Ann Carey is a veteran journalist who has written hundreds of articles for many prestigious Catholic publications during her 31-year career in the Catholic press. She is a member of the Catholic Press Association and has won awards for news and feature writing, as well as investigative reporting. Her specialty is women religious, and she is working on a new, updated edition of her book, Sisters in Crisis: The Tragic Unraveling of Women’s Religious Communities, to be published by Ignatius Press. She and her husband live in Indiana and are the parents of three grown children.
Much ado is being made about a letter reportedly given to Pope Francis on June 23 that claims the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) is being treated unfairly by the Vatican.
In 2012, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) mandated a reform of the group because of significant doctrinal errors, and this April, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the CDF, re-emphasized terms of the mandate during the LCWR’s annual visit to the Vatican.
The June 23 letter has not been released by the two groups behind it, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good (CACG) and Franciscan Action Network. However, a National Catholic Reporter blog quoted the letter in part, which claimed that the Vatican treatment of the LCWR had been “unjust.”
According to the blog entry, the letter said that the Vatican had “ignored” Pope Francis’s “call for a ‘poor church working on behalf of the poor,’” and claimed that the “unselfish service” of the sisters “is the most authentic demonstration of your vision of our beloved Church.”
The blog reported that the letter was signed by “half a dozen theologians, the heads of Catholics in Alliance [for the Common Good] and the Franciscan Action Network, and former leaders of the Center of Concern and the Catholic Theological Society of America.”
A closer look at the main group behind the letter reveals that this is not simply an effort to support sisters who work with the poor, for the CACG has a history of trying to change Church teachings on some of the very issues the CDF has raised with the LCWR, particularly in the area of the family and human sexuality.
Other issues such as women’s ordination to the priesthood, the nature of God, and bioethical subjects also intersect this campaign to modify or nullify Church teachings.
The CACG claims a mission of promoting “public policies and effective programs that enhance the inherent dignity of all, especially the poor and most vulnerable,” “inspired by Gospel values and the rich history of Catholic social teaching as they inform pressing moral issues of our time.”
However, the group’s main activity has been political, promoting progressive politicians, most of whom support abortion rights and other issues that are in conflict with Church teachings. CACG tends to come and go, snoozing during off-election years, and then finding new life for mid-term and presidential elections. CACG has a history of seeing the Catholic moral code as somehow in conflict with, and impeding Catholic social justice, which it seems to define quite subjectively, in great variance to Catholic social teaching.
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia observed in 2008, when he was archbishop of Denver, that Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good was among the groups that had “done a disservice to the Church, confused the natural priorities of Catholic social teaching, undermined the progress pro-lifers have made, and provided an excuse for some Catholics to abandon the abortion issue instead of fighting within their parties and at the ballot box to protect the unborn.”
The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights reported that same year that CACG received substantial funds from billionaire abortion-rights supporter George Soros.
In a June 18 essay, chairman of the board of CACG, Alfred Rotondaro, scolded the U.S. bishops for focusing too much on abortion, traditional marriage and religious liberty at their June 11-13 spring meeting:
“Their focus on these three issues to the detriment of others that also affect millions of Americans on a daily basis has hindered their ability to be more effective voices of moral authority,” Rotondaro wrote.
He said that the bishops “should learn from the experiences of those who today are living the faith of Jesus Christ in the streets,” using the examples of Sister of Social Service Simone Campbell of Nuns on the Bus, and Daughter of Charity Sister Carol Keehan, president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, both of whom led Catholic support for Obamacare.
Rotondaro also is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a Democratic think tank that likewise has been funded by George Soros. In a May 25, 2010, blog on the Huffington Post, Rotondaro had called for a new Vatican council to reconsider some issues: “The place to start is with the role of women in the Church. I have never seen any rational reason why a woman could not be a priest. Why can’t this be openly discussed? Will St. Peter’s sink into the Tiber if it is?”
For a “rational reason,” one need go no further than the founder of our Church, Jesus Christ himself.
“A second point is the theme of sex,” Rotondaro continued. “Sex comes from God. It should be celebrated. Gay sex comes from God. Married sex without the intent of procreation is now an evil, according to the hierarchy. But does any practicing Catholic under age 80 believe this? And in a pluralistic nation like America, we must realize that abortion is here to stay. We must examine the reasons for abortion and deal with those reasons to reduce abortions.”
In how many ways is this incorrect? One has to wonder if the author is truly Catholic when he says these things.
Among members of the CACG Advisory Council is Mercy Sister Mary Waskowiak, who was LCWR president in 1997. Several priests also are listed as members: Jesuit Fathers David Hollenbach and James Keenan of Boston College, Thomas Reese of the Reporter, and Charles Currie of Jesuit Commons. Jesuit Father William Byron of St. Joseph’s University is on the board of trustees.
While the letter to Pope Francis may cause a temporary stir in Catholic circles, it will be old news to the Holy See, which is accustomed to Church reform groups seizing on any opportunity to plead their cause and make a few headlines, demanding how the Church should change to suit us instead of the opposite.