Archive for April, 2011

Our Statements in Support of Theologian Elizabeth Johnson and Rev. Roy Bourgeois

April 28, 2011

The recent statement by the Doctrinal Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) that Professor Elizabeth Johnson’s book, Quest for the LivingGod: Mapping Frontiers in the Theology of God, does not reflect authentic Catholic teaching about God and that it should not be used as a textbook in college classrooms is troubling.
            Faithful Catholics are right to call the Doctrinal Committee to task for several reasons. Whereas the Committee is very much within its rights to criticize the book, it apparently neglected to follow its own established procedures for such matters. At no time did the Committee notify Professor Johnson that her book was under review, but opted rather to carry out its investigation in secret. Only after publication of the Committee ‘s statement did she know that the review had been undertaken. She pointed out that the Committee attributed views to her that she did not hold nor express in her book. 
What is most disquieting about this affair is that it seems to be a heavy-handed attempt at censorship. Cardinal Donald Wuerl, chairman of the Committee, suggested that Professor Johnson could have requested an imprimatur before publishing her book. Imprimatur (“let it be printed”) is a censorship word used by a diocesan bishop to declare that, in his opinion, a particular book conformed to Catholic teaching. The bishop usually entrusted the review of such a book to one of his priests, who had the title Censor Librorum, Censor of Books. 
 The Committee’s action and Cardinal Wuerl’s statement suggest a desire to restore the arbitrary censorship of the writings of theologians. Perhaps they believe that Professor Johnson’s book and others of which they disapprove should be placed on the discredited Index of Prohibited Books abolished by Pope Paul VI in 1966. Perhaps the Committee believes that such forbidden books should be kept, as they once were, under lock and key in university libraries, lest the students read them. What are the bishops afraid of? Are they not the prophets of doom that Pope John XXIII mentioned in his opening address to the Second Vatican Council?   
This is not the first time that the Committee has blundered. In response to Jewish protests, the Committee in 2009 issued a clarification of its “Statement of Principles for Jewish-Catholic Dialogue.”
Canon Law (cc.220, 1390.2) stipulates that no one should harm the reputation of another, but the Committee has done just that. Inasmuch as Professor Johnson is recognized by her peers as one of the leading American theologians, we believe that the Doctrinal Committee owes her a public apology for mischaracterizing her work and wrongfully injuring her reputation. 
Signed: Jamie Dance, Jim Alvord, Joanne Bray, Kathleen Clement, Marge Hickey, Marilyn Kirchner, John Lee,  Dick Maiberger, Joe O’Callaghan, Anne Pollack, Marie Rose, Dick Vicenzi, Tony Wiggins

 Letter to Maryknoll Fathers

Rev. Edward M. Dougherty, M.M.Superior General, Maryknoll Fathers
P.O. Box304

Dear Father Dougherty:

             We are writing to exhort you to stand firm, shoulder to shoulder with Fr. Roy Bourgeois, one of your priests, who has been threatened with excommunication by theVaticanfor his outspoken stance in favor of the ordination of women. On that account, theVaticanis demanding that you expel Fr. Bourgeois from your community.

 As women, like men, are made in the image and likeness of God, we believe that they should be invited to preside at the eucharistic celebration. To continue to deny them ordination is unjust and an affront to those women, who, from the very time of Jesus, have carried out the essential task of transmitting the faith to our children.

 Rather than be complicit in theVatican’s abusive condemnation of Fr. Bourgeois, this is the time to stand up for what is right. Rather than turn your back on one of your own, a long-time member of the Maryknoll family, and thus bring everlasting shame on Maryknoll’s name, we urge you and your community to rise up in his defense.  When an injustice is committed, all good men and women, responding to the promptings of their conscience, will cry out in protest. Now is the time to do that. We know that you will.

 May God always bless your work!
Jamie Dance and the following members of the Board of Directors: J. Alvord, J. Bray, K. Clement, M. Hickey, M. Kirchner, J. Lee, D. Maiberger, J. O’Callaghan, M. Rose, R. Vicenzi, T. Wiggins



Bridgeport Diocese Still in News

April 8, 2011

The Diocese of Bridgeport and sexual abuse scandal activity are unfortunately in the news again. Tremont and Sheldon filed a lawsuit against Father Charles Stubbs and the Diocese according to a release on March 17, 2011. It is claimed that Bishop Walter Curtis had prior notice of Reverend Stubbs behavior but, still continued to allow him unfettered access to children in the Diocese.

