Sartain have characterized at various times as cordial but frank. Sartain has said he has "developed a very good relationship" with the group's leadership.
The leadership team's annual visit to Vatican offices in April this year had gone well. The women reported cordial receptions in various Vatican offices.
This was not the case at the doctrinal congregation. The meeting was reportedly respectful but blunt, its tone determined by an initial address by Müller, an appointee of Pope Benedict XVI. He was highly critical of the women, charging them of errant theology and a breach of good faith. He said the women had thumbed their noses at the U.S. bishops by choosing to honor Fordham University theologian St. Joseph Sr. Elizabeth Johnson at its upcoming August assembly.
Müller cited this as evidence the women were not intending to abide by the 2012 Vatican-mandated reform process, a five-year effort.
Though the proposed LCWR honoree is a highly acclaimed theologian, in March 2011 the U.S. bishops' Doctrine Committee took her to task for one of her books, Quest for the Living God: Mapping Frontiers in the Theology of God. Though backed by her theological peers and colleagues at Fordham, the committee found her work marred by "misrepresentations, ambiguities and errors."
Müller's remarks to the women revealed considerable frustration. In his address, he drew a line, saying that LCWR would have to seek Sartain's approval of any future honorees or presenters in LCWR programs...
Bridget Mary's Response:
It looks like the Vatican is once again pushing the nuns to comply or face a take over by the hierarchy. It is time for the Leadership Conference of Women Religious inform Cardinal Mueller that they must practice prophetic obedience to the Spirit, follow conscience on the hot button issues, and make decisions as equal partners in the Gospel. The age of domination by the hierarchy is over, it is an  an abuse of power and is related to abuse, violence and discrimination toward women worldwide. I know many nuns who are called to serve their faith communities as priests. It is time for the religious communities to publically support their call. Bridget Mary Meehan, www.arcwp.org.
Question of integrity
For women who both say they want to stay at the table and yet maintain their integrity as they discuss disagreements with the bishops, this deadline presents new pressures. An LCWR assembly voted overwhelmingly in 2012 to work with Sartain but said it would "reconsider if LCWR is forced to compromise the integrity of its mission."
Sartain will attend the Nashville assembly, and, once again, private talks are planned.
It's been a difficult period for LCWR, which claims some 1,500 leader members, who represent about 90 percent of the more than 50,000 women religious in the United States. LCWR says it has been forced to shift limited resources out of ongoing congregational support activities into defending its reputation, if not its very existence as an independent religious organization.
The psychological toll is also evident. A group that once prided itself on fearless leadership and modeling transparency is now more media restrictive than most other Catholic organizations, including the U.S. bishops.
LCWR continues to embrace setting a course that evolves from prayerful contemplation and discussion among members. At the center of its stated mission is its desire to help women religious understand how religious communities are to respond to the Gospels in contemporary society.
To this end, through a canvassing of its membership, LCWR leadership chose Franciscan Sr. Nancy Schreck, a former LCWR president, to lead the organization through its discernment process this year.
Coming out of six years of community leadership, Schreck knows the LCWR-Vatican scene well. Her subject, "However Long the Night," she told NCR, is aimed at inducing a contemplative atmosphere in which the women can reflect on their future course together. Schreck has spent some 20 years working among risk-prone youth in rural Mississippi. She typifies the pastoral commitment that has come to characterize LCWR in particular, and U.S. women religious in general.
She said the title of her talk does not refer specifically to the LCWR-Vatican situation. Rather, she said, she wants to explore mystery. "Great mysteries are revealed to us in darkness," she said. "Night is not necessarily a bad thing."
Asked to elaborate, she said, "A wise teacher once told me that mystery is not something unknowable, but rather infinitely knowable."
While LCWR's entanglement with the doctrinal congregation cannot be far from the minds of most of the women who come to Nashville, Schreck said that lots of women "don't want to focus on the [doctrinal] assessment. They want to get on with their work."
Absence of Francis
Many church observers had hoped that Pope Francis would intervene in the quagmire. He has encouraged church members to take risks. He jokingly told Latin American religious leaders to take lightly directives they get from the doctrinal congregation. He has said the work of the church must take place at the margins of society. He has told bishops to focus less on abortion and contraception, and more on mercy and service to the needy.
In each instance, he has outlined a church very much like the one U.S. women religious committed themselves to building some 40 years or more ago. This is why many church observers find it mystifying Francis has not stepped in to lighten LCWR's load.
The irony is that Francis might otherwise have stepped in were it not that he is reportedly focused on dealing with failed bishops who have enabled clergy sex abuse and the misuse of church finances.
The women coming to Nashville appear to be of at least two minds, though not necessarily exclusively so. Some would like to call off the discussions with the congregation and Sartain. They argue that despite good intentions, the two sides remain far apart, with no signs they can overcome the gulf. This group feels that once an outsider bishop has seized control of LCWR, the organization has lost its integrity.
The other group generally agrees that the picture looks bleak, but wants to give more time for Francis to spread his influence within the Vatican. This group wants to be supportive of the pope and feels he might be their only chance for serious church renewal.
That both Schreck and Johnson have been chosen to address the women represents the variety of opinion and approaches among them.
LCWR celebrates a democratic governance style. It is difficult to know what might come out of Nashville until the last hour of the last day, after the talks are finished and votes taken. This, however, appears clear: It's highly unlikely the LCWR saga will end in Tennessee."
[Thomas C. Fox is NCR publisher.