Hilary White, Rome Correspondent


Radical feminist nuns’ group ‘stunned’ by Vatican criticisms, reform plan

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

VATICAN CITY, April 19, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The announcement yesterday by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) that one of the most notoriously liberal radical feminist organizations in the American Catholic Church is to be the subject of a major reform effort has been met with surprise from the group and condemnation from some of its members. 

An initial statement from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) leadership says they are “stunned” by the critical comments made by the CDF in their doctrinal assessment. The CDF had specifically criticized the organization for its refusal to accept Catholic teaching on abortion, human sexuality and women’s ordination.

“Because the leadership of LCWR has the custom of meeting annually with the staff of CDF in Rome and because the conference follows canonically-approved statutes, we were taken by surprise,” the LCWR said in a statement. The leadership will meet in the next month to consider a comprehensive response.

Individual members, however, have been prompt in condemning the Vatican’s interest. Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, a lobbying group of U.S. Catholic nuns cited as problematic in the CDF’s report, told the Washington Post, “It’s painfully obvious that the leadership of the church is not used to having educated women form thoughtful opinions and engage in dialogue.”

Benedictine sister Joan Chittister, a prolific author and the unofficial spokesman of the extreme feminist left among Catholic women religious, told the National Catholic Reporter, “When you set out to reform a people, a group, who have done nothing wrong, you have to have an intention, a motivation that is not only not morally based, but actually immoral.”

Chittister called the CDF’s proposals an attempt “to control people for one thing and one thing only – and that is for thinking, for being willing to discuss the issues of the age.”

“If we stop thinking, if we stop demanding the divine right to think, and to see that as a Catholic gift, then we are betraying the church no matter what the powers of the church see as an inconvenient truth in their own times.”

In an interview with LifeSiteNews.com in 2010, Chittister had said that while she is personally “against” abortion, “I would never condemn a woman who finds herself in the position where she believes that, or her doctor believes that, abortion is the only answer for her at that moment.”  She also criticized the Catholic Church as being based “on a patriarchal system” and described her admitted divergence from Catholic teaching as a “position of query, of theological and scriptural commitment and search.”

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While the LCWR leadership and supporters say they are surprised, others have noted that reform of the religious life has been a prominent feature of Pope Benedict’s papacy. Among his earliest acts as pope was the launching of a reforming investigation into the wealthy and influential Legion of Christ, founded by the now-disgraced, late Marcial Maciel, after years of accusations of misconduct.

One Vatican source told LifeSiteNews.com that while some may consider this action against LCWR typical of an “ultra-conservative” pope acting to suppress the liberal factions, “It should be remembered that Benedict’s first target was the Legionaries and Maciel, then the darlings of the conservative end of the Church.”

LCWR was founded in 1956 and approved by the Vatican as an umbrella organization representing sisters and nuns in the U.S. Its 1500 members are members of congregations representing over 80 percent of the 59,000 Catholic women religious in the United States. Since the 1960s, however, the LCWR has become the de facto representative of the far left in the U.S. Catholic Church, with its membership dedicated to, in the words of the CDF, “certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith,” and “policies of corporate dissent,” from Catholic teaching.

CDF prefect Cardinal Levada said he had received many letters from women religious in the U.S. complaining about Catholic teaching. “The terms of the letters,” he wrote, “suggest that these sisters collectively take a position not in agreement with the Church’s teaching on human sexuality.

“It is a serious matter when these Leadership Teams are not providing effective leadership and example to their communities, but place themselves outside the Church’s teaching.”

The document from the CDF outlines the Vatican’s plan to spend the next five years reforming the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain has been appointed to oversee the reform of the organization, which will involve revising its statutes, creating new programs, reviewing and offering guidance on liturgy and reviewing LCWR’s affiliations with other organizations, citing specifically NETWORK and the Resource Center for Religious Institutes.

The announcement comes at a delicate time in the relations between the US Catholic Church and LCWR, with the latter endorsing the Obama administration’s health care plans and former leading a fight against the administration’s plans to impose birth control coverage on Catholic institutions and fund abortion in the health reform law. This conflict of interest seems to be in the mind of the CDF, which has an American, William Levada, as cardinal prefect. The document noted, “occasional public statements by the LCWR that disagree with or challenge positions taken by the Bishops, who are the Church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals, are not compatible with its purpose.”

