Catholic

Religion News Service file photo courtesy of George Martell/RCAB

Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley on Sept. 2, 2009. Religion News Service file photo courtesy of George Martell/RCAB

Groups of Boston-area Catholics who have waged an eight-year battle to block the sale of parish buildings are running out of options as the Vatican has rejected their appeals.

In rulings dated March through May, Rome's Congregation for the Clergy upheld the Archdiocese of Boston's plans to convert six parish buildings from sacred to profane (non-church) use.

Now parishioners, including vigil keepers who've occupied two church buildings round-the-clock since a wave of parish closures began in 2004, must decide whether to appeal one more time to the Vatican's top court.

Photo by Martin Ezequiel Gardeazabal / Shutterstock.com

Pope Benedict XVI last May in St. Peter's Square. Photo by Martin Ezequiel Gardeazabal / Shutterstock.com

Over the course of the last six months, Pope Benedict XVI delivered five major speeches to small groups of American bishops who were in Rome for their "ad limina" visits, which are required once every five years.

The ad limina visits are the way the pope and and Vatican departments keep tabs on bishops from around the world. They are also an occasion for the pope to address the major issues faced by a local church.

In his speeches, Benedict often echoed bishops' concern about religious freedom and the challenges confronting the American church. In his last address, on May 22, he warned bishops of the “threat of a season in which our fidelity to the Gospel may cost us dearly.”

Helen Alvare 5-22-2012

Image by brandonht / shutterstock.

Pundits and politicians who opine about the so-called war on women ought to take note of the lawsuits filed Monday against the Department of Health and Human Services contraception mandate by 43 religious groups, including several Catholic dioceses and colleges.

The suits object to the requirement that religious institutions provide their employees with insurance coverage for contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs.

In the propaganda surrounding the mandate, HHS seems to suggest that women’s only stake in the matter is “free” contraception. This is a shallow – and frankly demeaning – view of women, who, equally with men, have an important stake in the preservation of religious freedom in the United States.

Logo of the North American Old Catholic Church via naoldcatholic.org.

Logo of the North American Old Catholic Church via naoldcatholic.org.

Archbishop Michael Seneco, of Washington, D.C., is a gay man who plans to marry his longtime partner in September.

Bishop Jim Morgan, of Ogden, Utah, is also gay and has been with the man he considers his husband for 30 years.

In this church, the bishops’ marital relations haven’t caused a ripple among the clergy or the laity. No protests. No outraged believers. No furious voting.

Catholic demonstrator in NYC protests the HHS rule on contraception, March 23, 2012. Photo by Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images.

Dozens of Catholic universities, dioceses and other institutions filed lawsuits in courts around the country on Monday in a coordinated effort, spearheaded by the U.S. hierarchy and Catholic conservatives, to overturn the Obama administration’s contraception mandate plan.

The 43 plaintiffs, which include 13 dioceses and the University of Notre Dame, say the mandate forces religious employers to provide contraceptive and sterilization services to employees that violate their beliefs. They say that infringes on First Amendment religious freedom protections, and charge that the federal government’s exemption for religious organizations is too narrow.

Michael O'Malley 5-18-2012
RNS photo by Gus Chan / The Plain Dealer

Phillis and Phillip Clipps pray during Mass at the Community of St. Peter in Cleveland. RNS photo by Gus Chan / The Plain Dealer

 It's been nearly a month since Bishop Richard Lennon announced he would reopen 12 closed churches, but so far no shuttered sanctuaries have been resurrected.

As they wait, parishioners from some of the moribund parishes have begun organizing committees in preparation for the reopenings, which the diocese says are in process, although there's no official timetable.

At St. Mary Catholic Church in suburban Bedford, parishioners have formed a parish council, a finance committee and a music committee. And they have tied blue and white bows and a "Welcome Home" sign on the front of their church.

"We've got our committees organized," said St. Mary parishioner Carol Szczepanik. "We're just waiting for the bishop."

Pope Pius X image via Library of Congress / Flickr

Pope Pius X image via Library of Congress / Flickr

VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican's doctrinal office said “further discussions” will be needed with the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) in order to heal a decades-long split within the Roman Catholic Church.

Cardinals and bishops from the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith met on Wednesday (May 16) to discuss the response of the SSPX Superior General, Bishop Bernard Fellay, to a Vatican reconciliation proposal delivered last September.

According to a Vatican statement, members of the Vatican doctrinal office drafted a series of “observations” that “shall be taken into consideration in further discussions between the Holy See and the SSPX.

The Vatican announced on Tuesday (May 15) it had settled a lawsuit against Italian clothing group Benetton for using an image of Pope Benedict XVI in one of its advertisement campaigns.

The image had been modified to show Benedict kissing Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed El-Tayeb, imam of Cairo's renowned al-Azhar Mosque.

The Vatican's chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the image was "offensive" and stressed that the Benetton group had agreed to remove the pope's images from its campaign, and to ask third parties to do the same.

scouts photo, sagasan / Shutterstock.com

scouts photo, sagasan / Shutterstock.com

The nation’s Roman Catholic bishops are reviewing the church’s long-standing ties to the Girl Scouts of the USA after complaints that some of that venerable organization’s programs might contradict church teachings on contraception and abortion.

The inquiry by the Catholic bishops has been ongoing for two years and was prompted by persistent reports, circulated on the Internet and by some social conservatives, that the Girl Scouts of the USA has ties to Planned Parenthood or, for example, endorses material on sexuality that the church would not approve.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

German composer and abbess of St Rupert's Mount, Hildegard von Bingen. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Here are two things that don't typically go together: Pope Benedict XVI and feminist culture.

Yet they both share a veneration for Hildegard von Bingen, a 12th-century German nun who was the first woman to be officially recognized as a “prophetess” by the Roman Catholic Church.

On Thursday (May 10), Benedict ordered Hildegard, who died in 1179, to be inscribed “in the catalogue of saints,” thus extending her cult “to the universal church.”

Official Department of Labor Photograph

Kathleen Sebelius, . RNS photo courtesy United States Department of Labor/Flickr. Official Department of Labor Photograph

Last month liberal Catholics were upset over House Republican budget chief Paul Ryan using a Georgetown University platform to defend his hard-line fiscal plan as a natural outgrowth of his Catholic faith. Dozens of Georgetown faculty and administrators wrote a letter welcoming Ryan but blasting his understanding of Catholic teaching and asking him to explain his views during his talk at the university’s Public Policy Institute.

Now it is the conservatives’ turn: The flagship Jesuit university has announced that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, a Catholic who has angered conservatives and bishops for overseeing the Obama administration’s contraception insurance mandate and other controversial policies, will address the policy institute's graduating class at commencement on May 18.

Enuma Okoro 5-07-2012
Image by Pincasso / Shutterstock

Image by Pincasso / Shutterstock

Author's Note: Meeting Sister Catherine during my years as a seminary student in North Carolina played a pivotal role deepening and expanding my spiritual formation, in my personal healing and in discerning key callings of my future vocation.

Sister Catherine is a Catholic nun in the Society of the Faith Companions of Jesus, an order in the spirit of Saint Ignatius, t in France in the mid-19th century under the auspices of Marie Madeleine Victoire de Bengy de Bonnault d'Houet (1781—1858). 

I began Spiritual Direction sessions with Sister Catherine after the unforeseen death of my father and in the midst of a spiritual crisis.

What follows is taken from my book Reluctant Pilgrim: (A Moody Somewhat Self-Indulgent Introvert’s Search for Spiritual Community) Copyright c 2010 Fr

esh Air Books. Used with permission. Upper Room Books

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I started seeing Sister Catherine once a week and within two months I felt as though I were going through a spiritual transformation, like I was being radically broken open and the thick outer shell I had maintained for so long was cracking and pieces were falling off one by one, slowly and painfully. And I learned the difference between a therapist and a spiritual director. She helped me think through my relationship with God and how different areas of my life affected or were seemingly affected

by my sense of spiritual self.

“I know this season of the liturgical year is called “Ordinary Time” because the weeks of Sunday are numbered but I like to think of it meaning plain and uneventful time more so than ordinal,” I told Sister Catherine during one session.

“Why?” she asked.

“Because it kind of feels like a gift to me, to be trying to experience God in really simple ways during the church season of ordinary time when nothing exciting is happening like Easter or Christmas.  I’m not going to church on Sundays very regularly but I feel like God is graciously revealing God’s self to me through other people and becoming really alive for me in very incarnate mundane ways, not just in my own head and heart, or in my own silent prayers or weak devotional life.”

++ Join us in showing our appreciation for Catholic women religious (aka nuns or "sisters") on Thank-a-Nun Day, May 9. Click HERE to send a thank-you note online. ++

Disgraced former Boston Cardinal Bernard Law. RNS file photo.

Disgraced former Boston Cardinal Bernard Law. RNS file photo.

When the Vatican last month announced a doctrinal crackdown on the leadership organization representing most of the 57,000 nuns in the U.S., the sisters said they were “stunned” by the move. Many American Catholics, meanwhile, were angry at what they saw as Rome bullying women whose lives of service have endeared them to the public.

Vatican watchers also were perplexed since a broader, parallel investigation of women’s religious orders in the U.S. was resolved amicably after an initial clash. That seemed to augur a more diplomatic approach by the Vatican to concerns that American nuns were not sufficiently orthodox.

