Thursday, May 29, 2014

"Labor Priests" Reviving Social Justice Teachings—and Action

By Robert Richter

Labor priests are once again gaining numbers,
advocating for workers and walking with them.

Above: Police arrest Father Andrew Switzer, a West Virginia priest and the son of coal miners, during a Mine Workers rally to save pensions and health care. (Photo: CNS/David Kameras, courtesy of UMWA)

Note: This article was first published May 28, 2014 by

"Labor priests" were a recognized presence in the labor movement of the 1920s through the 1960s. Father Barry, the Karl Malden character in the 1954 film On the Waterfront, was the model of the priest who sided with workers.

Priests conducted Parish Labor Schools where workers interested in collective bargaining studied Catholic social justice doctrine, labor law, and parliamentary procedure.

While parish-based Labor Schools have been largely replaced today by worker centers, labor priests are once again gaining numbers (100 at last count) who share their vision that to diminish workers is to rob them of their God-given vocation.

The Priest-Labor Initiative was founded in 2012 by Father Clete Kiley and held its third meeting this month in Atlanta, with two dozen priests in attendance. Kiley was pastor of a large immigrant parish in Chicago, worked on organizing drives at university food services and at O’Hare airport, and is now director for immigration policy for UNITE HERE, the hotel workers union.

Pope’s Overhead Cover

Labor priests are doing at the parish level what Pope Francis is doing at his level. Immigration reform, income inequality, human trafficking, a living wage are some of the justice and peace issues on labor priests’ agenda, with overhead cover from Francis.

The present-day labor priest is focused on the community as a core value, insisting that all members of the community receive an adequate share in the fruits of their labor. As he deals with those who labor and are heavily burdened by underemployment, no employment, low wages, no health care, wage theft, assault and abuse in the workplace, he can be a source of compassion, mercy, and counsel. To all he says, “Come, let us reason together how to make the workplace more humane.”

Especially objectionable are imaginative, creative but harmful tactics that cheat the worker of a livelihood, health care, earned vacation time, and sick leave, and plunder pensions. At another level, the practice of pumping infusions of cash to legislators through lobbyists to fix the scales of justice for cheating, or shifting public services like hospitals, postal, prisons, and schools to for-profit contracts is even more troubling.

Labor priests believe there is a role for visible clergy supporting the religious, moral, and spiritual dimension of work, to advocate for oppressed workers, and to walk with them— especially to witness when they return to work after an action. Clergy played this role after the fast-food strikes, escorting workers back to the workplace to fend off retaliation.

So priests continue to gather for the two-day Priest-Labor Initiative training events to develop a network and to invite priests to become closer with working-class men and women.

Actions the reader might take to help grow labor priests:

• Ask your priest to conduct a listening session for workers to tell their stories and discuss what to do about things they want to change, using parish facilities like parking, meeting rooms, and kitchen.

• Ask the priest to observe an organized worker action and be present, especially after, to witness events when workers go back in to work.

The bottom line for labor priests: This is not a special ministry. This is what we do as Catholic leaders.

Robert Richter is a parish priest in Arlington, Virginia, and attended the April 2014 Labor Notes Conference.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

With a New Synod of Bishops Comes a New Chance to Do Things Right

By Joan Chittister

Note: This commentary was first published May 28, 2014 by The National Catholic Reporter.

I remembered an ancient saying not long ago that smacked far too much of the present than it did of the past. "There are only two mistakes on the way to truth," Buddha taught. "One is not going far enough and the other is not starting."

I knew right away that we're either on the verge of another mistake – or not. It all depends.

Very few ever get a second chance to get the really big things of life right. Really right.

On the personal level, recovery from error is always a slow and tenuous process. We fail at marriage and plod through life for years while all our other dreams shrivel with it. We get stuck in dead-end jobs, and there goes the kind of life for which we'd hoped.

But if mid-course corrections are difficult for individuals, they are even more difficult for major institutions.

