Bread for All, Work for All, Dignity for All

I was invited to share with you a pastoral letter from the bishop of an inclusive Catholic church. You’ll find nothing like this coming from the Roman church.

Bread for All, Work for All, Dignity for All:
A Christian Revolution

A Pastoral Letter


Evangelical Catholic Church

Bishop James Alan Wilkowski
Evangelical Catholic Bishop for the Diocese of the Northwest

The Latin word “revolution” means to turn around, to take an opposite direction or make often drastic changes.

An infinite variety of reasons have been explored by historian presenting both justification for revolution as well as purely emotional and even irrational reasons for humankind’s behavior in this regard. Is there a “gold thread” as it was that has appeared in history which can shed some light on the causes of revolts?

It is necessary to travel back in time, perhaps tens of thousands of years to a time we call pre-history. Let’s look at a time when human population was small and our hunter gatherer ancestors were pretty much on their own in eking out an existence. There was a time when families joined together for their own survival. More and more families came together to form a clan, a group with the belief in the strength in numbers. Ultimately, there came a time when a structure was needed to address mutual issues. Nature was always a problem and it was much easier for a large group working together to provide protection and to insure food clothing and shelter be available.

Eventually, it became clear that a social structure was needed and leaders were selected as well as rules for living together. There came into existence what was called “the unwritten social contract”. This was a concept that stated that each individual would surrender some of his personal freedom so that there could be a harmonious social relationship. In order to receive assistance from the group, I will agree to abide by the rules, the structure of the group and I will be able to participate in the goods and services available to the members of the group. There was a group leader and members of a council responsible for organization of the distribution of goods and services as well as providing for the safety and protection of group members.

Complete Letter HERE!

Bishop Robert Morlino cracks down on Madison nuns for espousing ‘New Ageism’ and ‘indifferentism’

File under: More of them dangerous nuns on the loose!


Two longtime Madison nuns who lead an interfaith spirituality center have been banned by Madison Catholic Bishop Robert Morlino from holding workshops or providing spiritual direction or guidance at any Catholic churches in the 11-county diocese.

Sisters Maureen McDonnell and Lynn Lisbeth, both Sinsinawa Dominicans, have diverged too far from Catholic teaching, according to a confidential memo sent Nov. 27 to priests on behalf of Morlino. A copy of the memo was leaked to the State Journal.

Two other women connected to the interfaith center, called Wisdom’s Well, also have been banned as part of the same action.

The memo says Morlino has “grave concerns” about the women’s teachings, specifically that they “espouse certain views” flowing from such movements as “New Ageism” and “indifferentism.” The latter, according to the memo, is “the belief that no one religion or philosophy is superior to another.”

The women “may not share an authentic view of the Catholic Church’s approach to interreligious dialogue,” the memo said.

Brent King, a spokesman for the diocese, said three other potential parish guest speakers, all male, have been banned “in recent years.” The women are not prohibited from attending Mass or, if Catholic, from receiving communion, King said. Asked whether they could contribute to parish life in other ways, such as reading Bible passages from the pulpit or chairing a church committee, King said that would be up to individual priests.

The action comes amid a papal crackdown on nuns. Earlier this year, the Vatican accused the most influential group of Catholic sisters in the U.S. of “serious doctrinal issues” for not following Rome’s lead on topics such as the male-only priesthood and homosexuality.

Interfaith approach

Wisdom’s Well was founded in Madison in 2006. The center has no physical facility but offers workshops and retreats on topics such as nonviolence, contemplative living and Christian meditation.

The center’s website says it “serves to support those who desire to grow spiritually, seek inner wisdom, and yearn for a transformative spirituality.” Its mission statement says the center is “grounded in the Christian tradition, while embracing the wisdom found in other religious traditions.”

Along with the sisters, the third staff member is Beth O’Brien, a married mother of two and a religious layperson affiliated with the Benedictine community. She also is banned, as is Paula Hirschboeck, a philosophy professor at Edgewood College in Madison who helped found Wisdom’s Well but is no longer on its staff.

The women declined comment, referring questions to the Dominicans of Sinsinawa Congregation, based in southwestern Wisconsin.

