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June 2012 Archives

June 1, 2012

The prophetic voice of our Catholic sisters

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) has rejected the findings of a Vatican report last month that criticized the mission and spiritual fidelity of the organization that represents 80% of US Catholic sisters. The LCWR took issue on Friday with the secretive process by which the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith assembled its facts, the broad and "unsubstantiated accusations" contained in the report, and the divisive language that has outraged many Catholics around the world.


There's no doubt that the efforts to silence women religious at the beginning of a presidential election campaign by putting them under the control of a trio of bishops has been hurtful to the Church. The LCWR rightly called out the bishops for their lack of transparency and for taking a paternalistic approach that devalues the role that women religious play in carrying the torch for Catholic Social Justice in this time of economic injustice and duress across the country. Perhaps most preposterous was the idea that the nuns ought to be echoing the political priorities of the most Republican-leaning of the bishops, and to deemphasize their traditional focus on the needs of the most vulnerable in society.

The Vatican report April 18 ordered the largest leadership organization for U.S. women religious to reform its statutes, programs and affiliations to conform more closely to "the teachings and discipline of the Church." It placed the LCWR under the authority of Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain and two other bishops for up to five years, and gave them the power to review and revise the LCWR's policies.

The fact that the Vatican's report was made public in a press statement by the US bishops seemed to indicate that the Vatican was responding to anger on the part of the USCCB's conservative leadership that the nuns had muddied the waters of public perception about who speaks for Catholics--particularly during the public split over President Obama's healthcare reform law. As the bishops launched their questionable national anti-Obama campaign, termed, "Fortnight 4 Freedom," they seemed determined to prevent a replay of the 2010 public spat with the nuns.

Among the themes of the Vatican report that have drawn particular attention in public commentary was its stipulation that there was "a prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith" present in some of LCWR's programs and presentations. The report cited in particular one talk given by a Dominican sister, about how women view their vocations, at the 2007 LCWR national meeting. Another was the report's criticism that Catholic sisters had "serious doctrinal problems," and in particular that they are too focused on social justice and not enough on echoing the bishops' views on homosexuality and abortion.

It's fun to imagine the US Bishops' Conference being held accountable for some of the crazier partisan utterances of people like Cardinal Raymond Burke or Bishop Daniel Jenky, and placed under the supervision of a few wise nuns. Then we really might see a return to the core Catholic values of concern for the poor and non-violent resolution of world conflict.

June 24, 2012

Bishops 4 Romney

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops launched a national campaign this week against President Obama, pushing the Church into politics to an extent the bishops have never done before. At their November 2011 meeting, they voted unanimously to initiate a "religious liberty" campaign, because they wanted to more forcefully oppose civil marriage between same-gender couples and to draw attention to the loss of a lucrative government contract resettling victims of international violence.

But in January this year the fight took on a new purpose, when the Department of Health and Human Services determined that women should be guaranteed equal access to contraceptive care regardless of their employer. Concerned that there wasn't sufficient public sympathy for their argument that Catholic institutions should get special treatment on these several fronts, the bishops have now sought to link their cause with a real crisis of religious liberty: the progressive destruction of Christianity in Iraq since the US invasion there in 2003.
Shlemon Warduni, Bishop of Baghdad

At their meeting last week in Atlanta, the bishops listened as Chaldean Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad told a heart-rending story about the dwindling Catholic population of Iraq, describing the efforts of Muslim extremists who have targeted Christian churches and clergy. Indeed the population of one million Christians living in Iraq under Saddam Hussein has now fallen by more than two-thirds, with refugees streaming to Jordan and other surrounding countries.

Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, a principal architect of the bishops' "Fortnight 4 Freedom" campaign, sought to link his efforts with the violence overseas in an op-ed piece this week in the Washington Post: "Concern for religious freedom both here and abroad has been growing for years, and now there are calls for immediate action. Stories of people literally dying for the faith in Iraq and Nigeria can be found in daily newspapers. There, churches are bombed and the blood of martyrs runs freely."

The problem with this exercise in hyperbole is that it implies that electing Mitt Romney would somehow help restore Christianity in Iraq. But the bishop from Baghdad made it clear in his remarks that President Bush's invasion of Iraq was the precipitating factor for the bloodshed and massive displacement of the Christians there. By attempting to use every Catholic pulpit in America to condemn President Obama, the bishops are essentially throwing their support to the Republican nominee--one who supported the invasion of Iraq and has complained about the Obama Administration's caution with regard to Iran, with repeated vague spurts of bravado about potentially using the US Military against Iran. In other words, getting in line with the bishops' efforts to elect Governor Romney is a decisive move toward the kind of foreign policy that caused the destruction of Christianity in Iraq in the first place.

No one can deny that the Bush invasion of Iraq precipitated the vast assault on religious liberty that has occurred there, or that the Republican approach to situations like those in Iraq and Iran is more contingent on a willingness to use force to achieve its aims.

Bishop Warduni told the US bishops, "As leaders of the church in the United States, you bear a special responsibility toward the people and Christians of Iraq. In 2003 your government led the war that brought some terrible consequences. The U.S. government can and must do all it can to encourage tolerance and respect in Iraq, to help Iraq strengthen the rule of law and to provide assistance that helps create jobs for Iraqis, especially those on the margins." If the bishops succeed in helping elect Governor Romney, it would be sad to see what the law of unintended consequences has in store for the plight of Christians across the Middle East.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

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"Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America: They will be met.

"On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

"On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics."

First Inaugural Address, President Barack Obama

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