Saturday, July 21, 2012

Archbishop Chaput Visits Monsignor Lynn In Jail

Ralph Cipriano Jul.12, 2012
Last week, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput stopped by the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Northeast Philadelphia, where Msgr. William J. Lynn is being held in protective custody.

The archbishop did not bring along his mitre or his crozier. He stayed for 90 minutes. But what the two men talked about is not known.

"Archbishop Chaput did visit with Monsignor Lynn," said Kenneth A. Gavin, a spokesman for the archdiocese. "Their conversation was private."

"It is my understanding that it was a positive visit and I think that's all I should say," said Thomas A. Bergstrom, the monsignor's defense lawyer.
Read more

Friday, July 20, 2012

"A Vatican Watershed on Transparency, and a New Tool for Reformers" by John L Allen Jr on Jul. 20, 2012

On cue, these headlines ran shortly after the report’s release on Wednesday, July 18:
  • Associated Press: “Vatican passes key financial transparency test”
  • AGI: “Moneyval flunks the Vatican”
  • L’Espresso: “Moneyval passes the Vatican”
  • RTE: “Serious failings identified in Vatican Bank”
  • Sunday Times: “Report cites progress in Vatican anti-money laundering efforts”
Sometimes the juxtaposition actually came in the same piece. The Italian daily Il Messaggero ran a headline (“Moneyval: Still little transparency at Vatican Bank”) which was at odds with its own opening paragraph (“The Vatican Bank is not quite transparent, but almost, the report says.”)
Why the confusion? In reality, the Vatican probably did about as well as was reasonable to expect, but the report contains plenty of criticism too. ...
Never before has the Vatican opened its financial and legal systems to this sort of external, independent review, with the results made public. In centuries past, had secular authorities shown up to conduct such a review, they would have been fought off tooth and nail. For Moneyval, the red carpet was rolled out instead.
American lawyer Jeffrey Lena, an advisor to the Vatican on the Moneyval process, told me that evaluators were able to examine records of judicial and diplomatic cooperation, anti-money laundering certifications, accountancy management letters, foundation registry records, and other confidential legal documents. To say that the Vatican traditionally has been reluctant to grant such access is a bit like saying the Tea Party is lukewarm about Obama — in other words, it really doesn’t do justice to the depth of emotion involved..."

St. Mary Magdala Liturgy in Columbus, Ohio/ Janice Sevre-Duszynska, ARCWP, Presides at Call to Action Liturgy

About 50 CTA-Columbus (Ohio) folks gathered last night for inclusive liturgy at Maple Grove Methodist Church

to celebrate the feast day of Mary Magdalene. They're another great group, much like our Resurrection
Community in Cincinnati and our growing community in Lexington.

Homily – Mary Magdalene Liturgy: July 18, 2012 Columbus, Ohio (CTA) Sisters and brothers in Christ: There is much to say about Mary Magdalene and much connecting to do with her life then and our present reality now. (This evening I’ll begin with an “unsettling” story.)
In 1981 Women Church Convergence held a gathering in Chicago. Women of all faiths participated, including some of the Episcopal women priests who were ordained in the late 70s. This is where I met Dominican sister Marge Tuite who became a mentor in my journey to the priesthood. “Make the connections,” she said, “between sexism and racism, sexism and militarism, sexism and nationalism, sexism and capitalism…Today we would include homophobia.

The next day as a group we marched outside in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in El Salvador where our government’s support of their armies with our hard-earned taxpayer money caused suffering and death. It was good for my feet to hit the ground, touching the sweet earth of which we are made. I had a hint of the connection Sr. Marge was talking about.
Then we gathered in small groups at tables in a huge conference room. I walked in and found myself sitting at a table labeled “ABUSE” in all capital letters. A woman began to speak. Her presence, appearance and what she said are still fresh in my mind.
She was like an apparition: in a long soft blue suede Indian dress wearing a striking ethnic necklace and sandals on her feet. Her hair was braided down to her waist and her face, the most weathered I’ve ever seen in a woman.
She was a nun who had been working for more than 25 years in Lima, Peru, teaching secretarial skills to women who had no other way to make a living other than prostitution. She said distinctly and with the strength of voice that comes from years-in-the-making: “You think you know the oldest profession in the world?” She paused while our minds processed the familiar answer. Then she continued: “The domination of women by men.”
I gulped. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and the shock still reverberates with me today.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

"What Would Mary Magdalene Do?" by Phyllis Zagano/National Catholic Reporter

Gerald Ryan at 92 is Oldest Working Priest in New York City
"It's about an active 92 year-young priest in the Bronx.Not being a cardinal, he is able to reflect on his years of service as a priest:“It isn’t about serving the church in the way you have envisioned, from the altar, and from the position of authority and power,” he said. “But it is learning what human nature is, and what the struggles of people are. And where Jesus really is.”

