Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Wisconsin Cracks Down on Sisters


Bishop Robert Morlino cracks down on Madison nuns for espousing 'New Ageism' and 'indifferentism'

Two longtime Madison nuns who lead an interfaith spirituality center have been banned by Madison Catholic Bishop Robert Morlino from holding workshops or providing spiritual direction or guidance at any Catholic churches in the 11-county diocese.
Sisters Maureen McDonnell and Lynn Lisbeth, both Sinsinawa Dominicans, have diverged too far from Catholic teaching, according to a confidential memo sent Nov. 27 to priests on behalf of Morlino. A copy of the memo was leaked to the State Journal.
Two other women connected to the interfaith center, called Wisdom's Well, also have been banned as part of the same action.
The memo says Morlino has "grave concerns" about the women's teachings, specifically that they "espouse certain views" flowing from such movements as "New Ageism" and "indifferentism." The latter, according to the memo, is "the belief that no one religion or philosophy is superior to another."
The women "may not share an authentic view of the Catholic Church's approach to interreligious dialogue," the memo said.
Brent King, a spokesman for the diocese, said three other potential parish guest speakers, all male, have been banned "in recent years." The women are not prohibited from attending Mass or, if Catholic, from receiving communion, King said. Asked whether they could contribute to parish life in other ways, such as reading Bible passages from the pulpit or chairing a church committee, King said that would be up to individual priests.
The action comes amid a papal crackdown on nuns. Earlier this year, the Vatican accused the most influential group of Catholic sisters in the U.S. of "serious doctrinal issues" for not following Rome's lead on topics such as the male-only priesthood and homosexuality.
Interfaith approach
Wisdom's Well was founded in Madison in 2006. The center has no physical facility but offers workshops and retreats on topics such as nonviolence, contemplative living and Christian meditation.
The center's website says it "serves to support those who desire to grow spiritually, seek inner wisdom, and yearn for a transformative spirituality." Its mission statement says the center is "grounded in the Christian tradition, while embracing the wisdom found in other religious traditions."
Along with the sisters, the third staff member is Beth O'Brien, a married mother of two and a religious layperson affiliated with the Benedictine community. She also is banned, as is Paula Hirschboeck, a philosophy professor at Edgewood College in Madison who helped found Wisdom's Well but is no longer on its staff.
The women declined comment, referring questions to the Dominicans of Sinsinawa Congregation, based in southwestern Wisconsin.
'Valued members'
The order's spokeswoman, Tricia Buxton, released a statement saying McDonnell and Lisbeth are "respected and valued members" of the order, and that both women "have been dedicated to religious life and preaching and teaching Gospel values for nearly 50 years." The Sinsinawa Dominicans "wholeheartedly support our sisters and hold them in prayer as we continue our mission of participating in the building of a holy and just church and society," the statement said.
Buxton said Sinsinawa Dominicans have never before faced a prohibition like this in the diocese. The order has 521 sisters.
Both McDonnell and Lisbeth are well-known in Madison. McDonnell served for 21 years on the campus ministry staff at Edgewood College, her alma mater. Lisbeth regularly leads classes in spirituality at the Madison Senior Center.
At the time the memo went out, McDonnell was co-facilitating a series of weekly classes with 12 students at St. James Catholic Church in Madison titled, "Just Peace Initiative: The Challenge and Promise of Nonviolence for Our Time." The class has been moved, according to an organizer, who did not want the new site published.
Diocese's 'duty'
The memo sent to priests says the four women "are not to be invited or allowed to preach, catechize, lead spiritual or prayer instructions or exercises, or to provide spiritual direction or guidance at churches, oratories or chapels within the Diocese of Madison." No publicity materials from Wisdom's Well are to be allowed inside parishes.
The memo does not give specific examples of things the women may have said that violate church teaching. Rather, the memo references problematic statements on the center's website, including that the sisters embrace "the wisdom found in other religious traditions."
King said it is both the diocese's duty and right to ensure parish speakers transmit true church teaching. "A proposed speaker's association with a group whose philosophy is inconsistent with the Catholic faith disqualifies a proposed speaker," he said.
The prohibition against the sisters came only after the diocese "patiently and prudently" investigated the matter, King said. The memo says the diocese "sought clarification" from the sisters, but "the responses from these individuals proved insufficient and inconclusive to resolve grave concerns."

