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Seeing red.

Robert Mickens of the Tablet and Sandro Magister of Chiesa are reporting the names of the men behind the investigation of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. You're going to recognize a few. First, Magister:

The inspection [of LCWR] had been urged above all by some cardinals of the United States, both of the curia and residential [i.e., those who live in Rome], with direct knowledge of the "problematic" orientations of the LCWR.Cardinal Franc Rod, prefect of the congregation for religious until the end of 2010, had given the go-ahead to a rather hostile apostolic visitation of the LCWR. But after, on January 4, 2011, he was replaced by Brazilian cardinal Joo Braz de Aviz, a focolarino [member of the Focolare movement], and even before that, when the American Redemptorist Joseph W. Tobin became secretary of the same congregation, the apostolic visitation continued and concluded in a much more conciliatory manner.This changing of the guard at the top of the congregation for religious was not at all to the liking of the cardinals from the United States residing in Rome at the time Levada, Raymond L. Burke, James F. Stafford, Bernard F. Law, John P. Foley so much so that none of them attended Tobin's episcopal ordination at Saint Peter's Basilica on October 9, 2010.

That's extraordinary. On Magister's telling, those American cardinals were so disappointed with the decision to appoint Tobin -- an outsider who didn't want the job and freely admits to "ranting about the curia" -- that they couldn't be bothered to attend his ordination to the episcopacy. (I wonder who attended Cardinal Law's 2004 appointment as archpriest of St. Mary Major. His retirement ran silent.) Imagine their surprise when soon after a nun was appointed undersecretary for the congregation -- and one who doesn't usually wear a habit, just like those troublesome LCWR nuns. Those American cardinals must have seen the writing on the wall. Under new management, the apostolic visitation of the LCWR seems to have gone precisely nowhere.

Unlike the doctrinal investigation, which was run by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed by Levada. As Mickens explains, the CDF had been looking into the LCWR for quite some time:

By the late 1990s, [conservative U.S. bishops] began taking their complaints about the sisters to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in Rome. The CDF, under the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, even issued a doctrinal warning against the organisation in 2001, though the last remnant of a more conciliar group of US bishops was able to stave off any direct Vatican intervention.The saga entered a new phase in 2005 when Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Pope. He quickly appointed the then Archbishop William Levada of San Francisco to his old post as CDF prefect. Significantly, the soon-to-be Cardinal Levada was also chairman of the doctrinal committee of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). According to sources in Rome and Washington, his successor at the conferences doctrinal office the then Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Connecticut was the man who formally petitioned the CDF to launch the current doctrinal investigation of the LCWR. Cardinal Bernard Law, who was forced to resign as Archbishop of Boston in 2002 because of his perceived mishandling of the clerical sex-abuse crisis, was reportedly the person in Rome most forcefully supporting Bishop Loris proposal.

Both Cardinal Law and Archbishop Lori (he was appointed to the prestigious see of Baltimore in March) have long supported womens religious orders that have distanced themselves from the LCWR. Cardinal Law, 80, staffs his residence in Rome with the Mercy Sisters of Alma (Michigan) and Archbishop Lori, 61, helped set up several traditional communities of sisters during his tenure in Bridgeport (2001-12). All these communities, marked by their loyalty to the hierarchy, belong to the Conference of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR), which broke away from the LCWR in 1992.

Incidentally, Cardinal Law was a member of the Vaticans Congregation for Religious when it launched its own visitation separate from the CDF investigation of womens communities in the US. According to news reports, that project was at least partially funded by the Knights of Columbus, a wealthy fraternal order of Catholic men for whom Archbishop Lori has been supreme chaplain since 2005. Under the leadership of an influential Washington lawyer and former Reagan White House official, Carl Anderson, the knights have increasingly backed conservative causes and routinely make sizeable donations to the Holy See.

