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Sisters' Stories

In LCWR matter, all must stop, ponder and pray

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"Please give me bigger blindfolds and larger ear plugs or tell me how to continue to belong to a group that constantly tries to discourage my participation."

A friend offered this simple prayer after news broke of the Vatican's doctrinal assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. At times like this, I wish I was a pew-warmer Catholic, faithfully fulfilling my obligations while turning a blind eye and deaf ear to the messiness of church politics. But I can't. And this past week has shown that many Catholic women and men can't.

Discussion boards have heated up with predictable reactions from both ends of the trad-lib scale. Support for the sisters and their work is loud, strong and unwavering among those who embrace the renewal efforts of Vatican II. For those who eagerly anticipate a turning back of the clock, the sisters represented by LCWR symbolize the dissident church, straying from both purity of doctrinal teaching and unwavering obedience to the hierarchical leadership. The ideological lines of division are being drawn ever more deeply.

Sisters of mercy, devotion -- and dismay

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The Los Angeles Times has chimed in, adding another incredulous voice to many more certain to come, as reasonable observers consider the Vatican's destructive attack on U.S. women religious last week.

Columnist Steve Lopez writes that when he first heard of the Vatican doctrinal assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the umbrella group of 80 percent of U.S. women religious now under attack by Rome, he thought it was some kind of satire, "a parody of the out-of-touch Vatican patriarchy."

Portrait of a woman who supports the Vatican and opposes LCWR

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Last night, "PBS NewsHour" dedicated a segment into the Vatican takeover of LCWR. They interviewed two women of opposing views on the issue. Supporting LCWR was Jeannine Fletcher Hill, a professor specializing in feminist theology at Fordham University. Supporting the Vatican was Donna Bethell, a lawyer who serves as the chairman of the board at Christendom College.

Christendom College, for those out of the loop (and I was one of them until last night), is a liberal arts college founded 30 years ago "in response to the devastating blow inflicted on Catholic higher education by the cultural revolution which swept across America in the 1960s."

The college's website boasts, "Catholicism is the 'air that we breathe,' " and "Academic excellence takes the Magisterium as its guide."

Pope Benedict loves Christendom College. And Bethell spent her airtime discrediting women religious for not presenting the "full doctrine of the church" and not helping members "to understand it and to live it." But a web search of Ms. Bethell quickly reveals that some of her most deeply held convictions conflict significantly with Roman Catholic doctrine.

The ultimatum to LCWR

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Last Saturday, I was privileged to attend the 40th Anniversary dinner of NETWORK, the Catholic social justice lobby founded by nuns 40 years ago. Since 1972, this organization has done stellar work on the Hill advocating for social justice, the needs of the poor, world peace and the earth itself.

It was a wonderful gathering, and LCWR leaders were very visible and vocal in their praise of NETWORK -- and well they might be. Here was a gathering of the real leaders of our church for the future, members of religious communities: nuns, co-members, associates and wonderful friends.

Now, we get news from the Vatican, appointing an archbishop to lead what they dare to call "renewal" of LCWR. When you look at the specifics, it's more like dismantling, if LCWR actually does any of it.

And from the point of view of the Vatican, one of the problematic associations of LCWR is apparently NETWORK. What in the world are these hierarchical types thinking? Have they checked their calendars? Do they know this is the 21st century, when all the issues of NETWORK are crying out for action?

I have just one thought: Resisting injustice is the ultimate act of virtue in our time.

Bishop against gay marriage tapped to reform LCWR

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The Vatican investigation into U.S. women religious, which began in 2009, is finally bearing its first toxic fruit.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops announced Wednesday it has named Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain to lead a five-year reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). The reforms include a revision of the LCWR's statutes, a review of its programs (including, in all likelihood, Vatican approval of topics and speakers at their annual general assembly) and reviews of their liturgical norms and relationship with NETWORK, a Catholic social justice lobby.

Gates: Women need birth control on global health agenda

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In an address with potentially far-reaching health care consequences, Melinda Gates today called upon governments to set as goals universal access to birth control for women who want it. She said the measure could save hundreds of thousands of lives each year.

A Catholic, Gates is a co-chair and trustee of the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation, which distributes billions of dollars annually in the developing world to raise agricultural productivity, health care and education levels while it works to eradicate global diseases.

Ladies in White arrested before pope's Havana Mass

HAVANA -- A few hours before they planned to attend an outdoor Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI, members of a Catholic dissident group were reportedly arrested by Cuban police.

Alejandrina Garcia de la Rivas and Laura Maria Labrada Pollan, members of the Ladies in White -- "Damas de Blanco" -- were arrested before 6 a.m. Wednesday, said Blanca Reyes, a member of the organization who now lives Madrid, Spain.

International Women's Day sees protests in the Philippines

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MANILA, Philippines -- A September report in Newsweek declared, "In Asia, the Philippines is the best place to be a woman" to numerous publications in the country as well as to online news and social media sites.

And yet on Thursday, International Women's Day, Manila's streets filled up with thousands of women marching and rallying in protest alongside members of partner activist groups.

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November 21-December 5, 2014

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