The CDF said that the sisters represented by the LCWR, 80 percent of the remaining female Catholic religious in the US, are “in crisis.” They have moved away from the fundamental purpose of their existence as Catholic religious and are suffering from “a diminution of the fundamental Christological center and focus of religious consecration,” it said.

“While there has been a great deal of work on the part of LCWR promoting issues of social justice in harmony with the Church’s social doctrine, it is silent on the right to life from conception to natural death, a question that is part of the lively public debate about abortion and euthanasia in the United States,” the document said.

If the LCWR leadership says it is “stunned” by the outcome of the CDF’s investigation, the reaction is possibly the result of statements previously coming from the Vatican itself. Following several negative reactions from LCWR sisters after the investigation was announced, the recently appointed Secretary of the Congregation for Religious, Archbishop Joseph Tobin, said that he anticipated no censure from Rome as a result.

“I can say that I would be very surprised if anybody would purport to give any punitive or overly prescriptive norms as a result of this visitation,” he said. “If the visitors, in dialogue with the sisters, have identified some specific issues that need to be dealt with, okay. But forcing people into habits or something like that? That’s not what this is about.”

Tobin also said that strong actions against American women’s religious orders “would be really disrespectful of what women religious in America have accomplished,” and that the “depth of anger and hurt that exists among the sisters ... can’t be ignored.”

Archbishop Tobin had previously told journalists that the animosity between the US religious orders and the Vatican is the Vatican’s fault. The real problem, he said, was the presence of “unscrupulous canonical advisers” in the Vatican.

Two years after Archbishop Tobin reassured LCWR, Mother Clare Millea, the sister appointed in 2008 by the Vatican to coordinate the Apostolic Visitation of all the U.S. active religious orders, issued a statement saying, “Although there are concerns in religious life that warrant support and attention, the enduring reality is one of fidelity, joy, and hope.”

She told Catholic journalist Ann Carey in January this year, “The dialogue promoted by the apostolic visitation is just a beginning of new vitality in religious life. I am confident that much more will unfold with the passing of time and that the Holy Spirit will continue to work in and through women religious to strengthen unity within the Church and further the saving mission of Christ.”

“As I learned of and observed firsthand the perseverance of the religious in the United States in their vocations, in their ministries and in their faith … I have been both inspired and humbled,” she added.

The situation of the Catholic sisterhoods in the U.S. has been in flux since the closing of the Second Vatican Council in 1965 ushered in a maelstrom of change. This change, while frequently lauded as “prophetic” by the LCWR sisters themselves, has seen the near-total collapse of the Catholic religious life, and after 40 years, the closure or effective secularization of hundreds, if not thousands, of schools, nursing homes, hospitals, colleges and other Catholic charitable institutions, including convents.

In the intervening decades, while new vocations became more rare, the religious orders turned their attention largely to political interests, with the sisters themselves focusing on an array of left-liberal and secular causes. Meanwhile, the average median age of women in LCWR institutes is now 74, and many of the LCWR-represented congregations are no longer accepting applicants, choosing instead to merge with other orders or shut down their operations entirely.

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Pope Francis attacks ‘fundamentalist’ Catholics, dismisses condom ban as unimportant

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By John-Henry Westen

ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE, November 30, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- On the plane returning from his journey to Africa today Pope Francis made his clearest remarks in condemnation of ‘fundamentalist’ Catholics.

"Fundamentalism is a sickness that is in all religions," Francis said, as reported by the National Catholic Reporter’s Vatican correspondent, Joshua McElwee, and similarly by other journalists on the plane.  "We Catholics have some -- and not some, many -- who believe in the absolute truth and go ahead dirtying the other with calumny, with disinformation, and doing evil."

"They do evil," said the pope. "I say this because it is my church."

"We have to combat it," he said. "Religious fundamentalism is not religious, because it lacks God. It is idolatry, like the idolatry of money."

Turning to Islam, the pope spoke of his friendship with a Muslim, adding, “You cannot cancel out a religion because there are some groups, or many groups in a certain point of history, of fundamentalists.”

"Like everything, there are religious people with values and those without," he said. "But how many wars … have Christians made? The sacking of Rome was not done by Muslims, eh?"