How sizable? According to its 2010 tax filing (.pdf), the Knights of Columbus donated about $1 million to the Vatican. But the Knights of Columbus doesn't cut checks just to Rome. In 2010, the organization gave close to $2 million dollars to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. And it donated $25,000 to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is spearheading the legal challenges to the contraception mandate; and $50,000 to the Federalist Society. It will be interesting to see the 2011 totals. (Of course, the Knights of Columbus also donate generously to humanitarian relief efforts.) But back to Mickens:

Mr Anderson is a member or consultor of several Vatican offices, and one of the five-man board of directors for the so-called Vatican Bank. His close association with the Vatican and Archbishop Lori, and the archbishops own determination to bring the LCWR into line, should not be underestimated.After appointing Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo (Ohio) to conduct the initial phase of the controversial investigation of the Leadership Conference, the CDF has now asked Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle to lead phase two. He heads a three-man team (which includes Blair [and Paprocki of Springfield Illinois]) to reform the organization or, in the CDFs sanitised words, to implement a process of review and conformity to the teachings and discipline of the Church.

Gee, when you put it that way, it almost sounds fun. Mickens concludes: "This is the Vatican team entrusted with reforming the LCWR -- three men considered to be rising stars in the American hierarchy. Each has said he has accepted the mission for the good of the church." That sentiment was echoed by Santa Fe Archbishop Michael Sheehan, who recently explained that while some people have had a tough time understanding Vatican decrees, including the imposition of the new translation of the Missal and the censure of the LCWR, accepting them "is a small price to pay for our unity with our mother church."

Perhaps Archbishop Sheehan is on to something. American Catholics have not forgotten how long it took bishops to wake up to the sexual-abuse crisis they created. And now they see that the Vatican took just three years to determine that it had no other option but to put 80 percent of U.S. nuns -- whose average age is seventy-four -- into receivership, an effort led in part by Cardinal Bernard Law. That decision has unified a good deal of Catholics all right -- against Rome.


Commenting Guidelines

Jimmy Mac:Your comment: "Does not such a complete failure to attract and retain younger members suggest that maybe, just maybe, this church could use a bit of help in understanding its lack of attractiveness to younger people?"YES, and it may have very little to do with poor catechesis.

Many Catholics are actually post-Catholic. The hierarchy does not understand this and have no clue about how to address the issue. They still the think that Catholicism is monolithic and if they keep beating the orthodoxy drum everyone will fall in line. We will just have to see how this all shakes out.

Another example of the magisterium making mistakes is the recent "for many" change compared to "for all." It is dogma and not gospel. A move to favor one's power bloc while ignoring all reality. matter how one may try a conscience cannot be excused by simply following the magisterium.

These two links are to lectures by (retired) Bishop Gene Robinson and Vassar Prof Michael McCarthy, respectively, and they deal with root issues of the the ugly and apparently intractable conflicts that seem to be increasing in the church today. Don't miss them.

Alan:I am happy to be naive, if that means thinking that the Lord can write straight sentences on the crooked lines of our humanity. But anyway, all your complaints about Vatican politics have nothing to do with my point: that people like you are way too ready to eager in judgment of other people intentions. Bishops at the Vatican are human beings like you and I, sinners like you and I. The idea that, as a general rule, their actions are mostly dictated by unworthy motives is worse than naive, it is deeply cynical and self-righteous.

Thanks for your link, Bill. Every day comes with another piece of bad news, it seems. Are Germans really going to say that Jesus poured his blood for many, not for all?In my parish for the past two weeks our pastor has changed his tone. His "for many" used to ring out loudly. The last two Sundays, it's been swallowed in an inarticulate ending. I cannot say that he does not say it, but it's all but inaudible. That is much better - I almost don't notice it. If this Sunday he does it again, I will know that it is deliberate. Maybe it is the way of the future.

Bill:"It is dogma not gospel"I would say "it's the Gospel, not dogma" since "for many" are just the words by Jesus recorded in the Gospel, but there is no dogma whatsoever that denies that Christ died for all.

