Thursday, June 28, 2012

Quote of the Day

. . . In reaching its decision, the Supreme Court did nothing more than recognize what we all know: Of course, the government is involved in health care, that Congress has the right to regulate it, and of course the broken system needs to be fixed.

There is no doubt how the U.S. Catholic bishops should respond. Although they opposed the law initially, believing its anti-abortion provisions were insufficient, they have never once called for the law's repeal.

Court rulings since the Affordable Care Act was passed have said the law, on its face, does not provide for taxpayer-funded abortions. Yes, the U.S. bishops' conference should continue to press for a resolution on the federal mandate requiring coverage of contraceptives in health care plans that too narrowly outlines the definition of a religious employer.

But that issue cannot blind the bishops, or any Catholics, to the blessings the act will bring. The U.S. bishops have supported universal health care for decades. They should not – they cannot – back away now.

The U.S. bishops' own teaching document "Faithful Citizenship" rightfully points out: "A lack of health care [is] a serious moral issue that challenges our consciences and require[s] us to act."

. . . However complicated the intricate policy aspects of the Affordable Care Act, however confusing the actuarial tables, however conflicting the legal principles at stake, the moral issue is as clear as day: Every industrialized country in the world has found a better fix to the issue of health care than has the U.S.

Only the U.S. is so beholden to powerful, entrenched corporate interests that we have failed to achieve universal access to health care. It is time for the nation to find the political will to defend the principles that defined the Affordable Care Act.

Affordable care for all. Access for all. Lower costs for all. That is the recipe for a decent society and any continued obstruction is properly called indecent.

– The Editorial Board
"Upheld Health Care Law a Blessing for the U.S."
National Catholic Reporter
June 28, 2012

See also the previous PCV posts:
"A Great Day for the American People"
Three Moral Issues of Health Care
A Health Insurance Executive Recalls a Life Changing Experience
Universal Health Care: So That We Might Live
Recommendations for Health Care Reform by the Minnesota Universal Health Care Coalition

"A Great Day for the American People"

A statement by Steve Krueger, National Director of
Catholic Democratson the Supreme Court Decision on the
Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

Today is a great day for the American people, particularly working class families and people living in poverty. It is a day when we have seen the conscience of our nation and the cause of social justice triumph over ideology, the timid, and the peddlers of fear.

Catholics Democrats applauds and thanks, first and foremost, President Barack Obama and all those who put our nation on a path to universal health care. They include Leader Nancy Pelosi and the Democratically-led 111th Congress, who had the vision and courage to use their political capital to pass the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) at a time when political divisions were reaching historic proportion.

We also applaud and thank the Justices of the Supreme Court who supported the constitutionality of the ACA and particularly Chief Justice John Roberts, a Catholic, for his vision, courage, and his break from his conservative colleagues on the high court. His support was the deciding swing vote that upheld the law. Although disagreeing with the so-called and misnamed "mandate" of the ACA, Chief Justice Roberts was able to recognize the constitutionality of the legislation on other grounds, thus enabling the extension of health care coverage to more 32 million Americans who otherwise would not have it.

As Catholics, we know that nothing animates the Catholic imagination more than helping the poor. We can only speculate about the role that Chief Justices Roberts' faith may have played in his decision. But surely it can be argued that his decision represents a Catholic sensibility.

While the media and others will primarily focus on the important political aspects of this decision, Catholic Democrats is mindful of the work before us in ensuring that all Americans have access to health care as a fundamental human right, a longstanding belief of the Catholic Social Justice Tradition. The high court struck down the requirement that states must comply with expanded Medicaid provisions. The discretion that states now have to limit the expansion of their Medicaid programs will put the health care coverage for millions of Americans at risk. Only time will tell what the impact of this will be on uninsured people. However, we expect that it will be important for social justice advocacy groups to fight for health insurance reform in those states that choose not to expand Medicaid coverage.

In addition to those living in states where Medicaid coverage may not be expanded, it is incumbent on our nation's leaders - and indeed all Americans - to be mindful that even as written, the ACA still would not have covered 26 million Americans according to Congressional Budget Office estimates. As one might expect, the burden of being uninsured today is borne predominantly by our African American and Latino sisters and brothers. The uninsured rates for African Americans and Latinos are 21% and 31% respectively, while the White Non-Hispanic uninsured rate is 12%.

Today is a great day for America but there is still much work to be done. As we look to the future, let us be mindful of the past and all those who helped forge this victory over the past century. In particular, we wish to remember Senator Edward M. Kennedy and his tireless efforts as a voice for the voiceless in advocating for health care coverage for all. His words from more than 30 years ago are as apt today as they were then: "For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die."

According to its website, Catholic Democrats "represents a Catholic voice within the Democratic Party, and advances a public understanding of the rich tradition of Catholic Social Teaching and its potential to help solve the broad range of problems confronting all Americans."

See also the previous PCV posts:
Three Moral Issues of Health Care
A Health Insurance Executive Recalls a Life Changing Experience
Universal Health Care: So That We Might Live
Recommendations for Health Care Reform by the Minnesota Universal Health Care Coalition

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Fortnight of Freedom

Catholic Heroes of Religious Liberty

By Joseph F. O'Callaghan

The American Catholic bishops, charging that religious liberty is under attack, have proposed that the two-week period from June 21 to July 4 be dedicated to a Fortnight of Freedom, emphasizing prayer, education and public action.