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Rabbi Challenges the Catholic Church/ Religious Freedom of Catholic Women/Nuns by Eliza Wood in Huffington Post

"In a rare display of public concern for the religious freedom of American Roman Catholic women and possibly all Roman Catholic women, an American Jewish rabbi called for change within the Catholic Church. In response to the harsh treatment of our American Roman Catholic nuns, Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Ph.D., founder of the earth-loving, justice- seeking, peace-promoting Shalom Center in Philadelphia, wrote a Shalom Center Report Letter initially intended for his community,criticizing the Roman Catholic leadership for its harsh treatment of our nuns , whom he holds up as champions of social justice..."

Flaccid ‘Fortnight for Freedom’ Fizzles for Fathers, "Exposed "U.S. Bishops as "Inept Campaigners and as Generals Without An Army by Fred Clark/ Some Blame the Nuns!

Flaccid ‘Fortnight for Freedom’ fizzles for fathers

July 11, 2012 By Fred Clark
The “Fortnight for Freedom” was a flop.
This was supposed to be a game-changer — the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ big display of political might. But instead it exposed the bishops as inept campaigners and as generals without an army.
I thought they’d be better at this sort of thing. They had some formidable assets to work with. For weeks ahead of time, Fortnight events were publicized and promoted in every diocese and every parish across the country. And they had some serious money to work with thanks to deep-pocketed (anonymous) donors. They even got a big boost of support from their allies in the evangelical religious right.
But still, it flopped. Big time.
This two-week extravaganza was supposed to redefine the political conversation, but instead it went mostly unnoticed and unattended. It was supposed to show massive grassroots support for the bishops’ contention that allowing women to purchase comprehensive health insurance constitutes an intolerable threat to the religious liberty of employers who wish to prohibit that. But instead it showed, definitively, that there is no grassroots support for that strange argument.
The bishops declared themselves the grand marshals of what was to be a glorious parade, but no one showed up to march behind them and only a meager handful turned out to line the route as spectators.
It was pathetic, really. A bunch of nuns on a shoestring-budget bus tour drew more enthusiasm and more support for their polar-opposite message. For all the millions spent and all the weeks of elaborate, top-down fanfare, the Fortnight for Freedom came and went almost without notice.
“Oh, right, the bishops’ big rally, when is that again? Oh, it happened already? Oh.”
All that time and money invested and almost nothing to show for it.
Part of what we learned here, I think, is that if you’ve got a top-down, hierarchical mentality that regards listening to anyone else as beneath you, as an affront to your righteous authority, then you’re probably not well-suited to rallying grassroots support. When that arrogant mentality shapes your outlook, it seems, you’re probably not even capable of recognizing that you’ve utterly lost all grassroots support.
The bishops did their best to put a happy face on their embarrassing fortnight of failure. “Thousands rally in Washington,” one press release said. And that was true — “thousands” plural because two is a plural number. The largest Fortnight event drew about 4,000 — or, in other words, it was a bit smaller than the crowd at a Bowling Green Hot Rods game on Fireworks Night. (Yes, the Rays’ single-A farm team may outdraw the bishops despite a much-smaller PR budget, yet as far as I know the Hot Rods are not making any claims that this gives them the right to dictate national policy to the president.)
By the end of the fortnight, the affiliated Republican effort “Conscience Clause” had also collected 6,000 signatures for a petition in support of the bishops — or nearly half the number of signatures collected so far in the “Save Pan Am” campaign to get ABC to revive that failed show.
The Fortnight for Freedom was a failure. I suppose, though, that it did succeed in at least one way: providing a handle for plenty of insightful commentary on the bishops’ demands for religious privilege and their increasingly partisan political activism. A sampling of some of that commentary below the jump.
Jessica Coblentz: “Fortnight for Freedom: Whose Religious Liberty?
In the reaction against Fortnight for Freedom, some are responding to the bishops on their own terms. If the campaign is about religious liberty, they ask, then whose liberty is at stake? The bishops present the Catholic exercise of religious liberty as the ability to reject the use of contraception, or at least the financing of insurance plans that cover contraceptive services. The irony, to those on the other side, is that a campaign meant to promote religious liberty actually denies the religious freedom of many Catholic women, who rely on their personal religious convictions to determine their stance on contraception and the mandate. Studies show that as many as 98 percent of sexually experienced American Catholic women over the age of 18 have used contraception. A recent PRRI/RNS poll reports that a majority of American Catholics do not see the contraception mandate as a threat to religious freedom, indicating that many hold a broader understanding of religious liberty than the bishops maintain. The debate surrounding the mandate, then, is not only about contraception and religious liberty. It is also about who gets to define religious liberty’s very meaning.
… Critics of the bishops’ current battle can call on this Catholic history of religious liberty and individual freedom. In their view, women’s choices are an issue of religious liberty — not merely a threat to it. Still, who defines religious liberty remains a matter of authority — and a highly gendered one at that. When the USCCB conveys that the rejection of contraception is the only religiously-motivated choice that warrants the protection of religious liberty among Catholics, they assert the message that only church leaders have the authority to determine what counts as religious behavior. This strips other Catholics of the legitimate authority to negotiate their tradition when determining their own religiously-motivated actions. What is more, so long as the all-male Catholic clergy solely possess the authority to identify what does and does not constitute a free, religiously-motivated choice worthy of legal protection, women have no official authority in Catholic religious liberty conversations whatsoever. As it stands, the religious decisions and actions of all Catholics other than clergy — be they for or against contraception and contraceptive coverage — are seemingly insignificant in “Catholic” concerns about religious liberty.