Governments can be marked for decades by their major debacles. Wars stumbled into without cause, like the invasion of Iraq, can damage a country's place in the community of nations for years. Few mega-corps, like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, completely recover from public disaffection. They lose credibility. They barter years of goodwill. They watch the public turn away like sunflowers following the light.

Worse, plunge a public institution into public ignominy, and the ones that don't disappear immediately are often doomed to fade slowly and painfully into barely recognizable profiles of their former selves.

Once upon a time, churches were exempt from such problems. Not anymore. These days, churches are little better off than the average organization when it comes to the wages of sin and attempts to defraud. "The faith" does not compensate in an educated public for a loss of confidence in the integrity of the church itself.

Which is where we are right now, whether anyone wants to consider that possibility or not. All of our major institutions are being viewed with wary eyes – the government and its outrageous dysfunction, the global financial structures and their pecuniary sleight of hand, and even the church and its insistence on rules for everyone else while it seems to have skirted the important ones.

And into the middle of a church clouded by scandal as well as by rigidity comes a pope with a call for reform and for understanding. What's not to love?

The problem is that the church has been in this position before.

The first time the church found itself in major public discredit, the reformers of the 16th century were crying out for serious review of both the theology and practices of the church. They railed against clericalism, the wealth of the church, the use of arcane language that distanced the laity from its inner operations and made them second-class citizens, the sale of relics, the conferral of indulgences in exchange for alms, and a theology that left laypeople to be docile and unthinking consumers of a faith long bereft of either witness or spiritual energy.

The answer of the church at the Council of Trent (1545-1563) to these concerns was 150 anathemas at the very thought of change.

Or, in other words, Trent's answer to the pressure for renewal of the church was more of the same. Only this time, they went even further and added an index of forbidden books to dampen any more of that kind of thinking in the future; the total rejection of the vernacular to make general discussion of just about anything ecclesiastical impossible for laypeople; greater episcopal control; and more and better rules for everything else.

But the need for change and real renewal never went away.

Now, since the Second Vatican Council in 1962, the church itself has opened the question of reform again.

This time, the call comes from a pope with specific questions. Questions for which he wanted the input of the Catholic laity before his opening of the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops to discuss "pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelization" in October. So they sent the questions to bishops for the purpose of gathering input from the laity in each diocese.

But with the exception of a few bishops in the United States, that was the last we heard of it. And that's the real problem.

There are three dangers implicit in the process of asking questions.

First, when you ask people to respond to a series of questions, it gives them the idea that you are going to take their answers seriously. It raises expectations.

Second, to ask questions is to imply that you are open to considering someone else's way of looking at the possible answers to them.

Third, as any good lawyer knows, asking a question to which you don't want an answer different from your own threatens to expose the fissure of differences that underlie it. The old game of "one answer fits all" ends and people really begin to believe that they have a right to think and rethink and think again.

Thinking may be the sign of a healthy group, but it is not the sign of a complacent, tractable or acquiescent group. Once people begin to think together, community sets in, energy sets in, possibility sets in, and new life sets in. For them all.

Trent's 150 anathemas were a mistake that lost half of Europe to the church, that divided the Christian community for 400 years, that plunged Catholicism into the Dark Ages of thought, and that left the Christian witness adrift in "the scandal of division."

From where I stand, it looks as if we have been given another opportunity to do it right this time. The only question is whether or not the bishops who were entrusted with gathering the answers of the laity to these questions will start at all. Let alone go all the way.

Joan Chittister is a Benedictine Sister of Erie, Pa., a best-selling author, and a well-known international lecturer on topics of justice, peace, human rights, women's issues and contemporary spirituality in the church and in society. She presently serves as the co-chair of the Global Peace Initiative of Women, a partner organization of the United Nations, facilitating a worldwide network of women peace builders, especially in the Middle East. Sister Joan's most recent books include Following the Path: The Search for a Life of Passion, Purpose and Joy (Random House) and Monastery of the Heart (BlueBridge); she has won 13 CPA awards for her books. She is founder and executive director of Benetvision, a resource for contemporary spirituality, and a frequent contributor to The National Catholic Reporter.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Save the Date!

Listening Session on Healthy Sexuality

Catholics Talking Love, Sex,
and Marriage

Wednesday, May 28, 2014
7:00 - 9:00 p.m.

Gloria Dei Lutheran Church
700 Snelling Ave. S.
St. Paul 55116

(For directions, click here)

This special listening and sharing session is the start of a process by which we tell Church officials our views on contraception, same-sex attraction, divorce/remarriage, and other sexual issues.

The concerns raised at this Listening Session on Healthy Sexuality will be included in the position paper being prepared by the Council of the Baptized and which will be distributed to Catholics in our Archdiocese, to Archbishop Nienstedt, and to Pope Francis.

Join us and make your voice heard
on these important questions:

1) What should the church's relationship be toward divorced and remarried Catholics or those engaging in sex outside of sacramental marriage?

2) What are your thoughts on birth control and the use of contraception?

3) What should the Church's relationship be with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons?

4) What other concerns do you have about the Church's stance on sexual issues?

5) What structures would help us communicate our lived experience to church officials, and what feedback mechanisms do we need so we can be assured they are listening?

6) What message do you want to send to our local bishop? To Pope Francis?

Pre-registration not required. Free will offering.

For further information email Mary Beth Stein

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Culture War and the Self-Destruction of Catholic Schools

By Charles J. Reid, Jr.

Note: This commentary was first published May 14, 2014 at HuffPost Religion.

Let's begin with a basic premise: The culture war is bad for the life of the mind. And let us consider why: If education is the life of the mind, then the food upon which the mind feasts is the asking of questions.

"Why?" That single word is the most important question in the universe. It is the asking and the answering of that question which has allowed the human mind to understand the physical and the social sciences. Because we know how to respond to the "why?" questions, we are able to grasp the vastness of the cosmos and appreciate the tiniest subatomic particles. Because we know how to deal with "why?" questions, we are can organize our lives in dense and complex patterns. Human society works, in other words, because we know how to address "why?" questions.

Catholic schools were once places where such questions could be openly pursued. But a culture war is ravaging the Catholic primary and secondary school systems of the United States, and as I survey the scene I am increasingly convinced that these skirmishes represent an actual threat to the health and integrity of Catholic schools.

In saying this, I have in mind particularly the schools of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. For what has happened in Cincinnati is absolutely tragic.

Let's begin with some background. Dennis Schnurr, the Archbishop of Cincinnati, only arrived in that city in 2008 when he was appointed coadjutor ("assistant") bishop. He was elevated to Archbishop the following year. A born-and-raised mid-westerner, he has been content to remain behind the scenes where he built the reputation of a sensible, hard-headed administrator. One wishes that he might now show some of his famous pragmatism at a time that is looking like a tragic, needless, preventable descent into irrelevance for the Catholic Church in Cincinnati.

Matters began to unravel in Cincinnati in February, 2013, when Mike Moroski, the assistant principal of Purcell Marian High School was terminated from his position for declaring that as a matter of civil law same-sex couples should be permitted to marry.

Moroski did not challenge Catholic doctrine. He did not say that the Catholic Church must begin the practice of marrying gay couples. All he said was that secular society should permit gay marriage. Two gay non-Catholics should be free to go to the courthouse, take out a marriage license, and marry one another.

In truth, the State authorizes all sorts of marriages that the Catholic Church's canon law forbids — most especially, the State permits divorced couples to remarry. Catholic bishops do not insist that the State must deny the right of re-marriage to divorced non-Catholics. To do so would be ridiculous. And from the standpoint of Catholic Church law, the marriages of gays and divorced persons are both considered invalid.

The Archdiocese should have left Moroski undisturbed in his political views. Instead, however, officials took the extraordinary step of terminating him from his position. This overreaction led to the predictable petition drives and cries of outrage.