Their summons seems hypocritical, however, when it is evident that they ignore the sensus fidei or sense of the faith professed by the People of God (Lumen Gentium 35) and trample on the rights of conscience of those who disagree with them. When they speak of religious liberty one may well ask: Religious liberty for whom? The bishops? Or all the Catholic people?

In observance of the Fortnight of Freedom Catholics may wish to dedicate each day to those Catholic theologians and leaders who have been bullied, threatened, silenced, or wrongfully excommunicated by the pope, the Congregation for the Defense of the Faith (CDF), and the bishops. The following are worthy of being so honored:

1. Yves Congar, O.P., leading theologian at Vatican II. Forbidden to teach or publish in 1956 by the Holy Office (the successor of the Inquisition) for his writings on ecumenism. He explained: “What put me wrong [in their eyes] is not having said false things, but having said things they do not like to have said.”

2. John Courtney Murray, S.J., principal author of Vatican II’s Declaration on Religious Liberty. Silenced by the Holy Office and forbidden to publish because of his writings.

3. Hans Kung, theological expert at Vatican II. Deprived of official status as a Catholic theologian at the University of Tubingen by Pope John Paul II, because of his book Infallible? An Inquiry

4. Edward Schillebeeckx, O.P., another major voice at Vatican II. His books on ministry drew hostile attention from the Vatican and mistrust and suspicion from the Dutch bishops.

5. Leonardo Boff, O.F.M., proponent of liberation theology. Silenced in 1985 by the CDF because of his criticism of church leadership. Charged Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, with “religious terrorism.”

6. Charles Curran, moral theologian. Ousted from Catholic University in 1967 because of his teaching on contraception. Reinstated after a strike by faculty and students. Coordinated a dissent by 600 theologians from Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae. Under pressure from John Paul II, ousted again in 1986.

7. Joan Chittister, O.S.B., spiritual writer. In 2001 the Vatican Congregation on Consecrated Life forbade her to address a conference on the Ordination of Women in Dublin. Backed by her community, she ignored that admonition.

8. Roger Haight, S.J., author of Jesus, Symbol of God. Prohibited by the CDF in 2009 from writing and teaching.

9. Elizabeth Johnson, C.S.J. The Committee on Doctrine of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2011, without consulting her, charged that her Quest for the Living God "differs from authentic Catholic teaching on essential points." She rejected that as a misinterpretation and misrepresentation of her views.

10. Louise Lears, S.C., removed from ministry in 2008 by Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis, and Louise Akers, S.C., removed from teaching in 2009 by Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk of Cincinnati, for supporting women’s ordination. Sister Akers stated that to deny women’s right to ordination would violate her conscience.

11. Margaret McBride, R.S.M., excommunicated in 2009 by Bishop Thomas Olmstead of Phoenix, because she voted, as a member of the Ethics Committee at St. Joseph’s Hospital, to save the life of a mother rather than that of a fetus.

12. Geoffrey Robinson, retired auxiliary bishop of Sydney. The Vatican Congregation for Bishops, prompted by American bishops, asked him to cancel his American tour in 2008 because he called for a review of Church teaching on sexuality.

13. Margaret Farley, R.S.M., author of the book Just Love, which the CDF declared is not a valid expression of Catholic teaching. She explained that it was not intended to do so, but rather to help people think through questions of human sexuality.

14. The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, accused by the CDF of expressing “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith” and daring to “challenge positions taken by the Bishops, who are the Church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals.”

Nearly four hundred years ago, the astronomer, Galileo, was condemned by the Inquisition because he asserted that the earth moves around the sun. In 2000 John Paul II issued an apology. Let us hope that four hundred years will not elapse before the Church acknowledges these modern heroes of religious liberty, who dared to say “things [the bishops] do not like to have said.”

Joseph F. O’Callaghan is Professor Emeritus of Medieval History at Fordham University, former Chair and current Board Member of Voice of the Faithful in the Diocese of Bridgeport, CT, and author of Electing Our Bishops: How the Catholic Church Should Choose Its Leaders (2007).

Monday, June 25, 2012

Supporting Catholic Spirit Workers

For nearly 50 years, workers at The Catholic Spirit newspaper have been represented by a union. Now, Archbishop John Nienstedt of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has decided these workers are no longer worthy of union representation. When the current union contract expires June 30, the work and some of the workers of The Catholic Spirit will move to a non-unionized work place within a new communications department of the archdiocese.

The announced action by the archdiocese conflicts with Catholic teachings about the value of labor and and collective bargaining to bring social justice to workers. Though federal law is not definitive regarding the rights of union representation at religious institutions, Archbishop Nienstedt has refused to voluntarily recognize the Minnesota Newspaper Guild Typographical Union, CWA Local 37002, as the bargaining agent for work the union has represented since 1965.

Please contact Archbishop Nienstedt to protest this action and to tell him to recognize the union.

