Posts Tagged ‘tradition’
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN, Published: July 28, 2012, New York TimesAmerican nuns are preparing to assemble in St. Louis next week for a pivotal meeting at which they will try to decide how to respond to a scathing critique of their doctrinal loyalty issued this spring by the Vatican — a report that has prompted Roman Catholics across the country to rally to the nuns’ defense.
The nuns will be weighing whether to cooperate with the three bishops appointed by the Vatican to supervise the overhaul of their organization, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents about 80 percent of women’s Catholic religious orders in the United States.
The Leadership Conference says it is considering at least six options that range from submitting graciously to the takeover to forming a new organization independent of Vatican control, as well other possible courses of action that lie between those poles.
What is in essence a power struggle between the nuns and the church’s hierarchy had been building for decades, church scholars say. At issue are questions of obedience and autonomy, what it means to be a faithful Catholic and different understandings of the Second Vatican Council.
Sister Pat Farrell, the president of the Leadership Conference, said in an interview that the Vatican seems to regard questioning as defiance, while the sisters see it as a form of faithfulness.
“We have a differing perspective on obedience,” Sister Farrell said. “Our understanding is that we need to continue to respond to the signs of the times, and the new questions and issues that arise in the complexities of modern life are not something we see as a threat.”
These same conflicts are gripping the Catholic Church at large. Nearly 50 years after the start of Vatican II, which was intended to open the church to the modern world and respond to the “signs of the times,” the church is gravely polarized between a progressive wing still eager for change and reform and a traditionalist flank focused on returning to what it sees as doctrinal fundamentals.
The sisters have been caught in the riptide. Most of them have spent their lives serving the sick, the poor, children and immigrants — and not engaged in battles over theology. But when some sisters after Vatican II began to question church prohibitions on women serving as priests, artificial birth control or the acceptance of same-sex relationships, their religious orders did not shut down such discussion or treat it as apostasy. In fact, they have continued to insist on their right to debate and challenge church teaching, which has resulted in the Vatican’s reproof.
The former head of the church’s doctrinal office, Cardinal William J. Levada, said after his last meeting with the nuns’ leaders in June, just before he retired, that they should regard his office’s harsh assessment as “an invitation to obedience.”
“I admire religious men and women,” Cardinal Levada said in an interview with The National Catholic Reporter. “But if they aren’t people who believe and express the faith of the church, the doctrines of the church, then I think they’re misrepresenting who they are and who they ought to be.”
By Frank Cocozzelli, Talk to Action, 25 June 12In recent weeks we’ve watched the Vatican try to stifle a vital part of the Catholic Church: the nuns. Indeed, the Church fathers seem to have become quite unhinged in their efforts to quiet women who have dedicated their lives not only to Catholicism, but to betterment of all.
Why is this? Its simply because the good Sisters have the ability to redirect the Church to a place where conservative men do not want to go.
Chris Hedges once wrote “faith is how we treat each other.” Perhaps no other group of Catholics embodies Hedges’ definition of faith than the various orders of Catholic nuns. The women’s orders and individual nuns perform a wide range of services; from teaching in parochial schools; to providing health care; to making great contributions in theology. It has often been nuns who reported their suspicions of priestly pedophilia and forced transparency in how these matters were handled.
Nuns have also been at the forefront of a potential Catholic remonstrance. Is it any wonder that the hierarchy and their friends on the Catholic Right are trying to reign them in?
The Vatican has revealed itself in the current spectacle as more reactionary than conservative. Even the suggestion of discussing progressive takes on dogma is often denounced as heresy. Arguably, moderate and liberal Catholics live in a new reign of terror whose principal players are Bernard Law, disgraced former Boston Cardinal; Cardinal William Levada, Prefect for the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith; Cardinal Raymond Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura; and well-placed, movement conservative-friendly bishops and cardinals in cities such as Madison, Wisconsin, New York and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
These clerics apparently recognize that the nuns could become a rallying point and potential leadership for reform for those of us unhappy with the turn away from Vatican II’s Aggiornamento – “bringing up to date” that has occurred since the ascendancy of Pope John Paul II.