‘Valued members’

The order’s spokeswoman, Tricia Buxton, released a statement saying McDonnell and Lisbeth are “respected and valued members” of the order, and that both women “have been dedicated to religious life and preaching and teaching Gospel values for nearly 50 years.” The Sinsinawa Dominicans “wholeheartedly support our sisters and hold them in prayer as we continue our mission of participating in the building of a holy and just church and society,” the statement said.

Buxton said Sinsinawa Dominicans have never before faced a prohibition like this in the diocese. The order has 521 sisters.

Both McDonnell and Lisbeth are well-known in Madison. McDonnell served for 21 years on the campus ministry staff at Edgewood College, her alma mater. Lisbeth regularly leads classes in spirituality at the Madison Senior Center.

At the time the memo went out, McDonnell was co-facilitating a series of weekly classes with 12 students at St. James Catholic Church in Madison titled, “Just Peace Initiative: The Challenge and Promise of Nonviolence for Our Time.” The class has been moved, according to an organizer, who did not want the new site published.

Diocese’s ‘duty’

The memo sent to priests says the four women “are not to be invited or allowed to preach, catechize, lead spiritual or prayer instructions or exercises, or to provide spiritual direction or guidance at churches, oratories or chapels within the Diocese of Madison.” No publicity materials from Wisdom’s Well are to be allowed inside parishes.

The memo does not give specific examples of things the women may have said that violate church teaching. Rather, the memo references problematic statements on the center’s website, including that the sisters embrace “the wisdom found in other religious traditions.”

King said it is both the diocese’s duty and right to ensure parish speakers transmit true church teaching. “A proposed speaker’s association with a group whose philosophy is inconsistent with the Catholic faith disqualifies a proposed speaker,” he said.

The prohibition against the sisters came only after the diocese “patiently and prudently” investigated the matter, King said. The memo says the diocese “sought clarification” from the sisters, but “the responses from these individuals proved insufficient and inconclusive to resolve grave concerns.”

Complete Article HERE!

Joyful same-sex couples wed in Washington state

By Matt Pearce

Some had waited decades for this. So early Sunday, the first day they could legally wed, same-sex couples in Washington state held marriage ceremonies immediately after midnight and made plans to get hitched en masse.

At the King County Courthouse, Sarah and Emily Cofer got married in casual clothes at 12:01 a.m., with their 9-month-old daughter in attendance.

At the same time, the Seattle Times reported, another ceremony took place between Mary Davidson and Monica Rozgay at the Seattle Yacht Club. The brides wore twin white dresses. A photo from the celebration showed a 6-year-old nephew snoozing in a chair after the late-night ceremony.

Sunday morning’s red-eye ceremonies were expected to be followed by waves more throughout the day after the state’s voter-approved law legalizing same-sex marriage took effect.

Robyn Wyss, of Seattle, told the Associated Press that her marriage to five-months-pregnant Danielle Yung was “more emotional than I thought it would be,” adding, “Our friends are here, it’s a beautiful space and there’s all this love and appreciation. We’ve been thinking about this as more of a political celebration for all of Washington state, but obviously it’s very meaningful for us and our future child as well.”

Washington’s same-sex marriage law look effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, allowing couples to buy marriage licenses. But the three-day waiting period meant they could not wed before Sunday.

A maximum of 841 same-sex couples could marry Sunday. That’s how many were issued licenses issued across the state on Thursday, according to a tally by county auditors. But that tally could include a few different-sex couples in three counties — including King, the largest — that declined to track licenses by gender.

King County accounted for more than half the licenses issued, and in the three-day gap between licensing and matrimony, officials said they issued an “unprecedented” 623 marriage licenses.

The result: 140 couples were scheduled to marry at Seattle City Hall between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Sunday, with each ceremony lasting about 15 minutes.

Sixteen judges volunteered to perform the nuptials for the Seattle couples, which were about two-thirds female, the city said in a blog it set up to document and celebrate the day.

The number of newlyweds could grow even larger by the end of the day.

“We’re ahead of schedule here at City Hall — we can take 10 more couples,” Seattle Mayor Mike McGuinn tweeted. “If you want to marry here, check in at standby on 5th Ave.”

The city set up a live feed that showed the bustling scene inside City Hall, with friends and and families milling around as couples hustled in to be wed.

Among them was syndicated “Savage Love” columnist Dan Savage, who arrived with his partner, Terry Miller, in tuxes even though the two had already wed in Vancouver in 2005. “This happened,” Savage tweeted afterward, with an Instagram photo of him and his husband descending a flight of stairs together.