And now the Cincinnati Archdiocese has compounded the original error. The new employment contracts teachers are being asked to sign are designed to chill free inquiry. They can only be said to be aimed at shutting down the freedom to ask questions that must be the heart of education.

Consider the language of the contract: Teachers are forbidden from showing "public support of ... the homosexual lifestyle." What does that mean, precisely? Pretty obviously, it is directed at the Mike Moroski situation. Catholic school teachers will have to be much more circumspect in their politics if they want to remain employed. And they had better be careful where their gay friends and relatives are concerned. Show up to your gay son's or daughter's wedding and you could face termination.

But the broad, open-ended contractual language reaches beyond politics or displays of friendship and support. It attacks the essence of what it means to be a teacher. Teachers must live the life of the mind. They must be free to ask questions. "Why are some people gay?" Teachers must be free to ask this question. It goes with the territory of being a teacher.

But Cincinnati Catholic school teachers dare not ask that question under the onerous terms to which they being asked to assent. Because the truth is, they don't know what that word "support" means. If it means asking questions that could point in a direction other than back to "intrinsically disordered" language of the Catholic Catechism, then they may find themselves in breach of their contract and subject to termination or discipline.

What makes the situation in Cincinnati so sad is that the Catholic Church under Pope Francis is beginning to display signs of flexibility on the question of gay relationships. In Argentina, Pope Francis' home country, the daughter of a lesbian couple was baptized by an Argentinian bishop. Talk about support! And Pope Francis has sent signals that he might accept "civil unions." And, of course, he said famously with respect to gays, "Who am I to judge?"

Just as sadly, the health of the Catholic Church in Cincinnati has been in a downward spiral since Archbishop Schnurr assumed office. Consider some statistics: In 2008, the year he became coadjutor, there were 6,362 infant baptisms. In 2013, there were 5,523 such baptisms, a decline of 13.20 percent. In 2008, there were 7,534 First Holy Communicants in the Cincinnati Archdiocese. And in 2013, there were 6,686, a decline of 11.25 percent. At the same time, overall population in the Archdiocese inched upward from around 2,988,000 to around 3,000,000. And these numbers do not yet reflect the impact of the recent, entirely unnecessary struggle over the future of Catholic education in the Archdiocese. One hopes it is not too late revise that contractual language.

Charles J. Reid, Jr., has degrees in canon law and civil law from the Catholic University of America; and a Ph.D. in medieval history from Cornell University. He was raised in a union household in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and graduated from the University of Milwaukee with degrees in classical languages and history.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Barbara Marx Hubbard Responds to Cardinal Gerhard Müller

Following, with added links, is the response of Barbara Marx Hubbard to the comments on conscious evolution made by Cardinal Gerhard Müller during a meeting of officials of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith with the presidency of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) on April 30. This response was first published May 13, 2014 by The National Catholic Reporter.

I am grateful to Cardinal Gerhard Müller for raising concerns about conscious evolution and its relationship to Catholic teaching. I hope his focus on this issue will stimulate many, both within the Catholic church and outside it, to deepen human understanding of conscious evolution and how we might advance our own evolutionary action for the good of the whole of Earth life.

I am not a Catholic nor a theologian, yet I have been deeply inspired to help develop the meaning of conscious evolution through my studies of Teilhard de Chardin, Ilia Delio, John Haught, Beatrice Bruteau, Fr. Thomas Berry, David Richo, Diarmuid O'Murchu, and others. And of course, from the New Testament itself.

Now, meeting with so many women religious through LCWR, I see conscious evolution in action. They have been evolving the church and the world for hundreds of years through deep gospel living, a mystical presencing, faithfulness in serving unmet needs, solidarity with Earth, building community as "whole-makers," risk-taking for the sake of the mission, genius for cooperative self-governance and decision making, and, above all, bringing love and hope for the future into the lives of millions.

For me, the most vital source of meaning of conscious evolution is the Catholic understanding of God and Christ as the source of evolution, as its driving force as well as its direction. As Ilia Delio puts it, we experience in evolution the Emergent Christ and God Ahead.