"that people like you are way too ready to eager in judgment of other people intentions. "Isn't that itself a very judgmental statement?

"there is no dogma whatsoever that denies that Christ died for all." There is actually a dogmatic statement that rejects the claim he did not die for all (Unigenitus, 1715).

The heart of democracy is open discussion, and open discussion is dreaded by all undemocratic institutions.It does not matter what you discuss the crime is that you discuss at all.Before Luther many a mighty figure battered at the doors of the Roman Church Catherine of Siena, Wycliffe, Huss, Savanarola in vain. When Luther pushed, the doors flew wide open. Why? Because a new medium, the printing press, exposed the Church to open discussion in an unprecedented way. (Later the Index of Forbidden Books kept at least Spain and Italy in blissful ignorance of such discussion for another few centuries.)Today again, a new medium has arisen the internet. Perhaps it can achieve what apostles of reform and open discussion such as Kng and Drewermann and Fox have attempted in vain.No Vatican figure can take part in internet discussion, for it would compromise his authority. How will the Vatican handle this disadvantage? An index of forbidden websites?

Excellent llink, Bill. Too bad the pope and his minions keep mistaking uniformity for unity, and doubly bad that they seem to care nothing for a whole lot of the OTHER words of Jesus---you know, the ones about humility, service, love and marauders parading as shepherds. The Emperor is stark naked.

Fabulous idea Joseph - Index Textus Situ Prohibitorum. What sites should be on it? The three most powerful tools the faithful have to reform Church governance and save it from eating its own are knowledge, their voices and their pocketbooks. (And I can't help but think, satire.)

Imho, the TWO most powerful tools the "faithful" have are their feet.

Jeanne --I bet you're right about satire. Arrogant people hate being laughed at. Satire, unlike sheer name-calling, sometimes hits its mark.

there is no dogma whatsoever that denies that Christ died for all. There is actually a dogmatic statement that rejects the claim he did not die for all (Unigenitus, 1715).--J. O'Leary, yes, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

605 At the end of the parable of the lost sheep Jesus recalled that Gods love excludes no one: So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. He affirms that he came to give his life as a ransom for many; this last term is not restrictive, but contrasts the whole of humanity with the unique person of the redeemer who hands himself over to save us. The Church, following the apostles, teaches that Christ died for all men without exception: There is not, never has been, and never will be a single human being for whom Christ did not suffer.

In his recent letter to he German bishops, the Pope says that Jesus was recalling Isaiah 53 and it's important to maintain the link back to Isaiah in the Missal translation.

The heart of democracy is open discussion, and open discussion is dreaded by all undemocratic institutions.Of course, the Church is not at all a democracy. Unlike all democracies, it was founded by Christ and lead by him. I dont believe He designed it to follow a majority, but rather to lead humans to His Father.

As a young woman I was convinced that if I had a daughter, the flowering of Vatican II would make her a full and equal member of the church by the time she was an adult. Not only has that not happened, we now have a Pope who is reinterpeting the vision outlined by that Council to support an agenda of "no change, no way, no how". I agree with a previous comment that, in order to be guided by the Holy Spirit, the Curia would have to suppress their inflated egos and most of them do not seem to be capable of that. Many of the Catholics I am acquainted with are not liberal or conservative, but uninformed and/or intimidated. So, despairing of the Roman church becoming the church I hoped to leave to my children and their children. I am presently a Catholic refugee in the Episcopal Church.

