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Priests come to nuns’ defense

Updated: July 3, 2012 12:52PM

Father Leonard Dubi, a priest of 44 years, was one of two dozen men in Roman collars at St. Barbara’s Catholic Church on Sunday night.

They were there to honor and support the embattled nuns of this country.

Even though it was Memorial Day weekend, even though plenty of people had been to church once already, and even though it was hot and steamy inside that old, beautiful, non-air conditioned church, about 150 came that night.

Nuns. Priests. Lay people.

“We ran out of programs,” said Fr. Dubi by phone on Tuesday.

These gatherings are happening all over the country as Catholics react to Rome’s attempt to reel in the Leadership Council of Women Religious, the umbrella organization that represents most religious sisters in this country.

The Vatican, in a scathing rebuke in April, appointed three bishops to “oversee” the women of LCWR. The sisters, in the view of the men who run the church, are too concerned about the poor and disenfranchised.

Not concerned enough about birth control, abortion and gay marriage.

The orthodoxies that absorb the Curia.

Many of the people in the pews see this as the last straw. And are saying so. And priests are giving voice to their own deep concerns.

Fr. Dubi is the Chairman of the Association of Chicago Priests (ACP), which wrote a letter to the sisters. In it, the priests praise LCWR for being the living embodiment of the reforms of Vatican II. And commend the sisters for being fearless in service “to the poor, the powerless, the
marginalized, the forgotten, the rejected . . .
the sick, the abandoned. . . . Perhaps (your mission) is too frightening to people and institutions accustomed to moving more slowly.”

Like Rome? Which was egregiously slow to outrage as wave after wave of priest-predator scandals broke but quick to reproach the women who have not brought scandal upon the Church. Does the Vatican truly believe this nun-offensive will fly?

Apparently so.

But reaction is building. And it is helping the Association of Chicago Priests to re-discover itself. And its once-strong voice.

The ACP was born out of conflict during the era of Cardinal John Cody, who didn’t value dialogue with the women and men religious who worked in the Archdiocese. But then came Cardinal Joseph Bernadin, who valued collegiality. And there wasn’t much need for the organization any more.

Now Fr. Dubi and the ACP are joining a national movement, forming the Association of U.S. Catholic priests. Its first meeting will be in St. Leo, Fla., on June 11-14.

“If we can get 10 percent of priests who are ordained, who would come together, who would have a part of this collective voice, we can begin to speak with authority,” said the 69-year-old Fr. Dubi.

What will they say?

“We love the Church,” he told me in a previous conversation. “But in the modern church, in the current ‘reform of the reform’, we don’t have real discussion of things. It’s all top down. There are no interdependent voices.”

But that, it seems, is changing.

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