Telephone: 651-291-4511
Mail: Archbishop John Nienstedt
Archdiocese of St. Paul & Minneapolis
226 Summit Ave.
St. Paul, MN55102

Recommended Off-site Link:
Video: Catholic Spirit Workers, Supporters Protest Outside CathedralUnion Advocate (June 24, 2012).

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Quote of the Day

. . . Ultimately, truth in Christianity is not a doctrine, not a dogma, not a creed, not a papal bull, not what's said in a sermon, not even the words in the Bible. Rather, truth in Christianity is a person, Christ Jesus.

Jesus said so himself: "I am the way, the truth and the light."

This is a complex, difficult concept that, in the end, cannot be exhaustively explained.

But it does require us to acknowledge that all words are metaphors, pointing to meaning beyond themselves. If we give ultimate allegiance to the words as they are used in official doctrines and creeds, we box ourselves in. The effect is to miss God's glorious freedom.

Please don't think I'm devaluing doctrine, dismissing centuries of attempts at expressing in words what "John" called our "central truths." I have made my living relying on the power and expressiveness of words. I value words deeply.

But I value the Word even more, which is to say the living, resurrected Christ, whose spirit cannot be contained in our words. . . .

– Bill Tammeus
"We Must Remember Christianity is Jesus, Not a Doctrine"
National Catholic Reporter
June 13, 2012

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Redefining Radical: Catholic Nuns Vs. the Vatican

By Mark Engler

Note: This article was first published June 14, 2012, by Yes! magazine.

Chastised for sticking up for social justice,
a group of nuns is pushing back against the Vatican.

They run hospitals, schools, and social programs. They are stalwart leaders in many spiritual communities. And they are contributing vital insights to the Christian theological discussion. If nuns went on strike, many of the institutions of the Catholic Church would grind to a standstill.

Sure, a work stoppage of this sort is a long shot. But I’d love to see it. Having witnessed both priests and nuns in action, there’s no doubt in my mind which group dominates in the getting-shit-done department. It would be a fine show watching the bishops try to scramble and pick up the slack if the sisters said “enough.”

The Vatican criticized the sisters for “focusing its work too much on poverty and economic injustice, while keeping ‘silent’ on abortion and same-sex marriage.”

Certainly, the nuns would have good reason to do so. A storm has been brewing since April, when the Vatican released a statement condemning American nuns for showing too much independence of thought and not adequately deferring to the bishops, who, Rome tells us, “are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals.” A remarkable June 1 story in the New York Times recounted how the Vatican criticized the sisters for “focusing its work too much on poverty and economic injustice, while keeping ‘silent’ on abortion and same-sex marriage.”

Then there’s this transgression: “During the debate over the health care overhaul in 2010, American bishops came out in opposition to the health plan, but dozens of sisters, many of whom belong to the Leadership Conference [of Women Religious], signed a statement supporting it—support that provided crucial cover for the Obama administration in the battle over health care.”

For such grave sins as spending too much time with the poor, the Vatican has put a bishop (needless to say, a man) in charge of restructuring the nuns’ conference, picking through its handbooks, and approving any speakers it has at its public events—a process scheduled to take up to five years.

In short, the Vatican has made a parody of itself, pulling out its most retrograde positions and doubling down on them. That the Pope is accusing nuns of promoting “radical feminist themes” only shows how out of touch he is with radical feminism.

On June 18, a group [of sisters] will embark on a bus tour crossing nine states... It is a striking and unusual form of civil disobedience within the institution of the Church.

Last week, just after the nuns decided to publicly speak up in protest, calling their censure “unsubstantiated” and “flawed,” Rome went further by condemning a book by seventy-seven-year-old theologian Sister Margaret Farley. Even though the text in question did not claim to represent official Church teachings, it was dubbed heretical because of its defense of remarriage by divorcees and masturbation (the horror!), not to mention same-sex relationships. Pro-choice advocates have long contended that the attack on reproductive rights doesn’t stop at abortion; it’s a crusade against contraception, sexual freedom, and women’s rights as a whole. Rome has gone far in proving their point.

In a sharp response, Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote:

The denunciation of Sister Farley’s book is based on the fact that she deals with the modern world as it is. She refuses to fall in line with a Vatican rigidly clinging to an inbred, illusory world where men rule with no backtalk from women, gays are deviants, the divorced can’t remarry, men and women can’t use contraception, masturbation is a grave disorder and celibacy is enshrined, even as a global pedophilia scandal rages.

Of course, the sisters are amply able to speak for themselves. On June 18, a group of them will embark on a bus tour crossing nine states, in which they will visit food pantries, homeless shelters, and charity ministries. It is a striking and unusual form of civil disobedience within the institution of the Church.

On Monday, Sister Simone Campbell went on the Colbert Report to promote the bus tour, stating her case well and giving the satirist some choice opportunities to send up the Vatican.

Since he became Pope, Benedict XVI’s gambit has been to create a Catholic Church that is smaller but, in his view, more devout and obedient. That means deciding that certain Catholics are expendable. Little did we know that women would be one of the groups he would be willing to purge in his misguided quest for purification.

