Washington D.C., Jun 12, 2012 (CNA) - An expert on women religious in the U.S. said that a bus tour announced by religious sisters who belonging to a “progressive” social justice organization demonstrates the Vatican’s concerns about certain groups of women religious in the country.
Ann Carey, author of the 1997 book “Sisters in Crisis: The Tragic Unraveling of Women’s Religious Communities,” said that the move is likely a “public relations ploy” aimed at “highlighting the fact that they disagree with the bishops” about religious freedom concerns in health care.
Network, a Catholic social justice lobby that describes itself as “a progressive voice within the Catholic community,” has announced a bus tour across several politically significant states to protest suggested budget cuts to programs for the poor.
The dates of the tour – June 18 to July 2 – will overlap with the Fortnight for Freedom that the bishops have announced as a time of prayer, education and advocacy in the face of the Obama administration’s contraception mandate.
Carey told CNA June 8 that the sisters, who are “very politically savvy,” are trying to show that they are doing good works in order to “deflect the actual problems that the Vatican has pointed out.”
The organization does perform good work, as do many members of the laity, she acknowledged. But there is a deeper problem with the group’s understanding of the nature of religious life and its adherence to Church teaching.
Carey does believes it is appropriate for the sisters to voice concerns over budget cuts, about which some bishops have also voiced hesitations, but they need to go further in their advocacy.
The bishops, she said, are concerned that the sisters are taking one “very small part” of Catholic teaching and promoting it as the entirety of Catholic social justice.
“They’ve carved out a very, very small part of the Gospel message to proclaim,” Carey remarked.
“The Gospel is not just about helping poor people,” but also includes admonitions to avoid sin and a focus on our redemption through the sacrifice of Christ, she explained.
While it is true that different orders have different areas of emphasis, it is incorrect to claim to represent Catholic social teaching while largely ignoring some of the most foundational and important elements of this teaching, such as a respect for life and sexuality, she said.
Network was recently mentioned in the Vatican’s criticism of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), a group of women religious leaders in the U.S. that has been called on to realign itself with Church teaching.
Although not formally affiliated, the close connection between the LCWR and Network was highlighted in a 2006 speech by Catherine Pinkerton, CSJ.
Upon receiving the LCWR Outstanding Leadership Award, Pinkerton explained that the callings of the two groups “are so very intertwined as to be inseparable.”
“I have never doubted that for me Network was a natural progression from LCWR,” she said. “In truth, we two entities are inextricably linked.”
She added that the LCWR has always been part of Network’s board, “helping to set its direction.”
Carey said that the Network bus tour is “illustrative” of what has been happening with the women’s leadership conference for several decades.
On April 18, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith revealed the findings a four-year doctrinal assessment of the conference, which discovered “serious doctrinal problems” and a need for reform.
It cited letters from LCWR officers as well as presentations sponsored by the conference which exhibited “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith” and dissent from Church teaching on topics including the sacramental male priesthood and homosexuality.
The assessment also found that while the group adamantly promotes social justice issues, it largely ignores matters of life, marriage and sexuality, which have played a large role in recent public debates.
Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle has been mandated to work with LCWR leadership to guide renewal efforts.
The archbishop will help the conference revise its statues and review its formation materials, speakers, presentations and affiliation with other organizations, as well as the application of liturgical norms and texts in its gatherings.
LCWR leaders said that they were “stunned” by the assessment and accused the Vatican of making “unsubstantiated accusations.”
They also argued that “the sanctions imposed were disproportionate to the concerns raised” and could compromise the sisters’ “ability to fulfill their mission.”
However, Carey noted that the LCWR’s mission was redefined when the group re-wrote its statutes four decades ago. She asserted the group has no reason to be stunned because it has been disagreeing with the Vatican over doctrine and religious life for 40 years.
“They’ve been alluding to it for years in their own materials,” she said. “They’re just trying to play the victim.”
Washington D.C., Jun 12, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore stressed the importance of laity involvement in efforts to defend religious freedom from the ongoing threats in the U.S.
“It’s important, of course, for bishops to be teachers and leaders.” But “it is crucial for lay men and women, mothers and fathers of families, lay leaders in all walks of life to advocate for freedom and justice in our society,” Archbishop Lori told CNA on June 9.
“Without those voices and without the involvement of the laity, we just won’t get very far,” he added.
“In the Church’s understanding,” he explained, “it is the laity who are the ones that bring about the just and tranquil society. It is the laity who are the forefront of creating what Pope Paul VI called the ‘civilization of love.’”
Archbishop Lori, who leads the U.S. bishops’ religious freedom committee, encouraged the laity to get involved in the June 21 to July 4 “Fortnight for Freedom” event through education, prayer and advocacy.
