Saturday, June 2, 2012

Trinity- A Most Practical Doctrine" by Elisabeth Johnson in Quest for the Living God

"What is particular to the Christian faith is the belief that this one God has graciously reached out to the world in love in the person of Jesus Christ in order to heal, redeem, and liberate – in a word, to save.  The experience of salvation coming from God through Jesus in the power of the Spirit sets up such a powerful encounter with the Holy that it requires a new language.  This language is Trinitarian.  Far from being a definition or a description, Trinitarian language is an interpretation of who God is in the light of the glad tiding of salvation.  It lifts up God’s gracious ways active in the world through Jesus Christ and the Spirit, and finds there the fundamental revelation about God’s own being as a self-giving communion of love.  The point of Trinitarian language is to acclaim the living God as the mystery of salvation.  Whether found in scripture, creed, liturgy, doctrine, or theology, it is Christian code tapping out the belief that the living God made known through Jesus and the Spirit is dynamic Love encompassing the universe who acts to save.  At its most basic, it is saying, very simply, “God is love (1 John 4:16)." (Elisabeth Johnson, Quest for the Living God, pp. 223-224)

 "A rationalistic Trinitarian theology, dysfunctional and divorced from Christian life and ethics, has little practical effect.  The key to practical doctrine resides in the reign of God, which Jesus preached and enacted.  As glimpsed in his parables and practices, the reign of God is a gracious rule of saving love and communion.  As a place where God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven, it sets up a new kind of community where “the least of these” brothers and sisters are included, a gathering where the Samaritan woman, the tax collector, and the leper are equally at home.  In this community, tyranny is countermanded in the light of God’s self-giving ways; male and female are equal partners, as are Jew and Greek.  Justice, peace, and the well-being of all creatures are the goal.  If we are not living out the types of relationships that serve this pattern of the truth of the reign of God, then we haven’t got a clue about who God is.  Knowing God is impossible unless we enter into a life of love and communion with others. To say that the Trinity is inherently practical is not to imply that this belief gives immediate solutions to war and violence, blueprints to eliminate hunger, or concrete remedies of inequality.  Rather, it functions as a source of vision to shape our actions in the world, a criterion to measure the fidelity of our lives, and a basis for resisting every form of oppression that diminishes community."  ( Elisabeth Johnson, Quest for the Living God, pp. 222-223)

Bridget Mary's Reflection:
Elisabeth Johnson's brilliant understanding of Trinity as God's self-giving love that is manifest in community, specifically where"the least of these brothers and sisters are included" is the experience of millions today who are on the margins of church and society. It is the place where God 's love is most often experienced, where we know ourselves and others as the beloved of God, where we encounter others as spiritual companions on the journey to justice, equality and peace! It is where the face of God is revealed.

"Is the Roman Catholic Church Downsizing into a Sect?" by Jamie L. Manson/National Catholic Reporter
"Much has been made in recent months about an ad placed in The New York Times urging liberal and nominal Catholics to "quit the church" because it can never be changed from within, and to participate in it is to cooperate with its oppressive system.
The ad was paid for by an organization called the Freedom from Religion Foundation. But the more I reflect on both the ad and the behavior of our hierarchy lately, there is part of me that wouldn't be surprised if we learned that the Vatican itself had secretly paid for the advertisement.
With its attacks on same-sex marriage, battle against providing adequate health care for women, hostile takeover of LCWR and inquisition into the Girl Scouts, the hierarchy continues to make itself an embarrassing media spectacle in a society that long ago refused to accept the teaching on birth control, believes in women's equality and increasingly supports same-sex marriage.
Even those who are not affected directly by these ideological battles find it odious that hierarchy is choosing to spend precious money and resources on lawsuits against the Obama administration and bizarre new campaigns like the Fortnight for Freedom.
Church leaders seem hell-bent on disenfranchising the greatest number of laity possible.
The question is, Why? Why is the hierarchy acting like the new boss who so wants to rid himself of the staff he inherited, he makes it as uncomfortable as possible for them to stay in the organization? Has the church leadership made a decision to downsize? Have they realized that the $2.2 billion in sex abuse settlements and the rapidly dwindling number of priests in the United States has rendered the church unable to provide for the needs of 72 million Catholics?
Perhaps all of these ideological battles -- which, we are told, are grounded in Pope Benedict's desire for a smaller, more faithful church -- are really all about the money, or lack thereof. More than one commentator has suggested that the endgame in the crackdown on LCWR could be to recapture property, assets and pension reserves from religious communities.
Unfortunately, if the hierarchy continues on this path of mass disenfranchisement, what will result isn't a smaller, more faithful church, but an insular, countercultural sect. .."

The Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests Joins Thousands of U.S. Catholics Rally in Support of Nuns: Commend LCWR on Prayerful Discernment

