Fonticulus Fides

Monday, December 11, 2006

Yeah, I wrote this story

It's been edited at various news sources, but here is what ran in the Lincoln Catholic paper. I do hope that there won't be any more publicity about it -- seems to have died down already, praise be to God. Bishop Bruskewitz really didn't want this to be a media thing again.

Holy See Upholds Excommunication Decree for Call to Action

LINCOLN (SNR) - In early 1996, Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz received a letter notifying him that a local Call to Action (CTA) chapter had been formed in the Diocese of Lincoln. Two weeks later, on March 19, Bishop Bruskewitz issued a statement of Extrasynodal Legislation, which was published in the Southern Nebraska Register.

Citing Call to Action, Call to Action Nebraska and 10 other organizations, Bishop Bruskewitz wrote, “Membership in these organizations or groups is always perilous to the Catholic faith and most often is totally incompatible with the Catholic faith.”

Catholics who had such memberships were invited to remove themselves from the organizations and seek the Sacrament of Reconciliation so that they could return to full communion with the Catholic Church. Those who refused to do so within a month were automatically excommunicated.

Local CTA members objected strongly to the bishop’s instruction and appealed his decision, but Bishop Bruskewitz remained steadfast in his desire to lead the people under his pastoral care away from organizations perilous to the faith.

“Parents have to tell children that they can’t test everything in the medicine cabinet or drink everything under the sink,” the bishop explained. “The Church is our mother and gives us these instructions as protection against dangers we might not perceive… It is liberating, not enslaving.”

CTA Nebraska then appealed to the Holy See to reverse the legislation, but the appeal was rejected. A Nov. 24 letter from Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, head of the Congregation for Bishops, confirmed that the Holy See agrees with Bishop Bruskewitz’s ruling on the matter.

The Vatican’s response was no surprise to Bishop Bruskewitz, who was confident that his actions were correct. “I received nothing but 10 years of support from officials of the Holy See, including our previous Holy Father, Pope John Paul II and our current Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI.”

In his letter, Cardinal Re stated, “The judgment of the Holy See is that the activities of “Call to Action” in the course of these years are in contrast with the Catholic Faith…Thus to be a member of this Association or to support it, is irreconcilable with a coherent living of the Catholic Faith.”

Bishop Robert Vasa of the Diocese of Baker (Oregon), was Lincoln’s vicar general in 1996 and general secretary of the diocesan synod that issued the decree of excommunication.

Upon hearing of the Vatican’s response, he said, “There never was any question of the bishop’s right to do this and the suitability given the circumstances. I’m pleased to see that the Holy See has publicly affirmed Bishop Bruskewitz’ decree and authority.”

Offspring of Secular Humanism

Call to Action was forged in 1976, following the U.S. Bishop’s “Call to Action” Conference in Detroit, Mich.

The original purpose of the conference was to celebrate the U.S. Bicentennial. However, the push for “cultural revolution” was in full force as secular humanists tried to erase Christian sensibilities from popular culture.

For two years prior to the event, a study was made regarding the attitudes of Catholics in this nation. More than 800,000 Catholics testified, creating a body of research meant to help U.S. bishops understand and respond to the prevailing attitudes of the day.

The conference was attended by around 100 bishops, but many more delegates were nvited to foster discussion. Laypersons and former priests and nuns who had already rejected Church authority attended, bringing agendas that better matched the so-called cultural revolution than the Catholic faith.

American bishops soon began distancing themselves from the event. In the years that followed, several Chicago-based organizations of former religious, schoolteachers and other laypersons who were in opposition to Church authority created the grassroots movement, Call to Action.

Initially, the members focused on trying to improve benefits for Catholic schoolteachers or lobbying for more effective parish councils. In the 1980s, the group focused on societal issues such as nuclear disarmament and influencing U.S. political policy in Latin America. Swiss theologian Hans Kung was invited to speak at an annual conference, boosting national membership, though the organization remained insignificant compared to the number of faithful Catholics.

Intent to Reform

By 1990, CTA leadership was growing impatient with their own lack of influence on Catholicism in the United States. CTA’s desired changes in policy have not occurred. Pope John Paul II had persisted in appointing bishops who upheld the traditional Church teaching on issues such as artificial birth control and the ordination of women.

To motivate change, CTA founders Dan and Sheila Daley, both former religious, drafted a document titled “Call for Reform in the Catholic Church.”

In it, they chastised the Church for “ignoring” social issues like a threatened environment, growing poverty, increased drug abuse, and international conflicts. By contrast, the solutions they offered included ordination of women, an end to the discipline of priestly celibacy, popular election of bishops instead of papal appointments, new forms of liturgy, and the use of artificial contraception.

CTA is also closely linked to and cooperates with abortion providers and virulent abortion supporters.

The statement was printed as a full-page ad in the New York Times on Ash Wednesday in March 1990, finished with 4,500 signatures and an invitation for more.

CTA is currently a national organization. It currently claims 25,000 members – far less than one percent of all U.S. Catholics – but these claimed numbers are unsubstantiated and attendance at its national conferences is on the decline.

Sympathy in the Media

Following Bishop Bruskewitz’s 1996 warning that Catholics would excommunicate themselves by maintaining membership in Call to Action and/or Call to Action Nebraska, the organization found a sympathetic ear in the secular media. The Diocese of Lincoln’s policy soon made national headlines.

“I determined to face up to the media so that it didn’t look like I was ashamed of my decision,” Bishop Bruskewitz said. The diocese was soon flooded with feedback, 95% of which supported his decision. Thousands of faithful Catholics across the nation and in other countries offered their prayerful support.

The bishop does not anticipate a similar reaction to the Holy See’s official ruling on the matter. “I can’t imagine that there is much interest,” he said.

After the initial media frenzy subsided, CTA has tried to maintain its voice in public opinion by offering frequent criticism of the Catholic Church. In recent years, the organization has attempted to capitalize on the tragic scandals involving clergy by claiming its method of reform would correct such problems in the Church.

Call to Reconciliation

Bishop Bruskewitz hopes that Cardinal Re’s letter will bring clarity to Catholics who have continued their affiliation with Call to Action or the other groups cited in the original legislation. “My prayer will always be that when people understand they have taken a wrong turn, they will stop and take the right turn.”

As he said in 1996, the remedy is not difficult: Catholics who wish to return to full communion with the Church need only repudiate their membership in these groups by sending a letter to the organization and having their names removed from any rosters or mailing lists. Then, they can seek out the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where their priests can guide them in confession and penance.

“They may be asked to make a profession of faith,” noted Bishop Bruskewitz, because membership in these organizations often requires them to reject Catholicism and take dissenting oaths.

The bishop hopes that the people his ruling affects will remedy their situations without delay. “The Lord loves everyone and died for everyone, and He wants all to be saved,” he said. “The best lesson that can be learned from everything that has happened is that one finds happiness, joy and satisfaction in obedience to the Church.”



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