No, the Church isn't. democracy...but there are two completely orthodox theological reasons why some sort of democratic elements should characterize some aspects of our lives as Catholics: 1. We are all sinners, and 2. We are all baptized and, thus, graced. Jesus wasn't a tyrant or a despot or a monarch. He pleaded with those who refused to believe that he was the Messiah to at least believe in his works. John's gospel---amazingly---is peppered with incidents like this. But the authorities in our church, who claim to act in his name, simply demand acquiescence and obedience, because they "say so." This was never the way of Jesus, and he had every right to behave otherwise. Speaking of John's gospel: I have been very moved by the film "The Gospel of John," produced 7 or 8 years ago by the Visual Bible project (which is now defunct). It is a word-for-word enactment----nothing added or removed. The central performance by Henry Ian Cusick is astonishing. I expected to hate it because it sounded absolutely awful and I simply could not imagine how it could be pulled off with any quality. It is not flawless by any means, but it enfleshes John's Jesus in a truly unique and really appealing way. So many of its scenes have come to mind while listening to John proclaimed in the liturgy these days of Easter, but even more so as I reflect on the current shenanigans in the church. I recommend it highly. I will never read/hear/think of John in the same way.

BruceJesus was a Jewish layman from the tribe of Judah, and not from the tribe of Levi from which priests derive. In the first century CE judaism was very diversified, There were sects of Sadducees, Pharisees, Qumran Covenanters, Zealots and there were those Jews who did not being to any of these sects. Jesus offered yet another interpretation of the Judaism in his day. His first followers were Jews, Jesus Messianists with whom other Jewish groups disagreed with their claims of Jesus as Messiah and Son of God. The Christian Church was formed after Jesus had been resurrected from he dead. Luke tells us that they were first called Christians at Antioch. So your claim in the above post should be adjusted to reflect the actual history of the situation.

TANGENT:Here's a repeat of Notre Dame's commencement in 2009;

there are two completely orthodox theological reasons why some sort of democratic elements should characterize some aspects of our lives as Catholics: 1. We are all sinners, and 2. We are all baptized and, thus, graced.Janet, I accept these are true but I have no idea why these imply democratic elements.

Janet @ 05/04/2012 - 8:57 am said: They are a scandal, and a disgrace to the Gospel (which they apparently do not read much).Tim Unsworth of blessed memory said something similar in his book Tim Unsworth, a collection of his articles in NCR between 1982 and 2007, published by Acta Publications in 2008: Why is it that a church founded by a man who walked on water is now often administered by mean, mindless men who walk on the manure of guilt and betrayal and who prefer to flay consciences rather than to read the book of John? Its awfully hard to subordinate ones love of God to the rules of earthly ministers.

The Christian Church was formed after Jesus had been resurrected from he dead. Luke tells us that they were first called Christians at Antioch. So your claim in the above post should be adjusted to reflect the actual history of the situation.Alan,If the statement you want me to correct is 'it was founded by Christ and lead by him', then I'll stand by it as written. Christ is alive even today.

BruceThank you for that clarification. But if you were making a theological statement rather than an historical one, you should not have written:"Unlike all democracies, it was founded by Christ and lead [sic] by him." I agree with your theological point that Christ is "alive" even today and that he leads the Church. That can be affirmed by his exaltation at the right hand of God, something that Acts and Hebrews are quite clear on. That exaltation is a post-resurrection event. Historically, however, Jesus led a band of Jewish followers, not the Christian Church as it was later to become. To use the verb "establish" is not entirely incorrect since the later Church stands in continuity with the Jewish followers of Jesus. I don't think we really disagree over the substance of your claim, only the expression of it. I apologize for being so obtuse.

Hi, Bruce...the reason these truths could nudge us toward developing some democratic elements in our chuch (esp with regard to the way authority is exercised) is that 1. all power and authority should not be held by a small group of relatively "alike" folks in an exclusive way and exercised in the heavy-handed manner of the tyrant or the absolute monarch is because these men are sinners and are thus afflicted with the same blndness, recalcitrance, hard-heartedness and penchant for "missing the mark" that is the biblical definition of sin. They need the insights and the "checks and balances" provided by others who are not part of officlaldom but who have a high stake in how the church operates. Thus, on to 2: the other baptized are the ones to provide these checks and balances, as they have also been given gifts of insight and wisdom and discerment. The hierarchy has no monopoly on these gifts. A perfectly realistic example of something that could happen democratically: the election of their bishops by the people they govern. I believe Lord Acton was correct about power and its abilty to corrupt. The church is not immune from this corruption and, in fact, may be afflicted with it much more deeply because of its origin in God and hence, its tendency for those in power to see their position as "the way God wants it.". For an interesting take on this, see "The Holiness of Democracy" in James Carroll's "Constantine's Sword". I think I stole the whole idea from him. Read the book several years ago...think I'll reread now that the Pope and bishops have put on their "power suits" yet again.

