The Franciscans of today are not known to be futuristic or highly critical of the Vatican, so it was a great surprise to find such a public letter published by some American Communities. The common man understands the language not only because it is very simple to understand but what’s more, he is on the same line of thought.

What is happening here is that the pope and the Vatican are more and more defending the idea of a remnant church — a small and pure church that sees itself often in opposition to the world around it. It seems as if church authorities are not concerned at all about those who leave the church. Any other organization would take strong action to remedy the loss of one-third of its members. But the remnant church sees itself as a strong church of true believers, and therefore is not worried by such departures.

This concept of the church is opposed to the best understanding of the Catholic church. The word “catholic” by its very definition means big and universal. The church embraces both saints and sinners, rich and poor, female and male, and political conservatives and liberals. Yes, there are limits to what it means to be Catholic, but the “small ‘c’ catholic” understanding insists on the need to be as inclusive as possible. Many of us were deeply impressed by the gestures of Pope Benedict at the beginning of his papacy by reaching out for dialogue with both Hans Küng and Bishop Bernard Fellay, the head of the group originally founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. Unfortunately, today, dialogue is still going on with Bishop Fellay, but not with Hans Küng. (Taken from NCRonline)

May 31, 2012

      Open Letter to the United States Catholic Sisters

      We, the Leadership of the Friars Minor of the United States, write today as your brothers in the vowed 
religious life who, like you, have great love for our Church and for the people whom we are privileged to 
serve.  We write at a time of heightened polarization and even animosity in our nation and Church, with deep
concern that the recent Vatican Doctrinal Assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) 
may inadvertently fuel the current climate of division and confusion.  We write, too, as a public sign of our
solidarity with you as you endure this very difficult moment.  We are privileged to share with you the journey
of religious life.  Like you, we strive in all that we do to build up the People of God.

      As religious brothers in the Franciscan tradition, we are rooted in a stance of gratitude that flows 
from awareness of the myriad ways that God is disclosed and made manifest in the world.  For us, there can be
no dispute that God has been and continues to be revealed through the faithful (and often unsung) witness of 
religious women in the United States.  Thus we note with appreciation that the Congregation for the Defense 
of the Faith (CDF) “acknowledges with gratitude the great contributions of women Religious to the Church of 
the United States as seen particularly in the many schools, hospitals, and institutions of support for the 
poor which have been founded and staffed by Religious over the years.”  We certainly know how much our service
has been enriched by the many gifts you bring to these ministries.

      However, your gift to the Church is not only one of service, but also one of courageous discernment.  
The late 20th century and the beginning of this century have been times of great social, political and cultural
upheaval and change.  Such contextual changes require us, as faithful members of the Church, to pose questions
that at first may appear to be controversial or even unfaithful, but in fact are asked precisely so that we 
might live authentically the charisms we have received, even as we respond to the “signs of the times.”  This 
is the charge that we as religious have received through the “Decree on the Renewal of Religious Life” from the
Second Vatican Council and subsequent statements of the Church on religious life.  We believe that your willing-
ness to reflect on many of the questions faced by contemporary society is an expression of your determination 
to be faithful to the Gospel, the Church, the invitation from Vatican II and your own religious charisms.  We 
remain thankful for and edified by your courage to engage in such reflection despite the ever-present risk of 
misunderstanding.

      Moreover, we are concerned that the tone and direction set forth in the Doctrinal Assessment of LCWR are
excessive, given the evidence raised.  The efforts of LCWR to facilitate honest and faithful dialogue on 
critical issues of our times must not result in a level of ecclesial oversight that could, in effect, quash all
further discernment.  Further, questioning your adherence to Church teaching by your “remaining silent” on 
certain ethical issues seems to us a charge that could be leveled against many groups in the Church, and fails
to appreciate both the larger cultural context and the particular parameters of expertise within which we all 
operate.  Finally, when there appears to be honest disagreement on the application of moral principles to 
public policy, it is not equivalent to questioning the authority of the Church’s magisterium.  Although the Catholic moral tradition speaks of agreement regarding moral principles, it also – from the Middle Ages through today – speaks of appropriate disagreement regarding specific application of these principles.  Unfortunately, the public communications media in the U.S. may not recognize this distinction.  Rather than excessive oversight of LCWR, perhaps a better service to the people of God might be a renewed effort to articulate the nuances of our complex moral tradition.   This can be a teaching moment rather than a moment of regulation — an opportunity to bring our faith to bear on the complexity of public policy particularly in the midst of our quadrennial elections.