The U.S. bishops have called for the fortnight in response to growing threats to religious liberty, most notably a federal mandate that will require employers to offer health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their consciences.
The mandate includes a very narrow exemption, but it excludes the majority of religious institutions, such as Catholic hospitals, schools and charitable agencies.
Religious leaders and individuals around the country have spoken out against the mandate and the threat it poses to religious liberty. They have urged the Obama administration to broaden the exemption so that religious organizations are not forced to choose between violating their beliefs and shutting their doors.
Despite widespread objection, the Obama administration finalized the mandate without change, while offering promises of a future “accommodation” for other organizations – a move that has already been criticized as inadequate.
The mandate is currently being challenged by lawsuits filed by more than 50 plaintiffs, including colleges, U.S. states, dioceses, nonprofit organizations and private business owners.
In addition, Archbishop Lori said, the laity can become involved in other key ways, including educational efforts regarding religious freedom.
He noted that one of the main objectives of the Fortnight for Freedom is “to make sure that all of us, but especially our young, understand and accept what the Church teaches on religious liberty, and that we understand and accept gratefully our heritage as Americans.”
This type of education is critical, and it is best done “in the home,” he said, explaining that families must work to educate the young on the importance of religious freedom.
Prayer is also a significant way in which the laity can participate in the fortnight, the archbishop observed.
“While we will have a lot of coverage of the large Masses, we’re also encouraging family prayer and private prayer by distributing prayer cards,” he explained.
The bishops are urging Catholics to pray the Rosary and calling for “moments when both families and individuals would simply pray for the restoration and protection of our religious freedoms,” he noted.
He added that study guides for families and children have been developed and are available online, as well as through the Catholic school system.
Archbishop Lori also encouraged “advocacy” with public officials.
“It’s very important that elected politicians hear, not so much from the bishops, but rather from Catholics and from all people of good will who are participating in this fortnight with us,” he said.
A legislative attempt to ensure a thorough religious exemption from the mandate was narrowly defeated in the Senate on March 1. Other legislation to defend religious freedom in the face of the mandate has been introduced but is not expected to come to a vote in the near future.
Philadelphia, Pa., Jun 12, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia has named Auxiliary Bishop Timothy Senior as rector of Philadelphia’s historic St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, saying the bishop will serve in the “demanding but also rewarding” role of priestly formation.
“We need men who are equipped with the maturity, humility, zeal and pastoral skill to bring their people to Jesus Christ in today's challenging new environment,” the archbishop said in his June 11 column for the Catholic Standard & Times.
Archbishop Chaput stated that “nothing is more fundamental” to Church renewal than “forming good and holy priests.”
Bishop Senior has served as the archdiocese’s Moderator of the Curia during what the archbishop called “one of the most painful times” the archdiocese has ever experienced.
Archbishop Chaput’s predecessor Cardinal Justin Rigali put a total of 26 priests on leave in response to a March 2011 grand jury report that found credible allegations of sexual abuse or inappropriate behavior against them.
Msgr. William Lynn, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s former Secretary for the Clergy, is now on trial for child endangerment for allegedly failing to keep suspected child abusers out of parish positions with regular access to children.
Financial difficulties have also forced the archdiocese to close dozens of Catholic schools.
The archbishop said Bishop Senior has done “an outstanding job under pressure.”
“I now need him in other work, equally demanding but also rewarding in a powerful way,” he added.
The move is unusual for the Catholic Church in the U.S., since auxiliary bishops rarely head seminaries.
Archbishop Chaput said the present seminary rector, Fr. Shaun Mahoney, told him that he has accomplished all he can in that position. The archbishop said he has been “very pleased” with Fr. Mahoney’s service and regrets losing him because of the “vital importance” of his work.
Monsignor Daniel Kutys, the pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul in West Chester, Pa., will replace Bishop Senior as Moderator of the Curia.
The archbishop said that the Catholic Church in Philadelphia is “a river of life” underneath “the hard shell of sins and burdens of the past decade.”
“I've seen it in our parishes, our people and our priests,” he said. “Well get back to that clean water by the grace of God and our hard work in his service.”
Vatican City, Jun 12, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has described talks with the Leadership Conference of Women Religious as open and cordial.
“The meeting provided the opportunity for the Congregation and the LCWR officers to discuss the issues and concerns raised by the doctrinal assessment in an atmosphere of openness and cordiality,” said a statement issued by the Vatican press office June 12.
In April 2012 the Vatican called for a reform of the body after a four-year audit or “doctrinal assessment,” which concluded there was a “crisis” of belief throughout its ranks.
On June 12, Franciscan Sister Pat Farrell and St. Joseph Sister Janet Mock, who are respectively the president and executive director of the conference, went to the offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome and met with officials there for approximately 90 minutes.
