Orwellian Catholicism? Archbishop Burke and the secret videotapes

posted by David Gibson

Following up on earlier posts here and here about the canonical penalties against Sister of Charity Louis Lears, formerly of St. Cronan’s parish in St. Louis:
National Catholic Reporter just broke a story that the archdiocese authorized someone to videotape a Catholic women’s ordination ceremony that took place in a synagogue last November that Lears attended. The videotape was then used as evidence by then-Archbishop Raymond Burke to remove Lears from ministry and deny her sacraments in the archdiocese. That move came on June 26, and the next day Burke was named to head the Vatican’s Apostolic Signatura, or Supreme Court, in Rome.
From the NCR story:

The file also contains close-up photographs of a name tag Lears was wearing during the ceremony. Her attendance at the November 2007 ordination held at the Central Reform Congregation, the only Jewish congregation in St. Louis and headed by Rabbi Susan Talve, was never a secret, according to Lears’ associates.
The ceremony drew some 600 people, among them several dozen women religious, according to people who attended the liturgy. Only Lears, however, was singled out by Burke.
“It was a surveillance video. That’s exactly what it was,” said Sean Collins, a co-pastoral associate of Lears at St. Cronan Parish until he resigned July 2nd, in part, he said, to speak about what he says has been a grave injustice taken against Lears.
“What disturbs me even more is that the video taping was premeditated,” he said, referring to the affidavit authorizing it by the archdiocese. Collins did not see the document firsthand, but referred to others who had seen it.
“They clearly selected Louise from a congregation of some 600 people and of those 40 or 50 of them offered blessings,” he said. “Of all of those who offered blessings only Louise has been singled out.”

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posted July 10, 2008 at 2:06 am

At the risk of sounding like sticklers, shouldn’t we be glad that someone who is about to be promoted to such a lofty position with the Vatican while knowingly being in violation of Canon Law is prevented from doing so? If the ‘ducks are in a row’ and the facts of this story are correct, wouldn’t it bring considerable embarrassment to the Holy See? The Church already has her fair share of problems what with the sex abuse scandal, pro-choice politicians receiving Holy Communion, archbishops administering Holy Communion to SSA’s dressed like Bozo the Clown, etc. Is Archbishop Burke not doing Sister Lears a favor by denying her sacraments that would theoretically compound grave manifest sin (if we believe the Church’s current teaching)?
Besides, do we know for a fact that Sister Lears was the only religious or layperson penalized as a result of this videotape, or could we be assuming this because no other ‘high-profile’ cases were reported by the media?

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David G

posted July 10, 2008 at 9:06 am

Tom, interesting question as regards whether others were sanctioned. The St. Louis archdiocese announced Lears interdict, not others.

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posted July 10, 2008 at 12:09 pm

I’m by no means an expert on canonical law, but wasn’t the Archbishop doing his part to uncover a recognized heresy? Why would his promotion be considered a bad thing? Especially considering all the bishops who turned a blind eye to problems over the past 50 years.

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Sally Rogers

posted July 10, 2008 at 2:58 pm

You guys totally crack me up. A group blatently violates Church law in a public place where there is absolutely no expectation of privacy, and the concern is not with the wrong-doing, but with the supposed faults in the enforcement effort that seeks to correct the error. Reminds me of the arguments of pre-teens. “But MOM!! It’s not fair.” Stamping feet, slamming doors, in hopes of keeping attention off of the violation. It never worked for me, but I guess you can keep trying.
Just fyi, it wasn’t the videotape that led to Sister’s canonical penalities, it was her actions that led to Sister’s penalties. Think that through slowly and see if it makes sense.
And as for singling people out, it is obvious that those who hold official positions in the Catholic church and who publicly defy Catholic teaching create a special set of harms that deserves special penalties. By their public actions such as Sister Louise “teach” against the Catholic faith. How this is news to anyone is beyond me.

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posted July 10, 2008 at 9:57 pm

I’m somewhat confused by all of this.
The two women who were ordained were excommunicated in March by AB Burke. They have made no effort for reconciliation. That effectively removes them from the Catholic Community. For all practical purposes they are now non-catholics.
The congregation they are part of is a non-catholic congregation, supposedly not even recognized by the Church as a legitimate congregation.
The ceremony was administered in a synagogue by a rabbi.
Non-catholics ordained into a non-catholic congregation in a non-catholic ceremony, administered by a non-catholic … where is the blatant violation and wrong-doing? Where is there any heresy here?

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posted July 10, 2008 at 10:09 pm

I am confused here
Both of the women who were ordained were excommunicated by AB Burke in March, effectively removing them from the Catholic Community. Neither has sought reconciliation. That effectively makes them non-catholic.
The congregation that they were ordained into is not recognized by the Church. It is a non-catholic congregation.
A rabbi presided over the ceremony in a synagogue. The ceremony was a non-catholic ceremony.
The ordination of non-catholics into a non-catholic congregation, during a non-catholic ceremony presided over by a non-catholic cleric held in a non-catholic synagogue.
Where is the violation of church law?
Where is the heresy?
Where is the violation in a catholic attending a non-catholic ceremony?

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Tomas Torquemada

posted July 11, 2008 at 2:13 pm

The “ordination” of the priestettes was conducted by Patricia Fresen who has also been excommunicated (as I understand it).
The service took place in a synagogue, however, the rabbi did not participate other than to act as the welcoming host.
The ceremony consisted of the simulation of the Holy Mass and of the act of “ordaining” two women as “priests.”
The excommunicated and soon-to-be-laicized priest, Marek Bozek, was also in attendance and participated in “laying hands” on the “ordinands” as did Sr. Louise Lears.
More on this can be read at:

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Tomas Torquemada

posted July 11, 2008 at 2:15 pm

The “ordination” of the priestettes was conducted by Patricia Fresen who has also been excommunicated (as I understand it).
The service took place in a synagogue, however, the rabbi did not participate other than to act as the welcoming host.
The ceremony consisted of the simulation of the Holy Mass and of the act of “ordaining” two women as “priests.”
The excommunicated and soon-to-be-laicized priest, Marek Bozek, was also in attendance and participated in “laying hands” on the “ordinands” as did Sr. Louise Lears.
More on this can be read at: slatts.blogspot.com/2008/07/more-breaking-news-from-ncr-on-stl.html

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posted July 16, 2008 at 1:31 pm

While some in St. Louis conduct a “witch hunt” for heretics at conferences and synagogues, most American Catholics — who fill the pews week in and week out — who serve on the committees and educate the young in their faith — believe women should be ordained someday.
Wake up. The harvest is plenty — laborers are few.

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posted July 18, 2008 at 11:51 am

Considering the fact that callings to the religious vocation of the priesthood is at an all time low….maybe the church should think twice before rejecting women for wanting nothing more than to pray, preach and worship as our brothers have for centuries?
Mans laws are not Gods laws.

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posted August 25, 2008 at 7:22 pm

MAY THE GRACE OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST BE WITH YOU ALL.I think that we who are catholic’s are get-ing sick and tried of out-sider’s trying to run our church.We have our POPE who run’s our church on earth, with the help of our GOD.Our POPE go’s back to PETER,and ST.PETER is the ROCK that our LORD JESUS,said he would build our church on.ST PETER was a man.MAY GOD BLESS ALL WHO READS THIS.

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