In fact, that is exactly how many of us who oppose the reactionary doctrine and culture trickling down from the hierarchy see the nuns’ potential for leadership. They are not a dissident lay group such as Call to Action, but part of the institutional Church. It would be a change from within.
While many in the hierarchy are courting reactionary movements such as Opus Dei and SSPX, groups that seek a more insulated, doctrinaire – and smaller Church.
But the sisters toil in the real world; rubbing elbows with everyday people; dealing with the grey issues of life. This provides them with perspectives sorely missing in the Vatican, notably women’s points of view. The nuns understand pregnancy; they understand glass ceilings; they live with being marginalized by gender. And they see how related injustices play out in the lives of real people.
Foreign Minister John Baird told a U.S. audience that Canada went soft on defending fundamental rights like religious freedom some time after the Second World War, but he argued the Harper government is showing a stiffer spine now.
In a speech promoting Ottawa’s plans to open an Office of Religious Freedom in the Foreign Affairs department, Mr. Baird spoke of the “moral call” that people like his grandfather answered in fighting the Second World War.
“And yet, after the war, some decision makers lost sight of our proud tradition to do what is right and what is just,” he said in a draft of the speech. “Some decided it would be better to paint Canada as an honest broker. I call it being afraid to take a clear position, even when that’s what’s needed.”
Mr. Baird was speaking to the Religious Liberty Dinner, an annual fixture on Washington’s busy political dinner schedule organized by religious-liberty associations and the Seventh Day Adventist Church – and for the first time ever, hosted at Canada’s Embassy.
Mr. Baird was invited, according to government officials, as a nod from organizers to Canada’s plans to open a $5 million-a-year Religious Freedom Office, inside Foreign Affairs, some time this year.
The plans for the office, with a projected budget half as big as its U.S. counterpart, has been criticized by some as an attempt to appeal to religious conservatives in Canada.
Mr. Baird said the office will “help our diplomats around the world support religious freedom.”
His speech argued that defending religious freedoms cannot be separated from defending other basic human rights.
Mr. Baird’s speech mentioned the persecution of religious groups including Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar, Ahmadiyya Muslims, and Baha’i. But it dealt most extensively with the targeting of Jews and Christians.
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN | Published: April 18, 2012 | The New York TimesThe 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 had “serious doctrinal problems.”
The Vatican’s assessment, issued on Wednesday, said that members of the group, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, had 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, American bishops came out in opposition to the health plan, but dozens of sisters, many of whom belong to the Leadership 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.
Published on Monday, March 26, 2012 by Common Dreams
Okonjo-Iweala : ‘My biggest hope is that this will be a fair contest’Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has been nominated to run for World Bank President by African leaders from Nigeria, South Africa and Angola. The nomination comes as an unprecedented challenge to the US nomination — this year’s Jim Yong Kim.
The World Bank president has traditionally been selected by Washington, according to an ‘informal agreement’ between Western powers. Okonjo-Iweala’s nomination comes as an unconventional challenge to the process. “Okonjo-Iweala, a respected economist and diplomat, painted the convention as a vestige of a bygone era,” Reuters reports.
Okonjo-Iweala has used the platform as a plea for a fair process whereby ‘emerging economies’ may have a stronger voice in the global institution. “We’re not asking the U.S. not to compete, we’re just asking for a level playing field where candidates can be evaluated on their merits,” stated Okonjo-Iweala.
Anita Li | Dec 16 2011 | The StarThe Virgin Mary is pregnant and it’s an unpleasant — even shocking — surprise.
At least that’s how she is depicted in a controversial new billboard erected Tuesday by St. Matthew-in-the-City, an Anglican church in Auckland, N.Z.
Swathed in blue, green and red robes, a shocked Mary clasps her hand over her mouth while looking at a pregnancy test.
