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NCAN has issued the following press release regarding the Vatican's censure of Rev. Roy Bougeois. Support NCAN's work by donating through Paypal.
More than 100 Roman Catholic nuns from 22 religious congregations have written the Vatican protesting the threatened excommunication of Rev. Roy Bourgeois, a Maryknoll priest who publicly favors the ordination of women. In July, he participated in the ordination ceremony of a woman priest.
On October 21, 2008, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith gave Bourgeois 30 days to recant his belief and public statements supporting the priestly ordination of women or face excommunication. On Nov. 7, Bourgeois responded that he could not, in conscience, do so.
The nuns' Dec. 12 letter says the Vatican's action "has diminished our Church." They believe that "excommunications depend not on edicts or laws, but on compliance" by the faithful. If the faithful do not exclude or shun someone from the community, they are not excommunicated. The letter asserts that Bourgeois is not outside the community because they "embrace him wholeheartedly." The letter was organized by the National Coalition of American Nuns (NCAN).
"In the first century, Christians resolved their disagreements about following traditions such as circumcision and kosher dietary laws by dialogue and discussion," said Sister Beth Rindler, speaking for NCAN. "We need to follow their example by promoting public discussion about the ordination of women," the Franciscan Sister said.
"We hope the excommunication is not issued," said Dominican Sister Donna Quinn, one of the coordinators of NCAN. "The medieval punishment of excommunication serves only to embarrass our Church in the eyes of the world and fuels further anger and resentment among the U.S. faithful."
"Many of the signers have served the Church for more than 40 or 50 years. Many are prominent leaders in their fields," said Loretto Sister Jeannine Gramick, another NCAN coordinator. She pointed to Mercy Sister Theresa Kane, who made worldwide headlines when she asked Pope John Paul II to open all ministries to women on the occasion of his first visit to the U.S in 1979, and Dominican Sister Carol Coston, who founded Network, a Catholic social justice lobby. She also noted the signatures of Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister, a prolific writer in the field of spirituality, Notre Dame Sister Ivone Gebara, a noted Brazilian feminist theologian, and Loretto Sister Maureen Fiedler, host of the public radio show Interfaith Voices.
The nuns' statement said they "join Fr. Roy Bourgeois and the majority of U.S. Catholics, who believe that women are called to priestly ordination in the Catholic Church." They "look forward to the day when Catholic women, following in the footsteps of Mary Magdalene, who announced the Resurrection to the male Apostles, will minister as full equals in our church."
The nuns' statement, together with 113 signatories, is below.
NATIONAL COALITION OF AMERICAN NUNS
FOUNDED TO STUDY AND SPEAK OUT ON ISSUES OF JUSTICE
IN CHURCH AND SOCIETY
12434 Klinger St., Detroit, MI 48212, 313-891-2192
Via FAX: 06.69.88.34.09
December 12, 2008
Cardinal William Joseph Levada
Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith
Piazza del S. Uffizio 11
00193 Roma, Italy
Dear Cardinal Levada:
The Vatican’s threatened excommunication of Fr. Roy Bourgeois because of his belief in the priestly ordination of women has diminished our Church.
As women religious who love our Church and who have served the People of God for decades, we support our brother Roy. As a Maryknoll priest for 36 years, he has followed the Gospel of Jesus in his ministry for peace and justice by speaking out against the war in Iraq and against the torture of countless human beings, aided and abetted by the U.S. government’s School of the Americas. He has been a prophetic voice for thousands in our society.
Roy is now a prophetic voice in our church because of his support for women's equality in all Church ministries. Excommunications depend not on edicts or laws, but on compliance. We do not believe Roy is outside the community and we embrace him wholeheartedly. Like Roy, we know women who testify that they are called to priesthood. We know that Jesus did not discriminate in calling both women and men to ministry. And we know that our church needs the gifts of everyone called.
So we join Fr. Roy Bourgeois and the majority of U.S. Catholics, who believe that women are called to priestly ordination in the Catholic Church. We look forward to the day when Catholic women, following in the footsteps of Mary Magdalene who announced the Resurrection to the male Apostles, will minister as full equals in our church.
Jean Ackerman, OP
Connie Kelly, SC
Sister Louise Lears, SC, has been placed under interdict by Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis for her support of the ordination of two women to the Roman Catholic priesthood in November of 2007. NCAN sponsored a full-page ad in the August 22, 2008 issue of the National Catholic Reporter.