See also the previous PCV posts:
An Open Letter from CCCR to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious
What the Nun's Story is Really About

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Letter to the Editor

By Eileen A. Gavin, PhD
Professor emerita, St. Catherine University

Because of the efforts of many groups such as Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR), Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) St. Paul Synod, and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), I believe that hopes will soon be realized for gay and lesbian partners and indeed for all people of good will.

Recently, official pronouncements of the St. Paul Synod of the ELCA and the NAACP have renounced the discrimination that the proposed marriage amendment implies.

It is heartening for those of us who remember Vatican II and the civil rights movement to note that each time that society has become more inclusive, it has improved. Women, people of color, and, in fact, all people of good will have been the beneficiaries of greater inclusivity and reduction of discrimination, even though much more progress is needed.

Perhaps some people who want to be non-discriminatory could think that religious beliefs stand in their way as a hurdle. But that is an illusion. The doctrines and regulations of religious institutions are not in question, nor are they threatened by civil marriage statutes. Members of churches, synagogues, and mosques are entitled to hold to the belief that marriage is between one man and one woman. The only hitch is that they do not impose their view of marriage upon people who have beliefs that differ from theirs.

People whose testimony I trust have told me that some companies in civil society accord the same benefits to married couples and to committed domestic partners. In at least one of these companies, this practice has been in effect for over a decade, I was informed

Desire(pronounced day see ray) Mercier, a brilliant and far-seeing Belgian, who served the Church as a cardinal during the first part of the twentieth century, once said (paraphrase): The world will not take kindly to religious knowledge apart from secular knowledge. His words remind me of Christ’s saying, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.”

I think that a “No” vote on the proposed marriage amendment is a step in the right direction. Whatever the outcome of the vote in Minnesota may be, I believe that justice and compassion and inclusivity for gay and lesbian people will soon prevail.

After preparing my remarks, I learned that General Mills openly stated its opposition to the proposed marriage amendment.

Ken Charles, vice president of global diversity at General Mills said, "We respect the right of others to disagree. But we truly value diversity and inclusion – and that makes our choice clear." (St. Paul Pioneer Press, June 15, 2012.)

See also the previous PCV post:
Hundreds of Catholics Gather to Speak Out Against Marriage Amendment as a Matter of Conscience

Related Off-site Links:
Why Catholics Can Vote 'No' – Fr. Bob Pierson (Sensus Fidelium, June 11, 2012).
"This is the Living Word"Sensus Fidelium (March 28, 2012).
Archbishop Just One of Many Catholic Voices in Gay Marriage Debate – Michael Bayly (Sensus Fidelium, December 12, 2011).

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Catholics Reject Bishops’ Attempts to Redefine Religious Freedom

Note: The following media release was issued June 14 by Catholics for Choice, an advocacy group that "shapes and advances sexual and reproductive ethics that are based on justice, reflect a commitment to women's well-being and respect and affirm the capacity of women and men to make moral decisions about their lives."

“As Bishop Lori and his colleagues discussed alleged threats to religious freedom at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, Catholics in the US shrugged and went about their daily business of putting food on the table and keeping their families healthy and happy,” said Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice. “The bishops just don’t get it.

“Catholics throughout the country have said that they do not appreciate the bishops’ attempts to influence public policy in this manner. The bishops’ warm-up events last week and in May were poorly attended, even by the low standards that the bishops set themselves.

“The bishops’ discussion of religious freedom in Atlanta was a travesty, consisting of patting themselves on the back about their campaign to have the right impose their beliefs on the entire American population. During the meeting, participants also made false assertions — which went unchallenged — about the Affordable Care Act.

“The discussion closed with a clear sign from Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the USCCB, revealing just how much interest the bishops have in listening to dissenting voices, even those within their own ranks. He solicited support from the bishops for their campaign on religious freedom and pointedly called for the one bishop who publicly questioned the initiative, Stephen Blaire of Stockton, California, to second his motion. As the bishops began to applaud, Dolan failed to even ask if anybody dissented.

“Many, many millions of Catholics outside the room would have loved to have had the opportunity to tell the bishops what they think of this sideshow,” said O’Brien. “But the bishops aren’t listening; they just don’t get it.

“Ironically, there were laments from the bishops and their advisers that the voices of the laity aren’t being heard, and a recognition that more and more people believe that the religious persecution meme is merely a political ploy by the bishops’ conference. As the bishops settled down to their breakfast this morning and read the local paper, they got their wish: the voices of the Catholic laity could not be clearer."

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published the text of a letter that has been signed by thousands of Catholics around the country under the headline, ‘We the Catholic People.’

The open letter, an initiative supported by Catholics for Choice and more than a dozen other progressive Catholic organizations, is a direct call for policymakers to listen to Catholics before they make pronouncements on family planning. The letter notes that the bishops are entitled to their viewpoint, “just as [Catholics] are to ours. Unfortunately, the bishops attempt to portray their views as representative of ours in public discourse. The bishops’ insistence on eliminating access to contraception does not reflect our view or the views of many of the 68 million Catholics in the United States. We have spoken with a near-unanimous voice: we believe that the use of contraception is a moral decision that should be made by individuals in accordance with their conscience.”