STORY: Vatican’s liturgy chief contradicts Pope Francis on Communion for non-Catholics

On the same flight a journalist asked about the use of condoms in the fight against AIDS and if it was time for the Church to change its position.

The pope acknowledged that condoms are one method of prevention, saying that the Church was faced with a perplexity of whether to follow the fifth commandment (Thou shalt not kill) “or that sexual relations are open to life.” 

He dismissed this however as ‘not the problem’ and said it reminded him of the question asked Jesus, “Tell me, teacher, is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath? Is it obligatory to heal?’

Catholic News Agency carries the fullest rendition of the pope’s quotes on the matter, relating his words thus:

“Let’s not talk about if one can use this type of patch or that for a small wound, the serious wound is social injustice, environmental injustice,” Pope Francis continued. “I don’t like to go down to reflections on such case studies when people die due to a lack of water, hunger, environment...when all are cured, when there aren’t these illnesses, tragedies, that man makes, whether for social injustice or to earn more money – I think of the trafficking of arms – when these problems are no longer there, I think we can ask the question ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?’”

 “Because, if the trafficking of arms continues, wars are the biggest cause of mortality...I would say not to think about whether it’s lawful or not to heal on the Sabbath, I would say to humanity: ‘make justice,’ and when all are cured, when there is no more injustice, we can talk about the Sabbath.”

While in Africa the pope used very strong language to promote the climate change agreement at the Paris climate summit that started today. He said it would be a “catastrophe” if it did not achieve acceptance in Paris in the coming days and added that the decision came down to the choice “either to improve or to destroy the environment.”

Speaking at the United Nations center in Nairobi on November 26, Pope Francis said, “In a few days an important meeting on climate change will be held in Paris, where the international community as such will once again confront these issues. It would be sad, and I dare say even catastrophic, were particular interests to prevail over the common good and lead to manipulating information in order to protect their own plans and projects.”


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Ben Carson on Colorado shooting: pro-lifers need to ‘tone down’ ‘hateful rhetoric’

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By Ben Johnson

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado, November 30, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - After a string of verbal gaffes and controversies over the depth of his pro-life convictions, Dr. Ben Carson has implied that the pro-life movement needs to "tone down" its "hateful rhetoric" and "become more mature."

The doctor was asked on CBS's "Face the Nation" about abortion supporters' claims that pro-life speech led to Robert Lewis Dear's shooting inside a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

"There is no question that hateful rhetoric, no matter which side it comes from, Right or Left, is something that is detrimental to our society," Dr. Carson said. "This has been a big problem."

"No question the hateful rhetoric exacerbates the situation," Carson affirmed.

Lamenting that social discourse had become less civil, he said modern political "rhetoric is extremely immature, divisive, and is not helpful."

“I think both sides should tone down their rhetoric and engage in civil discussion," Dr. Carson said.

Pro-life leaders were quick to rebut his charges that they engage in extreme or immature rhetoric. (See related story.)

After briefly leading rival Donald Trump in a series of national polls, Carson's presidential hopes have crumpled amidst a series of misstatements and retractions that have led national commentators to question whether the political novice is ready to be president of the United States. Last Sunday, talk show host Rush Limbaugh told Fox News that Ben Carson is "probably not" fully "equipped to be president."

The statement apparently condemning pro-life rhetoric comes after Carson, a famed neurosurgeon, told a Florida reporter that attempts to save the life of Terri Schiavo were "much ado about nothing."

Dr. Carson told LifeSiteNews exclusively that his remarks had been taken out of context by a Tampa Bay Times reporter. The reporter later posted the full transcript of his question, and Dr. Carson's answer to provide context.

Full transcript of the "Face the Nation" segment:

Dickerson: OK. I would like to ask you about a domestic political event or what some people see has a political element to it, and that's the shooting at a Planned Parenthood location in Colorado Springs.

Some abortion rights supporters have said that the rhetoric has led to that kind of violence. What's your view on that?

Carson: There is no question that hateful rhetoric, no matter which side it comes from, Right or Left, is something that is detrimental to our society.

This has been a big problem. Our strength in this country has traditionally been in our unity. And we are allowing all kinds of circumstances to divide us and make us hateful toward each other. And the rhetoric is extremely immature, divisive, and is not helpful.