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The text of the ad appears below:
Bread, Not Stones
Which of you, if your children ask for bread, will give them stones?
-- Matthew 7:9
On June 26, 2008, Archbishop Raymond Leo Burke removed Sister Louise Lears, SC, from the Pastoral Team of Saint Cronan Parish in St. Louis and placed her under an interdict, which prohibits the reception of the Sacraments. In late December 2007, the Archbishop delivered to Sister Louise a formal summons, accusing her of four canon law violations--all connected to her support of the ordination of two women to the Roman Catholic Priesthood in November 2007 in St. Louis.
Throughout the process of investigation, Sister Louise and St. Cronan’s parish community asked the Archbishop for opportunities to communicate personally with him. Instead of engaging Sister Louise in dialogue, the Archbishop acted in a legalistic manner. Instead of a pastoral approach, the Archbishop chose an adversarial process. Instead of using this situation as an opportunity for creative growth, the Archbishop retreated to outdated methods of control. Sister Louise and the community of St. Cronan’s asked for bread, so that they and the church could be nourished and grow. They received stones.
Together with the people of Saint Cronan’s and the National Coalition of American Nuns, we, the undersigned, stand in solidarity with Sister Louise Lears as a woman of integrity and courage. We stand with all men and women who seek a church that values gender equality in every aspect of life and ministry, including priestly ordination. We stand with all who feel oppressed by patriarchal and imperial structures in the Church, rather than the loving and compassionate model the Gospel reflects.
It is difficult to imagine that Peter would place Paul under interdict for advocating the admission of uncircumcised Gentiles into the faith community. It is difficult to imagine Jesus harshly punishing a faithful disciple for disagreeing with him. It is difficult to imagine how the Christian faith could develop without the voices of faithful dissent.
It is difficult to imagine a Gospel-based faith community that stifles freedom of conscience. We pray for Church leaders. We ask that they provide, not stones, but the bread of life for Sister Louise, for St. Cronan's community, and for all of us who seek nourishment.
For background on the case, click on the links below:
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The Board of NCAN recently became aware of the conflict between workers who want to unionize and the management of the St. Joseph Health System in California and issued the following statement:
The National Coalition of American Nuns recognizes and celebrates women religious who pioneered Catholic healthcare more than 150 years ago in the United States. We applaud their longstanding commitment to serve the poor and vulnerable in our society as well as to provide a fair and just workplace for caregivers. We also recognize the growing challenges facing healthcare institutions in the current economic climate. At the same time, we have become aware of rising tension between Catholic health system management and workers who are seeking to organize a union. In this context, the National Coalition of American Nuns reaffirms our commitment to the fundamental right of workers to organize unions free from fear or intimidation. We recognize the enduring value of unions in the global economy in which we live and the growing divide between the rich and poor. We claim the rich Catholic tradition that has long recognized the indispensability of unions and worker organization as a human right, a cornerstone of genuine democracy, and a means of lifting up the full human potential of workers as full participants in the work place and in society. As women, we appreciate what it means to have a place at the table, where all are welcome to share their perspectives, talents and insights in the exercise of problem solving and imagining and shaping the future. We firmly believe that worker organization and unions contribute to the advancement of mission of our institutions - including our health care ministries - and the common good. At this critical time in our country's history, we appeal to the leaders of Catholic Healthcare and Labor to come together and reconcile their differences so that workers can flourish, our hospital ministries can continue to flourish, and we can unite in common cause for peace, immigrant rights, and universal healthcare for all. We encourage all of our members to communicate with the leaders of Catholic Healthcare Systems and Labor and express our hope for resolution and reconciliation. Sincerely, The Board of the National Coalition of American Nuns.