… The bishops, or anyone for that matter, need not theologically condone the contraceptive decisions of Catholic women in order to recognize them as exercises of free, religious choice. Yet the current rhetoric of the USCCB’s “Fortnight for Freedom” campaign does not. … If the bishops continue to exclude so many American Catholics from their representation of religious liberty — notably, the majority of Catholic women — the USCCB fails in its own stated aim to protect the religious liberty of all.
Katherine Stewart: “How Corrupt Catholics and Evangelicals Abuse Religious Freedom
In the writings and speeches of Catholic bishops and evangelical leaders in recent months, “religious freedom” has come to mean something close to its opposite. It now stands for “religious privilege.” It is a coded way for them to state their demand that religious institutions should be allowed special powers that exempt them from the laws of the land.
… This is a war of conquest, designed to expand the power of religious institutions at the expense of the rest of society and the state. It is about carving out an even larger share of the special privileges and exemptions that are already made available only to organized religious institutions.
Such privileges are already substantial. Religions already receive hefty subsidies – by some estimates, as much as $71bn a year – through broad tax exemptions, deductions, and faith-based government programs. A “ministerial exemption” allows them to hire and fire people directly involved in religious activity without regard to anti-discrimination laws.
But they want more. And they are willing to turn the meaning of the word “persecution” on its head to get it.
Sally Rasmussen: “The Bishops on Religious Freedom: ‘We Get More Than You’
The Catholic bishops have been talking a lot recently about the First Amendment. They’ve made the remarkable claim that their tradition is a source of First Amendment freedoms, but their interpretation of such freedom is that it should shield them from prosecution for collaborating in the sexual abuse of children, at the same time that they are doing their best to deny freedom of religion, speech, and assembly to American nuns. Nor do they believe in freedom of conscience for the Catholic Church which is the people of God – a Church that has thoughtfully concluded that contraception is morally acceptable.
Mark Silk: “Religious Freedom, Becket Style
Even the conservative National Catholic Register noted the flop, but blamed it on the NUNS
Daily News
Nuns on the Bus' Media Stunt Detracts From Bishops' Fortnight for Freedom
NEWS ANALYSIS National Catholic Register
| Posted 7/13/12 at 3:30 AM
The recently completed “Nuns on the Bus” tour garnered a great deal of publicity for the sisters involved, who claimed they were making the trip to protest proposed federal budget cuts they say would hurt the poor. However, there were many more undercurrents to the nine-state, two-week trip than most people realize.
The giant banner on their bus proclaimed, “Sisters driving for faith, family and fairness,” and a gushing media noted that the sisters’ fans along the way greeted them like rock stars. However, it turns out that the sisters who organized the June 18-July 2 tour — from the sisters’ lobbying group Network — also were driving for their own agenda.
As a Washington Post headline put it: “The Nuns on the Bus tour promotes social justice and turns a deaf ear to the Vatican.”
The Nuns on the Bus tour did treat issues of poverty, but the tour also was designed to highlight the good works many sisters do in order to respond to the doctrinal assessment by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) that found numerous doctrinal errors in the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). The LCWR is a superiors’ organization of about 1,500 sisters who lead orders that include 80% of the sisters in the country.
The LCWR has had ongoing difficulties with the Vatican for decades, culminating in the April 18 assessment report that directed Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle to oversee a reform of the organization. Network also was named in the assessment, for it is closely connected to LCWR.
Sister of Social Service Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, did admit in some press interviews that the bus trip was a reaction to the CDF assessment: “Their big mistake was naming us [Network],” Sister Simone told the Washington Post. “With all this attention, we had to use it for our mission.”
In a July 2 profile of Sister Simone, Time magazine observed, “At times Nuns on the Bus can seem like Campbell’s personal act of retaliation against the Vatican for its virtual takeover of the nuns’ leadership conference and its rebuke of Network.” Indeed, the article quoted Sister Simone: “I’ve been a faithful woman religious for over 40 years. … And some guy who’s never talked to me says we’re a problem? Ooh, that hurts.”
Likewise, it was no accident that the sisters’ two-week bus tour was timed to coincide with the U.S. bishops’ June 21-July 4 Fortnight for Freedom. The fortnight observance called for prayer, fasting, education and action to preserve religious liberty in the face of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate that all employers must provide insurance coverage for sterilizations and drugs that are abortifacient and contraceptive.
The only religious exemption is for churches and does not include Catholic hospitals, schools and other institutions that serve the general public.
The Network sisters support the HHS mandate that has been rejected by the bishops, and a press hungry for sensationalism was much more inclined to cover the sisters’ public disagreement with Catholic Church leaders than to cover thousands of Catholics — including many more sisters than those on the bus — praying in churches. The New York Times called the Nuns on the Bus tour a “spirited retort to the Vatican,” and Time’s headline on its July 2 profile of Sister Simone read: “Holy Strategist: A nun takes on bishops with a bus tour and Twitter.”
The bus the sisters chartered for their trip also made for sensational photos, with its billboard-sized “Nuns on the Bus” signs, but the image did not match the reality; for rather than a busload of sisters, only two sisters made the entire trip. They were joined along the way for a day or two by a few local sisters, but never were there more than six sisters on the bus, which is usually rented by entertainers on the road and equipped for comfort, with a lounge area and a kitchen.
How did a handful of sisters on a bus get such wide media coverage? The answer might be found in the media professional who accompanied them on the bus and her employer. A perceptive blogger, Elizabeth at Laetificat, made the connection that the sisters’ media representative, Casey Shoenberger, is employed as a media relations assistant for the organization Faith in Public Life (FPL) and had worked in the associate program at Network.
According to a June 27 media advisory from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), FPL was founded with help from the pro-abortion group Center for American Progress (CAP) that is directed by John Podesta, former chief of staff for President Bill Clinton. The USCCB advisory said that both FPL and CAP have received funding from billionaire atheist George Soros.
The unusual USCCB advisory was issued because the bishops became aware of a memo to news media from FPL’s John Gehring “casting aspersions on the Catholic bishops and their educational project on religious liberty, the Fortnight for Freedom.” Gehring is Catholic outreach coordinator for FPL, according to its website.
The bishops’ conference advisory said: “In his memo, Mr. Gehring juxtaposes what he calls the bishops’ ‘fictions’ with his ‘facts’ — and he provides the media with ‘questions to ask Catholic bishops’ that he apparently thinks are embarrassing.” The USCCB advisory then went on to answer all the questions and show how fact and fiction are confused by Gehring himself.
Additionally, the FPL website reveals that the connection between FPL and the Network sisters goes back at least two years. On the FPL “Successes” page is an entry about the March 17, 2010, letter on Network stationery to Congress urging passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. The bishops, while supporting health-care reform, did not support that bill because it included funding for abortion and did not have adequate conscience protection. The Network letter claimed to represent all 59,000 sisters in the U.S., but was signed by only about 60 sisters.
The bishops’ conference issued a clarification about that letter the next day, explaining that the signers had “grossly overstated whom they represent” in that letter.
“Network’s letter about health-care reform was signed by a few dozen people, and despite what Network said, they do not come anywhere near representing 59,000 American sisters,” the clarification stated.
Nevertheless, the FPL website reports that in the final days of the health-care debate in 2010, FPL “worked with 60 women religious, representing nearly 59,000 nuns, who sent a letter to Congress supporting health reform and challenging misinformation about abortion provisions. With the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops opposing the bill, the nuns’ letter assured undecided pro-life Catholic members of Congress that supporting the legislation was in keeping with Catholic teaching, a crucial success that helped ensure passage of health reform.” FPL goes on to take credit for making sure the Network letter reached the media.
Network’s communications coordinator, Stephanie Niedringhaus, told the Register that FPL’s Schoenberger accompanied the bus tour only because she herself was unable to go due to family obligations. She said she was not aware of any funding for the tour from Faith in Public Life and said that the funding came from “a long list” of sources, with that funding still coming in.
Whatever the case, Catholic sisters who disagree with the position of the bishops make very helpful allies for anyone with a political agenda who is working to discredit the bishops’ strong stand on religious liberty.
Louann Kensinger, who attended the Nuns on the Bus “friend raiser” in South Bend, Ind., on June 21, told the Register that the tightly controlled event was “one-sided,” “like a political rally.”
Strangely, those “friend raisers” were “open to the public, closed to the press,” according to the Nuns on the Bus website. However, writers for the National Catholic Reporter and Commonweal were admitted to the South Bend event and reported on it for their publications.
Visits to the offices of local congressmen along the bus route also were tightly controlled. While those visits were listed as “open to all” on the Nuns on the Bus website, in South Bend the people who turned out to greet the bus were not allowed to accompany the sisters into the office. This writer was told by Casey Shoenberger that the sisters would report to us what transpired when they came out.
An article in the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch about the sisters’ visit there on the eighth day of their trip observed that what the sisters reported about their meeting at the office of Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio, did not completely reflect the actual event. Sister Simone told the Dispatch that Tiberi’s staff offered the “first substantive conversation of our visits” and that the staff agreed that more revenue is needed, but disagreed on income criteria for food stamps. Sister Simone called their conversation a “gift” because “for the first time” there was “some giveback,” “some conversation.”
According to the Dispatch: “Tiberi spokeswoman Breann Gonzalez said the congressman’s staff has a different view of the conversation but was receptive to the nuns’ concerns and did discuss the need for programs to help the most vulnerable.
“‘However, as a Catholic, Congressman Tiberi finds it ironic that during the heart of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ campaign against President Obama’s attack on religious freedom, this group did not once mention the importance of preserving religious freedom,’ she said. ‘Instead, they chose to discuss a bill [the Republican budget proposal] that has already passed the House and is virtually dead in the Senate since the Senate hasn’t passed a budget in three years.’”
So, while the Nuns on the Bus tour did highlight some of the wonderful work sisters are doing for disadvantaged people, it also played a partisan political role and enabled Sister Simone Campbell and her sympathizers to display their disregard for the teaching authority of the U.S. bishops and the Vatican.
Register correspondent Ann Carey is the author of

