Cardinal Timothy Dolan Asks Candidates to Sign Civility Pledge

Photo: Cardinal Timothy Dolan: lev radin /

Photo: Cardinal Timothy Dolan: lev radin /

NEW YORK — Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who sparked controversy by agreeing to deliver the closing blessing at the Republican convention in Tampa this week, on Monday drew further attention to his political role by asking both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama to sign a “civility pledge” promoted by a leading conservative Catholic activist.

The archbishop of New York wrote to Romney and Obama, as well as their running mates, Paul Ryan and Joe Biden, asking them to sign the “Civility in America” pledge developed by Carl Anderson, head of the powerful Knights of Columbus and a man with long-standing ties to the Republican Party.

Group House Gives Women a Place to Discern Their Calling as Nuns

RNS photo by Rusty Costanza / The Times-Picayune

Paige LaCour, second from right, hugs Archbishop Gregory Aymond. RNS photo: Rusty Costanza / The Times-Picayune

In what is being described as the first of its kind in the U.S., the Archdiocese of New Orleans has transformed a vacant church rectory into a group house where single women will live together while deciding whether to undertake lives as nuns.

The center, dedicated on Aug. 15, occupies the second and third floors of the St. Rita rectory. Within a few days, two women, then perhaps three more, will move into the spotless rectory, their collective lives to be superintended by two veteran nuns who will show the younger women the dynamics of shared community life.

“How we live in community. How to communicate. How to share,” said Sister Carmen Bertrand, for 48 years a member of the Sisters of the Holy Family.

Beyond orienting them to the rhythms of community life, Bertrand and her colleague, Sister Diane Roche, a Religious of the Sacred Heart, will teach the tenants various modes of prayer, organize occasional retreats, and bring in representatives of other religious orders to present themselves and their ways of life.

Nuns Group: We Are Not Leaving the Church

RNS photo by Sally Morrow

Banner supporting the sisters at the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in St. Louis. RNS photo by Sally Morrow

A leader of the group of Catholic nuns who are facing a crackdown from the Vatican said on Thursday that her members have no plans or desire to leave the church, or reconstitute their group beyond Vatican control.

Sister Mary Hughes, who ended a three-year term as president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious on Aug. 11, said there is little-to-no support to withdraw the LCWR from the church, where it could avoid a Vatican-order makeover.

"It is the deep desire of the membership to stay within the church and not move away from it," Hughes said at a luncheon at the National Press Club. "We derive our strength from the sacramental life of the church."

Paul Ryan, Joe Biden: A Tale of Two Catholics

RNS photo via Flickr, Jason and Bonnie Grower /

Rep. Paul Ryan (left) RNS photo by Gage Skidmore/courtesy Flickr, VP Joe Biden,Jason and Bonnie Grower /

The 2012 presidential campaign could bear a new subtitle: A Tale of Two Catholics.

For the first time in U.S. history, both sides of the ballot include Roman Catholics: Democrats’ Vice President Joe Biden, and Republicans' newly named vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan.

Ryan, 42, still belongs to the Catholic parish, St. John Vianney in Janesville, Wis., where he was an altar boy. Biden, 69, the first Catholic vice president in U.S. history, attends Mass at St. Patrick’s Parish and St. Joseph on the Brandywine Church, both in Wilmington, De.

Biden and Ryan both cite their faith as a formative influence, but neither is known as a standard-bearer for the Catholic hierarchy’s chief political causes: abortion and gay marriage. In fact, the two candidates are — politically at least — nearly polar opposites.

Nuns Reject Vatican Takeover But Seek Dialogue on Differences

RNS photo by Sally Morrow

From left, Sister Helen Garvey, Sister Marlene Weisenbeck, Sister Nancy Schreck and Sister Annmarie Sanders. Photo: Sally Morrow

American nuns facing a Vatican takeover of their leadership organization on Aug. 10 rejected Rome’s plans to recast the group in a more conservative mold, but declined — for now — to respond with an ultimatum that could have created an unprecedented schism between the sisters and the hierarchy.

Instead, the nuns said they wanted to pursue a negotiated solution to the showdown that has galvanized American Catholics in recent months and prompted an outpouring of support for the sisters that left the Vatican with a black eye.

The statement from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious came at the end of the LCWR’s annual assembly here and was the first formal response to the Vatican from the entire organization, which represents most of the 56,000 nuns in the U.S.

The Vatican announced in April that it was assigning a team of bishops to take control of the LCWR in order to make the organization — and by extension, most U.S. nuns — hew more closely and publicly to orthodox teachings on sexuality and theology.

Sister Pat Farrell, the outgoing president of the LCWR, on Friday read the official response that expressed the organization’s “deep disappointment” with Rome’s verdict. But the statement also said the nuns wanted to keep talking with the hierarchy in hopes of “creating more possibilities for the laity and, particularly for women, to have a voice in the church.”

Mitt Romney Ad Says President Obama Launched ‘War on Religion’

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney accused Democratic President Barack Obama of launching a “war on religion” in a television ad released on Aug. 9.

“President Obama used his health care plan to declare war on religion, forcing religious institutions to go against their faith,” the ad’s announcer states.

The ad pans to a shot of Romney on his recent visit to Poland saying, "In 1979, a son of Poland, Pope John Paul II, spoke words that would bring down an empire. Be not afraid."

It concludes, “When religious freedom is threatened, who do you want to stand with?”

Should a Priest Be Taking on the Mexican Cartels?

According to a piece in USA Today, the congregants of one Mexican church don't think so:

A crusading Roman Catholic priest who has defied drug cartels and corrupt police to protect Central American migrants said Wednesday that church authorities are trying to smother his activist work with migrants by assigning him to parish duties.

The Rev. Alejandro Solalinde has become well known in Mexico after enduring death threats for publicly denouncing drug gangs and police who rob and kidnap Central American migrants crossing Mexico to reach the United States.

But Solalinde's diocese said he is simply being asked to start operating within the normal parish structure, and run his migrant shelter more like a church ministry and less like a lone activist's non-governmental organization.

Read more here

Good Men and the Secret of Happiness

Sargent Shriver in 1961.

Sargent Shriver in 1961.

In June my husband, who gets lots of review copies unbidden, asked me if I wanted to read Mark Shriver's memoir about his father, Sargent Shriver, who passed away in 2011 at age 95.

"Since you're a fan of all things Kennedy," he said, "I thought you might want to see it."

I didn't.

True, a high point in my adolescent life was standing in back of St. Matthew's Cathedral one December morning in 1963 waiting for mass to begin when suddenly a very tall, very disheveled, very pregnant Eunice Kennedy Shriver pushed past me, wearing smudged red lipstick and a full-length fur coat. But sons are not necessarily good biographers, and anyway, I had a stack of mysteries awaiting my attention.

But then in July, a Facebook friend pointed me to Reeve Lindbergh's review of A Good Man in the Washington Post, suggesting that this was a book I might want to read. Lindbergh — herself the daughter of two famous parents, Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh — called it "a moving and thoughtful book." Maybe I'll read this after all, I said to myself. And then a week or two later, my friend Estelle sent me a copy of the book as an early birthday present, telling me she thought I'd connect with it on many levels.

I must be supposed to read this one, I thought.

Legacy of Vatican II at Heart of Dispute Between Vatican, U.S. Nuns

A Rally in support of nuns. RNS photo courtesy Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly

A Rally in support of nuns. RNS photo courtesy Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly

 Fifty years after Pope John XXIII convened the Second Vatican Council to modernize the Roman Catholic Church, the legacy of that watershed summit that revolutionized Catholic life is at the core of a dispute between the Vatican and American nuns.

In April, the Vatican accused the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), the umbrella group that represents the majority of American nuns, of “doctrinal confusion.”  As LCWR leaders meet this week (Aug. 7-11) to plot their response to the Vatican, many of the sisters say they are just following the spirit of Vatican II.

“This is not just about the Vatican versus the nuns. This really is about the future of how we interpret the message of the Second Vatican Council,” Sister Maureen Fiedler told the PBS program “Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.”

Vatican Showdown Just Latest Chapter in Sister Pat Farrell’s Dramatic Life

Sr. Pat Farrell in December 2011. Photo by John Donaghy, Flickr

Sr. Pat Farrell in December 2011. Photo by John Donaghy, Flickr

Though she is at the center of one of the biggest crises in the Catholic Church today, Sister Pat Farrell is loath to talk about herself, and certainly not in any way that would make her a focus of the looming showdown between the Vatican and American nuns.

To be sure, Farrell has spoken publicly and with quiet clarity about why the organization she heads, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, rejects Rome’s plans to take control of the umbrella group that represents most of the 57,000 nuns in the U.S.

In announcing its proposed takeover last April, the Vatican accused the nuns of embracing a “radical feminism” that questions church teachings and focuses too much on social justice causes. Farrell says the American sisters are simply doing what the gospel requires, often speaking on behalf of so many in the church who have no one else to advocate for them.

The high-profile confrontation will reach another crucial pass next week (Aug. 7-10) when LCWR members gather in St. Louis to develop a formal response to the Vatican’s plans. Options run the gamut from complying with all of Rome’s directives (unlikely) to decertifying the group and re-establishing it outside of the pope’s control (a possibility).