The Vatican freezes out nuns and warms to traditionalists


Catholic liberals in the United States are making much of an interesting juxtaposition in Vatican initiatives. This week the Holy See lashed out at American nuns for insufficient fidelity to church teachings while making encouraging sounds about welcoming back a right-wing breakaway movement called the Society of St. Pius X.

As one commenter on the National Catholic Reporter website put it: “The timing of it all is nothing less than stunning! Just as the CDF/Vatican is rewarding of group of right-wing anti-Semites for ‘bad’ behavior, it’s punishing U.S. women religious for their faithful devotion. Oh well, would you expect anything less from a group of paternalistic elderly men who thrive on secrecy & cunning?”

The CDF is the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican agency once headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. This week the congregation criticized the Leadership Conference of Women Religious for “protesting the Holy See’s actions regarding the question of women’s ordination and of a correct pastoral approach to ministry to homosexual persons.” It also faulted the umbrella group for not speaking out enough in opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage. The Vatican may also have noted that the Leadership Conference supported “Obamacare.”

The archbishop of Seattle has been assigned to oversee changes in the group, “in order to implement a process of review and conformity to the teachings and discipline of the church.”

Also this week, a Vatican spokesman called “encouraging” a communication from the SSPX, a schismatic ultra-traditionalist group formed by the late “rebel archbishop” Marcel Lefebvre. In 2009 Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunications of four bishops ordained by Lefebvre, including Richard Williamson, who has said the historical evidence is “hugely against” the deliberate gassing of 6 million Jews by the Nazis. (The Vatican said the pope wasn’t aware of Williamson’s views about the Holocaust when he lifted the bishop’s excommunication.)

You can ring any number of changes on these two developments and the reaction to them. One could argue that liberal Catholics, who are usually in favor of diversity and tolerance, aren’t very tolerant of traditionalist Catholics like SSPX. On the other hand, it’s somewhat disingenuous for traditionalist, Latin-Mass-loving Catholics to champion diversity in the church. If they had their druthers, every Mass would be in Latin.

What is most revealing about the two developments is the emphasis the Vatican places on issues related to sex, sexuality and reproduction. Opposition to abortion is now the defining issue for Catholicism internationally and in the United States. On that issue the SSPX is seen by Rome as more orthodox than liberal nuns who emphasize the social gospel and flirt with feminism. The SSPX also believes in an all-male priesthood. Those positions, it seems, cover a multitude of sins.

Complete Article HERE!

Leader of ‘radical’ US nuns rejects Vatican criticism

The leader of a group of US nuns the Vatican accuses of flouting Church teaching has rejected the claims.

“I’ve no idea what they’re talking about,” Sister Simone Campbell, head of Network, a Catholic social justice lobby, told the BBC.

“Our role is to live the gospel with those who live on the margins of society. That’s all we do.”

On Wednesday the Vatican announced a crackdown on US nuns long considered too liberal by the church hierarchy.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a highly critical report that accused US nuns of engaging in “corporate dissent” and of ignoring, or worse, challenging the church’s teachings on abortion, homosexuality and an all-male priesthood.
‘Radical feminist themes’

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), which represents 80% of America’s 57,000 nuns, was the subject of a lengthy of investigation led by Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo, Ohio.

The resulting report noted the good work they did with the poor and in running schools and hospitals, but also documented what it called a “grave” doctrinal crisis.

It said the sisters were promoting radical feminist themes and criticised US nuns for challenging the bishops, who it said were “the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals”.

The Archbishop of Seattle, Peter Sartain, is to lead a reform of the LCWR.

This will include a review of ties between it and its close partner, Network, a social justice organisation involved in healthcare and poverty programmes.

Network was singled out for criticism in the report for “being silent on the right to life” and other “crucial issues” to the church.

Sister Campbell suggested that her organisation’s vocal support for President Barack Obama’s healthcare bill was behind the slapdown.

“There’s a strong connection,” she said. “We didn’t split on faith, we split on politics.”

American Bishops saw the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act as backing state-funded abortion. The nuns disagreed.

The Vatican said that the mandate to carry out reforms of the nuns’ leadership “will be for a period of up to five years, as deemed necessary”.

Archbishop Sartain said, “I hope to be of service to them and to the Holy See as we face areas of concern to all.”

But Sister Campbell suggested a difficult time ahead: “It’s totally a top-down process and I don’t think the bishops have any idea of what they’re in for.”

Complete Article HERE!

Vatican Reprimands U.S. Nuns Group

The Vatican has appointed an American bishop to rein in the largest and most influential group of Catholic nuns in the United States, saying that an investigation found that the group has “serious doctrinal problems.”

The Vatican’s assessment, issued on Wednesday, said that members of the group, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, have challenged church teaching on homosexuality and the male-only priesthood, and promoted “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”

The sisters were also reprimanded for making public statements that “disagree with or challenge the Bishops, who are the Church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals.” During the debate over the health care overhaul in 2010, the American bishops came out in opposition to the health plan, but dozens of sisters, many who belong to the Conference, signed a statement supporting it — support that provided crucial cover for the Obama administration in the battle over health care.