“Regardless of any premonition, that discovery (of being pregnant) would have been shocking,” vicar Glynn Cardy and associate priest Clay Nelson wrote on the church website. “Mary was unmarried, young and poor. This pregnancy would shape her future. She was certainly not the first woman in this situation or the last.”
The billboard has sparked outrage, with many comments on the church’s website condemning the image as clashing with the gospel account of Jesus’ birth in which Mary has given her assent to God.
“Please reconsider repenting on what you have just created,” wrote Nader Mansi from California. “You are contradicting the Bible itself (which) you claim to side with.”
One commenter, identified as Peter from New York City, had harsher words for the church: “The image you have generated is grotesque, blasphemous and profane, and at once assails me most personally and very publicly because it attacks my faith.”
The church has said the billboard is intended to provoke debate, a goal that Archdeacon Paul Feheley, principal secretary to the primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, supports.
“Getting people to think about the real and deeper meaning of these events is a really good thing,” Feheley said. “Will it make some uncomfortable? Of course it will. But any thought-provoking ad does that.
“I see nothing wrong with churches using creative advertising,” he said, adding that as a parish priest, he once produced a poster that said: “This Christmas, introduce your children to the real Madonna.”
St. Matthew’s invited commenters to think up captions for the billboard as a way to promote conversation, Cardy and Nelson said.
Some suggestions include: “Holy Mother of God . . . Oh that’s right, it’s me,” “If I say I’m a virgin, Mum and Dad won’t kill me,” and the more contentious, “Now, which way to the abortion clinic?”
The image of Mary holding a pregnancy test isn’t your typical billboard image, and neither is St. Matthew-in-the-City your typical church.
Self-described as a proponent of “progressive Christianity,” it provides same-sex blessings and civil unions, and says it doesn’t expect its followers at church. “Our weekly worship services are like a bonfire on a hill around which travellers stop for a while,” its website said.
St. Matthew’s is no stranger to controversy. In 2009, it put up a billboard depicting Joseph lying beside Mary in bed, with the headline: “God is a hard act to follow.”
For decades, United Church member Murray Malcolm tried to build a solid theological foundation. He read dozens of books and attended church faithfully. Today, he’s still trying to fit the pieces together.
By Murray Malcolm, The United Church ObserverWhen I was much younger, I expected that by this time in my life I would be a lot wiser than I feel right now. Furthermore, I expected that the increased wisdom would be especially noticeable in matters of the soul, all the religious and spiritual and churchly issues that have touched my life. It hasn’t worked out that way, and when I began to catch on that the universe was not unfolding in the way I thought it should, my first impulse was to find somebody or something to blame.
Attaching blame has not been an entirely fruitful exercise, although I did renew my respect for the wisdom of the cartoon character Pogo: “We have met the enemy and he is us.” But I am left with the feeling that something is seriously out of joint. Maybe I’m not asking the right questions.
Over the years, I think it’s fair to say that we worked diligently at religious stuff. (I am using the pronoun “we” because in every United Church congregation I’ve belonged to, there were a few people who had questions like mine. I always felt that we made up a loose band of like-minded folks, and there was a fair measure of comfort to be found in their company. I still think of this small, scattered group as being on a common journey. So, I use “we.”)
It was obvious from the beginning that The United Church of Canada was the only possibility for us. The literalist churches were out of the question. As 12-year-olds, a week of vacation Bible school in the hands of smiling zealots convinced many of us that there had to be an alternative. We agreed that the dogma and doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church was not only suffocating but, in many of its particulars, repugnant. And so on. In the end, the United Church offered the only possible church home for many of us, and that was where we settled.
On the whole, it was a good choice: we had our children baptized, just in case; we taught Sunday school, also just in case; we got involved in assorted social justice issues. We came to see that washing dishes in the church kitchen, working at the yard sale and repainting the Sunday school classrooms really could advance God’s kingdom, even if only a little. Those activities consumed a lot of our time.
When we had a few hours for reflection, it seemed scholarly instruction and serious study opportunities for adults were few and far between. We knew there were gaps in our knowledge of Scripture, but we were confident they would be filled in, so long as we continued as members.