Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

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Vatican threatens ‘radical feminist’ nuns’ group with de-recognition

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
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ROME, June 22, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – If they are not prepared to assert a more distinctly Catholic identity, the Vatican is prepared to oust the largest umbrella group of American nuns and sisters as the official representative and liaison with Rome, one of the pope’s closest advisors said in a rare interview.

If the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) refuses absolutely to cooperate with the Vatican’s attempt at reform, said William Levada, the cardinal prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, they will force Rome to reconsider their position in the Church.

“If you look at the church as a hierarchical structure—whether you see that as benign, or something else—ultimately, the pope is the superior,” Levada said.

“I suppose if the sisters said, ‘OK, we’re not cooperating with this,’ we can’t force them to cooperate. What we can do, and what we’d have to do, is say to them, ‘We will substitute a functioning group for yours,’ if it comes to that.”

Levada told US journalist John Allen that it is “premature” to imagine that the current LCWR leadership is to address the “substantive issues” brought up by a doctrinal assessment issued in April.

Allen stressed the point, asking, “So if the response is not satisfactory, the result could be decertification of LCWR?”

“It could be,” Levada responded.

LCWR is the organisation, founded in the 1950s, that officially represents about 80 percent of the 57,000 religious sisters in the U.S. Their membership is not growing, however, and the average age of most of the sisters in the US is about 74 with many of the LCWR-represented groups amalgamating or shutting down altogether.

Levada, an American prelate with decades of experience in US Catholic politics, knew that in addressing the National Catholic Reporter (NCR), the leading journalistic organ of the American Catholic left, he was directly addressing LCWR and their lay supporters.

Despite their claim to be “stunned” by it, the CDF’s doctrinal assessment, he said, was not sprung on them unawares. The CDF’s process started four years ago and LCWR’s leadership have been in close contact with Rome throughout.

In general, the assessment focused on what the CDF sees as LCWR’s conscious and determined movement away from the basics of Catholicism. The religious life in the US, it said, is in a state of crisis, facing “serious doctrinal problems”. Long before getting to doctrinal and disciplinary issues such as abortion, contraception and homosexual “marriage,” the CDF said the underlying problem is the group’s refusal to adhere to foundational dogmatic beliefs. These are the teachings like the existence of a personal, transcendent God, the divinity of Christ and the nature and place of the Catholic Church and its teaching authority in the economy of salvation.

The assessment particularly expressed concern that LCWR continued to stress “radical feminism” while remaining “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”.

“Issues of crucial importance in the life of the Church and society, such as the Church’s Biblical view of family life and human sexuality, are not part of the LCWR agenda in a way that promotes Church teaching,” the assessment said.

The characterisation of the affair in the mainstream and leftist Catholic media – particularly in NCR  - of the Vatican “attacking” all the female religious in the US, is unjust, Levada said.

“For the record, let me say again this is not about a criticism of the sisters. No sister will lose her job in teaching or charitable work or hospital work as a result of this assessment, as far as I know This is about questions of doctrine, in response to God’s revelation, and church tradition from the time of the apostles. We take that seriously.”

“I admire religious life, and I admire religious men and women,” he said. “They’re a great grace in and for the Church. But if they aren’t people who believe and express the faith of the church, the doctrines of the church, then I think they’re misrepresenting who they are and who they ought to be.”

Following closed-door meetings with the CDF, LCWR issued a formal statement rejecting the assessment’s conclusions and indicating they have no intention of cooperating. The assessment, they said, is “based on unsubstantiated accusations” and used “a flawed process that lacked transparency”. They said it has “caused scandal and pain throughout the church community, and created greater polarization.” The Vatican has yet to publicly respond.

Asked by NCR what the cardinal thought a “functioning group” that could replace LCWR might look like, Levada said, “I hope it would look like a conference that focuses on the priorities of religious life, the life of holiness, which is the fundamental call of all of us in the church, and the good that can come through the apostolic works that many of these orders are committed to and the prayers that others are committed to.

“I would like to see religious as champions of the mission of Jesus Christ in the church and the world.”

A second group, whose constitutional documents closely mirror the cardinal’s description, already exists and has received formal recognition by the Vatican, a development that infuriated LCWR when it happened in the 1990s. One of the religious communities associated with the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR), has publicly taken LCWR to task for misrepresenting their life.

The Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, Michigan (RSM), many of whom work directly in health care as doctors, said that LCWR has substituted an impoverished “language of politics” for “the language of faith”.

In a statement the RSM sisters said, “There is no basis for authentic dialogue between these two languages. The language of faith is rooted in Jesus Christ, His life and His mission, as well as the magisterial teaching of the Church.”

“The language of politics arises from the social marketplace,” they said. “The Sisters who use political language in their responses to the magisterial Church reflect the poverty of their education and formation in the faith.”