"Sacred Solidarity, Radical Hospitality: Women Priests & a Woman Rabbi" by Rabbi Susan Talve

The Shalom Report

Sacred Solidarity, Radical Hospitality: Women Priests & a Woman Rabbi

 by Rabbi SUSAN TALVE, founding Rabbi of Central Reform Congregation of St. Louis. Her story, below, both moves the heart and enriches the mind. It is a tale of how the disempowered – in this case, women – can reclaim their power. 

Standing with the Sisters
When the line between the personal and the political dissolves, it is usually due to religion.
In the summer of 2007, two women came to our synagogue to tour the sanctuary. Someone had told them that the sanctuary is a welcoming space used for many different interfaith activities. Indeed, a fundamental value of CRC is that our sanctuary provides a safe space for change, that we always practice radical hospitality. Afterwards, the women came to me in my office and said, "We would love to have our ordination here."
Our response was gratitude for the gift they were giving us. Here is why:
When we began our congregation 28 years ago, it was with a core value never to own a building. This was so that we would never have to put more resources into bricks than people. We also have a strong commitment to serving the city of St Louis where there seemed to be plenty of buildings that we could recycle and reuse.
But our growth rate made it challenging to stay in the church that originally housed us, and our commitment to being '"green" made it difficult to move into an older, inefficient building. So, we built a building after all, promising that we would practice radical hospitality and that it would be a disabled-accessible resource for the entire community. The request from these women to house their ordination offered us another way of fulfilling our promise.
But this act of “radical hospitality” was radical indeed. For the women who sought to use our sanctuary for their ordination were Roman Catholics, and they planned to be ordained as Roman Catholic priests.
The risk involved in ordaining these two women was that they – and therefore we – were challenging the Roman Catholic hierarchy in St Louis.
Our synagogue is the only one in the "parish" of the Archdiocese. Our city’s namesake is Louis IX, sainted for his role in the Crusades and for burning thousands of Talmudic commentaries and other valuable Jewish books in 1242. But in this generation, we and the Archdiocese have often stood together -- for immigration reform, for access to health care, and for other causes that champion the rights of the most vulnerable. I had also been invited to be in the front rows at the Cathedral when the former Pope John Paul visited.
The board of our congregation decided that we should host the ordination in spite of the tremendous controversy it might bring. We then received pressure from the Jewish and Catholic leadership to revoke our invitation. Leaders in both the Jewish and Catholic communities warned that we were setting back Catholic-Jewish relations two hundred years. I personally received death threats from anonymous sources.
The day of the ordination, the Archbishop at the time sent a videographer to the service who secretly taped the crowd. Many of the Catholic leaders who dared to come that day lost their jobs. Some were even excommunicated, a terrible threat to those who believe in the essential nature of the sacraments to one's life.
But many others celebrated us as heroes. Alongside the threats, I received potted plants from grateful orders of religious women. Not only criticism but also accolades poured in from all over the world.
The board made our decision based on our core value of practicing radical hospitality. I shared this guiding principle but for me it was also an issue of women's rights. As one of the first women ordained as a Rabbi in this country, I felt a connection to all women who are called to serve in the spiritual realm in whatever religious tradition they follow.
When I heard many others ask why these women had to be Roman Catholic priests, why not Episcopalian or even New Catholic, I recognized a familiar challenge. How many times had I heard a similar critique from feminist friends who wondered how I could be true to my core values serving in a Patriarchal context! Wouldn't a Wiccan or more woman-friendly spiritual path better suit me? I answer that I am Jewish and I am a feminist. Both realities define me.
I felt the same was true for these women. Their hearts were in the Church and their desire was to serve within the sanctity of their faith and their church.
I especially felt this from the Bishop who came to ordain them. She served as a Dominican Sister in South Africa for 45 years. She received her training in Rome and taught seminarians homiletics though she was not permitted to preach in a church. Still, she served until she was convinced by male Bishops to let them ordain her and bestow upon her the apostolic succession that allowed them to ordain priests. The Bishops had to keep their identities secret or risk excommunication.
She accepted their challenge and lost everything. After a lifetime with her Order, she was expelled, excommunicated and had nothing: no health insurance, no pension, no home. But she had a calling toordain qualified women who served Roman Catholic communities all over the world.
One of the more hurtful critiques of our hosting the ordination came from a priest I had been friends with and worked alongside for many years. Essentially, he told me to stay out of the Church's business. He added that he could not trust me and would no longer work with me. I was crushed and outraged. Where was his compassion for his sisters? Where was his willingness to take a stand for the women he served and the ones he served alongside?
When I took a step back, I realized that I was getting a glimpse of what happens when any group’s position of power and privilege is challenged.
I wish I could say that my relationship with the Catholic Church of St. Louis is on the mend, that we are making our way back to once again standing together and fighting for the rights of the disenfranchised. But as a Rabbi and a woman, I cannot, in good faith, say that.
The heart of my most recent storm with the Catholic Church can be traced to reproductive freedom and women's health, in the debate on access to birth control which has played out at both the national and state levels.
This year, the Missouri legislature passed Senate Bill 749, which gives employers the right to refuse to provide health insurance coverage for contraception based on “religious beliefs or moral convictions.” While the bill may have been especially intended to allow the Catholic Church to deny contraceptive coverage to employees of Catholic-related hospitals and universities (which employ non-Catholics and often receive governmental funds), it is written even more broadly so that any employer can deny its employees access to birth control by citing the employer’s moral objections.
Although this would clearly deny tens of thousands of women their own religious freedom to choose contraception if they wish, the Archdiocese of St. Louis heavily promoted this bill as one of “religious freedom,” with blog postings, forums, action alerts and more (<> ). In reality, of course, the bill has far less to do with protecting religious freedom than with limiting the freedom of women.(After weeks of uncertainty, the governor finally vetoed it.)
There is no way to separate women's health from reproductive freedom, so it seems that the Roman Catholic hierarchy is willing to sacrifice the health and well being of women to keep their position of privilege. The most recent attack on Catholic Women Religious is also connected to the Sisters’ moral leadership in the arena of health care access and affordability, especially for poor women. The Sisters under attack have been willing to defend the health care rights of poor women even if it means that they have to stand up to the Church and risk everything.
In last week’s Torah portion, the daughters of Zelophechad stand up to Moses and speak up when they are skipped over for their inheritance even though their father had no sons. (Num. 27) Seeds for change were sown that day that would eventually bring more equal, just and compassionate inheritance laws for women.
I believe that Arthur Waskow is right to stand with the Sisters. I will stand with him, with scars from previous attacks, to support and protect the religious freedom of American women and families from those who would threaten our very lives.
The time leading up to the ordination was the most painful clash of the personal and the political realms of my work to date. The ordination itself, however, proved to be one of the holiest days in our sanctuary, our Sukkat Shalom, our Shelter of Peace.
Taking a stand always has consequences, and true change takes time. But raising our voices together as the daughters of Zelophechad did is sure to make a little more room for the religious freedom of us all.
-- Rabbi Susan Talve