Through science, research, technology communications and virtually every other area of human activity, we are weaving a delicate membrane of consciousness, what Teilhard called the "noosphere" or the thinking layer of Earth that is embracing and drawing into itself the entire planet. It will infuse the whole of humanity with a feeling of relationship and resonance. He called this potential experience "the Christification of the Earth."

Many of us are becoming what Teilhard called "Homo progressivus," those attracted to the future of the world moving toward the unknown, toward ever higher consciousness, freedom, order, and love.

In this view, evolution itself becomes a spiritually motivated labor of love toward a Christ-inspired world, leading toward life ever-evolving beyond this current stage of Homo sapiens sapiens.

Of course the scientific basis for conscious evolution is coming from many fields, most importantly from an understanding of the new cosmology, of the 13.8 billion year "The Universe Story," as written by Brian Swimme and Fr. Thomas Berry, and from "Big Bang Cosmology," as Ilia Delio calls it. Recently, Big History: From the Big Bang to the Present by David Christian, Cynthia Stokes Brown and Craig Benjamin is changing the view of history itself to begin at the origin of creation.

Meanwhile, new technologies are giving us vast new powers we used to attribute to gods, to destroy this world or create new worlds on this Earth and in space, as described in Dr. Ted Chu's new book, Human Purpose and Transhuman Potential: A Cosmic Vision for Our Future Evolution.

The headlines every day make millions of us aware that the crises we face are requiring us to become conscious of our effects on our own evolution, to act out of choice for the good rather than mere chance, or face the destruction of our life support system.

Finally, a new field or meta-discipline is beginning to form around the themes of conscious evolution. Philosophical geniuses like Ken Wilber, originator of Integral Theory, have surfaced as major thinkers of our times. His book A Brief History of Everything has been helpful to me as a beginning text. The work of Sri Aurobindo of India in his masterwork, The Life Divine has revisioned Buddhism and Hinduism from an evolutionary perspective. His partner, the Mother, founded the first evolutionary community, Auroville, in India. Hazel Henderson in her website Ethical Markets and recent books, and Elizabet Sahtouris in Earthdance: Living Systems in Evolution have illuminated conscious evolution in the field of economics. Jean Houston has called us to evolve in the field of creativity and human capacity in such books as Jump Time: Shaping Your Future in a World of Radical Change. Jan C. Smuts wrote Holism and Evolution calling us to understand the tendency in nature to form ever more comprehensive whole systems. Buckminster Fuller revealed to us the nature of synergy in evolution and foresaw a world that works for all. Duane Elgin in The Living Universe has illuminated a new vision of the universe.

A new book by Carter Phipps, The Evolutionaries: Unlocking the Spiritual and Cultural Potential of Science's Greatest Idea, reviews leading people in this new field. Steve McIntosh has written a beautiful book called Evolution's Purpose, probing the spiritual nature of evolution itself. Ervin Laszlo has illuminated the scientific and social basis of conscious evolution in over 50 books. An organization of 50 Evolutionary Leaders ( has issued a "Global Call for Conscious Evolution" as a world focus.

Yet the meaning and direction of conscious evolution is, for me, coming to us most clearly from the great modern Catholic theologians and thinkers, And most fundamentally, of course, directly from the New Testament: "Behold I show you a mystery, we shall not all sleep, we shall all be changed, in a moment, at the last trump and the trumpet shall sound," as St. Paul told us. The trumpet is sounding upon this phase of human self-centered behavior and growth. We will either evolve more consciously in our lifetimes, or devolve and destroy much of Earth life.

The key question in our time is, I believe, conscious evolution – that is, how to evolve consciously as a new whole planetary system. What is required now is many convenings of disciplines, faiths, and understandings to gain for the very first time, a sense of shared human responsibility for the destiny of Earth Life. Our new crises and opportunities require all of us to ask ourselves these questions: What is my unique contribution to the conscious evolution of humanity? What is my greater life purpose? What can I do, small or large to contribute toward a positive future for all? What are the purposes of the heart of Christ?