Other couples showed up in matching outfits, some in military uniforms. More events were scheduled around the city.

The Washington Legislature passed the same-sex marriage bill in February, but foes gathered enough signatures to require a referendum and put the law on hold. Voters ratified the law Nov. 6, along with an aggressive ballot initiative to legalize the sale and possession of marijuana. That law also took effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday.

Maine and Maryland voters also approved same-sex marriages on Nov. 6, but weddings have yet to begin there.

Same-sex marriage is also legal in Massachusetts, Vermont, Iowa, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York and the District of Columbia.

Vicky Dalton, the Spokane County auditor who headed the statewide marriage licensing effort, said the turnout Thursday for same-sex marriage licenses in Spokane County was lighter than she expected. People filed into the auditor’s office to celebrate and to applaud couples who picked up new licenses, but only 23 were issued that day.

Then that number came into perspective when she heard someone ask a visitor why he hadn’t gotten one.

“They said, ‘I thought you guys would have been one of the first,'” she recalled, “and he said, ‘You know, we woke up and we realized, we don’t have to rush. We don’t have to worry. This is not going away. We can get a marriage license wherever we want now.’ ”

“There’s no rush, nobody has to get down here immediately,” Dalton repeated to herself. “That was probably one of the most powerful moments of the day for me.”

Complete Article HERE!

Gay Paris

THE French are fairly relaxed when it comes to family matters and private choices. François Hollande, the Socialist president, is not married to Valérie Trierweiler, the “first girlfriend”, nor was he to Ségolène Royal, the previous woman in his life and mother of their four children. His predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, divorced his second wife while in office, and married a third, Carla Bruni, without any fuss. The current mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë, is openly gay.

The past few weeks, however, have seen an unusually vigorous debate, after Mr Hollande’s government introduced a new law that will allow gay couples to marry and adopt children. Tens of thousands of Catholic traditionalists took to the streets to demonstrate. The archbishop of Lyon suggested that the law would open the way to polygamy and incest. The French Council of the Muslim Faith denounced the plan, arguing that gay marriage goes against “all Muslim jurisprudence”.

Many French Catholics, who wear their religion lightly, are as uncomfortable with the ultra-traditionalists’ stance as younger French Muslims are with those of their official representatives. Just how far apart those views can be was apparent when a young Muslim scholar, Ludovic-Mohamed Zahed (pictured), decided last week to open a gay Muslim prayer room on the outskirts of Paris. Mr Zahed, who married his partner in South Africa, where gay marriage is already legal, said that gay French Muslims feel uncomfortable in French mosques but have nowhere else to go.

France’s “first gay mosque”—in reality, a small room in a private building—was, needless to say, too much for France’s conservative Muslim leaders. “This place can in no way be called a mosque,” retorted Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Grande Mosquée de Paris. He said that all the faithful, whatever their private lives, were welcome in France’s mosques. “We are in a free country,” he added, “but these practices are formally rejected by Islam and in total contradiction with the word of the Koran”. France’s Muslim minority, estimated to be some 5m-6m-strong and Europe’s biggest, is diverse, but its mosques tend to be highly traditional.

The clash between progressives and traditionalists over gay marriage is unlikely to be settled even after the new law is passed. Many French mayors, who preside over marriage ceremonies in secular France, are themselves uncomfortable about the change. Having introduced the new law, Mr Hollande then added to the confusion by declaring in a speech to French mayors that they should “follow [their] conscience” in applying it.

Complete Article HERE!

For Gay Catholics, an Alternative to the Collection Plate

By donating gift cards to local priests, churchgoers can support their parishes without accidentally funding political causes.

Salvatore Cordileone is the archbishop of San Francisco. Although — or, perhaps, because — he lives in the American city most identified with same-sex relationships, he is also the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage. During a press conference last Tuesday, a reporter asked Cordileone to comment on the string of successes for same-sex marriage during this month’s elections. The archbishop responded, “This is not a time to give up, but rather a time to redouble our efforts.”

The Catholic bishops may be holding firm, but their flock is drifting away from them. According to a recent poll by Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, the number of religiously unaffiliated Americans has risen over the last five years. The poll’s authors attributed this decline in part to public cynicism about religious leaders who tap revenue streams from their congregations to advance their own political goals.