"An American Nun Responds To Vatican Criticism" NPR Interview on Fresh Air with Sister Pat Farrell/LCWR President
July 17, 2012
"In April, the Vatican announced that three American bishops (one archbishop and two bishops) would be sent to completely reorganize the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, a member organization founded in 1956 that represents 80 percent of Catholic sisters in the United States.
In its assessment of the group, the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said the leadership conference is undermining Roman Catholic teachings on homosexuality and birth control and promoting "radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith." It also reprimanded the nuns for hosting speakers who "often contradict or ignore" church teachings and for making public statements that "disagree with or challenge the bishops, who are the church's authentic teachers of faith and morals."
"In their own statement, the nuns said the Vatican's doctrinal assessment of the group was based on "unsubstantiated accusations" and may "compromise" the ability of female nuns to "fulfill their mission."
On the criticism from the Vatican regarding human sexuality
"We have been, in good faith, raising concerns about some of the church's teachings on sexuality. The problem being that the teaching and interpretation of the faith can't remain static and really needs to be reformulated, rethought in light of the world we live in. And new questions and new realities [need to be addressed] as they arise. And if those issues become points of conflict, it's because Women Religious stand in very close proximity to people at the margins, to people with very painful, difficult situations in their lives. That is our gift to the church. Our gift to the church is to be with those who have been made poorer, with those on the margins. Questions there are much less black and white because human realities are much less black and white. That's where we spend our days."
On roles within the church
"A bishop, for instance, can't be on the street working with the homeless. He has other tasks. But we can be. So if there is a climate of open and trusting and adequate dialogue among us, we can bring together some of those conversations, and that's what I hope we can help develop in a deeper way."
On women's ordination
"The position we took in favor of women's ordination in 1977 was before there was a Vatican letter saying that there is a definitive church position against the ordination of women. So it's interesting to me that the document [just released by the church] goes back 30 years to talk about our position on the ordination of women. There has, in fact, been an official opinion from the church that that topic should not be discussed. When that declaration came out, the response of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious was to call for a nationwide time of prayer and fasting for all Women Religious in response to that. Because our deep desire for places of leadership of women in the church be open. It remains a desire. Since then, the Leadership Conference has not spoken publicly about the ordination of women. Imposing a silence doesn't necessarily change people's thinking, but we are in a position to continue to be very concerned that the position of women in the church be recognized."
On the phrase "radical feminist themes"
"Sincerely, what I hear in the phrasing ... is fear — a fear of women's positions in the church. Now, that's just my interpretation. I have no idea what was in the mind of the congregation, of the doctrine of the faith, when they wrote that. But women theologians around the world have been seriously looking at the question of: How have the church's interpretations of how we talk about God, interpret Scripture, organize life in the church — how have they been tainted by a culture that minimizes the value and the place of women?"
On abortion
Our gift to the church is to be with those who have been made poorer, with those on the margins. Questions there are much less black and white because human realities are much less black and white. That's where we spend our days.
"I think the criticism of what we're not talking about seems to me to be unfair. Because [Women] Religious have clearly given our lives to supporting life, to supporting the dignity of human persons. Our works are very much pro-life. We would question, however, any policy that is more pro-fetus than actually pro-life. If the rights of the unborn trump all of the rights of all of those who are already born, that is a distortion, too — if there's such an emphasis on that. However, we have sisters who work in right-to-life issues. We also have many, many ministries that support life. We dedicate to our lives to those on the margins of society, many of whom are considered throwaway people: the impaired, the chronically mentally ill, the elderly, the incarcerated, to the people on death row. We have strongly spoken out against the death penalty, against war, hunger. All of those are right-to-life issues. There's so much being said about abortion that is often phrased in such extreme and such polarizing terms that to choose not to enter into a debate that is so widely covered by other sectors of the Catholic Church — and we have been giving voice to other issues that are less covered but are equally as important.
"Our concern is that right-to-life issues be seen across a whole spectrum and are not narrowly defined. ... To single out one right-to-life issue and to say that that's the only issue that defines Catholic identity, I think, is really a distortion."

