People across the nation have taken to the streets to protest the Vatican’s attack on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) and show their support for the sisters, according to Nun Justice.
On Sunday, June 10, forty people from Kalamazoo, Michigan, gathered at St. Augustine Cathedral to join them. Kim Franke and Marianne Houston organized the demonstration.
The Catholic Church charged the LCWR of “serious doctrinal problems” by being too tolerant with homosexuality, too silent in opposing abortion and contraception and too amenable to “radical feminist themes” regarded as incompatible with Church teaching.
Video: Vigil to Support the Nuns -- Part I
Vigil participants asked Mass attendees to sign a "thank you" to support the sisters they have known and loved. The video includes conversations with some of the parishioners.
Video: Fr. Ted Discusses the Issue -- Part II
Here is a second video includes an exclusive conversation between Kim Franke and newly-ordained priest, Fr. Ted Martin. He had just finished celebrating Mass when he discovered the demonstration outside the Cathedral. The conversation was joined by MLive reporter, Julie Mack, and various participants at the vigil.
Video: Nun Supporters Tell It All -- Part III
This video captures comments by some of the demonstrators. See a bit of their background below.
Kim Franke is a former Mercy sister (Buffalo, NY) of 11 years with two theology degrees, including a master’s degree from Notre Dame where she studied with noted theologians and then taught theology at the collegiate level. Although “Catholic to the core” and unwilling to give up on the Church, her love-hate relationship with the institution makes it too difficult for her to attend Mass since women are not fully incorporated into the liturgy or ministry. Instead, she is part of a “home church” with a dozen friends who meet weekly, share homilies on the readings and support and participate in various local ministries.
Jim and Marianne Houston, spoke about the sisters' courage to put themselves on line and speak truth to power, as Jim put it.
Marianne said that the LCWR is well aware it is speaking for large numbers of American nuns and that it’s “challenged to carry forth the truth—and may have some things to lose.”
Marianne was born and raised Catholic, went to Catholic schools and is a practicing member. As a Loretto sister (St. Louis) for 13 years, she was highly educated and became a teacher, professor, spiritual and educational consultant, wife, mother, grandmother and poet. However, she doesn’t feel “in communion with Rome.” She is now a co-member with her former religious community.
Jim calls himself a “universalist” when it comes to religion, which means that he honors all religions. He grew up a Southern Baptist and converted to Catholicism when he married Marianne. The Houstons have spent a lifetime “working toward the betterment of all humankind through the precepts of religion and good works to the community and world.”
Toni Perior Gross, a retired psychologist and former Mercy sister (Detroit) of 12 years, has been a Catholic all her life and continues to be. She says the Church has been a source of great richness in terms of its spirituality and in helping her gain an understanding of social justice. She thinks the Vatican’s action against the LCWR is not a matter of faith and morals, but a tool to keep the nuns in line.
“When I see [the Church] doing bad things like this it makes me very sad—and angry,” she said.
Her spouse, Frank Gross, a former 20-year Jesuit (St. Louis) and retired professor of religious studies, sees the Vatican’s approach with the nuns as an exercise of its power. Having lived through a liberal era in his younger years, he believes the present conservative era will swing back again—although it won’t be quick or soon. He considers the Sunday rally “a sight of the Church I love.”
Marie Stoline, a wife, mother, nurse and farmer, learned from her teachers, the Sisters of Mercy, to stand up for people being picked on. She believes she must do this for the sisters now. She thinks the Church is deflecting its troubles over the pedophilia priests by attacking the sisters. Marie is a practicing Catholic, however, the Vatican’s strong-arm tactics against the nuns give her pause in continuing.
Former State Representative Mary Brown (1983-94) lent her support to the sisters after years of working with them on various social justice causes during her tenure in the Michigan legislature. Although a Protestant, Brown regards the nuns as key contributors to making “the fabric of society stronger, more diverse and seeing the advantages of reaching out beyond the comfort zone.”