With the tagline, “If you want to know what Catholics think about contraception, ask us—not the bishops,” the open letter gathered almost 30,000 signatures in less than a week, with thousands more individuals signing on at

The letter concludes: “We stand together to state loudly and clearly to all that Catholic people diverge from the bishops on many issues. They do not speak for us each and every time they lobby elected officials or attempt to influence public policy. Our voices as Catholic people are an important component of policy debates and discussion and should be afforded the same respect.”

People may sign onto the letter here.

Read this press release and view the open letter on the Catholics for Choice website.

See also the previous PCV posts:
Yesterday's 'Religious Freedom' Rallies
Quote of the Day – June 4, 2012

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Quote of the Day

The fact that there is a “magisterium,” a body of the church composed of the bishops and under the authority of the pope, is not the problem. The fact that the role of the magisterium is to teach and interpret the rules of the faith is not the problem either.

The problem is that the teaching and interpretation of the faith must not be static but must develop in the light of the world in which we live. But in order to grow with the times, it is necessary to be close to those times. And that is where the sisters become the strength of the church.

Instructed by Vatican II to adapt their lives to “the signs of the times,” they did it. They saw the new pain around them and headed straight into it: into peace centers, into women’s issues, into the new poverties, into interfaith work, into social justice centers, as well as more deeply into adult education and health care and residential institutions. It took them into advocacy for minorities as well as into charity for the needy.

The “signs of the times” raised many questions, demanded much study, and took them into many public discussions. It also taught them that to admit that there are unanswered questions is not infidelity; it is the foundation of discernment. It is the beginning of growth. It is often the beginning of doing things differently in order to achieve what we have always valued.

The sisters have listened to every side of every question in an attempt to discern their best role in the church, their best gift to these people at this time. This has apparently made them, in the minds of some, a danger to the faith. How sad. . . .

– Joan Chittister
"A 'Hostile Takeover' of Women Religious"
July 2012

Monday, June 11, 2012

Hundreds of Catholics Gather to Speak Out Against Marriage Amendment as a Matter of Conscience


By Kate Brickman

Note: The following is an official media release from Minnesotans United for All Families.

More than 200 Catholics from all across Minnesota came together Sunday afternoon at a church in Edina to discuss how Catholics can vote no on the proposed constitutional amendment that would limit the freedom to marry. Father Bob Pierson, OSB explained why Catholics, in good conscience, can vote no on this amendment in November.

“My faith suggests that I cannot in good conscience remain silent,” said Father Pierson. “I am speaking up now to say that I believe this amendment violates an important principle of Catholic teaching, and that as Catholics, we can vote no. As a Catholic priest, I am not here to criticize our Church’s teaching, but rather to lift up an aspect of the Church’s teaching that seems to have been forgotten by some who are supporting the amendment. The issue I am talking about is “Freedom of Conscience.”

Father Pierson’s sentiments were echoed by LaDonna Hoy, a lifelong Catholic and member of St. Bartholomew’s Catholic Church in Wayzata. “As a Catholic I would also ask: How then can it be right for a particular faith tradition–for us–to support legislation that defines marriage in a way that removes the rights and limits the freedoms of all Minnesotans regardless of their beliefs or lived experience? We are called as Catholics to bring forth a kingdom of love and justice in our midst. What is core to our tradition and its teachings is that the intrinsic dignity of each person must be respected in word, in action, and in law.”

The event was organized by Minnesotans United for All Families, the official campaign working to defeat the amendment, in partnership with Catholics for Marriage Equality MN, Call to Action MN, Catholic Coalition for Church Reform, and Dignity Twin Cities.

“I pray that we become that church,” said Hoy. “A church that upholds the sacredness of marriage and its commitments for all people and that is open and informed by the insights and wisdom of the lived experience of its people. A church where inclusive love is once again our guiding principle and justice lights our way.”

Above: The display table of Catholics for Marriage Equality MN, one of the four Catholic organizations that partnered with Minnesotans United for All Families to present the June 10 "Catholics Vote No" event.

Related Off-site Link: Catholics Against Marriage Amendment Rally in Edina – Drew Miller (South West Minneapolis Patch, June 11, 2012).

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Yesterday's 'Religious Freedom' Rallies

Across the country yesterday, protests organized by the U.S. Catholic bishops were held against the federal Department of Health and Human Services' mandate on contraceptive coverage. Styled as rallies for "religious freedom," the protests served as a precursor to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' "Fortnight of Freedom" campaign, and were billed by the bishops as non-partisan and non-political. Yet as William D. Lindsey notes in his excellent analysis, and Max Brantley reports from Little Rock, Arkansas, the rallies were very much partisan political events. "Religion IS just about conservative politics for a significant number of people. And vice versa," writes Brantley. And if that "doesn't remind you of some Middle Eastern regimes, it should."

Following is an excerpt from Brantley's article.