LCWR has “taken this into the public political arena” which has no regard for legitimate religious authority, they said. “It no longer stays in the dialogue of faith. Representation is always possible, dialogue is always possible, but it’s with the reverence towards the hierarchical Church.”

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Drew Belsky

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2016 candidates react to the Supreme Court’s marriage decision

Drew Belsky
By Drew Belsky

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 2, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Five days after the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 decision mandating the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples, most of the 2016 presidential candidates have made their opinions on the issue known.

While all of the Democrats currently in the race aggressively supported the ruling, the Republicans' reactions to the Supreme Court's marriage ruling have been more varied.

Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, who is expected to announce his candidacy soon, criticized the Obergefell decision, calling it "a grave mistake." Walker suggested that "the only alternative" to Friday's decision is "to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to reaffirm the ability of the states to continue to define marriage."

Texas senator Ted Cruz has doubled down on Walker's call for a constitutional amendment. Not only is Cruz seeking an amendment to protect states' right to define marriage, but he also hopes to amend the Constitution to demand "periodic judicial retention elections" for Supreme Court justices – namely, Cruz said, for those who "overstep their bounds [and] violate the Constitution."

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush shied away from a constitutional marriage amendment. "Guided by my faith," Bush said in a statement, "I believe in traditional marriage." However, "in a country as diverse as ours, good people who have opposing views should be able to live side by side. It is now crucial that as a country we protect religious freedom and the right of conscience and also not discriminate."

Florida senator Marco Rubio agreed with Bush, exhorting Republicans to "look ahead" and concentrate on the nomination process for new judges. Likewise with Ohio governor John Kasich, who said on Face the Nation that "it's time to move on" and "take a deep breath."

Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina concurred. While "I do not agree that the Court can or should redefine marriage," Fiorina said, "[m]oving forward...all of our effort should be focused on protecting the religious liberties and freedom of conscience."

South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham forthrightly condemned a constitutional marriage amendment as "a divisive effort that would be doomed to fail." Graham told NBC News, "I would not engage in the Constitutional amendment process as a party going into 2016. Accept the Court's ruling. Fight for the religious liberties of every American."

Libertarian-leaning Kentucky Senator Rand Paul wrote in Time Magazine that the federal government should remove itself completely from the marriage issue. "Our founding fathers went to the local courthouse to be married, not Washington, D.C.," Paul wrote.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal "strongly disagree[s]" with the Obergefell ruling, but he admitted on Sunday that his state would ultimately comply with the Supreme Court's decision. "We do not have a choice."

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie went one step farther. While he "agree[s] with Chief Justice John Roberts" that "this is something that should be decided by the people, and not ... five lawyers," the governor admitted that "those five lawyers get to impose it under our system, and so our job is going to be to support the law of the land[.]"

Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum foresees a widespread silencing of those who dissent from the Supreme Court's interpretation of marriage. "There's no slippery slope here," Santorum told the Family Research Council Friday; "religious liberty is under assault today – not going to be, it is – and it's going to be even more so ... with this decision."

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee expressed similar sentiments, excoriating the Supreme Court for flouting millions of Americans who voted to affirm "the laws of nature." Huckabee said on Friday, "I will not acquiesce to an imperial court any more than our Founders acquiesced to an imperial British monarch. We must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat."

On the other end of the spectrum, former Democratic Maryland governor and Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley contended that it is homosexuals, not religious objectors to the Obergefell decision, who need more protections from the state.

Calling the ruling a "major step forward," O'Malley proceeded to demand passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a bill that criminalizes "discrimination" based on an "individual's actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity." Opponents worry it would force religious employers to hire homosexuals and transgender people.

Passing ENDA, O'Malley said, would help "more fully realize the vision of an open, respectful, and inclusive nation that Friday's decision aspires us [sic] to be."

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Drew Belsky

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Obama Department of Justice to Virginia school: Let girl use boys’ bathrooms

Drew Belsky
By Drew Belsky

July 2, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - The Obama administration's Department of Justice (DoJ) filed a "statement of interest" Monday in support of a Virginia high school sophomore who is seeking to use bathrooms designated for members of the opposite sex.

In June 2015, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit against the Gloucester County School Board on behalf of 15-year-old Gavin Grimm, who is biologically female but wants to use male bathrooms and locker rooms.

Grimm claimed that she had used such facilities without incident for seven weeks until December 2014, when the school board enacted a policy requiring "transgender" students to use private restrooms.

Grimm testified in early 2015 that "[n]ow that the board has passed this policy, school no longer feels as safe and welcoming as it did before[.] ... Being singled out is a glaring reminder of my differences and causes me significant discomfort every time I have to use the restroom."