Basel Switzerland votes on Equality in the Church


Comment: This great initiative  is one that many will be watching.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Catholics in Basel may vote on the abolition of celibacy and women's ordination

Le Croix (With APIC; English translation by Rebel Girl)

On Tuesday, November 27th, the synod of the Roman Catholic Church in Basel, Switzerland, recognized the validity of the "Initiative for Equality in the Church" which requires notably the abolition of priestly celibacy and the ordination of women. "We take the concerns of the initiative seriously, Christian Griss, the chairman of the synod, declared Thursday to the Basler Zeitung daily.

In the neighboring canton of Basel Land, a similar initiative has been launched and will be submitted to the synod when it meets in Liestal on Monday, December 3rd. But the executive of the Synod has already asked that it be considered valid.

Nearly 3000 signatures, including those of several theologians, were collected to support this "Initiative for Equality in the Church" launched jointly in the two half-cantons of Basel. If passed by the synod of Basel Land, it may be submitted to a popular vote before the summer of 2013, and if accepted, the cantonal ecclesiastical authorities would be required to commit to the abolition of priestly celibacy and the ordination of women.

The scope of this initiative is however limited to church civil law structures and will not effect the ecclesial level. However, its supporters hope to have a effective means of pressure against diocesan and Roman authorities.

In Switzerland, the Catholic Church is organized in a two-tier system: in addition to the canonical structures specific to the Catholic Church (dioceses, parishes), there is effectively a system of ecclesiastical corporations benefiting from a public law statute both at the cantonal and communal levels. These corporations, which are democratically elected, notably distribute the church taxes they receive, but do not have the right to modify the conditions of admission to Catholic ministries, which remains the responsibility of the Magisterium.

Text of the Initiative for Equality in the Church (short version)

In recent years and decades in governments and corporations, the demands for gender equality have been implemented more and more. Similar development in the Roman Catholic Church is moving forward slowly or is even blocked. The exclusion of women from the priesthood solely because of their sex is contrary to the fundamental right of gender equality as well as the Gospel of Jesus, which calls for a community of equals. Discrimination against women in the Roman Catholic Church is unacceptable to us, and we need to set an example.

The backlog of reforms and other yet unresolved issues makes our Church not credible. Therefore, many people find it more difficult to identify with her and to remain a member.

Because quite a bit has been done within the church in recent years, but with little effect, we, the women and men of the Roman Catholic Church of Basel-Stadt and the Roman Catholic Church of Basel-Land, are resorting to the democratic means of an ecclesial constitutional initiative.

This initiative will require the authorities of the Roman Catholic Church of Basel-Stadt and the Roman Catholic Church of Basel-Land (ie, the synods and councils of the churches), to work towards the Roman Catholic Church allowing equal admission to the priesthood, regardless of marital status and gender.

This means:
- the abolition of compulsory celibacy and
- the admission of women to the priesthood

We hope that other cantonal churches will follow the path of an ecclesiastical constitutional initiative.

The proponents of the Initiative profess to be acting out of love for the Church, and say tehir actions are in keeping with canon 212(2) which states that "the Christian faithful are free to make known to the pastors of the Church their needs, especially spiritual ones, and their desires." (CIC). Stay tuned...