It was a political event. A Republican politician was a featured speaker. Republican political operatives were on hand and sent out photos, such as the one above. Republicans called the roll on which Republicans were in attendance and Democrats who were not. Obamacare and abortion were much on the minds of the attendees. Catholic Bishop Anthony Taylor got a noticeably cool response when he mentioned the government's ill treatment of immigrants. Taylor, whose advocacy for immigrants was once a foundational interest, has become more engaged in sexual politics of late, and not just the all-out fight against contraception. He also recently punished a vital Latino assistance group because of its tangential relationship to an out-of-state organization that believed help to immigrant families should include those headed by same-sex parents.

In short: Friday's rally was primarily about people who want to defeat President Obama's health care policies and defeat Obama in the fall. A non-existent attack on religion was the bloody shirt.

As noted above, theologian and writer William D. Lindsey offers a compelling analysis of yesterday's rallies, and makes some insightful connections.

. . . [A]bundant empirical evidence shows younger Americans who have grown up in churched homes leaving the churches in droves as they grow up, precisely because the religious right has to such a significant extent captured the voice of American churches. And because people of faith in "tolerant" and "liberal" churches who pull against that development — especially in places like Arkansas, where the development is so strong — are wishy-washy, won't open their mouths to speak out, and stand by in tacit consent as the oppression unfolds. And younger Americans are sick and tired of all of this, of the identification of Christian faith with right-wing politics, and, above all, with gay bashing.

To read William's piece in its entirety, click here.

And speaking of making connections, in an op-ed in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Susan Hogan notes that yesterday's rallies took place on the tenth anniversary of the U.S. bishops' meeting in Dallas to address the clergy sex abuse crisis, and that just as they did then, the bishops are "once again portraying themselves as victims."

Writes Hogan:

The bishops never excoriated prelates who'd covered up abuse in the way that they've aggressively assailed President Obama these past few months for seeking to protect women's access to contraception, no matter their income or employer. Back then, the bishops said church doctrine didn't allow them to reprimand brother bishops; that was the pope's place.

We know how that turned out: It didn't happen. Boston's Cardinal Bernard Law, the face of the bishops' ineptitude, was given a cushy position in Rome, from which he only recently retired. Rather than taking responsibility for their failing to deal with predatory priests, most bishops blamed the mismanagement on their predecessors.

To read Hogan's op-ed in its entirety, click here.

See also the previous PCV posts:
Quote of the Day — June 4, 2012
Did the Catholic Organizations Have to Sue Over the Health Care Mandate?
Why the Catholic Church is Divided

Recommended Off-site Links:
The Religious Right Turns 33: What Have We Learned? — Jonathan Merritt (The Atlantic, June 8, 2012).
Catholic Theological Society of America Considers Resolution on Contraception Mandate — Grant Gallicho (Commonweal, June 8, 2012).
Responding to Whiny Catholic Bishops Who Cry Victim — Michael Bayly (The Wild Reed, October 5, 2011).
Persecuted "Enemies of the State"? Or Just Sore Losers? — Michael Bayly (The Wild Reed, October 25, 2011).
Doug Mataconis on the Bishops, Religious Freedom, and Living in a Civil Society — Michael Bayly (The Wild Reed, December 30, 2011).
Minnesotans Rally for Religious Freedom — Dave Hrbacek (The Catholic Spirit, June 8, 2012).
Minnesota Catholic Conference Launches 'First Freedom Project' — Jason Adkins (The Catholic Spirit, May 22, 2012).
Observing a 'Fortnight of Freedom' — Archbishop John C. Nienstedt (The Catholic Spirit, June 7, 2012).
Catholic bishops — Religious Liberty, Religion's Shame — Susan Hogan (Star Tribune, June 6, 2012).

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

An Open Letter from CCCR to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious

Note: The following letter was written by Karin Grosscup on behalf of the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR).

Dear members of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious,

We are writing to express solidarity with you in your work, your thinking, and your responses from your heart. The recent document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith highlights what is blocking our church from manifesting the fullness of God’s love. In many ways Jesus made it simple, though challenging, when He distilled the laws of the day into the two greatest commands: love God and love your neighbor. The beatitudes give us guides to what it means to love. Thank you for listening from your hearts, taking the beatitudes seriously and, in so doing, challenging us all as well.

We are a group of laity greatly troubled by what is happening in the structure of our church today. We are wanting to live from the depth of the gospels and the wisdom that has been transmitted through the fullness of our church. We find the Vatican’s recent demands confounding. The importance of primacy of conscience is so clear in your attempts to respond to the needs of the poor and remain silent on those teachings in our church that are exclusionary and block the fullness of Love for all people. It is very painful to read the response of the CDF to your very attempts to listen and respond to the gospel with the necessity to refrain from voicing those teachings that are exclusionary. It is unacceptable and sobering to hear of people being silenced in our church for speaking out their understanding of truth and to hear of your being penalized for remaining silent on issues lacking in the fullness of truth.

Your struggle is our struggle. The Body of Christ needs us all to become fully who we are and to come together in Love to transform the world.

In solidarity,

Karin Grosscup

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Vatican Declares "Year of Assault"

By John C. Sivalon, M.M.

Note: This commentary was first published May 27, 2012, on the homepage of the organization, I Stand With the Sisters.