They discussed matters with Cardinal William J. Levada, the congregation’s prefect, and Archbishop Peter J. Sartain of Seattle. He has been charged by the Vatican with leading the renewal of the LCWR.
“We are grateful for the opportunity for open dialogue and now we will return to our members to see about next steps, and that is all we have to say,” Sr. Farrell told CNA upon leaving the meeting. They said they will now take the matter to their annual assembly in St. Louis this coming August.
Earlier this month the group. Whose leaders represent approximately 80 percent of women religious in the U.S., described the Vatican’s doctrinal assessment as “based on unsubstantiated accusations” and “a flawed process that lacked transparency.”
In their statement today the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reminded journalists that the religious conference “is constituted by and remains under the supreme direction of the Holy See” according to canon law.
They also explained that the purpose of the doctrinal assessment had been to “assist the LCWR in this important mission by promoting a vision of ecclesial communion founded on faith in Jesus Christ” and also on “the teachings of the Church as faithfully taught through the ages under the guidance of the Magisterium.”
The assessment had found serious theological and doctrinal errors in presentations at the LCWR’s annual assemblies in recent years, with many showing “scant regard for the role of the Magisterium.”
Concern has also been expressed at the conference’s choice of new-age author Barbara Marx Hubbard as the keynote speaker for the annual assembly this August. A non-Catholic, Hubbard advocates a worldview entitled “conscious evolution.”
Her talk to the assembly is billed as helping religious communities become “open to the new levels of consciousness, even as that revelation exceeds the boundaries of present day understanding of one’s faith.”
Miami, Fla., Jun 12, 2012 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Miami announced that Auxiliary Bishop Agustin Roman, who passed away April 11, left behind a donation of $60,000 for the Cuban Diocese of Matanzas.
“He always maintained a great love for Cuba and especially the Province of Matanzas,” Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami said in a June 11 statement.
The late auxiliary bishop was expelled from Cuba in 1961 along with 132 other priests. After ministering in Chile for a number of years, Bishop Roman arrived in Miami in 1966, where he founded what later became the national shrine for Cuba’s patroness, Our Lady of Charity.
For seven years he oversaw its construction, encouraging exiled Cubans to donate to the project. The shrine drew the affection of thousands of Latin Americans who live in south Florida.
Bishop Roman remained active at the shrine, even after retiring from serving as its rector in 2003.
He also served on the U.S. bishops’ conference committees for Hispanic Affairs and Migration and Tourism.
Although Bishop Roman was never able to return to his homeland, his posthumous gift to the diocese where he was baptized and ordained a priest, shows how he “continues to support the Church in Cuba,” Archbishop Wenski said.
ABC News named him their “Person of the Week” when he helped end a 1986 Cuban detainee prison riot in Atlanta, Ga. and Oakdale, La. without any bloodshed. When the press began calling him a hero, Bishop Roman simply corrected them saying, “A bishop, a priest, is a servant, not a hero.”
Vatican City, Jun 12, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - An agreement securing the rights of the Catholic Church in Israel is one step closer to being finalized after a meeting between both sides at the Vatican.
“The negotiations took place in a thoughtful and constructive atmosphere,” said the June 12 communique from the Bilateral Permanent Working Commission between the Holy See and the State of Israel.
“The Commission took notice that significant progress was made towards the conclusion of the Agreement.”
Diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel have existed since 1993. Since then, however, there have been unresolved issues regarding the legal status of the Church in Israel. An agreement between both states has been discussed since 1999 but never signed.
“It is true that in some circles there was talk of signing the Agreement, but that was not in fact scheduled,” said Monsignor Ettore Balestrero, the Holy See’s Under-Secretary for Relations with States.
“As I have said before, progress has been made, but questions still remain to be resolved,” he told Vatican Radio on June 12.
Msgr. Ballestrero led the Holy See’s negotiating team, while the Israeli delegation was headed-up by Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Danny Ayalon.
Issues at stake include the ownership of some Church buildings that have been confiscated by the State of Israel since its creation in 1948, as well as the tax status of various church properties.
The two delegations will now meet again in December 2012 in Israel.
Msgr. Balestrero said whatever agreement is reached it would not make any reference to the status of East Jerusalem or the West Bank, which Israel gained from Jordan during the Six-Day War of 1967.
“The Agreement in question concerns the life, activity and tax status of the Catholic Church in Israel. It does not enter into territorial disputes. There will be no mention of East Jerusalem or of anywhere in the West Bank,” Msgr. Balestrero stated.
He also confirmed that any agreement regarding the taxation of Church properties would not apply to either of these areas but only to undisputed Israeli territory.