(Donna Rougeux and Janice Sevre-Duszynska hold signs "Support Sisters" at Rally 
in Louisville, KY. on May 29, 2012)
For Immediate Release
June 1, 2012
Nicole Sotelo: 773.404.0004 x285
Erin Saiz Hanna: 401.588.0457
Thousands of U.S. Catholics Rally in Support of Nuns;
Commend LCWR on Prayerful Discernment
Washington, DC - Today, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), an umbrella group representing 80% of the 57,000 nuns in the United States, released a statement regarding the recent Vatican mandate stating "the sanctions imposed were disproportionate to the concerns raised and could compromise their ability to fulfill their mission." The statement continued, "the board believes it is imperative that these matters be addressed by the entire church community in an atmosphere of openness, honesty, and integrity."
"We commend the sisters on their prayerful discernment of the Vatican's mandate. It speaks to the faithfulness of the sisters and the reason why Catholics across the country continue to stand behind them," stated Jim FitzGerald, spokesperson for the Nun Justice Project and Executive Director of Call To Action.
Since the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith first announced its crackdown on LCWR and U.S. religious communities, thousands of faithful Catholics have rallied in support of the nuns in over 50 vigils across the country and more the 52,000 have signed the 'Support the Sisters' petition organized by the Nun Justice Project.
"We are calling for the mandate against the sisters to be rescinded," stated Erin Saiz Hanna, spokesperson for the Nun Justice Project and Executive Director of the Women's Ordination Conference. "At this time in our church's history when the Vatican is beset by scandal and the U.S. church hierarchy is on trial for sex abuse, church officials should stop trying to reform the nuns and reform themselves, instead."
As LCWR continues to deliberate their response prior to their meetings with the Holy See on June 12 and leading up to their annual conference this August, Catholics will continue stand in solidarity with the sisters.
The Nun Justice Project plans to reach its goal of 57,000 signatures, one name for every U.S. woman religious, by the time they deliver the petition to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops during their annual meeting in Atlanta on June 13. In addition, Catholics nationwide will deliver letters in support of nuns to their local diocesan offices.
Catholics are encouraged to redirect their Peter's Pence contribution, an annual second collection made by Roman Catholics toward the expenses of the Holy See normally made at the end of June, to local women religious communities. To date, over 34K has already been pledged in support of the sisters.
"We will continue to support the sisters in the months ahead through our prayer and faithful witness. They have supported us and now it's our time to support them," concluded FitzGerald. 
Bridget Mary's Reflection:
May Catholics redirect their giving from Peter's Pence and donate millions for the cause of Nun Justice and their many ministries of care for the needy. I hope that religious communities  declare independence from Vatican control and form 501-c-3's so that they will NOT function within this patriarchal model of domination and clerical control. This choice would inspire millions of Catholics. The people of God are the church, not the hierarchy or Vatican alone.  I pray that many Sisters will embrace their vocations as women called to a renewed priestly ministry in a community of equals. Just think of the joy "nunpriests" would bring to thousands of faith communities in the U.S. and elsewhere! 
Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP

"What the Nuns' Story is Really About" by Fr. Doug, a Courageous Priest Speaks Out in Solidarity for Nun Justice!

From the Desk of Fr. Doug
May 27, 2012
What the Nuns’ Story is Really About
Many of you have asked me to comment on the recent
investigation into the US nuns. Here goes. In short, the Vatican
has asked for an investigation into the life of religious
women in the United States. There is a concern about orthodoxy,
feminism and pastoral practice. The problem with the
Vatican approach is that it places the nuns squarely on the
side of Jesus and the Vatican on the side of tired old men,
making a last gasp to save a crumbling kingdom lost long
ago for a variety of reasons.
One might say that this investigation is the direct result
of the John Paul II papacy. He was suspicious of the power
given to the laity after the Second Vatican Council. He disliked
the American Catholic Church. Throughout his papacy
he strove to wrest collegial power from episcopal conferences
and return it to Rome.
One of the results of the council was that the nuns became
more educated, more integrated in the life of the people
and more justice-oriented than the bishops and pope.
They are doctors, lawyers, university professors, lobbyists,
social workers, authors, theologians, etc. Their appeal was
that they always went back to what Jesus said and did. Their
value lay in the fact that their theology and their practice
were integrated into the real world.
The Vatican sounded like the Pharisees of the New Testament;—
legalistic, paternalistic and orthodox— while “the
good sisters” were the ones who were feeding the hungry,
clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, educating
the immigrant, and so on. Nuns also learned that Catholics
are intuitively smart about their faith. They prefer dialogue
over diatribe, freedom of thought over mind control,
biblical study over fundamentalism, development of doctrine
over isolated mandates.
Far from being radical feminists or supporters of far-out
ideas, religious women realized that the philosophical underpinnings
of Catholic teaching are no longer valid. Women
are not subservient to men, the natural law is much
broader than once thought, the OT is not as important as the
NT, love is more powerful than fear. They realized that you
can have a conversation with someone on your campus who
thinks differently than the church without compromising
what the church teaches. (For example, I could invite Newt
Gingrich here to speak. You’d all still know what the
church teaches about divorce in spite of him) Women religious
have learned to live without fear (Srs. Dorothy Kazel,
Maura Clark, Ita Ford) and with love (Mother Teresa). And
the number of popes and bishops and cardinals following in
their footsteps, Jesus’ footsteps, is_____?
This is what annoys American Catholics. The Vatican is
hypocritical and duplicitous. Their belief is always that
someone else needs to clean up their act; the divorced, the
gays, the media, the US nuns, the Americans who were
using the wrong words to pray, the seminaries, etc. It never
occurs to the powers that be that the source of the problem
is the structure itself. We can say that now with certainty
as regards the sex abuse crisis. It was largely the structure
of the church itself, the way men were trained and isolated,
made loyal to the system at all costs and not to the person,
that gave us the scandalous cover-up.
US nuns work side by side with the person on the street.
They are involved in their everyday lives. Most cardinals
spent less than five years in a parish, were never pastors,
are frequently career diplomats.
Religious women in the US refuse to be controlled by
abusive authority that seeks to control out of fear. They
realize that Jesus taught no doctrines, but that the church,
over time, developed what Jesus taught in a systematic
way. Nuns have always tried to work within the system.
This time their prophetic voices may take them out of the
system. They may take a lot of Catholics and a lot of their
hospitals, schools, colleges, orphanages, prison ministries,
convents, women’s shelters, food pantries and, of course,
the good will they have earned over the centuries with
This investigation is not about wayward US nuns. It is
the last gasp for control by a dying breed, wrapped in its
own self-importance. It is a struggle for the very nature of
the church; who we are, how we pray, where we live, who
belongs, why we believe. The early church endured a similar
struggle. The old order died. The Holy Spirit won. Happy
Pentecost Sunday!
P.S. On Wednesday, May 30, there will be a prayer rally
for US nuns at St. Colman on W 65
th St. All are invited and
encouraged to attend. The nuns were there for us. Let us be
there for them.

