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Monday, April 23, 2012

Notre Dame Laity Push Back

Two events—the Vatican’s statement the leadership of American Catholic nuns and the extraordinary charges against President Obama leveled by the Bishop of Peoria, IL—coming on the heels of the historic call by the American Catholic Bishops for a “fortnight of freedom” in response to perceived attacks on religious liberty have awakened stiff resistance from faithful lay Catholics in America. Two must see articles detail significant steps, both coming from Notre Dame, to challenge both the American hierarchy and the Vatican.

1.                The first is an important interview with the highly regarded Catholic thinker Scott Appleby, Professor of History at Notre Dame and the Regan Director of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. The interview is focused on the Vatican’s statement about American nuns, a report Appleby calls “inappropriate and humiliating.” This is significant because Appleby is hardly a radical critic of the Church. He is in fact one of Her most gifted thinkers. Watch the whole interview, but here are some of the key quotes:

“conservative spectrum of what we would call today feminism…not radical feminists in any sense of the word”
“not treating these sisters with respect….for their own independent judgment as mature Christian women”
“mystery why the church is turning in on itself”
“a generalized culture of fear in the church”
“seems to be motivated more by fear, anxiety and insecurity—not by the courage that would come with Christ. If we were motivated by courage and hope and confidence in Christ and we thought we might…disagree with sisters…we would consult with them quietly, collegially, respectfully, it would not be a national news story…it would not be taking over their operations. This is not the way to treat other Christians.”
“Because the Church feels besieged they think….the religious ought to be towing the line”
“certain members of the hierarchy of the church are not intending to be denigrating women…they are not doing a very good job of sending that message.”
“if you alienate women…if you continue to make them feel that somehow by being a woman…is somehow contrary to the gospel…you are alienating the very heart of your church.”
“if the Vatican are seeking unity they don’t achieve it by enforcing uniformity”

2.                The second is a letter from 50 Notre Dame professors condemning in clear language the recent speech by Bishop Daniel Jenky that compared President Obama to Hitler and Stalin and warned that if Obama were reelected “our Catholic schools, our Catholic hospitals, our Catholic Newman Centers, all our public ministries -- only excepting our church buildings -- could easily be shut down.” The Notre Dame professors urged Jenky to “renounce loudly and publicly” his inflammatory rhetoric and “If he does not do so…Notre Dame should seek the bishop's immediate resignation from the university's Board of Fellows.”

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