On March 20, 2011 the CT Post recognized the nearly ten years of service that Bishop William Lori has provided to the Diocese, in an editorial, noting “the challenges of…the overarching scandal of pedophile priests”. The editors continued, “Under his leadership there has been no continued hiding of offenders through reassignment, and he created Safe Environment policies to protect children in the diocese.” Some would explain this “zero tolerance” approach as an outgrowth of the Dallas meeting of Bishops in 2002 to deal with the revelations of the Boston Archdiocese. However, a review of material released in the Rosado documents by Bishop Lori in 2009 would show that there was tolerance for multiple communication lapses and secret practices of previous Bishops who have not been criticized during Lori’s decade, nor who have suffered consequences.

Had the previous Bishops acted in the interests of the children and their families who reported abuse, priests would have not been transferred to other parishes or out of the Diocese. Priests sent for treatment of “sexually inappropriate or criminal behavior” would have had a higher standard of behavior reported by a healing institution than “the priest completed the treatment program”. Treatment professionals were not routinely recorded as saying that priests completing programs presented “no further risk of sexual abuse”. How concerned were the Bishops and the Monsignors who worked with the troubled clergy in effective dealing with the heinous behavior? How concerned were they with healing families with compassion? Where has Bishop Lori commented on this tragic history created by his episcopal predecessors?

And what about Bishop Lori’s uneven handling of priest “offenders”? Some priests have been reduced to the lay status. No public ministry. No appearance in priestly street garb. No pretence of being a priest one would think. But if such a man is living in Bridgeport today, or in Dublin, would it not be fair for the community to be aware that at one time the Diocese judged him to be unfit to continue ministry, because of his offenses? Why not report the name and location of that person today on the Diocesan site? The prime reason so few priests faced criminal charges, court trial and conviction is that Bishops all over the world covered their behavior until most were well beyond criminal “statutes of limitation”. But a sexual offender of youth if credibly accused and acknowledged by the Diocese does not have to be listed as a “sexual offender.” How safe is the environment where these men are living today?

Now if such a man is living in the Bridgeport region and the Catholic Directory of priests lists him as retired and though he is not assigned to a parish, he does on occasion appear in public in priest garb. Has he been reduced to lay status? If not, why not? Has his public ministry been suspended? Does the Diocese web site have a duty to provide such info in a true spirit of Safe Environment? And if he believes that he is innocent and a priest of integrity, what are his rights under Canon Law?

On March 22, 2011 the CT Post in a front page article reports that the diocese has settled a suit from 2009. Brian Wallace comments that the Church does not believe it committed any wrongdoing but “it’s just too expensive to continue to defend against this frivolous lawsuit brought by out-of state lawyers…trolling for lawsuits across the country.” Bishop Lori addressed this case brought by a Connecticut attorney who lives in the Diocese of Bridgeport on behalf of the Estate of Michael Powel to parishes across the county in December 2009. He called it the “Lawn Man Liability Suit” failing to appreciate that behavior of a 40 year worker on Church grounds would be considered a Church responsibility. Isn’t that why all persons involved in employment, volunteer activity, ministry of any kind and indeed, those who entered a Church to repair a roof or basement are required to take Safe Environment course work? All need to be aware of what constitutes predatory behavior according to risk managers. But what Diocesan course will make us aware of the aberrant management behavior that allowed the predatory behavior to persist for so long?

Brian Wallace failed to tell readers that the Diocese retains its own specialist out-of-state law firm. I assume that “trolling” is not permitted in Colorado but I also assume that Diocesan lawyers, from Connecticut and other states are paid. Perhaps fishing with flies or casting nets, as Christ directed, is different. The Diocese has never provided the extent of its legal expenses. As a matter of fact the Diocese has put out no comprehensive audited financial reports on its site, and has failed to update even three limited reports since June 30, 2008. Many people have reduced their giving to the Church or stopped it totally.

In the case of Michael Powel, Monsignor Bronkiewicz, who was involved in clergy supervision for years, kept silent though he knew that “the Lawnman” had admitted child sexual abuse. Did he not believe that safe environment trumps power abuse any day? Bridgeport has some way to go before they can be considered a model Safe Environment program. Open, accountable and transparent process and practice is not yet evident in too many areas.

John Marshall Lee,
30 Beacon Street
Bridgeport, CT 06605

April 8, 2011