From the Desk of Fr. Doug
June 3, 2012
What the Nuns’ Story is Really About
Part Two
I had no intention of writing a Part Two to last
week’s article but two things happened that inspired
me to do so.
The first was the overwhelming response to that
article. Apparently it went viral. Before Tuesday was
over I had heard from over 100 people from 20 states,
Victoria, Australia and Liverpool, England. The article
touched a nerve, especially among women religious.
Their emails and phone calls were most moving. Some
were on the verge of tears, because “the
church” (translated, that means a male church authority
figure) finally understood and was willing to put it in
It turns out that the nuns want to be appreciated and
valued, just like the rest of us. But that is not why they
do what they do and have done for so long. What was
most evident was that they frequently described their
treatment from clergy in language that reflects abuse.
Yes, they feel support and appreciation from lay people.
That message was strong. It was the local pastor,
the bishop or the Vatican that was portrayed as an abusive
spouse. The investigation, the refusal to dialogue,
the confidential reports unable to be seen or challenged,
the surprise announcement, these are just a
couple of things that scream dysfunction and abuse. It
is a miracle so many have stayed. It reminded me of a
woman who stays in a bad, abusive marriage for the
sake of the children. The nuns have stayed for us. They
have stayed for the illegal immigrant, the orphan, the
prisoner, the young boy abused by the priest, the third
grader that forgot her lunch bag, the adult that could
not read, the lad that scraped his knee, the refugee that
needed help with documents, the young woman who
needed a midwife, the littlest among us and the rich
and powerful.
Many lay people shared stories with me of their
struggle to remain Catholic. “Our church’s priorities
are in the wrong place”. “Stop with the attack on the
nuns and stop with the narrow-minded focus on orthodoxy”.
“Jesus did not give his followers a litmus test
and neither should the Vatican”. More than one layperson
said that the largest religious denomination in the
United States after Catholicism is ex-Catholics. When
will the Vatican address the
why of that? Does the
Vatican really think people have left because our
church is not orthodox enough? Catholics have left
the faith in droves for a variety of reasons. In Europe
only 3% go to Sunday Mass. When will the Vatican
get serious about this?
A small number of priests also contacted me. Most
said I was courageous (I am not) and if I needed help,
three canon lawyers volunteered their services. I told
them that would not be necessary. But what a sad
commentary that is on the state of the episcopacy in
the U.S. Priests live in fear of reprisals simply for
naming the obvious. Better check those readings from
Pentecost Sunday again. Twice the disciples are gathered
in fear and twice the Spirit comes upon them to
help them get over it.
Actually, someone from the diocese did call to set
up a date to meet with me about beginning the Rooted
in Faith capital campaign. Although we are losing part
of our parish and have no accurate data base, we meet
next week.
For many the real issue is: The ‘church as institution’
is itself the problem. This oppressive structure
must go. A new one must take its place. The lust for
power and control hinders the Gospel. Simply put, a
church continues the work of Jesus. Nuns do that. The
Vatican sorely lacks. Our beliefs and the institution
are not the same thing.
Here’s a point that both lay and religious made.
Our clergy must speak out. We need their voices, the
only ones some people have. Some saw the coincidence
of my article and Pentecost Sunday and prayed
that the many tongues of pastors and vicars would not
remain silent. That would be awesome!
A second point I wanted to share was the Plain
Dealer article that quoted me. It was slightly out of
context. As I recall, the reporter asked me if I thought
this attack on the nuns would cause people to leave
the church. I replied, “People have already left the
church”. In the article it sounded like people left because
of the nuns, when in reality, Catholics have left
long before there was a nungate. (See above)
There were a couple of funny conversations I had
with some nuns from California. One said, “this may
be the issue that breaks open the old boys network...
imagine: "75 year old nuns divorce 88 year old
Cardinals." What headlines!” My favorite was the
comment by a priest from Yale. He said that if I got
sacked here, there was an opening at the Vatican for a
butler and I would be the perfect choice.

Friday, June 1, 2012

"In the Name of the Father and of the Mother" by Malwina Gudowska Swerve/Article about Monica Kilburn Smith, Calgary Herald/ Canada

"Calgary’s only female priest is a member of a small but growing movement that is challenging the very nature of what the Roman Catholic Church considers sacred.
There’s something both ironic and prophetic about meeting a Roman Catholic priest at a Humpty’s restaurant. With its grim, 1990s-inspired decor and large booths that swallow you up, the eatery best known for “breakfast that never ends,” regularly serves as a weekend confessional for morning-after tales of wild, alcohol-fuelled nights. Tonight, it’s filled with mostly older folks, many alone, ordering steak sandwiches and either quietly pondering life, it appears, or reading trashy newspapers, or both.

And then there’s that famous egg: proud, Humpty sat on a wall until he had his fall and, at that point, no one could put him back together again. The nursery rhyme’s themes of descent and finality are weighty symbols for what could happen to an institution which critics, and even many supporters feel is in a time of crisis.

As she (yes, she) comes through the Humpty’s doors, the first thing I notice about Monica Kilburn Smith is the brilliant white hair that frames an incongruously youthful face. The 51-year-old Calgarian greets me warmly but cautiously before unbuttoning her long black coat. Kilburn Smith was ordained a Roman Catholic priest on May 29th, 2008.

She is the only female priest in Calgary, one of eight such priests (and one female bishop) in Canada and one of more than 100 in North America and Europe who are part of the Roman Catholic Womenpriests (RCWP), an international group seeking to reform the Church.

“The phrase I use when asked why I do this is ‘a loving rage and a raging love for the church, and a deep caring for women’” says Kilburn Smith. “The church should be at the forefront, leading the way and saying ‘Women are as holy as men. Women hear God’s call like [men] do, and let’s listen to them.’ But they don’t.”

Kilburn Smith and other women priests believe their ordinations are “sacramentally valid” because they were ordained in the same “apostolic succession” that ordains men as Roman Catholic priests. The RCWP movement began in 2002 with the Danube Seven, a group of seven women who were secretly ordained on the river in Central Europe by male bishops in good standing with the Church. Two of the seven women were later ordained bishops by several male bishops in Europe so that they could continue the movement. The identities of the male bishops cannot be revealed because they continue to work within the Church and would face excommunication. For their part, the Danube Seven women were excommunicated six months after being ordained..."