Janet, Bruce -- James Carroll has a relevant piece in the Boston Globe on the current Church situation. His opening premise is "The Catholic hierarchy is walling itself off ideologically ". He concludes with a few lines on the very subject of claims about the Church and democracy and on how that needs to be thought of more deeply as an earlier Benedict did.

Another article that gives an accurate, albeit painful, assessment of the current situation both with the crackdown on the LCWR and the church in general: is also a very moving video presentation somewhere on the BC Church in the 21st Century in which Kevin Dowling gives a personal glimpse of his work with HIV/AIDS patients; he presented it as part of a talk he gave at the C21 program a few years ago. I could not locate it so I don't have the link, but please search for it. Absolutely worthwhile and filled with hope that there are at least a few among these men who understand the depths of the human condition and the greater depths of God's love for the most forsaken. He is an inspiration.

Jack: Just read this. THANK YOU!!!

Jack BarryThanks for the link to James Carroll. I found his article to be spot on. History, history, history -- there is nothing like it -- sobering and real.

OK, this is it for today but I keep forgetting to ask:Was anyone here offended or at least taken aback by the fact that the pope's homily on Holy Thursday was about the grave disobedience involved in thinking about the ordination of women? HOLY THURSDAY!!! Of course I know that the traditional (and biblically oh-so-wrong) idea is that HT is about Jesus "ordaining" the Apostles and setting up the priesthood, etc., etc. But even if that WERE a correct interpretation (and surely it is not), can you imagine anything more crass than taking a preaching opportunity on one of our most sacred feasts to scold and scowl and make damn sure that no one thinks those dirty women can EVER do this???? These men are shaking in their Gucci loafers, for sure. They are so threatened and afraid!

Janet, thanks for the link to the BC Church in the 21st Century presentation by Bp. Dowling. He also expresses in strong terms his appreciation for the religious sisters working with him (a little after the 7 minute mark).No, not offended by Pope Benedict's homily. His words carry a lot less weight for me after I waited in vain for several months in 2010 that his letter to the people of Ireland be followed by action. Then I realized that it would not be from him that change and renewal would come. Since his election I had placed some hopes in him to deal with the great problem of the church in the present times (the sexual abuse scandal), but I had to realize that they were misplaced. Now I'm indifferent to what he might say.

Claire: Thanks for your post and I understand completely. I really do my best---despite what some of my posts indicate!---to ignore the pope and the run-of-the-mill clergy and bishops since it's nothing but a big echo chamber. It's all the same and it bearls little to no resemblance to the Gospel, wven if they mention Jesus once in a while :)One good word for Benedict Ratzinger is that he did finally take Maciel out of circulation. JP2 turned a deaf ear---more than once---to the cries of the men who had been abused in his seminary and BR finally removed him. I have to give him credit for that...I think JP2 caused a great deal of harm to the Church. He is no saint in my book, no matter how much they want to force that down everyone's throat. Michael McCarthy's talk gives a pretty fair and truthful assessment of the JP "style." I suppose the trend of beatifying and canonizing these guys before they are cold in the tomb will continue. It's an attempt to smother and steamroll more prudential views of their legacies and certainly a legitimation of their cries of "dissent" every time someone disagrees with these "saints." It's just another trick to control "uniformize" the church according to their own image...