Now it turns out that conservative American churchmen living in Rome—including disgraced former Boston Cardinal Bernard Law—were key players in pushing the hostile takeover of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, or LCWR, which they have long viewed with suspicion for emphasizing social justice work over loyalty to the hierarchy and issues like abortion and gay marriage.

Cathleen Falsani 5-03-2012

++ Join us in showing our appreciation for Catholic women religious (aka nuns or "sisters") on Thank-a-Nun Day, May 9. Click HERE to send a thank-you note online. ++

Silly and serious, strict and kind, profoundly faithful and sometimes hilarious — Catholic nuns are evergreen characters on the big (and the small) screens. Here's a list of some of our favorite portrayals of Catholic women religious from film and television.

1. Sister Helen Prejean (Susan Sarandon) in Dead Man Walking

http://youtu.be/ih8z1jMnPbc

2. Mother Abbess (Peggy Wood) in The Sound of Music

http://youtu.be/EoCPuhhE6dw

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) speaks about 'America's Enduring Promise' at Georgetown Un

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) speaks about 'America's Enduring Promise' at Georgetown University. Win McNamee/Getty Images

Give Congressman Paul Ryan credit for persistence.

The Wisconsin Republican and architect of the GOP’s budget plan has spent a month arguing that his party’s proposals to cut programs for the needy while sparing the Defense Department and not raising taxes on the wealthy are in line with the social justice teaching of his own Catholic Church.

And for just as long, Catholic groups and theologians -- and even the Catholic bishops -- have been saying that in fact the GOP plan fails to meet the basic “moral criteria” of Catholic teaching.

Michael O'Malley 4-25-2012
RNS photo by Lisa DeJong/The Plain Dealer

Patricia Schulte-Singleton, 53, never gave up the fight to save St. Patrick church. RNS photo by Lisa DeJong/The Plain Dealer

When Bishop Richard Lennon began closing 50 Catholic churches in and around Cleveland three years ago, the bulk of the faithful quietly moved on.

Some drifted to other parishes. Some didn't go to church at all. Others elected to fight for their lost sanctuaries, taking up protest signs, joining prayer vigils, signing petitions and filing appeals to the Vatican.

Many who resisted the closings worked quietly, too timid to publicly confront ecclesiastical authority, which, since childhood, they had been taught to respect.

But Patricia Schulte-Singleton was not intimidated by a Roman collar, a bishop's edict or the raised eyebrows of the obedient.

Jim Wallis 4-24-2012
NICHOLAS KAMM/ AFP / Getty Images

Nuns attend Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C. NICHOLAS KAMM/ AFP / Getty Images

After an official investigation, the Vatican seems pretty upset with the Catholic Sisters here in the United States. They have reprimanded the women for not sufficiently upholding the bishop’s teachings and doctrines and paying much more attention to issues like poverty and health care than to abortion, homosexuality, and male-only priesthood. 

The Vatican’s approach to its concerns, to say the least, is quite regrettable. Condemnation and control were chosen over conversation and dialogue. Quite honestly, do most of us believe, or even most Catholic believe, that the bishops are the only “authentic teachers of faith and morals?”

 
Tracy Simmons 4-23-2012
VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images

Archbishop Desmond Tutu at the World Economic Forum in January. VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images

After nearly 700 people tried to push Gonzaga University to rescind its commencement speaker's invitation to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, supporters of the anti-apartheid hero responded with 11,000 signatures of their own.

Opponents claim the Jesuit school had lost sight of its Catholic values by inviting the former Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa, to speak at next month's commencement and receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.Now a second petition is circulating, this one protesting the anti-Tutu petition.

Now a second petition is circulating, this one protesting the anti-Tutu petition.

Christian Piatt 4-20-2012
Catholic nun photo, Elena Ray/Shutterstock.com

Catholic nun photo, Elena Ray/Shutterstock.com

It’s not exactly headline-worthy news that many Catholics actually hold personal beliefs that don’t line up with church doctrine. It does get a little more interesting, however, when an umbrella group for 57,000 American nuns is called to the carpet for straying from Church teaching.

Reportedly, the nuns are promoting ideas on issues like abortion and homosexuality, among others in their programs that the Church condemns.

The ladies in black and white have gotten into some hot water with the Vatican, whose representatives claim the nuns are practicing “certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”

Group of a nuns walking, SVLuma/Shutterstock.com

Group of a nuns walking, SVLuma/Shutterstock.com

The Vatican has launched a crackdown on the umbrella group that represents most of America's 55,000 Catholic nuns, saying that the group was not speaking out strongly enough against gay marriage, abortion and women’s ordination.

Rome also chided the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) for sponsoring conferences that featured “a prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”

The Vatican’s disciplinary action against the LCWR was announced on Wednesday (April 18), one day before Pope Benedict XVI marked seven years as pontiff.

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