Read more:

U.S. Sisters: Vatican Order Has Caused 'Scandal and Pain'/ LCWR Board Issues First Statement Following Vatican Move " by Joshua J. McElwee/National Catholic Reporter
"A harsh Vatican critique of the organization representing most U.S. women religious was based on unsubstantiated accusations, comes from a flawed process and has caused "scandal and pain throughout the church," the sisters' group said in a statement this morning.
The statement, issued Friday by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), came after three days of meetings among the group’s national board and is the first official public response to the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith's April 18 assessment of the organization, which represents some 80 percent of U.S. Catholic sisters.
That stinging Vatican assessment ordered LCWR to revise its statutes, programs and affiliations and place itself under the authority of Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain.
Friday’s statement said that during their meetings this week LCWR national board members raised concerns about “both the content of the doctrinal assessment and the process by which it was prepared” and that the group’s president and executive director will soon travel to Rome to “raise and discuss” their concerns with Vatican officials.
“Board members concluded that the assessment was based on unsubstantiated accusations and the result of a flawed process that lacked transparency,” the statement continues.
“Moreover, the sanctions imposed were disproportionate to the concerns raised and could compromise their ability to fulfill their mission. The report has furthermore caused scandal and pain throughout the church community, and created greater polarization.”
Ending by saying that the LCWR board understands that the Vatican’s move has “deeply touched” Catholics and non-Catholics alike, the statement says the board “believes that the matters of faith and justice that capture the hearts of Catholic sisters are clearly shared by many people around the world.”
“As the church and society face tumultuous times, the board believes it is imperative that these matters be addressed by the entire church community in an atmosphere of openness, honesty, and integrity,” the statement, which is available on the group's website, concludes.
The Vatican’ April critique sparked a widespread showing of support for Catholic sisters, with prayer vigils being held outside cathedrals across the country and statements of support appearing in numerous national news outlets.
First news of the Vatican’s order came in a press release from the U.S. bishops’ conference April 18, which announced that the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed by Cardinal William Levada, had given the order for LCWR’s revision.
The Vatican congregation had begun an investigation of the group, known as a "doctrinal assessment,” in 2009. The release from the bishops’ conference also stated that Sartain had been appointed “archbishop delegate” for LCWR and had been granted wide-ranging authority over the group.
According to that release, Sartain is to be assisted in that role by Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo, Ohio, and Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Ill.
The involvement of the U.S. bishops’ conference in the initial press release on the subject has led to speculation regarding its influence in the Vatican decision, with some press accounts saying key U.S. bishops may have had particular input.
Mercy Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, director of media relations for the bishops’ conference, would only say in an April interview that the order “came from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.”
Levada, Sartain, Blair, and Paprocki have not responded to repeated requests for comment on the matter.
In a terse statement April 19, LCWR leadership said they had been “stunned” by the Vatican’s order. An email the same day sent by the group to the heads of each of the congregations it represents said LCWR leadership had been in Rome for an annual meeting with members of the Vatican congregation when it was first told of the news.
When LCWR leaders arrived for that meeting, said the email, they were informed that the congregation had already communicated the Vatican order to the U.S. bishops’ conference.
According to Friday’s statement, LCWR’s president, Franciscan Sr. Pat Farrell, and executive director, St. Joseph Sr. Janet Mock, are planning to return to Rome June 12 to meet with Levada and Sartain. The statement also says LCWR is planning to organize regional meetings with its members to in order to “determine its response” to the Vatican order.
LCWR members are also expected to discuss the matter in the group’s annual gathering, to be held in August.
One of the things expected to be discussed in those meetings is whether the group might leave the formal canonical structures of the church and reform itself as a non-profit organization.
According to the April 18 document from the Vatican congregation, Sartain is to be given authority over LCWR in five areas, including revision of its statues, plans and programs, and “offering guidance on the application of liturgical texts.”
That letter also identified three major areas of concern the congregation had with the sisters’ group, including supposed "corporate dissent" in the congregation regarding the church's sexual teachings and a supposed "prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith" present in some of the organizations programs and presentations."
[Joshua J. McElwee is an NCR staff writer. His email address is]

Thursday, May 31, 2012

"Priest Heading Controversial Cleveland Community Threatened with Suspension" by Tom Roberts/National Catholic Reporter’s-leadership-he-suspends-priest
"In an interview with NCR, Marrone said he understood the document to mean he was suspended. In a letter to his congregation, Morrone explained that in a May 22 meeting with Lennon, the bishop expressed his wish that Marrone reconcile with the diocese and then read a statement containing a number of “whereas” clauses ending with the ultimatum that he remove himself from the community within seven days or face suspension from ministry.
In a May 30 interview with NCR, Marrone said he asked Lennon for a copy of the document. The bishop refused, telling him, according to Marrone, “that he didn’t want to see it on the front page of the paper” the following day.
In his letter to his congregation, Marrone explained to his congregation that the basic charge in the declaration was that the Community of St. Peter was not in communion with the Roman Catholic church and consequently Marrone’s association as its pastor placed the priest outside communion with the church.
“I will not comply with this decree and I intend to remain in solidarity with this community and will not remove myself as pastor of the Community of Saint Peter,” Marrone explained in his letter.
In a different letter to Lennon, obtained by NCR, Marrone said: “I will not comply with your decree to leave the community of Saint Peter because I must, before all else, follow what my conscience dictates.”
What effect the possible suspension -- which would mean Marrone can no longer legally act as a priest -- will have on the Community of St. Peter, which has existed in a kind of canonical, or legal, limbo to this point, remains an open question. A number of community members have expressed a wish that some manner of reconciliation with the diocese would occur, and others have voiced uncertainty about what they would do if Marrone were officially sanctioned.
Marrone has called for a meeting the evening of June 4, limited to registered members of the community, to discuss what options remain. Those who attend the community liturgies in a renovated warehouse on Euclid Street and who hoped that Rome would reopen the parish will now have to decide between the two communities...."

Editor's Note: Since it's original posting, this story has been updated with new information.
Previous NCR reporting on the Cleveland diocese:

Vigil of Support the Nuns/Cleveland/ Over 650 Attend

CLEVELAND - Hundreds of Catholics filled St. Colman Church in Cleveland Wednesday night for a prayer vigil in support of Catholic sisters.
A dispute is brewing between the nuns and the Vatican over a mandate to intervene and reform the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents 80 percent of the nation's nuns.
"I feel like they're maligning the integrity of women religious in the U.S. and they have disrespected the leadership in the U.S.," said Sister Christine Schenk, executive director of FutureChurch, a church reform group which organized the prayer service.
Similar prayer vigils are being held in 52 other U.S. cities.
"Overall, I hope we can work this out," Sr. Christine said, "because the church needs all of us."

Read more:

Sister Maureen Fiedler on CBS This Morning/Hostile Take-Over of Nuns by Vatican
Summary of Dialogue:
Nuns have embraced issues of justice, poverty and peace,. Vows gave lives to other people.
We need a truly "collaborative" model of church with more democratic decision making.
Nuns believe that womens rights are human rights, that is Gosepl 101!
Vatican is out of touch!
Ex-Catholics are second-largest religious "denomination" in Catholic Church.

"Imagining a New Way of being Church "By Lori P. Dexter

..."On March 31st of this year I was invited to participate in the ordination of Edmonton’s first Roman Catholic woman priest. You could say that I saw the fork in the road and took it. The woman who was ordained belongs to an international movement known as Roman Catholic Womenpriests or RCWP. She is one of 10 womenpriests in Canada, with another woman being ordained this July in B.C. Canada also has one woman bishop...

In a womanpriest faith community all members share the responsibility of growing the community. Decisions are not made from the top and then imposed on those below — the model is more like a circle than a pyramid. At the centre of the circle is our Trinitarian God who binds all people, all life, together. In these communities, power means having the ability to empower others. Unity is not confused with conformity and it is found through welcoming diversity. At the heart of the community is a prayerful attentiveness to the work of the Holy Spirit within ourselves and our faith community.

Even though the hierarchy has excommunicated all these women, it has been unable to stop the work of the Spirit within the RCWP movement...."

Dexter lives in Gibbons, Alta., and is married with three adult sons. She has a certificate in pastoral services from Newman Theological College and is a certified spiritual director. She can be reached at

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Vatican Crisis Highlights Pope Benedict’s Failure to Reform the Curia

Tom Heneghan/May 30,2012

"Benedict’s papacy has been marked until now by controversies over things he has said and done, such as his criticism of Islam at Regensburg in 2006 or his 2009 decision to readmit four excommunicated ultra-traditionalist bishops to the Church.
Now a goal he has failed to achieve — gain control over the Curia — has come back to haunt him. Leaks of confidential documents on everything from Vatican finances to private papal audiences make his papacy look weak and disorganized."
Bridget Mary's Reflection:
Add to Benedict and the Vatican's issues the following: the hostile treatment of the LCWR/Leadership Conference of Women Religious and the investigation of U.S. nuns, the excommunication of Roman Catholic Women Priests, the new Liturgy- back-tracking on inclusive language and the list goes on and on! But the biggest crisis is the hierarchy's betrayal of the people of God, the moral bankruptcy evident in the global sexual abuse cover-up, the abuse of power and the  failure of the institutional church to live up to the Gospels in its treatment of women, youth, the marginalized, all of whom are divine images, beloved sisters and brothers of Christ. No wonder there is a spiritual uprising brewing among Catholics today including nuns and priests. Finally, the Vatican Curia has broken ranks with the Monsignors Mutiny in Vatileaks. What's next, the Pope's resignation, and/or reform of the Curia? Let us pray for a new Pentecost in the Catholic Church! Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP,,

Pope Benedict Speaks on the 'Vatileaks'/Damage Control Time

May 30, 2012 -- Benedict Speaks on the "Vatileaks"
"Events in recent days regarding the Curia and my collaborators have brought sadness to my heart." —Pope Benedict XVI, during his Wednesday General Audience in St. Peter's Square today

Protesters Back U.S. Nuns in Standoff With Vatican

Over 100 gathered Tuesday evening, May 29th, for a prayer vigil in front of the Cathedral of the Assumption in Louisville to support the LCWR. The gathering was sponsored by a local CTA chapter as part of the national Nun Justice project organized by Women's Ordination Conference. Tuesday evening was the first meeting of the LCWR to discuss their response to the Vatican.

Thu May 24, 2012 2:52pm EDT

(Reuters) - In Washington, D.C., and Toledo, Ohio, in upstate New York and in south Texas, protesters have gathered in recent weeks with a simple message: Let the sisters be.

"The vigils in cities across the United States are intended to express solidarity with American Roman Catholic nuns, who are struggling to formulate a response to a sharp rebuke from the Vatican.

The Vatican last month accused the leading organization of U.S. nuns, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, of focusing too much on social-justice issues such as poverty and not enough on abortion, gay marriage and euthanasia. The Vatican also rapped the group for standing by as some nuns publicly challenged U.S. bishops on matters of church doctrine and public policy.

In a move that many nuns viewed as an insult, the Vatican put the nuns' organization under the effective control of three U.S. bishops, who have the power to rewrite its statutes, its meeting agendas and even its liturgical texts. The board of the Leadership Conference is due to meet next week in Washington, D.C. to mull a response.

Some prominent nuns have suggested that the Leadership Conference, which was founded in 1956 at the Vatican's request, might dissolve its official ties with the Roman Catholic church and become an independent nonprofit organization. Others argue that the best course may be to stall and hope the Vatican's scrutiny will fade with time.

The Conference includes the leaders of religious orders representing 80 percent of American nuns. Its board declined to comment beyond a statement saying it would "move slowly, not rushing to judgment" and would "conduct its meeting in an atmosphere of prayer, contemplation and dialogue."

But behind the temperate language, many nuns remain furious - and determined to resist the Vatican crackdown.

"Our sisters have fed the hungry, healed the sick and stood with the marginalized, so they're wondering, how can these men in the Vatican criticize us?" said Donna Quinn, a nun from Chicago who helps run the liberal National Coalition of American Nuns.