To Each U.S. Roman Catholic Bishop Regarding English Translations For The Liturgy
Dear Bishop, We are writing to you, each U.S. bishop, the U.S. Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy, the International Committee on English in the Liturgy (ICEL), and the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in regard to the new Vatican-ordered translation of the Liturgy. The Vatican-appointed translators have not produced a translation that is understandable to Catholics in the pews. We understand that, according to a 2005 poll of bishops, 47% of the U.S. bishops rated it "fair or poor". The media has reported that even some bishops are complaining that some texts contain "clunky and archaic language". For example, why would the words "consubstantial to the Father" be used in the Creed? What meaning do these words have for 21st century English speaking Catholics? Why use a medieval expression like, "We pray you bid" in the new Missal? This is not the way people speak today in the English-speaking world. We need to follow the liturgical principles set forth in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy from the Second Vatican Council. Article 21 of that document states, "Christian people, as far as possible, should be able to understand them (texts and rites) with ease". The proposed text, "he who was born ineffably of the inviolate Virgin," is not easily understandable to Christian people, much less to the youth who are leaving the Church because of its irrelevancy. Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, PA., chair of the U.S. Bishops Committee on the Liturgy, has said the proposed changes by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy are "not acceptable". We agree. We ask you to make the translations appropriate, meaningful, and significant for today's Catholic. Jeannine Gramick SL, Donna Quinn OP, Beth Rindler SFP For the Board of the National Coalition of American Nuns
Dear Member of Congress: The National Coalition of American Nuns is impelled by conscience to call you to act promptly to impeach President George W. Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney for the following high crimes and misdemeanors: 1. For deceiving the public under the false pretense that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction; 2. For violating the integrity of the U.S. Constitution against the expressed will of the American people by setting up a National Security State which robs us of our Freedoms; 3. For destroying our reputation and the good will of other nations toward us, especially through violation of the UN charter by making a unilateral decision to wage preemptive war, by refusal to abide by the Geneva Convention regarding torture of prisoners, and by denial of habeas corpus to prisoners. The time for impeachment is now-before the example of George W. Bush's regime is set in stone. Future generations will thank you for preserving the freedom of our nation and its relation to the entire human community. Win or lose, you and we know it is the right thing to do. Please act NOW before it is too late. Sincerely, Mary Ann Cunningham SL, Grace Pleiman SFP For the Board of the National Coalition of American Nuns
Dear Friends, The National Coalition of American Nuns, an organization of justice-seeking women religious in the United States, commends the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney for withdrawing a controversial component from its draft pastoral plan. The proposal of having school principals, deputy principals, and religious education co-ordinators make a public "vow of fidelity" to church teaching on homosexuality, birth control, and women's ordination was inappropriate. Such a policy gives the perception that Church leaders are preoccupied with sexual issues, which are not central to the basic Christian message. A brief statement by which all Catholic leaders, whether in schools or other Catholic institutions, are asked to affirm Gospel values and pledge themselves to work for God's reign of justice and peace in the world constitutes a fuller expression of Catholic faith and identity and is more reflective of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council. We pray that you will have a global vision as you continue to develop your pastoral plan for the Archdiocese of Sydney. Sincerely, Jeannine Gramick SL, Donna Quinn OP, Beth Rindler SFP for the Board of the National Coalition of American Nuns
Dear Sister, Annually those of us, members of the Board of the National Coalition of American Nuns(NCAN), come together to critique and review the events of the past year that give us hope as we faithfully live out our lives as women religious in the Church. As we gathered in Chicago August 15-17, 2007, we were heartened by your response to the remarks by the superintendent of schools for the Scranton, PA diocese. You were correct in stating that his request for a letter from your pastor, indicating that you or any teacher is a practicing Catholic, is inappropriate. NCAN congratulates you and supports you in your action taken on behalf of justice. We (many of us former teachers) do know that the class content may be rapidly forgotten once a course is passed. However, we feel that the last lesson you taught your students will shape their future lives. As they mature and grow more solidly to be their own persons, we believe they will follow your example of questioning and publicly protesting injustice. Enclosed is a brochure describing the mission of NCAN. We affirm your public voice for justice. Blessings on your future choice in mission. Sincerely, Mary Ann Coyle, SL for the Board of NCAN
Our nuclear and war systems have produced unacceptable, irreparable destruction, and contamination. Systems of sustainable environmental, economic, and human security include honest definition of common problems requiring public funds and commitment. We urgently need programs to conserve our waters and forests, which will involve development, expansion of appropriate technologies, and cleanup of radioactive and chemical contamination. Nuclear disarmament in all its aspects is a universal obligation because radiation cannot be contained in space or time. We urge the Bush administration and Congress to: > Immediately end funding for the "reliable replacement warhead" (RRW), the new nuclear weapons infrastructure (Complex [Bombplex] 2030), "missile defense" and weapons in space, use and production of depleted uranium weapons or armor, nuclear power, and production or trade in nuclear materials.> Ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Fissile Materials Cutoff Treaty. > Insure that future appropriations comply with the basic rules and principles of humanitarian and human rights law, especially the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights.