Vatican Upholds Neb. Excommunications

By Josh Funk
Tuscaloosa News [Rome]
December 08, 2006

A Vatican official has upheld the 1996 mass excommunication of perhaps hundreds of people in the Lincoln Diocese affiliated with a church reform group and 10 other organizations the diocese considers anti-Catholic.

A Nov. 24 letter to Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz in Lincoln from Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re said Bruskewitz's excommunication decision "was properly taken within your competence as pastor of that diocese."

Re leads the church's Congregation for Bishops.

In 1996, Bruskewitz ruled that membership in Call To Action and 10 other organizations was "perilous to the Catholic faith and most often is totally incompatible with the Catholic faith." The other groups cited include the abortion-rights groups Planned Parenthood and Catholics for a Free Choice, the Hemlock Society, which supports physician-assisted suicide, and several Masonic organizations.

No other U.S. bishops have issued similar orders excommunicating people for belonging to certain groups.

Several members of Call To Action appealed the excommunication, and the order was put on hold pending a Vatican decision. An article about Re's letter was posted on the Web site of the diocese's newsletter.

Call to Action, which claims 25,000 members in 53 U.S. chapters, supports changes to the church including the ordination of women as priests and allowing priests to marry. It has long been critical of how the church handled allegations of sexual abuse of children by priests.

The organization, Re said, holds "views and positions which are unacceptable from a doctrinal and disciplinary standpoint. Thus to be a member of this association or to support it, is irreconcilable with a coherent living of the Catholic faith."

Under excommunication, Catholics cannot receive Holy Communion. They cannot be married or buried in the church. Excommunicated Catholics may be forgiven through the sacrament of confession or may be absolved in their dying hour by a priest.

"I guess it's a little sad that some leaders in our church chose to handle it this way," said Patty Hawk, who is co-president of the national Call to Action board and active in the Nebraska chapter.

Local and national Call To Action leaders said Friday they would appeal the endorsement of Bruskewitz's order to the Signatura, which acts as a sort of supreme tribunal for the Vatican.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.