The Obama administration declared in May 2014 that sex discrimination under Title IX applies to those who identify as "transgender."  The Department of Education followed up last December by ordering federally funded schools to classify students based on "gender identity" rather than biological sex.

Regardless, Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Jeremy Tedesco told LifeSiteNews in June of this year that Grimm's and the ACLU's discrimination claims would not hold water.  Citing a district court case in Pennsylvania, Tedesco noted (emphasis in original) that "[t]he Court ... highlighted that Title IX's implementing regulations state that schools do not violate Title IX when they 'provide separate toilet, locker room, and shower facilities on the basis of sex.'"

Title IX, part of the U.S. Education Amendments of 1972, is a statute that "prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity."

"Every court to consider this issue has held that single-sex restrooms and locker room facilities are permitted under Title IX," Tedesco concluded.

Now, according to the DoJ's "statement of interest" in support of Grimm, filed this week, "[t]he United States has a significant interest in ensuring that all students, including transgender students, have the opportunity to learn in an environment free of sex discrimination and that the proper legal standards are applied to claims under Title IX" (p. 2, all citations omitted).  Per the DoJ, Grimm "is likely to succeed on the merits" of her Title IX claim, and "it is in the public interest to allow [Grimm] ... to use the male restrooms at Gloucester High School."

Regarding the Pennsylvania case mentioned by Tedesco, the DoJ claims that "[t]he district court's reasoning in that case was faulty and should not be followed."

One Gloucester County School Board member who voted against the December bathroom policy fretted that "federal dollars are at stake." Her concern was well-founded: five months later, the Obama administration threatened to deny Virginia's Fairfax County School Board $42 million in federal funding if the board refused to change its own bathroom protocols.  The Fairfax board ruled in May – over the strenuous objections of parents in attendance – that "transgender" students could use facilities in accordance with their "gender identity."

"Although certain parents and community members may object to students sharing a common use restroom with transgender students," the DoJ declared in its brief for Grimm, "any recognition of this discomfort as a basis for discriminating would undermine the public interest."

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"There are absolutely no grounds for considering unions between two persons of the same sex to be in any way similar to God’s plan for marriage and the family," said Bishop Strickland.
Lisa Bourne

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Bishop to all mass-goers: Catholics have ‘duty’ to ‘emphatically oppose’ marriage ruling

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

July 2, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – All mass-goers this weekend in the Diocese of Tyler, Texas will hear a clear reminder from their bishop about what marriage is, regardless of last Friday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision.

“Let me unambiguously state at the outset that this extremely unfortunate decision by our government is unjust and immoral, and it is our duty to clearly and emphatically oppose it,” Bishop Joseph Strickland wrote in a statement that will be read after Sunday’s Gospel throughout the diocese.

“In spite of the decision by the Supreme Court, there are absolutely no grounds for considering unions between two persons of the same sex to be in any way similar to God’s plan for marriage and the family.” 

“Regardless of this decision,” the bishop said, “what God has revealed and what the Church therefore holds to be true about marriage has not changed and is unchangeable.”

Bishop Strickland explains in his letter that marriage was created by God and passed down through history via the Church.

“Marriage is not just a relationship between human beings that is based on emotions and feelings,” he said. “Rather, our Sacred Scriptures and Sacred Traditions tell us that God established true marriage with its own special nature and purpose, namely the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children.”

Bishop Strickland also reminded the faithful that unjust discrimination against individuals with homosexual tendencies is to be avoided, and that they must be treated with loving kindness and respect based on their dignity as human persons.

He also said that while Christ rejects no one, he calls all people to be converted from sinful inclinations.

“Nevertheless,” the bishop stated, “our continued commitment to the pastoral care of homosexual persons cannot and will not lead in any way to the condoning of homosexual behavior or our acceptance of the legal recognition of same-sex unions.”

In his message Bishop Strickland also cautioned against compromising on the Church’s teaching on sexual morality in situations where loved ones suffer from same-sex attraction.

“While some of us may have family members who have same-sex attraction,” he said, “this decision to require the legal recognition of so-called marriage between homosexual persons should in no way lead us to believe that the living out of this orientation or the solemnizing of relationships between two persons of the same sex is a morally acceptable option.”

The bishop plans to decree that no clergy member or of employee of the Tyler diocese may take part in solemnizing or consecrating same-sex “marriages,” and likewise no diocesan property, facility or any location designated for Catholic worship may be used for a same-sex “marriage.”

Bishop Strickland said it was his responsibility as a shepherd of the Church to act, and he called for prayer for the country to come to a greater understanding marriage as revealed by God. He said as well that it was necessary to faithfully oppose the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the law. 

“We know that unjust laws and other measures contrary to the moral order are not binding in conscience” Bishop Strickland stated, “thus we must now exercise our right to conscientious objection against this interpretation of our law which is contrary to the common good and the true understanding of marriage.”

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