Submitting to the Vatican's demands would be akin to "allowing an oppressive regime to come in with a hostile takeover," Quinn said.

"Among nuns I know, there's a horror at the whole thing," said Maureen Fiedler, a nun who hosts the public radio show Interfaith Voices.

The Leadership Conference has been a fiercely independent voice in the U.S. church for decades, airing discussions about women's ordination, ministry to gay Catholics and the patriarchy of church culture. It urged dialogue with feminist nuns who refused to attend Mass to protest the central role of the male priest. And it forged ties with liberal Catholic activists, including those who bucked the U.S. bishops to support President Barack Obama's health-care overhaul.

The group's motto: "We risk being agents of change within church and society."

Older Americans, especially, may think of nuns as pious schoolteachers, but "times have changed and so have the sisters," said Russell Shaw, a former spokesman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops who supports the Vatican's move.

Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle, who was appointed by the Vatican to supervise reform of the nuns' group, declined to comment on his approach. In remarks in Rome last month, he took pains to praise American nuns as a "great gift" and said he hoped to work with them "in a way that shows our continued love and support for their extraordinary contribution."

But many of the nuns' supporters aren't feeling that love.

In the past few weeks they have organized vigils outside churches from Anchorage, Alaska to Lady Lake, Florida and in major cities including Boston, Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles. Knots of demonstrators - sometimes a handful, sometimes several dozen - pray, sing and give thanks for nuns. More than 50,000 have signed an online petition asking the Vatican to withdraw its order.

"We think the Vatican should be thanking the sisters for their work, not appointing men to bring them back into line," said Al Dabrowski, who has led a weekly vigil since May 8 in San Juan, Texas, on the Mexican border.

Mary Ann Walsh, a nun who serves as spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said some protesters might have misinterpreted the Vatican's action. Church officials demanded reform of the nuns' leadership group, she said, but did not intend to criticize all 57,000 nuns in the United States.

"It's clear that the sisters are appreciated for what they do by bishops and lay people alike," Walsh said.

But many protesters say they do not see the distinction and accuse the Vatican of silencing and marginalizing all women. In recent weeks some pro-nun vigils have added prayers for the Girl Scouts; U.S. bishops have just announced they would investigate the Girl Scouts out of concern that the group might have "problematic relationships" with organizations that support access to birth control. The church teaches that artificial contraception is a sin.

News of the Girl Scouts investigation, coming just after the crackdown on nuns, has many Catholics thinking, "What's next, kittens and puppy dogs?" Fiedler said.

Some conservative Catholics in the United States have welcomed the tough stance, saying it's high time church authorities enforced doctrine and discipline on wayward groups. But Fiedler said the continuing vigils suggest that "in the world of public opinion, the Vatican has been the overwhelming loser."

(Reporting By Stephanie Simon in Denver. Editing by Jonathan Weber and Douglas Royalty)

"I Stand with the Sisters/Vatican Declares Year of Assault"