Hi Janet,I dont personally find your arguments about democracy in the church the least bit persuasive. I believe any group of humans acting together is every bit as much susceptible to human foibles as anyone acting alone. One need only look at how Hitler managed to use democracy to commander Germany: Through the late 1920s and early 1930s, the Nazis gathered enough electoral support to become the largest political party in the Reichstag, and Hitler's blend of political acuity, deceptiveness and cunning converted the party's non-majority but plurality status into effective governing power in the ailing Weimar Republic of 1933. (from Wikipedia)On the other hand, my belief is that God has promised us that He will keep the leaders of His Church from making serious leadership errors. And Jewish history tells us He did not need democracy to do this. It doesn't preclude democracy but it certainly doesn't require or suggest it either.

IMO the analogy of dissenting faithful to Nazis is insulting and ignorant.That goes,I suppose, wit hsimple minded trust in all hierachical pronouncements.It was nm not ever thus - til JPII 9as noted_ dregdeg up "definitive" linked to "assent."Once more, grace builds on nature.

Bruce: Your analogy is ridiculous...I wasn't expecting you to see my point or be persuaded. Unless, of course, we posit that Benedict-Ratzinger might act a bit Hitler-esque if he tried to be democratic. There might be something to that, but I am sure that is not what you mean...The institutioanl church HAS made MANY serious errors...the institutional church fabricated the idea that the men running it would not make serious errors but that in itself is a serious error. All we are promised by the Lord is that the gates of hell will not ultimately prevail. The machinations of these men are a direct parallel to the actions of the men who sent Jesus to his death. It doesn't take any super-duper insight to see the patterns in the Gospel that suggest this.If you don't think the handling of the sex abuse crisis was a serious error---scandalizing the faithful worldwide and bringing a sense of spiritual death to many victims, then I guess we have a very different view of error. As long as the institutional church refuses to listen and learn, the more it reveals itself to be a huge con game, blindly running on conflict of interest and corruption.

Some of the language used by Bishop Daniel Jenky in his 'homily' on April 14 is utterly disgraceful, and way beyond the bounds of what could be called reactionary.Having Cardinal Bernard Law still making important decisions in the Vatican is equally disgraceful.

Wow, people are touchy. Sorry I upset you all. I definitely did not equate dissenting faithful to Nazis nor did I make an analogy. I simply provided an example where the democratic process was hijacked to show that democracy has no inherent protections from bad human actions. The idea that Catholic democracy somehow has this protection seems false on its face.I readily acknowledge the Catholic Church has made many bad management decisions: the sex abuse scandal is a prime example. That poor management was not a promulgation on faith and morals however.

Hi again, Bruce: Can you come up with a few examples where democracy does work better than tyranny? I'll betcha there are some...Isolating the formulation"faith and morals" apart from the direct results of institutional actions is just another part of the game. God will judge on "what we have done to the least...," not on our endless parsing of the natural law or our stunning Creeds. Their concrete errors----life-destroying errors----have far greater impact than anything else.

The latest census findings, reported by Conor Dougherty and Miriam Jordan in their May 17, 2012, Wall Street Journal story, "Minority Births Are New Majority," reveals relevant demographic changes in America data that no doubt plays a key role in the Vatican's calculus in its crackdown on the LCWR, ( authors report: "For the first time in U.S. history, whites of European ancestry account for less than half of newborn children, marking a demographic tipping point that is already changing the nation's politics, economy and workforce." It will also change Catholicism in America. Hispanics are not only well on their way to becoming the new majority in America, but also the new majority in the church.Contrast this change with the declining population of LCWR members with a median age of 74. It seems clear that the Vatican is counting on a rise in the number of obedient, conservative Hispanic Catholics and the dying out or smothering of the progressive forces represented by the LCWR and its fervent supporters.

[...] Grant Gallicho at dotCommonweal notes that The Tablet and Chiesa have scooped John Allen (not to mention Rocco Palmo) on the brains (or lack thereof) behind the LCWR witch hunt. Is this Bernard Law’s long distance middle finger to Catholics in America? That’s not going to play very well in circles here. [...]