Monday, July 16, 2012

"Boys in black dresses
With red satin sashes,
Scold and conde-emn
Those whom the Pope bashes.

Sycophant minions
Protecting their bling,
These are a few of the
Scandalous things.
Living the Gospel,
The nuns find sufficient.
“Not so-o,” says La-aw,
Far from munif'cent.
Work with the poor
And the sick is okay,
But actions count less
Than the words you must say.
Dolan, Sartain, Burke, Rigali,
Now I'm feeling mad.
Confess and acknowledge
The scandal you bring;
Then I won't feel so bad!
Obey bishops blindly
Because they're authentic
Teachers of faith, and of
Morals, sex-centric.
Absolute power,
Corruption it brings,
These are a few of the
Scandalous things.
Afraid of women,
But not little boys.
Rape and exploit them;
They're just your toys.

Cov'ring up felonies,
Bishops don't sing.
These are a few of the
Scandalous things.
Dolan, Sartain, Burke, Rigali,
Now I'm feeling mad.
Confess and acknowledge
The scandal you bring;
Then I won't feel so bad!
Being transparent
Is not for princes.
Money, corruption,
This stance evinces.

Just blame the butler
For exposing your sin.
These are a few of the
Scandalous things.
Boys in black dresses
With red satin sashes,
Scold and conde-emn
Those whom the Pope bashes.

Sycophant minions
Protecting their bling,
These are a few of the
Scandalous things.
Dolan, Sartain, Burke, Rigali,
Now I'm feeling mad.
Confess and acknowledge
The scandal you bring;
Then I won't feel so ba-a-a-ad!"

Sunday, July 15, 2012

St. Louis: A "Sister" City/Welcomes the LCWR to St. Louis/ Show Your Support for Catholic Sisters/LCWR in this Historic Moment

Let us unite in solidarity with the LCWR for nunjustice! Will the LCWR go along with the hostile Vatican take-over, declare independence, or do something else?
You can support our Catholic Sisters as their leaders meet during this historic moment in our church's history. See how you can help in the article below!
Bridget Mary Meehan, arcwp

This August 7th-11th, 800 members of the Leadership Conference for Women Religious will be
holding their important annual conference in downtown St. Louis at The Millennium Hotel.
Discerning their response to the Congregation of the Doctrines of the Faith’s charges. The board
recognizes this matter has deeply touched Catholics and non-Catholics throughout the world.
It believes that the matters of faith and justice that capture the hearts of Catholic sisters are
clearly shared by many people around the world.

A group of concerned Catholics are organizing several welcoming activities while the sisters are
in town. Each activity is planned to reflect gratitude for, support of and solidarity with the sisters
for their works of charity and witness.

Respecting the sisters need for a prayerful atmosphere we will hold all activities off the
Millennium property.

Give Public witness at these Prayer Vigils
Tuesday, August 7, 2012, 5:30-7:00 PM
4431 Lindell Boulevard St. Louis, MO 63108
Thursday, August 9, 2012 7-8:30 near the arch at the Old Cathedral
209 Walnut Street St. Louis, MO 63102 across from the Millennium

Make sure to bring plenty of water!

Write a personal note.
As a part of our show of appreciation, we are asking all who have been touched, taught, healed
or helped by a woman religious (nuns, sisters), to write a personal note. This can be a a note of
thanks, a reflection about a single sister in your life or an entire congregation that may have had
an influence on your life. You are welcome to write more than 1 note and by all means invite
others to do so. Forward this e-mail to any interested.
These letters should be addressed by August 1 to :
St. Louis - A "Sister" City c/o Jan McGillick, 5689 Oleatha, St. Louis, MO 63139 or
Catholic Action Network, 438 N Skinker, St.Louis, MO 63130.
Questions can be e-mailed to, Marilyn Konzen
Thank you for helping us reach our goal of at least 800 letters ready to present to our visiting
sisters on August 7th!