By John C. Sivalon, M.M.
(Note: The author of this incisive analysis is a former Maryknoll superior general who now teaches theology at the University of Scranton. It “connects the dots” between the recent Vatican censure of the LCWR and the retrenchment from Vatican II.)
"Under the guise of a “Year of Faith,” the Vatican has launched an all-out assault on any theology or interpretation of Vatican II based on what it calls a “Hermeneutic (Interpretation) of Rupture.” This theological assault is articulated in the document known as “Porta Fidei” written by Benedict XVI and further specified in a document titled “Note on Recommendations for the Implementation of the Year of Faith” which was developed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Both of these documents are cited by Cardinal Levada in his statement on the doctrinal assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). The rationale for that assessment and other punitive moves that have been made in recent months (Caritas International, educational institutes, and the Girl Scouts) must be understood in the broader context of this special “year of assault.”
The real crux of the issue according to the “Note” is a “correct understanding” of Vatican II over against “erroneous interpretations.” Benedict likes to refer to these interpretations as being based on a “hermeneutic of discontinuity” while referring to his own interpretation as being based on a “hermeneutic of renewal.” In truth, better labels for these respectively, are a “hermeneutic of mission” over against Benedict’s “hermeneutic of retrenchment.”
The hermeneutic of mission sees in the documents of Vatican II an attempt by the Church to rediscover in its past the kernels of fresh understandings and ecclesial structures that respond more authentically and relevantly to what the Council called the modern world. This hermeneutic sees the Council Fathers confirming tradition as a foundation upon which faith can continually build and grow as its context changes. It also sees God as continually present in history and culture, graciously offering new perceptions for understanding and interpreting the fullness of revelation.
The hermeneutic of retrenchment, on the other hand, sees in the documents of Vatican II the restatement of ossified doctrines in language that can be understood by the modern world. The hermeneutic of retrenchment regards tradition as a wall which functions to deter erroneous understandings. It also tends to see the modern context of the world negatively, often assigning to it labels such as secularism, relativism or pluralism. As Benedict says, “whereas in the past it was possible to recognize a unitary cultural matrix, broadly accepted in its appeal to the content of the faith and the values inspired by it, today this no longer seems to be the case in large swathes of society, . .” The hermeneutic of retrenchment, hence, longs for the past; for an idealized age of Christendom.
Thus, the action against LCWR and the other actions against loyal voices of faithful Christians open to discerning God’s wisdom in modern culture, should be seen as initial forays of shock and awe to soften the strongest areas of resistance, before the actual onslaught begins. That major assault is scheduled for October of 2012, with the opening of the Synod of Bishops on the “New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.” The first working paper (Lineamenta) for this synod clearly sets forth the target of “New Evangelization.”
The target is plainly modern culture. According to the document the modern world is epitomized by a culture of relativism, which it says has even seeped into Christian life and ecclesial communities. The authors claim that its serious “anthropological implications are a questioning of basic human experiences for example the relation between a man and a woman as well as the meaning of reproduction and death itself.” Associated with this phenomenon, the document states, is the tremendous mixing of cultures resulting in “forms of corruption, the erosion of the fundamental references to life, the undermining of the values for which we exert ourselves and the deterioration of the very human ties we use to identify ourselves and give meaning to our lives.” Benedict in other places has labeled this pluralism; thus completing his trilogy of the demonic: secularism, relativism and pluralism, as he dreams of a reestablished, romanticized culture of Medieval Europe.
In stark contrast, the institutes of women religious dramatically exemplify the hermeneutic of mission: they moved out of “habits” that set them apart from the world; face the challenges of embracing the presence of God in modern culture; and faithfully struggle with being an authentic and clear sign of God’s love for the world. The assessment against them is outrageous for its patronizing arrogance and its patriarchy. But it is also clear that it is about much more: the dramatic fissure within the Roman Catholic church concerning the interpretation of Vatican II and the embracing (or failure to embrace) God’s presence in modern culture.
In this assault what is so pernicious, besides the effects on the lives of those immediately and dramatically targeted, is the appropriation of concepts developed by those operating out of a hermeneutic of mission by those who uphold a hermeneutic of retrenchment, who then redefine and use those concepts to defend and support their assault. Three quick examples of this are found in the Statement of Cardinal Levada on the doctrinal assessment of the LCWR and in the doctrinal assessment itself.
First, Levada claims that the overarching aim of the Assessment is to assist in implementing an “ecclesiology of communion.” The theologians who developed this ecclesiology based their reflections on the Vatican II emphasis on Church as the People of God, Body of Christ or A Pilgrim People. All of these images were employed by Vatican II to broaden the understanding of Church as being more than the hierarchy. None of these paradigms envision unity as fabricated through force or obedience to doctrine. Rather, unity is seen as flowing out of dialogue and common discernment as the People of God struggle together to be faithful and authentic witnesses of self-emptying Love. Who more than these institutes of religious women epitomize communion founded on faith and lived as self-emptying love?
Second, the doctrinal assessment of LCWR defines the sacramental character of the Church almost exclusively as patriarchal hierarchy. Again, the assessment document usurps a Vatican II understanding of Church as sacrament and recasts it. Vatican II on the other hand posits the Church in its entirety as the sacrament of the Reign of God.
Finally, in the post-Vatican II period, many theologians from various parts of the world have developed the image of Church as Prophet. They established this vision on a preferential option for the poor, a belief in salvation as liberation and the need to be critical not just of structures of the world but of the Church itself and its role in support of situations of oppression and human denigration. However the assessment document denies any possibility of prophecy aimed at the Church hierarchy itself or separate from that hierarchy. This abhorrent disregard for the Biblical prophets and their strong stance against the priest, kings and empty rituals of faith somehow is not perceived as a rupture with the past or tradition by those operating out of this hermeneutic of retrenchment.
As modern Catholics celebrate the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II, we have entered into a new chapter of church history. The Council that was declared to open the windows is now being reinterpreted as closed shutters, protecting the Church from the gale force winds of a world searching for spiritual authenticity. While said to be a time of renewal, the “Year of Faith” is really dedicated to the idolatry of doctrine, power and hierarchy. The sisters in their communal service to the Church and world, who not only take a vow of poverty but actually live that vow without privilege, status or accumulation of wealth are a vivid and prophetic contrast to the inauthenticity of the call to retrenchment masquerading as renewal."

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Action at the Vatican Embassy- Breaking Story, Gathering of Supporters of LCWR

A group of 150+ people, many clad in red for Pentecost, rallied and processed to the Vatican Embassy on Massachusetts Avenue in Washington, DC this beastly hot lunch hour. The organizers delivered a petition to the Apostolic Delegate, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, asking that the Mandate given to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious be withdrawn.

To the surprise of the crowd, and in a show of the diplomatic finesse, the Nuncio invited two representatives in for a chat. They came out and reported to the gathered that he had spent part of the morning with the LCWR board meeting in Washington, DC. He said that he would deliver their letter to the Vatican without much expectation that it would change things. Then a group of 20 people was invited in to see and pray in the chapel.

See for pictures and more details forthcoming.

Mary E. Hunt

"Former LCWR Head Gives Take on Vatican Order" /Teresa Kane/ NCR

"The Biggest Scandal to Rock the Vatican in Decades Widened Monday with the Pope’s Butler, Arrested for allegedly having confidential documents in his home, agreeing to Cooperate with Investigators — Raising the Specter that Higher-Ranking Ecclesial Heads May Soon Roll."

Associated Press/ Nicole Winfield
..."Few believe butler Paolo Gabriele worked alone to leak dozens of documents shedding light on power struggles, corruption and intrigue inside the highest levels of the Catholic Church. The leaks have tormented the Vatican for months and painted a picture of a church hierarchy in utter disarray.

Gabriele, the pope’s personal butler since 2006, was arrested Wednesday evening after Holy See documents were found inside his Vatican City apartment, adding a Hollywood twist to the already sordid “Vatileaks” scandal. He remains in custody in a Vatican detention facility, accused of theft, and has met with his wife and lawyers.

Gabriele’s lawyer, Carlo Fusco, said Monday his client was “very serene and calm,” despite the whirlwind of speculation surrounding his arrest. He said Gabriele himself had told the Vatican judge investigating the case that he would “respond to all the questions and will collaborate with investigators to ascertain the truth.”

Italian media reported Monday that a cardinal is suspected of playing a major role in the scandal. However, the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, denied the reports categorically. He said many Vatican officials were being questioned but insisted “there is no cardinal under suspicion.”

But Lombardi acknowledged that the investigation continues.

And on Monday, Italian daily La Repubblica published a rambling interview with what it described as another Vatican “mole,” someone who described the various agendas at play behind the leaks.

The unnamed leaker said the aim was to show how weak Pope Benedict XVI is, the fears of his secretary of state, and to make clear that the “fundamental role of the church is to defend the Gospel, not accumulate power and money.

Lombardi dismissed as “pure fantasy” such a rash of unsourced reports about the investigation in the Italian media, which have been in a frenzy ever since reports of Gabriele’s detention emerged Friday."