When you have outside forces, global Islamic radical jihadists who want to destroy us, why would we be doing that to ourselves? We, at some point, have got to become more mature. No question the hateful rhetoric exacerbates the situation, and we should be doing all we can to engage an intelligence, civil discussion about our differences.

That's how we solve problems. We don't ever solve them with hateful rhetoric.

Dickerson: Should abortion rights -- excuse me -- should those who oppose abortion rights tone down their rhetoric?

Carson: I think both sides should tone down their rhetoric and engage in civil discussion.

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Robert Lewis Dear
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Everything we know about the Planned Parenthood shooter

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By John Jalsevac
Robert Dear's shanty in North Carolina where he spent part of his time.

November 30, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - Planned Parenthood, and supporters of abortion rights, have pointed to Friday's shooting at a Planned Parenthood facility as evidence that the pro-life movement is responsible for encouraging violence through its "hateful rhetoric." Planned Parenthood of Rocky Mountains has declared that the shooter himself "was motivated by opposition to Planned Parenthood and access to abortion," although police have not officially released any information about his motives.

Meanwhile, the picture emerging of the man who allegedly opened fire at a Planned Parenthood facility Friday is one of a deeply disturbed recluse who, though opposed to abortion, had little interest in and no known history of active involvement in the abortion debate, with a long spate of run-ins with the law and a pattern of bizarre behavior that left some of those who encountered him fearful for their safety, and many convinced that he wasn't in his right mind.

On Saturday morning Colorado Springs police identified Robert Lewis Dear, 57, of North Carolina, as the suspect in the shooting that left three dead, and another nine injured. Dear allegedly began shooting outside the Planned Parenthood facility just before noon, Mountain Time, Friday, before retreating into the facility for a five hour stand-off with police.

Planned Parenthood has confirmed that none of its staff were injured in the shooting. Both of the civilians killed were reportedly accompanying friends to appointments.

The New York Daily News reports that an online dating profile that appears to have been posted by Dear in the early 2000s has Dear asking for "discreet" sadomasochistic sex, as well as pot-smoking companions. Other posts on Cannabis.com by someone with a username associated with Dear, include what the Daily News describes as "paranoid Biblical rants."

Heavy.com reports that Dear was arrested and charged in 2002 on "animal cruelty," eavesdropping and "peeping tom" charges. He was acquitted of the animal cruelty charges after a bench trial, while the latter charges were dismissed.

The animal cruelty charge was apparently related to an incident in which Dear allegedly shot a neighbor's dog in the leg with a pellet gun.

USA Today reports that a 2004 police report shows Dear threatened to "do bodily harm" to a neighbor.

He also has numerous previous convictions for various traffic violations. These include seat belt violations, driver’s license violations, operating a vehicle in an unsafe mechanical condition and driving a non-registered vehicle.

ABC reports that Dear spent some of his time living in a cabin in the woods in North Carolina, without running water or electricity. Neighbors say he was a quiet man who seemed "off." They said that when he did speak, he tended to ramble on a disconnected series of topics.

One neighbor, James Russell, said that two topics they never heard Dear speak about were religion and abortion. Russell also said that Dear tended to avoid eye contact. "Nothing with him was very cognitive," said Russell about Dear.

RELATED: Police officer killed at Planned Parenthood was pro-life, Christian pastor

James Howie, who lived close to one of Dear's remote properties in North Carolina, told USA Today that Dear once asked him to do some foundation work on his shack. After accompanying Dear to the job site, Howie declined the job. "I was just glad to get home," he said about the experience, adding that in his view Dear seemed crazy, although not dangerous.

Another neighbor told the Washington Post that Dear "was the kind of person you had to watch out for. He was a very weird individual. It's hard to explain, but he had a weird look in his eye most of the time."

Another neighbor told the Post, "He complained about everything. He said he worked with the government, and everybody was out to get him, and he knew the secrets of the USA. He said, 'Nobody touch me, because I've got enough information to put the whole U.S. of A in danger.' It was very crazy."

Another neighbor said that she and her family "kept out of his way." "He wouldn't really speak to anybody, he wouldn't wave," Mallory Nicoletti, 29, told the Citizen-Times.

John Hood, another neighbor, told NBCNews that Dear rarely spoke with him, but when he did, it was to offer bizarre advice. On one occasion, said Hood, Dear urged him to get a metal roof installed on his house, so the US government couldn't spy on him. Hood also said he erected a fence between their properties, because Dear had a habit of skinny dipping. 

