Saturday, July 30, 2011

Catholic group based in Chicago leads protest against church

New York Times
Dirk Johnson
July 30, 2011

It’s a long way from the Vatican to Roscoe Village, but a group based in that North Side neighborhood is leading a high-profile protest among American priests that challenges the Roman Catholic Church’s ban on ordination of women.
The group, Call to Action, an organization for reform-minded Catholics, has collected signatures of more than 150 priests — including 8 in Chicago — on a petition defending a liberal priest, the Rev. Roy Bourgeois, who is being threatened with dismissal for his public support for ordaining women. In an increasingly conservative church, the rebellion has been hailed as a remarkable moment for liberals in the church.

“We just got on the phones and started telling priests, ‘We’ve got to support Father Roy,’ ” said Nicole Sotelo, 33, a leader of Call to Action, which bills itself as the nation’s largest organization for reform-minded Catholics.

The Rev. Bill Kenneally, who lives in the Beverly neighborhood on the South Side, is among the protesters. Father Kenneally, the 75-year-old retired pastor of St. Gertrude’s Church and volunteer at St. Barnabas Church, said he “and a majority of priests, truthfully” do not agree with the church’s “vapid reasoning” for excluding women.

Father Kenneally said he is unfazed by possible reprisals. “Since I’m retired,” he said, “it’s not like they can take a church away from me.”

The protest orchestrated by Call to Action underscores the role that Catholic culture — orthodoxy and dissidence — has played for generations in shaping the intellectual life and politics of Chicago. Only once have voters elected a non-Catholic mayor — Harold Washington — in the more than 75 years before Rahm Emanuel, who is Jewish, won a landslide victory this year.

Nuns have also held powerful positions in Chicago public life. Sister Sheila Lyne served as commissioner of public health under Mayor Richard M. Daley, while Sister Catherine Ryan headed the juvenile division at the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office under Richard Devine. Writers, including the Rev. Andrew Greeley and Eugene Kennedy, a former priest, as well as John Powers, have given rich voice to Chicago cultural and Catholic issues (and in Father Greeley’s case, contributed to some steamy romance novels)

Full story at New York Times

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