If nothing else, the recently promoted (some would say “kicked upstairs) former archbishop of St. Louis, Raymond Leo Burke, at least has a sense of timing. Just before he was named to St. Louis in late 2003, then-Bishop Burke of LaCrosse, WI, barred popular Democratic congressman David Obey and another pro-choice Catholic legislator from receiving communion, thus leaving his successor with a fait accompli and a pastoral black eye. Now it turns out that days before the Vatican called Burke to Rome to head the church’s equivalent of a Supreme Court–though with much less influence and visibility, save for the red cardinal’s hat that would give him a ticket to the next conclave–Burke put the hammer down on a popular St. Louis nun. The archbishop barred Sister of Charity Louis Lears from any ministerial role OR receiving any sacraments in the archdiocese because of her support for women’s ordination.
From an excellent profile of Lears by Tom Fox in the National Catholic Reporter:
Jerry King, a member of the parish and member of the Center for Theology and Social Analysis in Saint Louis, an organization he and Lears belong to, found irony in the Burke censure. “Louise was not spoiling for a fight; she really did not want a fight; she wanted resolution.” He said she just wanted to be a pastor – “and has been very good at it, very active in her commitments” to the parish, which he described as a “last stop” for people disaffected from the church.
Also required reading is the statement from the St. Louis archdiocese and a site with the relevant decrees.
In the post below I wrote about a Revolutionary War Baptist woman who was excommunicated for fighting for the nation’s freedom. Perhaps it will take as long for Catholics to appreciate the struggle of Louis Lears and others. But can the church afford to wait that long?