Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops has sent a letter supporting Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz’s decision to excommunicate members of the dissonant group Call to Action in the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska. Cardinal Re affirmed that, in the judgment of the Holy See, belonging to or supporting Call to Action is “irreconcilable with a coherent living of the Catholic Faith,” due to some of their anti-Catholic activities and stances.
CTA was begun in 1976 based on an initiative of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. However, according to the Diocese of Lincoln, by 1990 CTA leadership was growing impatient with their own lack of influence on Catholicism in the United States and decided to take more drastic action.
To motivate change, CTA founders Dan and Sheila Daley, both former religious, drafted a document titled “Call for Reform in the Catholic Church.”
In the statement, printed as a full-page ad in the New York Times on Ash Wednesday in March 1990, they chastised the Church for “ignoring” social issues like a threatened environment, growing poverty, increased drug abuse, and international conflicts. By contrast, the solutions they offered included ordination of women, an end to the discipline of priestly celibacy, popular election of bishops instead of papal appointments, new forms of liturgy, and the use of artificial contraception.
The group has also closely linked themselves to abortion providers and strong abortion supporters and more recently have begun supporting homosexual agendas and protesting the Church’s ban on openly homosexual clergy.
Cardinal Re’s letter, which was part of press release from the Diocese of Lincoln to be held under embargo by the press until this morning, came in response to a request by Call to Action Nebraska’s John McShane, for an “authoritative judgment of the Holy See,” regarding Bishop Bruskewitz’s statement of Extrasynodal Legislation, published in the Southern Nebraska Register.
Bruskewitz’s statement cited Call to Action (CTA) and ten other organizations, including the Freemasons, Catholics for a Free Choice, Planned Parenthood, the Hemlock Society, and the Society of St. Pius X, declaring that membership in the organizations, “is always perilous to the Catholic faith and most often is totally incompatible with the Catholic faith.” The bishop’s 1996 letter invited Catholics who supported the groups to remove themselves from their rosters and to seek the Sacrament of Reconciliation so that they could return to full communion with the Catholic Church. Those who refused to do so within a month were automatically excommunicated.
Local CTA members objected strongly to the bishop’s instruction and appealed his decision, but according to the diocese, Bishop Bruskewitz remained steadfast in his desire to lead the people under his pastoral care away from organizations perilous to the faith.
“Parents have to tell children that they can’t test everything in the medicine cabinet or drink everything under the sink,” the bishop explained. “The Church is our mother and gives us these instructions as protection against dangers we might not perceive…It is liberating, not enslaving.”
Call to Action, however, appealed to Rome to overturn Bruskewitz’s decision.
Cardinal Re’s recent letter responds to their appeal, which was forwarded by the Bishop of Lincoln himself. The cardinal says that Bruskewitz’s “ruling in the case of ‘Call to Action Nebraska’” was “properly taken” within his competence as Pastor to the diocese.
“The judgment of the Holy See is that the activities of ‘Call to Action’ in the course of these years are in contrast with the Catholic Faith due to views and positions held which are unacceptable from a doctrinal and disciplinary standpoint,” Re’s letter continued.
“Thus, to be a member of this Association or to support it, is irreconcilable with a coherent living of the Catholic Faith,” he said, adding, “I am confident that Mr. McShane and all the members of ‘Call to Action’ will understand that their line of action is causing damage to the Church of Christ.”
Jim McShane, responded to the cardinal’s letter this morning, telling the AP that the Church’s ruling is “very unfortunate.”
"I'm deeply distressed by it,” McShane said. “There's every evidence that Rome is acting on misinformation."
Bishop Bruskewitz said he is not surprised by the ruling of the Holy See and continues to hope that former Catholics will renounce their membership in CTA or the other organizations and return to the Church.
“My prayer will always be that when people understand they have taken a wrong turn, they will stop and take the right turn,” he said in this morning’s press release.
However, Call to Action leaders have told the Lincoln Journal Star that group has already discounted the cardinal's letter, saying it won't have much effect on members of the group in Lincoln or elsewhere.
According to an AP story, Nicole Sotelo, acting co-director of the group's national office in Chicago, said Call to Action is planning an appeal to the Apostolic Signatura, which serves as the highest “court of appeals” in this case.
Whether or not the organization attempts to appeal the cardinal’s ruling, the press release from the Diocese of Lincoln continues to offer individuals a way back to full communion. To overcome the excommunication, the release notes, is still not difficult, “Catholics who wish to return to full communion with the Church need only repudiate their membership in these groups by sending a letter to the organization and having their names removed from any rosters or mailing lists. Then, they can seek out the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where their priests can guide them in confession and penance.”
“They may be asked to make a profession of faith,” added Bishop Bruskewitz, because membership in these organizations often requires them to reject Catholicism and take dissenting oaths.
“The Lord loves everyone and died for everyone, and He wants all to be saved,” he said. “The best lesson that can be learned from everything that has happened is that one finds happiness, joy and satisfaction in obedience to the Church.”