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A letter to a woman religious

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Dear Betty,

The whole thing is a heartbreak. I can picture the tears you've shed, for your community, for your vocation, for your very life. Please believe me, nothing was wasted.

The noise coming from Rome about American women religious is in large part just that: the blustering of old men, translated into official-looking documents by cassock-clad junior clerics who wistfully wander the Curia's halls dreaming of a more orderly church, where lace is white and lay folk are quiet.

It might sound like an indictment of you, but the world heard it as an indictment of them.

They want a tidy, controlled church.

That's not likely to happen.

Not siding with bishops on conscience exemption is foolish

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"Ignore the Bishops" has long been a favored indoor sport of Catholics and non-Catholics alike. As it moves to international -- even Olympic-level -- competition, its dangers become apparent.

Witness the fracas over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) -- what pundits call "Obamacare" -- and its religious exemptions.

Basically, unless you are a religious employer and only hire folks for religious duties (essentially interpreted as direct religious ministry in the church building), you have to provide insurance coverage for birth control, sterilizations and abortifacient devices and chemicals by Aug. 1, 2013.

Federal regulations forbid paying for (or encouraging) abortion, but the federal act mandates any woman can get an IUD or some other device or chemical to interrupt pregnancy. The government says that's not abortion, which it cannot mandate or pay for. Yet.

The hue and cry is not letting up. Nor should it.

Despite what opponents say, women deacons are for ministry

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About a year ago, I published an open letter to Pope Benedict XVI asking him to make a decision on restoring women to the diaconate. I didn't hear back.

Priest-pederasts, -philanderers and -embezzlers continue to make the news. Parishes and schools are closing all over. Ordinations -- at least in the United States -- are beyond way down. The public relations profile of U.S. bishops seems fixed on same-sex marriage, abortion and the "new evangelization."

Are U.S. bishops carrying the brief for women deacons to their ad limina meetings in Rome?

They may be. The issue is picking up speed.

The Cleveland-based activist group FutureChurch has organized its members nationwide to pay pre-ad limina calls on bishops. The FutureChurch brief includes restoring women to their traditional place in the diaconate. In addition, a national Books-to-Bishops campaign has sent copies of the newly published Women Deacons: Past, Present, Future (by Santa Clara Professor Gary Macy, Monterey Deacon William T. Ditewig and me) to 135 U.S. diocesan bishops to date.

Lay preaching, the bishops and the new evangelization

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Gutenberg started it with his printing press, and the church's ability to control its message has been eroding ever since. Information and delivery systems were once restricted to stole-wearing clerics, but now bishops have the laity's access to the Internet to deal with.

They are not having much luck controlling the new lay preaching.

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April 11-24, 2014

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