Friday, December 7, 2012

Irish priest association supports Bourgeois

Irish priest association supports Bourgeois

The church reform group that represents about a quarter of Ireland’s Catholic priests issued a statement of support Friday for Roy Bourgeois, the U.S. Maryknoll priest that the Vatican laicization and dismissed from his order because of his support of women’s ordination.
The Association of Catholic Priests (Ireland) called on the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith “to cease this type of abuse, to restore Fr. Bourgeois to the full exercise of his ministry and to allow for open and honest discussion on issues that are of crucial importance for the future of the Church.”
“We believe that this type of action, ordered by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and implemented by the Maryknoll Order, is unjust, and ultimately counter-productive,” reads the statement from the association.
“Dismissing people because they have sincerely held views that are contrary to those of the Vatican, but which are widely shared by the Catholic faithful, will not end discussion and debate on these topics,” it says.
The Association of Catholic Priests, which was founded by eight priests two years ago, has grown to represent about 1,000 of Ireland’s some 4,000 priests. The association aims at the “full implementation of the vision and teaching of the Second Vatican Council” and a “re-structuring of the governing system of the Church,” according to the group’s constitution.
The association has also called for an end to mandatory celibacy and for the ordination of women.
As an example of the widespread support for women priests among the Catholic Faithful, the statement from the association cited a year-long “listening process” in the diocese of Killaloe, a mainly rural diocese in Ireland, in which participants “expressed the opinion that the ordination of women should be openly discussed, particularly in view of the projected shortage of priests in the next few years.”
The leadership team of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, one of the largest groups of Catholic sisters in the western hemisphere, issued a similar statement of support for Bourgeois on Nov. 28.
One of the Irish priests’ association’s cofounders, Redemptorist Fr. Tony Flannery , a popular author and retreat director, is himself under Vatican scrutiny according to press reports from earlier this year.
Flannery was ordered to stop writing and speaking and to go to a monastery for a period where he would “pray and reflect” on his situation.
Following is the complete statement from Ireland’s Association of Catholic Priests.
Statement of Support for Fr. Roy Bourgeois
The Association of Catholic Priests (Ireland) is saddened and disappointed by the dismissal of Maryknoll priest Fr. Roy Bourgeois from the priesthood and from his religious congregation, and his excommunication from the Church that he has served for almost half a century.
We believe that this type of action, ordered by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and implemented by the Maryknoll Order, is unjust, and ultimately counter-productive. Dismissing people because they have sincerely held views that are contrary to those of the Vatican, but which are widely shared by the Catholic faithful, will not end discussion and debate on these topics.
In fact it will only serve to highlight the urgent need to face the problems around ministry in the Church. Participants in a year long ‘listening process’ in the diocese of Killaloe, a mainly rural diocese in Ireland, expressed the opinion that the ordination of women should be openly discussed, particularly in view of the projected shortage of priests in the next few years.
Surely this is yet another of many examples of the sensus fidelium calling for change so that, in future, the Eucharist can be available to the Church community.
We call on the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to cease this type of abuse, to restore Fr. Bourgeois to the full exercise of his ministry and to allow for open and honest discussion on issues that are of crucial importance for the future of the Church.
On behalf of the Leadership of the ACP:
Fr. P.J. Madden; Fr. Sean McDonagh; Fr. Brendan Hoban; Fr. Tony Flannery
[Dennis Coday is NCR editor.]

Monday, December 3, 2012

Jesuit, 92, penalized after eucharistic liturgy with woman priest

Editorial: Ordination of women would correct an injustice


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The call to the priesthood is a gift from God. It is rooted in baptism and is called forth and affirmed by the community because it is authentic and evident in the person as a charism. Catholic women who have discerned a call to the priesthood and have had that call affirmed by the community should be ordained in the Roman Catholic church. Barring women from ordination to the priesthood is an injustice that cannot be allowed to stand.

The most egregious statement in the Nov. 19 press release announcing Roy Bourgeois' "excommunication, dismissal and laicization" is the assertion that Bourgeois' "disobedience" and "campaign against the teachings of the Catholic church" was "ignoring the sensitivities of the faithful." Nothing could be further from the truth. Bourgeois, attuned by a lifetime of listening to the marginalized, has heard the voice of the faithful and he has responded to that voice.

Bourgeois brings this issue to the real heart of the matter. He has said that no one can say who God can and cannot call to the priesthood, and to say that anatomy is somehow a barrier to God's ability to call one of God's own children forward places absurd limits on God's power. The majority of the faithful believe this.

Let's review the history of Rome's response to the call of the faithful to ordain women:

In April 1976 the Pontifical Biblical Commission concluded unanimously: "It does not seem that the New Testament by itself alone will permit us to settle in a clear way and once and for all the problem of the possible accession of women to the presbyterate." In further deliberation, the commission voted 12-5 in favor of the view that Scripture alone does not exclude the ordination of women, and 12-5 in favor of the view that the church could ordain women to the priesthood without going against Christ's original intentions.

In Inter Insigniores (dated Oct. 15, 1976, but released the following January), the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said: "The Church, in fidelity to the example of the Lord, does not consider herself authorized to admit women to priestly ordination." That declaration, published with the approval of Pope Paul VI, was a relatively modest "does not consider herself authorized."