Barbara Marx Hubbard is president of the Foundation for Conscious Evolution.

Note: The Twin Cities-based Catholic Coalition for Church Reform recognizes the significance of Evolutionary Spirituality and is dedicated to exploring and educating about it. To learn more, click here.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Why You Should Care That the Vatican Is Going After American Nuns, Even If You’re Not Religious

By Emily Baxter

Note: This commentary was first published May 9, 2014 by

In the latest development of the long-running saga between American Nuns and Rome, the Vatican released a statement on Monday that rebuked the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), the largest overseeing organization of the 50,000 American Catholic nuns. In addition to reiterating criticisms of the sisters’ education in and exploration of new theological movements, this time the sisters were also in trouble for honoring a theologian who is not in favor with Rome.

The rebuke comes from Cardinal Muller, the head of the Vatican organization charged with ensuring adherence to Catholic teachings, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (CDF) — or, as it was known 500 years ago, the Inquisition. The statement is dated April 30, around the time when he met with the heads of the LCWR and their Vatican-appointed watchdog, Seattle’s Archbishop Sartain.

Notably, he says, he was “saddened” to learn that the sisters were not following their directive to have their annual conference’s speakers and award grantees approved by Rome. In the statement, Muller highlights that the LCWR gave an award to a theologian, Sr. Elizabeth Johnson, whose work — according to the CDF — holds doctrinal errors.

Tensions have been building between the Vatican and LCWR since 2012, when the Vatican accused the LCWR’s members of “radical feminism,” and a tendency to social justice work over speaking out against abortion and gay people.

In the Church’s official view, the LCWR is thinking, learning, speaking, and promoting ideas that are a little too “out there” for the Vatican. On this point, though, Emma Green at the Atlantic has noted that the words and ideas for which the Vatican has criticized the LCWR were in a larger context of garden-variety Catholic faith.

In his press release, Cardinal Muller said he did not wish to silence anyone, saying: “. . . the last thing in the world the Congregation would want to do is call into question the eloquent, even prophetic witness of so many faithful religious women.”

But, in fact, this is exactly what the LCWR was reprimanded for two years ago; then, the Vatican said that sisters who saw their dissent or disagreement with official Church teaching as a potential prophetic witness to true theology and faith, they were wrong — because only the CDF and the Vatican can verify true prophetic witness. The text hints that they define it as “sticking to the rules.”

Multiple news sites have played down the LCWR’s latest reprimand in Rome, reporting on another German Cardinal — Cardinal Walter Kasper — who spoke at Fordham University on Monday evening and, in response to questions about Muller’s statement, said that he, too, is “also considered suspect” by the Vatican for his writings.

So, why does it matter that a German Cardinal called a group of nuns to Rome for a dressing-down? Because the sisters of the LCWR are — whether they call themselves feminist or not, prophetic or not, radical or not — the voice of women struggling for respect and some mote of equality within (arguably) the oldest patriarchal institution in the world. Unlike Cardinal Kasper, they’ve been told that the recognition of their organization and way of life could depend on toeing the line.

To some, asking a far-out theologian to speak at a conference of 850 women, who’s average age is between 73-74, against the wishes of (or rather, without notifying) the Vatican may not seem like much but, in Catholic Church terms, it is a resistance that should be seen as nothing short of inspiring. Catholics still make up the largest single denomination of Christians in the United States (more than one in five adults) and, at times, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops can have an outsize sway in American politics. By fighting for their own integrity and survival, many Catholic sisters are also working to create a more just and equal Church from within. And while it might not fit most traditional definitions of radical feminist activism, it is a fight that could have effects far beyond their lives.

Emily Baxter is the Special Assistant for the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative at the Center for American Progress

Related Off-site Links:
With Malice Toward Nuns – Maureen Dowd (New York Times, May 10, 2014).
Hey, Pope Francis, Leave These Nuns Alone – Damon Linker (The Week, May 9, 2014).
LCWR on Accusations: 'Communication Has Broken Down'; 'Mistrust Has Developed' – Thomas C. Fox (National Catholic Reporter, May 8, 2014).
Nuns to Vatican: Quit Picking on Our Sisters – Abigail Pesta (NBC News, May 9, 2014).