For gay Catholics our straight Catholic allies, this question became especially relevant during the recent elections. We saw the highly-coordinated efforts by some bishops to stanch the growing marriage equality movement – and the Catholic church resources that helped fuel their effort – and wondered, “Is it really possible to support marriage equality while still being a church-going Catholic who tithes?”

Take Minnesota, one of the four states where voters faced referenda on gay and lesbian couples. Using resources from churchgoers, the Minnesota Catholic Conference was able to give $600,000 to “Minnesota for Marriage,” an anti-marriage equality group. In Washington state, some Catholic bishops were so aggressive in their fundraising that the Public Disclosure Commission, the state’s campaign finance agency, had to warn the Washington Catholic Conference that they were not permitted to collect donations at Mass. (To comply with the law, volunteers were required to collect donations in separate envelopes.) In Baltimore, Archbishop William Lori headlined a pre-election fundraiser for Maryland’s anti-marriage equality group.

According to the Human Rights Campaign’s report Catholic Church: Top Funder of Discrimination, the Church and affiliated organizations – the Knights of Columbus and the National Organization for Marriage – were responsible for a whopping 60 percent of all funding for anti-marriage equality campaigns in the four states where the issue appeared on the 2012 ballot.

Yet according to a 2011 Public Religion Research Institute poll, nearly three-quarters of the American Catholic laity support state recognition of same-sex marriage or civil unions. According to that same poll, when same-sex marriage is explicitly defined as civil marriage – having no involvement with the church – support for it jumps from 43 percent to 71 percent.

Still, the reality is this: Every time Catholics tithe at a local parish, they are not only helping to keep the lights on for Mass and to make sure the priest has enough food in his stomach, they are contributing to diocesan coffers, which are often tapped for anti-equality ballot initiatives. So far, the IRS has not seemed especially interested in investigating allegations that the Catholic Church has violated its tax-exempt status by conducting political activity. And as Melissa Rogers, a legal scholar at Wake Forest Divinity School, told the Religion News Service, “When there’s an impression that the IRS is not enforcing the restriction – that seems to embolden some to cross the line.”

Given such circumstances, what are gay Catholics and our straight Catholic allies to do? Should we leave the Catholic church, as increasing numbers of Americans are doing? Or should we stay in the church and keep our hands at our sides, offering nothing more than a poker face when the collection basket comes around?

Fortunately, there is an alternative. Gift cards for priests — to local grocery stores, pharmacies, and gas stations — are a clear way to support the real work of the Catholic Church without undermining our own rights or those of our friends. We can ask our priests each week what their upcoming material needs will be and then following through with the appropriate gift cards — to local grocery stores, pharmacies, and gas stations. Catholic finance councils could even make arrangements with utility companies, allowing parishioners to make direct online donations toward a parish’s monthly utility bills. That would allow Catholics to help keep the lights on for Mass without unwittingly putting money in the hands of bishops like John Myers of Newark, who has publicly intimated that Catholics who support marriage equality are unworthy to receive communion.

Indeed, gift cards, which cannot be redeemed for cash, allow us to reaffirm our commitment to the clergy. Over the past several years, Catholic priests have had their image sullied in the public square, largely because of misguided bishops who chose to protect the church’s reputation instead of removing child abusers from the ranks. The entire profession suffered as a result. (A 40-something priest in the archdiocese of Washington once told me that at the height of the scandal, mothers at the supermarket would see him wearing his Roman collar and nervously pull their small children close to them.) Those of us who respect and admire our local clergy know that the vast majority of priests, far from being pedophiles, are good leaders who truly want the best for their congregations. Gift cards give us a way to empower them, making sure our funds go toward their immediate needs.

This non-cash tithing could result in an economic revival for Catholic parishes all over the country. It need not preclude cash gifts for specific Catholic charities and causes, like the St. Vincent de Paul Society or foreign missions. It would simply keep the anti-marriage equality movement from using faithful congregants as a major source of revenue. In this way, mainstream Catholics -the majority of whom support marriage equality for same-sex couples – can send an unmistakable message to Catholic bishops: We support our congregations and the clergy who serve them, but we also believe that love, happiness, and equal rights for everyone are part of God’s plan.

Complete Article HERE!