Seattle Archbishop Leads the Charge Against Marriage Equality, Women Religious, and Others Who Think

10:50 am in LGBT, Religion by Peterr

The bishops will direct you to notice that "The Thinker" is a man

Seattle’s Archbishop J. Peter Sartain is a busy guy. Like every bishop, he’s trying to run his diocese, but he’s also involved in getting his flock motivated to put an anti-marriage equality measure called Referendum 74 on the ballot in the state of Washington.

Several weeks ago, he and his auxiliary bishop wrote a letter [pdf] to all the priests of the diocese and leaders of the parishes, asking them to help with signature gathering. That effort is not going too well, at least in some places, including one very close to the archbishop’s heart.

“After discussing the matter with the members of the [St. James] Cathedral’s pastoral ministry team, I have decided that we will NOT participate in the collecting of signatures in our parish,” Fr. Michael Ryan, the cathedral’s pastor, said in a letter.

“Doing so would, I believe, prove hurtful and seriously divisive in our community,” Ryan explained.  St. James Cathedral is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle.

Other parishes and priests have taken the same approach, with an interesting reaction during a mass eight days ago when a similar decision was announced: a standing ovation. Said the priest, “I only wished the archbishop could have experienced the sustained applause — the ‘sensus fidelium’ — of the people.  He needs to listen to this ‘voice.’”

As if Archbishop Sartain didn’t have enough to do in his own backyard, now he’s been given a new side job by the Vatican: overseeing a Vatican-ordered reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the umbrella organization of most of the women’s religious orders in the United States.

Citing “serious doctrinal problems which affect many in consecrated life,” the Vatican announced a major reform of an association of women’s religious congregations in the U.S. to ensure their fidelity to Catholic teaching in areas including abortion, euthanasia, women’s ordination and homosexuality.

Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle will provide “review, guidance and approval, where necessary, of the work” of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

The “areas of concern” identified in the report from the Vatican office that led the investigation, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, [pdf] were (a) addresses at LCWR assemblies, (b) policies of corporate dissent, and (c) radical feminism. Dominican Sister Laurie Brink’s 2007 keynote address came in for particular criticism, perhaps because it seemed to embody all three of these concerns.

Most of Brink’s (very readable) address is pretty solid and basic stuff about leadership and ministry on the margins. Some of it is descriptive of what she sees in the church, not prescriptive about the way she thinks things ought to be. In the descriptive sections, she pauses from time to time, inviting the attendees to reflect on what she has just said. Brink also includes a strong disclaimer at the top, indicating she is speaking only for herself when she gets into more prescriptive critiques.

And make no mistake, she gets into some very substantial critiques, taking direct aim at the bishops, the Vatican, and Pope Benedict like this Read the rest of this entry →