See also the previous PCV posts:

Cardinal Gerhard Mueller Rebukes U.S. Nuns for Honoring Feminist Theologian Elizabeth Johnson
Quote of the Day – July 28, 2012
What the Nuns' Story is Really About

Monday, May 5, 2014

Cardinal Gerhard Mueller Rebukes U.S. Nuns for Honoring Feminist Theologian Elizabeth Johnson

By Yasmine Hafiz

Note: This article was first published May 5, 2014 by HuffPost Religion.

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), which represents the majority of U.S. nuns, was sharply rebuked by Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), last week during a visit to Rome. Cardinal Mueller emphasized the need for reform within the LCWR, objected to their choice of honoree for a leadership award, and criticized their interest in the idea of "conscious evolution."

The CDF, which serves as the Vatican's doctrinal watchdog, told the Presidency of the LCWR that their choice to honor a feminist theologian, Elizabeth Johnson, with an Outstanding Leadership Award "is a decision that will be seen as a rather open provocation against the Holy See and the Doctrinal Assessment."

Johnson's popular book Quest for the Living God was publicly denounced by the Committee on Doctrine of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2011. The USCCB released a statement saying that the text reaches many "theologically unacceptable" conclusions. Johnson is a Distinguished Professor of Theology at Fordham University, a Jesuit college in New York.

Mueller said:

It saddens me to learn that you have decided to give the Outstanding Leadership Award during this year’s Assembly to a theologian criticized by the Bishops of the United States because of the gravity of the doctrinal errors in that theologian’s writings. This is a decision that will be seen as a rather open provocation against the Holy See and the Doctrinal Assessment. Not only that, but it further alienates the LCWR from the Bishops as well.

Tension between the Vatican and the LCWR has been palpable for decades, culminating in a strict 2012 "doctrinal assessment" report that spoke of the need to cleanse the sisterhood of "radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith." Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle was promptly appointed to supervise the LCWR.

Despite the harsh tone of Mueller's opening remarks, it seems the meeting was productive for both the LCWR leadership and the CDF. The LCWR released a statement to The Huffington Post via email that said:

Archbishop Muller's opening remarks released by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith accurately reflect the content of the mandate communicated to LCWR in April 2012. As articulated in the Cardinal's statement, these remarks were meant to set a context for the discussion that followed. The actual interaction with Cardinal Muller and his staff was an experience of dialogue that was respectful and engaging.

Mueller was chosen by Pope Francis' predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, to lead the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. However, the influence of the Congregation under Pope Francis may be changing, as the new pope reportedly told South American priests and nuns not to worry if they received letters from the CDF criticizing their behavior.

Related Off-site Links:
Vatican Tells Off U.S. Nuns for Not Toeing the LineAFP via Yahoo! News (May 6, 2014).
U.S. Nuns Must Give Up New Age Ideas or Lose Vatican Recognition: CDF Head to LCWR Nuns – Hilary White (, May 6, 2014).
Head of Vatican Doctrinal Congregation Confronts LCWR for Non-cooperation – Dennis Coday (National Catholic Reporter, May 5, 2014).
Crackdown on U.S. Nuns Continues Under Pope FrancisAssociated Press via Yahoo! News (May 5, 2014).
Cardinal Kasper, the 'Pope's Theologian,' Downplays Vatican Blast at U.S. Nuns – David Gibson (Religion News Service via National Catholic Reporter, May 6, 2014).
American Nuns Get Slapped Down By the Vatican – Emma Green (The Atlantic, May 6, 2014).

See also the previous PCV posts:
Quote of the Day – July 28, 2012
Redefining Radical: Catholic Nuns Vs. the Vatican
What the Nuns' Story is Really About
Quote of the Day – January 6, 2014