Bridget Mary's Reflection:
Sounds like the Vatican Curia is in free fall. I wonder if Vatican authorities in the Detention Center used any "enhanced means" to help Gabriele, the butler became "serene!"  
Do you believe that there is no cardinal lurking behind the Monsignors Mutiny debacle?
One gets the sense that there is much more to come from the unnamed mole. 
 Hollywood producers, Vati leaks has provided the plot, prepare yourself now  for a possible blockbuster movie next season! Get your cameras rolling!
One could say that the Vatican is the gift that keeps on giving. This has been the case for the Roman Catholic Women Priests Movement. In June we celebrate our tenth anniversary. In 2002, seven women were ordained, now we have around 130 serving inclusive,diverse, justice-seeking communities in Europe, North and South America. We owe much of our growth to the media coverage that has come from Vatican excommunication and the bishops condemnation. Check out the documentary about our women priests movement produced by Jules Hart, "Pink Smoke Over the Vatican." ( 
 It is time to return to the earlier model of the people in the local communities electing their bishops and a process that would involve the people of God in the selection of the pope as a point of unity, not as the big boss of the Catholic Church!  We need a more circular,  participatory and transparent model of governance in the Catholic Church. The Old Boys' Network has messed up big time this time!
Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP

Monday, May 28, 2012

" No Cardinal Under Suspicion" Pope's Spokesman Claims/ Chaos and Scandal Inside Vatican Curia/ Will Benedict Reform Curia on Keep Corrupt Hierarchy in Vatican?

May 28, 2012 -- Lombardi Briefing
"No cardinal is under suspicion of being the mastermind behind the "Vatileaks" affair which is rocking Rome, Father Federico Lombardi, S.J., the Pope's spokesman, told journalists in the Vatican Press Office shortly after noon today.
Nor has the Pope constituted a special team of lay investigators, led by a woman, to look into the case and report back directly to him, Lombardi said.
Both rumors were reported this morning in the Italian press. (A headline in one paper said "Cardinals Now Under Suspicion.")
Such headlines are simply without any basis in reality, Lomabardi told the assembled journalists. He asked all of the reporters present to show restraint and professionality in reporting this dramatic and developing story.
Lombardi then read a declaration from one of the two lawyers representing the Pope's butler, Paolo Gabriele, 46, who is charged with stealing and disseminating secret Vatican documents.
The lawyer, Carlo Fusco, said that Gabriele is now cooperating with Vatican investigators, who are questioning him.

Fusco said his client is "very serene and calm," despite the whirlwind of speculation surrounding his arrest.
And he confirmed that Gabriele has told the Vatican judge investigating the case that he would "respond to all the questions and will collaborate with investigators to ascertain the truth."
There has been no information about what Gabriele is telling his questioners. We do not know if he has implicated others in the theft of the documents, or whether he has offered some explanation, or defense, of his actions.
All we know for sure is that a large number of very private documents, many evidently from the papal apartments -- including some evidently from the Pope's own desk -- seem to have been photocopied and leaked to Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi.
Nuzzi's latest book, His Holiness: The Secret Papers of Benedict XVI, appeared only in mid-May. It contains images and transcripts of dozens of authentic documents that paint a picture of chaos and corruption inside the Roma Curia.

The Vatican warned of legal action against Nuzzi already in January after he broadcast letters from a top Vatican administrator to the Pope in which the administrator begged not to be transferred for having exposed alleged corruption that cost the Holy See millions of euros in higher contract prices. The prelate, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, is now the Vatican's ambassador to the United States.

Nuzzi is also the author of Vatican SpA, a 2009 volume laying out shady dealings of the Vatican bank based on authentic documents left in the estate of a deceased Vatican official, Monsignor Renato Dardozzi, whose family turned the documents over to Nuzzi after Dardozzi died in 2003.

Much of the leaked documentation in the new book concerns issues within Italy: a 2009 scandal over the ex-editor of the newspaper of the Italian bishops' conference; a secret dinner between Benedict and Italy's president; and a 2011 letter from Italy's pre-eminent talk show host, Bruno Vespa, to the Pope enclosing a check for (EURO)10,000 for the Pope's charity work – and asking for a private audience with the Pope in exchange.

But there are international leaks as well, including diplomatic cables from Vatican embassies from Jerusalem to Cameroon. Some concern the conclusions of the Pope's delegate for the disgraced Legion of Christ religious order in a memo to the Pope last fall, Cardinal Velasio de Paolis. (He warned that the financial situation of the order, beset by a scandal involving its founder, "while not grave, is serious and pressing.")
Nuzzi opens his book with a chapter explaining how he obtained the documents.
In these pages, it seems clear that he dealt with more than one person. He describes a meeting with two men, then with the two and a third, who may have been Paolo Gabriele.
Unless these passages are entirely fabricated, it seems certain that there were at least two others who collaborated with the Pope's butler in delivering these documents.
The confusion and doubt caused by these leaks is harmful to the Church's image, of course.
But this crisis could conceivably offer Pope Benedict an opportunity: he could use the moment to carry out a thorough house-cleaning.
In this sense, the scandal surrounding the leak of these documents could be transformed into an opportunity for Benedict to purify the Church.
Handled in this way, the leaks scandal could become the most important moment, the defining moment, of this pontificate."

Irish Priests call for End to Celibacy and for Women's Ordination/ Shaking Up Vatican

"Hundreds of Roman Catholic priests have been meeting in Dublin to call for an end to compulsory celibacy for the priesthood, reports SBS.
The meetings, which also call for the ordination of women, constitutes an unprecedented challenge to the Vatican, which traditionalist Catholics say is a betrayal of the church.
But supporters say fundamental reforms must be made in order to tackle the country’s dwindling supply of priests and waning public support.
Their call for change comes as pressure intensifies for Irish Cardinal Sean Brady to resign for failing to report abuse in the church to police. "

Support the Nuns/Pledge at Nun Justice Project

 Add your pledge-- what you did not put into the Sunday collection or what you want to give to show your support-- to women religious. By redirecting our giving we express in concrete terms that women are church! See