RELATED: This one shot from the latest PP sting video might be the most disturbing thing you see all year

Those living in the North Carolina community where Dear had his shack said they were frustrated by the fact that Dear would leave for days at a time, leaving behind two dogs with no food or water, who would start to get aggressive.

“We’re not isolationists,” one resident said. “You know how whenever someone goes crazy, the neighbors say he was so quiet and normal. That wasn’t the case here. He was weird. Everyone kept an eye on him.”

"He was really tightly wound," said another resident. "You could see that from the stress on his face, from the way he acted.”

Still another went even further, telling the Post, "He was just always saying, ‘I know the U.S. is trying to kill everybody’ and do this and do that. He [said he] was an undercover [agent]. Just craziness. Just pure, right-out craziness all the time.

“I’m kind of glad he’s put away now."

The Gateway Pundit also reports that, bizarrely, Dear was registered to vote as a woman, although it is unclear whether this is simply a clerical error or has any deeper significance. His party was listed as "unaffiliated."

One anonymous source, reportedly with the police, told the Washington Post that in a confusing rant following his arrest Dear did make mention of "baby body parts," suggesting some connection with the recent series of undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood staffers harvesting and selling the body parts of aborted babies.

However, the source added that this was but one topic among many mentioned by Dear in a speech that left investigators unclear as to his specific motivation.

Planned Parenthood has issued a statement saying that based upon eyewitnesses they believe Dear "was motivated by opposition to safe and legal abortion." 

Dear's ex-wife, Pamela Ross, told the New York Times he was a Bible-believing Christian, and that he opposed abortion, but that it "was never really a topic of conversation" in their house.

RELATED: Planned Parenthood shooting suspect surrenders, is in custody: police

Ross and Dear divorced in 2000. The picture that Ross paints of her ex-husband as a physically healthy man who lifted weights, took good care of himself, enjoyed listening to U2 and riding motorcycles, clashes markedly with the accounts of those who lived near him in the years since their parting. 

Ross said she was shocked at the man she saw on TV following his arrest this weekend.

“Something must have happened to him when he moved away, that’s all I know," she said. “Me and our whole family are extremely devastated and heartbroken by the victims of these families, and we have no words that can ever comfort them other than to say we’re sorry for what he did.”

However, Ross admits that she did call police on Dear in 1997, after a case of domestic violence. She didn't press charges at the time.

Dear reportedly brought several "items" with him into the Planned Parenthood facility, which police had said they were concerned could be explosives. Early Saturday morning police tweeted that those items have been "secured" and are "no longer a threat."

Subsequent reports have suggested those items were propane tanks that Dear may have been trying to shoot in order to cause an explosion.

After a five-hour standoff with police, during which Dear repeatedly exchanged gunfire with them, police were able to establish voice contact with the suspect by shouting. At that point they were able to convince him to surrender.

While some reports have indicated that the shooting actually began outside a nearby Chase Bank, and may have been related to a robbery, Springfield police spokeswoman Lt. Catherine Buckley said at a press conference Friday evening that the shooting appears to have begun at the Planned Parenthood. 

While Dear's motive is still unknown, pro-life groups have issued statements condemning the violence, and urging caution in jumping to conclusions.

"Information is very sketchy about the currently active shooting situation in Colorado Springs," said Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life. "The Planned Parenthood was the address given in the initial call to the police, but we still do not know what connection, if any, the shooting has to do with Planned Parenthood or abortion."

"As leaders in the pro-life movement, we call for calm and pray for a peaceful resolution of this situation."

Troy Newman of Operation Rescue and Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition, also issued statements.

"Operation Rescue unequivocally deplores and denounces all violence at abortion clinics and has a long history of working through peaceful channels to advocate on behalf of women and their babies," said Newman. "We express deep concern for everyone involved and are praying for the safety of those at the Planned Parenthood office and for law enforcement personnel. We pray this tragic situation can be quickly resolved without further injury to anyone."

"Although we don't know the reasons for the shooting near the Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs today, the pro-life movement is praying for the safety of all involved and as a movement we have always unequivocally condemned all forms of violence at abortion clinics. We must continually as a nation stand against violence on all levels," said Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition, based in Washington, D.C.


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