The Conference is an umbrella organization of women’s religious communities, and claims 1,500 members who represent 80 percent of the Catholic sisters in the United States. It was formed in 1956 at the Vatican’s request, and answers to the Vatican, said Sister Annmarie Sanders, the group’s communications director.

Word of the Vatican’s action took the group completely by surprise, Sister Sanders said. She said that the group’s leaders were in Rome on Wednesday for what they thought was a routine annual visit to the Vatican when they were informed of the outcome of the investigation, which began in 2008.

“I’m stunned,” said Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobby founded by sisters. Her group was also cited in the Vatican document, along with the Leadership Conference, for focusing its work too much on poverty and economic injustice, while keeping “silent” on abortion and same-sex marriage.

“I would imagine that it was our health care letter that made them mad,” Sister Campbell said. “We haven’t violated any teaching, we have just been raising questions and interpreting politics.”

The verdict on the nuns group was issued by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is now led by an American, Cardinal William Levada, formerly the archbishop of San Francisco. He appointed Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle to lead the process of reforming the sisters’ Conference, with assistance from Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki and Bishop Leonard Blair, who was in charge of the investigation of the Leadership Conference.

They have been given up to five years to revise the group’s statutes, approve of every speaker at the group’s public programs and replace a handbook the group used to facilitate dialogue on matters that the Vatican said should be settled doctrine. They are also supposed to review the Leadership Conference’s links with Network and another organization, the Resource Center for Religious Life.

Doctrinal issues have been in the forefront during the papacy of Benedict XVI, who was in charge of the Vatican’s doctrinal office before he became pope. American nuns have come under particular scrutiny. Last year, American bishops announced that a book by a popular theologian at Fordham University, Sister Elizabeth A. Johnson, should be removed from all Catholic schools and universities.

And while the Vatican was investigating the Leadership Conference, the Vatican was also conducting a separate, widespread investigation of all women’s religious orders and communities in the United States. That inquiry, known as a “visitation,” was concluded in December 2011, but the results of that process have not been made public.

Complete Article HERE!

Philadelphia priest-abuse jury hears about Passion play with naked boys, whippings

A Philadelphia jury heard Tuesday about Catholic schoolboys who said they had to strip before a priest and endure whippings as they played Christ in a Passion play.

Prosecutors pursuing a child-endangerment case against a church official said the Rev. Thomas J. Smith remained in ministry despite those 2002 accusations. Church officials and an in-house review board didn’t think Smith was seeking sexual gratification when he allegedly had boys undress or get naked with him in a hot tub.

Smith was removed in 2005, after another accuser said Smith had taken several boys to a motel in the late 1970s, put ice down their pants and made them remove their underwear so it would dry. The accuser said he awoke to find a naked Smith rubbing his body against the naked boy.

Smith, now 64, was defrocked in 2007. The Associated Press could not immediately determine his current whereabouts. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia cannot comment because of a gag order imposed in the trial of Monsignor William Lynn.

Lynn, 61, is the first church official in the U.S. charged with child endangerment and conspiracy for allegedly helping the Roman Catholic church cover up the sexual abuse of children by priests. Lynn is fighting the charges, with a defense based largely on his insistence that he took orders from the powerful archbishop, the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua.

Lynn served as secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004, nearly all of it under Bevilacqua. Lynn’s lawyers point out that Lynn had no training — in law, psychiatry, social work or other fields — to tackle the unfolding sex-abuse scandal.

For the most part, Lynn was dealing with old complaints stored in secret files that he reviewed when he arrived at headquarters from the archdiocesan seminary, where he had been dean of students.

But toward the end, more adults like Smith’s accusers were coming forward.

Smith had put on the Passion play at several parishes over nine years. He would take the lead actor to a room and have him strip while Smith pinned a loincloth on the boy, several accusers said.

The boys said he then had other children whip them, to the point of pain, during the crucifixion story. Asked by church officials why he had them naked, Smith later said, “for authenticity,” while conceded it was poor judgment.

At least one boy wanted to quit, but his proud, unsuspecting parents wouldn’t let him.

It was later clear to at least one regretful father who met with Lynn in 2002 that Smith “likes to look,” according to a memo Lynn wrote about the meeting, which was shown in court Tuesday.

Smith by then was a regional church administrator for suburban Delaware County. Cardinal Justin Rigali approved an “educational sabbatical” in 2004, after the loincloth allegations surfaced. But Smith continued living at his Springfield parish for at least another year, until a man came forward to complain about the ice-cube antics.

Smith had been taking several teens on retreat when his car supposedly broke down in Valley Forge, leading him to bunk with the boys at the hotel, the accuser said. Another priest picked them up the next day. Springfield is about 20 miles from Valley Forge.

Complete Article HERE!

Homophobes need (gay) love too


And then came the headline that surprised exactly no one and delighted a great many, even as it openly terrified countless thousands across the deep south and also Utah and Kansas and pretty much the entire GOP. The poor dears.

