Catholic

Kevin Eckstrom 8-17-2012
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."

Daniel Burke 8-16-2012
RNS photo via Flickr, Jason and Bonnie Grower / Shutterstock.com

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

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.

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.”

Shira Schoenberg 8-10-2012

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?”

QR Blog Editor 8-09-2012

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

LaVonne Neff 8-07-2012
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.

Kim Lawton 8-07-2012
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.”

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).

Renee Gadoua 7-30-2012

MOHAWK VALLEY, New York — Twelve-year-old Jake Finkbonner leaned over and ran his hand through a pool of water from a natural spring at the National Shrine of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, in Fonda, N.Y.. With that simple gesture, on a recent July weekend, the boy connected literally to the story of the 17th-century Native American woman who the Roman Catholic Church will elevate to sainthood on Oct. 21.

Jake had already connected to her story in what he believes is a miraculous way. The boy's inexplicable recovery from a flesh-eating illness in 2006 is attributed to prayers to Kateri (pronounced Gad-a-lee in Mohawk) on his behalf.

Jake, who is of Lummi descent, said he's gotten used to the attention he draws when people learn he's at the center of the miracle that led the Vatican to decide to proclaim Kateri a saint — a step that will make her one of the church's holy role models, and the first Native American to be canonized.

He likes to read and play basketball, and he loves video games. He and his 10-year-old sister, Miranda, are also training to become altar servers.

"I feel a great amount of gratitude and thanks to her," Jake said of Kateri.

Tim Townsend 7-26-2012
RNS photo by Johnny Andrews/St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Joseph Haegele receives communion at St. Gertrude parish in Grantfork, Ill. RNS photo by Johnny Andrews/St. Louis Post-Dispatch

MARINE, Ill. — Joseph Haegele remembers going to the church across the road from his grandparents' house on Windmill Street in this farm town in 1956, when he was 5 years old.

Haegele has attended other Catholic churches in the area. But St. Elizabeth's remains special to the former General Chemical employee and his wife, Lynn. The annual church picnic has been part of family tradition for decades. And after their 25-year-old son died of a brain tumor 15 years ago, Haegele said, the couple adopted a priest's flower garden behind St. Elizabeth's rectory as a memorial.

But a Madison County Circuit Judge Duane Bailey has ruled that Haegele can worship at St. Elizabeth's only on the last weekend of each month. 

Legal experts say the judge's order illustrates the conflict between orders of protection and religious liberty. And prior cases have affirmed the rights of courts to issue restraining orders on individuals even if it affects their ability to attend a house of worship.

Bailey's order is extraordinary in that it imposes not only distances of separation, but specifically bars access to a church on particular days.

 

Colbert and Dolan. Photo by Kevin Mazur via Getty Images.

Colbert and Dolan. Photo by Kevin Mazur via Getty Images.

NEW YORK — So who is the funniest Catholic in the Western world: New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan or Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert?

It's a tough call for anyone who has followed either man's impressive record of rim shots, but we may finally get an answer to that urgent question when the cardinal and the comedian team up for a panel on faith and humor this September at Fordham University in the Bronx, N.Y.

“I’m looking forward to a great conversation with a terrific theologian and a gifted comedian. They are both,” quipped the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and popular author. Martin will be moderating the Sept. 14 event, titled “The Cardinal and Colbert: Humor, Joy, and the Spiritual Life.”

Martin’s recent book, Between Heaven and Mirth, explores the relationship between humor and faith, and the priest said that the panel wouldn’t be just a couple of Catholic tummlers yukking it up for the audience – or distracting the public from the many controversial stories about the church.

“This is just what the Catholic Church needs,” said Martin, who has been on The Colbert Report so many times that he is called the official chaplain of the Emmy-winning news parody program. “Being joyful does not mean that you overlook suffering or pain or even scandal.”

Pope Benedict XVI photo by Natursports / Shutterstock.com

Pope Benedict XVI photo by Natursports / Shutterstock.com

Nearly lost amid ongoing reports about the Vatican leaks scandal, Rome’s battle with American nuns, the American bishops’ battle for religious freedom, and the priest on trial in Philadelphia, was the news that, by the way, Pope Benedict XVI plans to visit Philadelphia.

Benedict made the announcement at the end of his visit to Milan on June 3 for the church’s triennial World Meeting of Families. The next meeting would be in Philadelphia in 2015, he said, and he planned to be there, “God willing.”

True, the trip won’t happen until 2015, and it may well not happen at all — Benedict would be 88 by then. Even if there's a new pope in 2015, the City of Brotherly Love is still almost assured of getting a papal visit — new popes like to underscore continuity, and respect the plans their predecessors had in place.

In a larger sense, the visit would be about more than promoting family life, and in many ways it's related to other Catholic issues now dominating the headlines. Here’s why.

QR Blog Editor 6-04-2012

Pope Benedict XVI is set to visit Philadelphia in 2015 for the Vatican World Meeting of Families. This event, which happens once every three years, is a time of discussion and fellowship around issues like the definition of marriage, contraception, and abortion.

Read more about the Pope's visit from USA Today's Faith and Reason page.

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.

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