Under the guise of a "Year of Faith," the Vatican has launched an all-out assault on any theology or interpretation of Vatican II based on what it calls a "Hermeneutic (Interpretation) of Rupture." This theological assault is articulated in the document known as Porta Fidei written by Benedict XVI and further specified in a document titled Note on Recommendations for the Implementation of the Year of Faith which was developed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Both of these documents are cited by Cardinal Levada in his statement on the doctrinal assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). The rationale for that assessment and other punitive moves that have been made in recent months (Caritas International, educational institutes, and the Girl Scouts) must be understood in the broader context of this special "year of assault."

The real crux of the issue according to the Note is a "correct understanding" of Vatican II over against "erroneous interpretations." Benedict likes to refer to these interpretations as being based on a "hermeneutic of discontinuity" while referring to his own interpretation as being based on a "hermeneutic of renewal." In truth, better labels for these respectively, are a "hermeneutic of mission" over against Benedict's "hermeneutic of retrenchment."

The hermeneutic of mission sees in the documents of Vatican II an attempt by the Church to rediscover in its past the kernels of fresh understandings and ecclesial structures that respond more authentically and relevantly to what the Council called the modern world. This hermeneutic sees the Council Fathers confirming tradition as a foundation upon which faith can continually build and grow as its context changes. It also sees God as continually present in history and culture, graciously offering new perceptions for understanding and interpreting the fullness of revelation.

The hermeneutic of retrenchment, on the other hand, sees in the documents of Vatican II the restatement of ossified doctrines in language that can be understood by the modern world. The hermeneutic of retrenchment regards tradition as a wall which functions to deter erroneous understandings. It also tends to see the modern context of the world negatively, often assigning to it labels such as secularism, relativism or pluralism. As Benedict says, "whereas in the past it was possible to recognize a unitary cultural matrix, broadly accepted in its appeal to the content of the faith and the values inspired by it, today this no longer seems to be the case in large swathes of society . . ." The hermeneutic of retrenchment, hence, longs for the past; for an idealized age of Christendom.

Thus, the action against LCWR and the other actions against loyal voices of faithful Christians open to discerning God's wisdom in modern culture, should be seen as initial forays of shock and awe to soften the strongest areas of resistance, before the actual onslaught begins. That major assault is scheduled for October of 2012, with the opening of the Synod of Bishops on the "New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith." The first working paper (Lineamenta) for this synod clearly sets forth the target of "new evangelization."

The target is plainly modern culture. According to the document the modern world is epitomized by a culture of relativism, which it says has even seeped into Christian life and ecclesial communities. The authors claim that its serious "anthropological implications are a questioning of basic human experiences for example the relation between a man and a woman as well as the meaning of reproduction and death itself." Associated with this phenomenon, the document states, is the tremendous mixing of cultures resulting in "forms of corruption, the erosion of the fundamental references to life, the undermining of the values for which we exert ourselves and the deterioration of the very human ties we use to identify ourselves and give meaning to our lives." Benedict in other places has labeled this pluralism; thus completing his trilogy of the demonic: secularism, relativism and pluralism, as he dreams of a reestablished, romanticized culture of Medieval Europe.

In stark contrast, the institutes of women religious dramatically exemplify the hermeneutic of mission: they moved out of "habits" that set them apart from the world; face the challenges of embracing the presence of God in modern culture; and faithfully struggle with being an authentic and clear sign of God's love for the world. The assessment against them is outrageous for its patronizing arrogance and its patriarchy. But it is also clear that it is about much more: the dramatic fissure within the Roman Catholic church concerning the interpretation of Vatican II and the embracing (or failure to embrace) God's presence in modern culture.

In this assault what is so pernicious, besides the effects on the lives of those immediately and dramatically targeted, is the appropriation of concepts developed by those operating out of a hermeneutic of mission by those who uphold a hermeneutic of retrenchment, who then redefine and use those concepts to defend and support their assault. Three quick examples of this are found in the Statement of Cardinal Levada on the doctrinal assessment of the LCWR and in the doctrinal assessment itself.

First, Levada claims that the overarching aim of the Assessment is to assist in implementing an "ecclesiology of communion." The theologians who developed this ecclesiology based their reflections on the Vatican II emphasis on Church as the People of God, Body of Christ or A Pilgrim People. All of these images were employed by Vatican II to broaden the understanding of Church as being more than the hierarchy. None of these paradigms envision unity as fabricated through force or obedience to doctrine. Rather, unity is seen as flowing out of dialogue and common discernment as the People of God struggle together to be faithful and authentic witnesses of self-emptying Love. Who more than these institutes of religious women epitomize communion founded on faith and lived as self-emptying love?

Second, the doctrinal assessment of LCWR defines the sacramental character of the Church almost exclusively as patriarchal hierarchy. Again, the assessment document usurps a Vatican II understanding of Church as sacrament and recasts it. Vatican II on the other hand posits the Church in its entirety as the sacrament of the Reign of God.

Finally, in the post-Vatican II period, many theologians from various parts of the world have developed the image of Church as Prophet. They established this vision on a preferential option for the poor, a belief in salvation as liberation and the need to be critical not just of structures of the world but of the Church itself and its role in support of situations of oppression and human denigration. However the assessment document denies any possibility of prophecy aimed at the Church hierarchy itself or separate from that hierarchy. This abhorrent disregard for the biblical prophets and their strong stance against the priest, kings and empty rituals of faith somehow is not perceived as a rupture with the past or tradition by those operating out of this hermeneutic of retrenchment.