Pope John Paul II upped the ante considerably in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (May 22, 1994): "We declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful." John Paul had wanted to describe the ban as "irreformable," a much stronger stance than "definitively held." This met substantial resistance from high-ranking bishops who gathered at a special Vatican meeting in March 1995 to discuss the document, NCR reported at the time. Even then, bishops attuned to the pastoral needs of the church had won a concession to the possibility of changing the teaching.

But that tiny victory was fleeting.

In October 1995, the doctrinal congregation acted further, releasing a responsum ad propositum dubium concerning the nature of the teaching in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis: "This teaching requires definitive assent, since, founded on the written Word of God, and from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium." The ban on women's ordination belongs "to the deposit of the faith," the responsum said.

The aim of the responsum was to stop all discussion.

In a cover letter to the responsum, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then head of the congregation, asked presidents of bishops' conferences to "do everything possible to ensure its distribution and favorable reception, taking particular care that, above all on the part of theologians, pastors of souls and religious, ambiguous and contrary positions will not again be proposed."

Despite the certainty with which Ordinatio Sacerdotalis and the responsum were issued they did not answer all the questions on the issue.

Many have pointed out that to say that the teaching is "founded on the written Word of God" completely ignored the 1976 findings of the Pontifical Biblical Commission.

Others have noted that the doctrinal congregation did not make a claim of papal infallibility -- it said what the pope taught in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis was that which "has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal magisterium." This too, however, has been called into question because at the time there were many bishops around the world who had serious reservations about the teaching, though few voiced them in public.

Writing in The Tablet in December 1995, Jesuit Fr. Francis A. Sullivan, a theological authority on the magisterium, cited Canon 749, that no doctrine is understood to have been defined infallibly unless this fact is clearly established. "The question that remains in my mind is whether it is a clearly established fact that the bishops of the Catholic Church are as convinced by [the teaching] as Pope John Paul evidently is," Sullivan wrote.

The responsum caught nearly all bishops off-guard. Though dated October, it was not made public until Nov. 18. Archbishop William Keeler of Baltimore, then the outgoing president of the U.S. bishops' conference, received the document with no warning three hours after the bishops had adjourned their annual fall meeting. One bishop told NCR that he learned about the document from reading The New York Times. He said many bishops were deeply troubled by the statement. He, like other bishops, spoke anonymously.

The Vatican had already begun to stack the deck against questioning. As Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese reported in his 1989 book, Archbishop: Inside the Power Structure of the American Catholic Church, under John Paul a potential episcopal candidate's view on the teaching against women's ordination had become a litmus test for whether a priest could be promoted to bishop.

Less than a year after Ordinatio Sacerdotalis was issued, Mercy Sr. Carmel McEnroy was removed from her tenured position teaching theology at St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana for her public dissent from church teaching; she had signed an open letter to the pope calling for women's ordination. McEnroy very likely was the first victim of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, but there have been many more, most recently Roy Bourgeois.

Blessed John Henry Newman said that there are three magisteria in the church: the bishops, the theologians and the people. On the issue of women's ordination, two of the three voices have been silenced, which is why the third voice must now make itself heard. We must speak up in every forum available to us: in parish council meetings, faith-sharing groups, diocesan convocations and academic seminars. We should write letters to our bishops, to the editors of our local papers and television news channels.

Our message is that we believe the sensus fidelium is that the exclusion of women from the priesthood has no strong basis in Scripture or any other compelling rationale; therefore, women should be ordained. We have heard the faithful assent to this in countless conversations in parish halls, lecture halls and family gatherings. It has been studied and prayed over individually and in groups. The brave witness of the Women's Ordination Conference, as one example, gives us assurance that the faithful have come to this conclusion after prayerful consideration and study -- yes, even study of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.

NCR joins its voice with Roy Bourgeois and calls for the Catholic church to correct this unjust teaching.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Father Roy's father died last night

'Father Roy Bourgeois' father died very peacefully last night, in his sleep. Roy is on his way to Louisiana and suspects that he will be there with his family most of the week.

He appreciates all the solidarity and support that you have given him over the past 10 days. He is
 very grateful and it means a lot to him.

 If you would like to send your condolences, you can send him a letter or a
 card to

 Father Roy Bourgeois
 SOA Watch
 PO Box 3330
 Columbus GA 31903