How will the local Church respond? Active Catholics have been excommunicated – simply remaining a member of Call To Action/Nebraska now results in automatic excommunication – but they say they will continue to go to Mass and live their lives as faithful Catholics. And they are not alone in their call for justice within the Church …
Call To Action/Nebraska plans to appeal the Vatican’s upholding of a 10-year-old threat of excommunication issued originally by the Bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska, Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz.
The threat of excommunication originated when a local group of Catholics formed the CTA chapter in 1996, with its advocacy of women’s equality in the church, opportunities for altar girls and protection of children in the sexual abuse crisis.
“Bishop Bruskewitz continues to further alienate himself from the mainstream Catholic Church by trying to suppress the members of his own diocese from talking about matters of justice,” said Patty Hawk, a local member of CTA/Nebraska and national board co-president of CTA/USA. “Approximately two-thirds of U.S. Catholics want women’s ordination and the Pope and every single Bishop in the United States has permitted altar girls, except Bishop Bruskewitz. It is clear that he is out of step with the rest of the Catholic Church.”
Rachel Pokora, President of CTA/Nebraska, said it was sad when the Bishop would not stand up for justice for women and children.
“It is additionally disheartening that the Bishop felt the need to use a medieval tactic, such as this excommunication threat, instead of just talking with us.”
Ms Pokara said that during the 10 years, CTA had not heard anything from the Vatican; had not been offered due process; was not assigned a court advocate and was not asked to submit testimony.
“Bishop Bruskewitz tried to silence us. But we will not be silent! This excommunication letter has no effect upon our work for justice in the diocese of Lincoln,” she said. “We will continue to attend Mass. We will continue to live our lives as faithful Catholics. And, most importantly, we will continue to act for justice, just as Christ called us to do.”
Call To Action/USA and the Women’s Ordination Conference are among other groups to publicly support CTA/Nebraska.
“As Catholics, we look to Jesus’ example during these times,” said Nicole Sotelo, Acting Co-Director for Call To Action. “Jesus always sided with justice, even when it meant disagreeing with the unjust structures of the religious hierarchy. As a result, we will continue to follow Jesus’ model and stand up for women’s equality in our faith, stand up for our children and families, stand up for the values modelled by Christ.”
Aisha Taylor, executive director of WOC, says that in stark contrast to the claim that CTA/Nebraska members are “causing damage to the Church”, they have built the Church up by actively addressing critical issues, such as the clergy sex abuse crisis, women’s full equality, and the ban on female altar servers.
“Jesus did not back down from the religious hierarchy of his time — even in the face of death — and WOC is pleased to hear that Call to Action/Nebraska will not back down either. We support them in continuing to attend Mass, working for justice in the church and society, and standing up against this oppressive action. We wholeheartedly support their appeal to the Vatican.”
According to WOC, a 2006 National Catholic Reporter survey of U.S. Catholics found that 62 per cent of respondents supported ordaining women as priests, and 81 per cent supported ordaining women as deacons. An Associated Press/Ipsos poll conducted in April 2005 found that 64 per cent of U.S. Catholics support women’s ordination.
(As Online Catholics will not be able to bring you updates of how this situation develops, a couple of relevant websites are: the Catholic News Service report of Cardinal Re’s letter of response to Bishop Bruskewitz and Call To Action)
Advent blessings on a week of waiting in joyful hope!
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