As modern Catholics celebrate the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II, we have entered into a new chapter of church history. The Council that was declared to open the windows is now being reinterpreted as closed shutters, protecting the Church from the gale force winds of a world searching for spiritual authenticity. While said to be a time of renewal, the "Year of Faith" is really dedicated to the idolatry of doctrine, power and hierarchy. The sisters in their communal service to the Church and world, who not only take a vow of poverty but actually live that vow without privilege, status or accumulation of wealth are a vivid and prophetic contrast to the inauthenticity of the call to retrenchment masquerading as renewal.

John C. Sivalon, M.M. is a former Maryknoll Provincial.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Quote of the Day

The bishops claim liberty for themselves, and for the large institutions they control, while also fighting to restrict the liberty of others with respect to abortion, emergency contraception, and same-sex relationships. Persistent opposition to the liberty of others makes enemies; many Americans on the other side of these issues now view the bishops as a powerful force for evil. Why should anyone who disagrees with the bishops on sexual morality respect their broad claim to religious liberty? That is the challenge that defenders of religious liberty must answer.

– Douglas Laycock
Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Virginia.
Quoted in "The Bishops and Religious Liberty,
Commonweal, May 30, 2012

Friday, June 1, 2012

What the Nuns' Story is Really About

By Fr. Doug Koesel
Pastor, Blessed Trinity Catholic Church, Cleveland OH

NOTE: This commentary was first published May 27, 2012, in the parish bulletin of Blessed Trinity Catholic Church in Cleveland, OH.

Many of you have asked me to comment on the recent investigation into the US nuns. Here goes. In short, the Vatican has asked for an investigation into the life of religious women in the United States. There is a concern about orthodoxy, feminism and pastoral practice. The problem with the Vatican approach is that it places the nuns squarely on the side of Jesus and the Vatican on the side of tired old men, making a last gasp to save a crumbling kingdom lost long ago for a variety of reasons.

One might say that this investigation is the direct result of the John Paul II papacy. He was suspicious of the power given to the laity after the Second Vatican Council. He disliked the American Catholic Church. Throughout his papacy he strove to wrest collegial power from episcopal conferences and return it to Rome.

One of the results of the council was that the nuns became more educated, more integrated in the life of the people and more justice-oriented than the bishops and pope. They are doctors, lawyers, university professors, lobbyists, social workers, authors, theologians, etc. Their appeal was that they always went back to what Jesus said and did. Their value lay in the fact that their theology and their practice were integrated into the real world.

The Vatican sounded like the Pharisees of the New Testament; legalistic, paternalistic and orthodox while the good sisters were the ones who were feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, educating the immigrant, and so on. Nuns also learned that Catholics are intuitively smart about their faith. They prefer dialogue over diatribe, freedom of thought over mind control, biblical study over fundamentalism, development of doctrine over isolated mandates.

Far from being radical feminists or supporters of far-out ideas, religious women realized that the philosophical underpinnings of Catholic teaching are no longer valid. Women are not subservient to men, the natural law is much broader than once thought, the Old Testament is not as important as the New Testament, love is more powerful than fear. They realized that you can have a conversation with someone on your campus who thinks differently than the church without compromising what the church teaches. (For example, I could invite Newt Gingrich here to speak. You'd all still know what the church teaches about divorce in spite of him.) Women religious have learned to live without fear (Srs. Dorothy Kazel, Maura Clark, Ita Ford) and with love (Mother Teresa). And the number of popes and bishops and cardinals following in their footsteps, Jesus' footsteps, is __?

This is what annoys American Catholics. The Vatican is hypocritical and duplicitous. Their belief is always that someone else needs to clean up their act; the divorced, the gays, the media, the US nuns, the Americans who were using the wrong words to pray, the seminaries, etc. It never occurs to the powers that be that the source of the problem is the structure itself. We can say that now with certainty as regards the sex abuse crisis. It was largely the structure of the church itself, the way men were trained and isolated, made loyal to the system at all costs and not to the person, that gave us the scandalous cover-up.

US nuns work side by side with the person on the street. They are involved in their everyday lives. Most cardinals spent less than five years in a parish, were never pastors, are frequently career diplomats.

Religious women in the US refuse to be controlled by abusive authority that seeks to control out of fear. They realize that Jesus taught no doctrines, but that the church, over time, developed what Jesus taught in a systematic way. Nuns have always tried to work within the system. This time their prophetic voices may take them out of the system. They may take a lot of Catholics and a lot of their hospitals, schools, colleges, orphanages, prison ministries, convents, women's shelters, food pantries and, of course, the good will they have earned over the centuries with them.

This investigation is not about wayward US nuns. It is the last gasp for control by a dying breed, wrapped in its own self-importance. It is a struggle for the very nature of the church; who we are, how we pray, where we live, who belongs, why we believe. The early church endured a similar struggle. The old order died. The Holy Spirit won. Happy Pentecost Sunday!