In the United States, there are two canonically approved organizations for leaders of congregations of women religious. The majority (80 percent) are members of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, headquartered in Silver Spring, Md. The remaining congregations belong to the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, based in Washington, D.C.
I have pleasant enough memories of Cardinal William Levada who, as a young worker bee in the hive of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, helped me find my way through the dim warrens of the old Holy Office when I was questioned there more moons ago than I can now count. I cannot erase my gratitude despite his persistent efforts, now that he runs the whole waxworks of the congregation, to make me, along with millions of others, wonder if he lets his right hand know what his left hand is doing. Or perhaps that is exactly what bright young clerics must learn to do if they are to reach their career goals.
Cardinal Levada -- I would call him Darth, but NCR's editor won't let me -- has, of course, also had to master a straight face when issuing, as he did this week, updated norms originally drafted when Paul VI was pope "regarding the manner of proceeding in the discernment of presumed apparitions or revelations."
In one of the latest grassroots efforts to show support for the nuns criticized in a recent Vatican report, a group of Catholics from Cincinnati, Ohio, has collected about 650 signatures – and more than $6,500 in small donations – for a one-page ad scheduled to run in Sunday’s (May 27) Cincinnati Enquirer.
“The mail’s been arriving, with very sweet notes that we’re trying to save,” said Chris Schroeder, one of the project organizers. Accompanying the $10-$25 checks are words of gratitude for the work of sisters, Schroeder said, but also messages that show people’s anger at the situation.
I was at a fundraiser the other night for my state representative, a Democrat. He's a criminal defense lawyer, listens to my concerns about prison reform, gives me sound advice about the ways of the Missouri legislature, and follows through on his promises.
I was introduced as a Catholic sister to one of the state party leaders. He asked me right away about the Vatican investigation of nuns. I gave a vague comment about not worrying too much, that we nuns were all continuing our work. He, the Democrat, said it appeared to him the bishops were tough Republicans and that Missouri is likely in the next few years to grant nonpublic school scholarships, which would take even more money from the education of poor children and children with disabilities.
The two bills promoting scholarships did not move along in the Missouri bill process. But The New York Times ran a lengthy analysis of this movement last Monday.
Prayer vigils were held in several cities around the country Tuesday, as protesters gathered in front of local churches - for the third consecutive week, in some cases - to pray and show support for Catholic sisters criticized by the Vatican in a recent report.
For more photos from around the country, go here.
From Alaska to South Texas, to Washington, D.C., people gathered outside Catholic churches and cathedrals in about a dozen cities earlier this month to pray, sing and show support for the American nuns criticized in a recent Vatican report.
Organizers of the vigils say they hope these acts of solidarity will inspire the Vatican to rescind the document that places the Leadership Conference of Women Religious under the authority of an archbishop -- a move that has left many bewildered and angry.
Eileen Ford, of Rockport, Mass., mailed the following column and cover note to Cardinal William Levada, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
She has sent it to NCR, for publication:
I hope you will read the following article in the spirit in which it was written - as a tribute to those who have served the Church faithfully.
When will you investigate the bishops who have never been held accountable for their negligence and are still in positions of power and honor?
Catholics are watching this abuse of power by the Vatican and the Church will continue to implode if you continue to persecute sisters and protect bishops.
Eileen M. Ford
Ford, a contributor to The Gloucester Daily Times, writes a monthly column titled Insights and Outbursts. (A similar version of this column appeared on the newspaper's website.)
"Institutions that claim power over our nature will have to pay nature's denied due, and will end by abusing their flock."
San Francisco Catholic Charities honored Archbishop George Niederauer at its annual Loaves and Fishes event April 29. While he was being honored for his leadership and support of Catholic Charities programs and services, it was obvious that everyone at the banquet, regardless of where they come down on religious liberty, women religious, gay marriage or any of the other hot issues within our church wanted also to honor this good man for his most important role -- being the pastor and shepherd of his flock.
The main speaker of the evening was his friend and predecessor Cardinal William Levada.
I have always loved the phrase "elephant in the room," a metaphor for an obvious truth or controversial issue momentarily unaddressed. The elephant in the Grand Ballroom of the Palace Hotel that night was Rome's recent crackdown on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, perhaps initiated by bishops in America, but led by William Levada, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Protection of the Faith.
A group of Washington, D.C.-area friends are starting a grassroots movement to show support for Catholic sisters, and have announced a rally near the Vatican Embassy from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 29. Their press release has more details:
SILVER SPRING, Md. -- One of two organizations named in the Vatican-ordered reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious advised women religious on their canonical and financial rights during the Vatican’s recent three-year apostolic investigation of U.S. women’s orders.
In its eight-page April 18 document calling for a reform of LCWR, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith mentions the Resource Center for Religious Institutes twice.