Homophobes might be secretly attracted to people of the same sex,” is what the headline read, I mean obviously, I mean of course you already know what the researchers discovered, you and every conscious human within a 10,000 mile radius who also snickered, rolled her eyes and then sighed heavily with the obviousness of it all. It is not always the way?

Really, who doesn’t already know? Who among us with the slightest acumen toward self-reflection doesn’t fully understand that the more you wail against something, the more violently outspoken or hateful you are against this or that perceived indiscretion, sexual proclivity, perversion, deviance, expression, delight, taste sensation, the more certain it is that said deliciousness secretly attracts you, turns you on and makes you enormously, terrifically scared?

Case after case, priest after priest, GOP senator after megachurch pastor after spittle-flecked Tea Party zealot — all suddenly caught pants down in a bathroom stall, in a leather bar, gay chat room, in a Grindr hookup app, living out their real and honest selves even as they rail and oppose and thump their Bibles everywhere else. Hypocrisy, thy name is homophobe.

Which is, essentially, exactly what the study found. One’s level of homophobia lies, quite frequently, in direct proportion to one’s own brutally closeted desire for homosexual sex. Result: self-denial, self hatred, wailing and thrashing and Prop 8-ing against an unfair world.

But before we dance and snicker too much, perhaps we should acknowledge: there is more to this study, and the common adage, than meets the jaundiced eye. Behind the humor and the sarcasm, there’s a sadness, a brutal truism common to the human melodrama. Shall we have a glance?

It goes something like this: Perhaps nasty homophobes are, the study gently suggests, to be empathized with, to be offered a modicum of compassion and understanding, due to the abject tragedy of their ignoble fate. And perhaps this offering, particularly in light of hateful trolls like Rick Santorum and his dark coven, perhaps this is one of the most difficult challenges you can name.

See, in this light, you can say homophobes (and in a similar way racists, sexists, Islamophobes, et al), they have been indoctrinated in the worst possible way. They have been led to their shallow bloodpuddles of misunderstanding by the church, by awful parenting, by violent misrepresentations of God, by shameful media propaganda, bad tattoos and cheap beer and way, way too much professional sports on weekends. Just a thought.

For most, it probably happened early. Somewhere along the arc of childhood, many anti-everything crusaders were stabbed in the heart with a very narrow idea of how life, love and sexuality are supposed to look, feel, move. And if, by adulthood, they fail to feel that way — and more importantly, if one’s own desires, deepest longings, spiritual aches somehow fail to line up with that bogus image (as they almost always do) — well, someone’s gotta pay.

Put another way: Hatred is, we all know, a learned experience. Someone teaches you that blacks are scary, Muslims are evil, women are lesser. Someone force feeds kids the vile falsehood that gay love is an abomination, as opposed to something obvious and common across every species of animal on the planet. I say ‘force,’ because kids will never believe it otherwise.

And why would they? The human soul, far from fixed, linear and predisposed to suspicion and doubt, is instead a fluxive, malleable, infinitely evolving thing, matching the insane, kaleidoscopic sweep of life itself. To lock the human heart into a cage of timid ideology or rigid sexual conduct, to forcibly limit its capacity for love is one of the most oppressive things you can ever do. Just ask the Catholic church.

Does this all excuse the homophobe’s acts, their nasty legislation, their bilious congressional votes? Does it give Rick Santorum, Rick Warren, Rush Limbaugh some sort of pass? Hell no. Does it give it a hint of understanding, and perhaps empathy, as we all recognize those places in ourselves where we have been similarly programmed, lied to, horribly misled? It might. Depends on your whisky.

Of course, it’s not universal. Not all hardcore conservatives secretly wish for a gay romp or ten. Many just act out of purely poisoned souls, or from the unconscious demon telling them that if they’re not allowed to express their deepest selves, if they can’t live life at a more honest frequency, no one can.

“How dare you!” they then sneer, to the gay couple, to the Burning Man participant, to the hippie or the artist or the educated deviant, the meditator, the spiritual seeker, the yogi or activist or appreciator of sex and tongue and yes. “What gall you have to be open-minded, autonomous, free to love and screw and dance however and with whomever you want. Don’t you know about the rules? Don’t you know how ugly life is? Don’t you know how flawed and guilt-soaked God designed you to be?

“Here, let me stab you with this ice pick of mistrust and visceral spiritual lack. There now. You are hereby as miserable as me. We are equal. I feel better. But not really.”

Maybe this is the greatest human tragedy, more divisive than any other: We are taught how to hate, to fear. American culture offers few tools with which to perform any sort of honest self-inquiry, to feel around in the subtler realms and see what we’re really about, independent of church, media, failed parenting, Rick and Rush and Fox. We are taught to ignore our deeper selves in favor of the collective group-think, codified programming, a wrathful and disconnected God.

This is the lesson: Do not ask deeper questions. Do not tap into your own genuine needs, sexuality, fierce spiritual magma. Do not dare suggest that most fundamentalist notions of Christian God are sort of detestable and gloomy, the exact opposite of what Jesus actually intended. Do not, most of all, dare to define it all for yourself, as your sex, your soul, your internal ethical slut see fit. What the hell do you think you are, free?

Complete Article HERE!