      Finally, we realize and appreciate, as we are sure do you, the proper and right role of the bishops as 
it is set out in Mutuae Relationes to provide leadership and guidance to religious institutions.[i]  However, 
the same document clearly states:
      since it is of utmost importance that the council of major superiors collaborate diligently and in a 
spirit of trust with episcopal conferences, ‘it is desirable that questions having reference to both bishops 
and religious should be dealt with by mixed commissions consisting of bishops and major religious superiors, 
men or women. …Such a mixed commission should be structured in such a way that even if the right of ultimate 
decision making is to be always left to councils or conferences, according to the respective competencies, it 
can, as an organism of mutual counsel, liaison, communication, study and reflection, achieve its purpose.  (#63)

      We trust that CDF was attempting to follow their counsel from Mutuae Relationes; however, we fear that 
in today’s public media world their action easily could be misunderstood.  We hope that our bishops will take
particular care to see that the way they take action is as important as the actions themselves in serving the
People of God.  Otherwise, their efforts will surely be misunderstood and polarizing.

      Lastly, we appreciate the approach that you at LCWR have taken to enter into a time of discernment, 
rather than immediately making public statements that could be construed as “opposing the bishops” after the 
release of the Doctrinal Assessment.  The rancor and incivility of public conversation in the United States 
at this time make the possibility of productive dialogue more difficult to achieve.  We pray that the future 
conversation between LCWR and CDF might provide an example to the larger world of respectful, civil dialog.  
Such dialog will require a degree of mutuality, trust and honesty that is absent from much of our world.  We
trust that you will continue your efforts to live out this principle, and we trust and pray that our bishops 
will do the same.

      Please be assured of our on-going support, prayers, respect, and gratitude for your living example of 
the following of Christ in our times.

      Fraternally,

      Leadership of Franciscan (O.F.M.) Provinces of the United States

      Assumption BVM Province
      Franklin, WI, U.S.A.

      Holy Name Province
      New York, NY, U.S.A.

      Immaculate Conception Province
      New York, NY, U.S.A.

      Our Lady of Guadalupe Province
      Albuquerque, NM, U.S.A.

      Sacred Heart Province
      St. Louis, MO, U.S.A.

      Saint Barbara Province
      Oakland, CA, U.S.A.

      Saint John the Baptist Province
      Cincinnati, OH, U.S.A.

      [1]Sacred Congregation for Religious and for Secular Institutes, Directives for the Mutual Relations 
Between Bishops and Religious in the Church, Rome, May 14, 1978

An Australian bishop says the same things whilst using different words! These words are not coming from an 
anticlerical section of the world, but rather a prince of the church. Please note that this is NOT just one
person who is holding such an opinion but many of the common people who live a real life in the world of today.

In the same sense, they are trying to silence a sister who has mentioned sexuality (why not be senstive to 
justice?)....she is NOT the only one to pass on some ideas. The people of God are reflecting on their lives in
a christian way and are coming to different conclusions. A femmine author puts it as: Is pleasure a Sin? Now, 
obviously many of the clergy are trained (brainwashed?) that they have the truth. So contrary to the Spirit of
Vatican II (meeting for all bishops which took place in 1962-1965), they won't listen to this opinion but 
rather put it in bad light as erroneous!

We insist again, the married priest is in a better position to know what the common man in the street thinks 
of and what are his basic and urgent needs. We are happy that the book mentioned above was written by a sister
(femmine), which gives it a very particular outlook. Something which we are familiar with as we live 24 hours 
with a woman, where we are so happy to be enriched by such revelations. 

Homily {in Maltese}
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