Make a donation for the welcome bouquet.
Catholic Action Network 438 N Skinker, St. Louis, MO 63130.
Catholic Action Network is a 501(c)3 organization.

Welcome the sisters in person.
Tuesday, August 7, 2012 at the St. Louis Airport and on the sidewalk at the Millennium.

Buy a t-shirt
CAN will be selling t-shirts with our logo for St.Louis: A "Sister" City for $20 a piece. Stay tuned for information about how to order and when/where to pick them up.  

"Every Christian Man Should Watch This Movie" by Tim Nafziger/Pink Smoke Over the Vatican
"Pink Smoke Over the Vatican" tells the story of the struggle for women to be ordained in the Roman Catholic Church. Through interviews and historical vignettes, it portrays the tragedy of deeply gifted women, called by the spirit, but rejected by their own leaders.

In watching the movie, it was tempting at times to distance myself from the Roman Catholic Church. After all, I'm Anabaptist, and we don't believe in the church hierarchy or that priests are a necessary bridge to reach God. But I realized that the story of the men in this documentary is my story as a Christian man.
The most moving scene in the film is the ordination of women as priests by a woman bishop. The scene brought unexpected tears to my eyes. My mother experienced deep pain from the Mennonite church where I grew up. Her call to leadership as Sunday school superintendent led to some members leaving the church, and she felt abandoned by male leaders. The story of these women joyfully entering the priesthood is my mother's story and it is my story.
In many ways the documentary is the story of the women at that ordination service and the aftermath: their excommunication. This is also my story as a man in the church. Unless I am an ally to women struggling for a voice, I am no different from the hierarchy who excommunicates them. I grew up swimming in affirmation of my gifts in leadership while my Mennonite female peers had to fight for recognition. Many gave up and embraced their role as "helpmate," settling for being "separate but equal" in the body of Christ. Those that didn't still bear the scars.
Identifying with the narrative of this movie also means that I can claim as a role model Father Roy Bourgeois, now at the edge of excommunication for speaking out publicly in support of ordination of women. Throughout the documentary, he speaks powerfully about his call to speak out, not just for women priests in the abstract, but alongside specific women who he has seen called to the priesthood. He names their specific gifts in the struggle for peace and justice.
My calling as a faith-based peace and justice activist came at the gates of the School of the Americas (SOA) in Fort Benning, Ga., during a Eucharist led by Father Roy and others of SOA Watch. It would have been very easy for Father Roy to say the SOA is my struggle, not women. To say: I can't risk my role as a priest. And in in fact, Father Roy's stand has cost SOA Watch the institutional support of many Jesuit institutions who previously supported them financially and sent busloads of students to the annual vigil.
In my journey since my Eucharist at the gates of the SOA, I have been privileged to walk with many Catholics struggling for justice in their church and outside it. Pink Smoke makes it abundantly clear that the struggle for women's ordination is not in isolation from the struggle against racism and militarism. Patricia Fresen, a nun stripped of her order for her ordination as a priest, took a courageous stand against apartheid before its fall in South Africa.
The one missing piece in this narrative is the struggle for LGBTQ people in the catholic church, which is not mentioned. Organizations like Dignity USA have been working for ordination of LGBTQ people since 1969 here in the United States, including women. Unfortunately, no one identified with that movement was interviewed or mentioned in the film.
It is clear that the faith of these women is not only personal, but also communal. Fresen, a theologian, shares about her call to ordination as a bishop after she had already been ordained as a priest. The man who ordained her knew that he didn't have much time left as a Roman Catholic priest. Fresen said that she wasn't sure she felt ready, but the pro-ordination bishop told her that her ordination as a bishop wasn't about her, but about the community calling her. The recurring theme of community and equality deeply resonated with me as an Anabaptist.
Interspersed with these women's stories is an interview with Rev. Ronald Lengwin, spokesperson for the diocese of Pittsburgh, who spoke for the church's official position of sexist exclusion. After each of his arguments against women priests is made, there is a careful and thoughtful response from the other interviewees which laid bare the stark sexism at the root of Lengwin's statements.
At the end of the movie, Lengwin's final argument seems to be that, for the "unity of the church," these women (and the men who ordain them) should simply go elsewhere, essentially giving up on the universal claims of the Roman Catholic Church. But those working for women's ordination are having none of it. The women who have been thrown out of the church powerfully claim their Catholic faith and identity despite their excommunication. It is their home, and they will continue their struggle to make it their space again."
Nafziger_tim_2_thumbnail Tim Nafziger is a activist, writer, organizer and web developer. He lives in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago with his wife Charletta where he attends Living Water Community Church. He is the administrator for the Young Anabaptist Radicals blog and serves as Outreach Coordinator for Christian Peacemaker Teams. For more about his life, read his first blog