Women's Group Protests Lears' Banishment

By Tom Fox

July 4, 2008

Saint Louis Sister of Charity Louise Lears was banned from archdiocesan ministries and from reception of the sacraments for her support of the right for women to be ordained in the Catholic Church. Now the Women’s Ordination Conference, which for more than three decades has pushed for the ordination of women, has begun a petition drive to overturn the edict of Archbishop Raymond Burke.

The day after Burke punished Lears he left his Saint Louis post to take a post at the Vatican as head the highest court in the Catholic Church, the Apostolic Signatura.

The petition, begun on the Internet, is directed at Pope Benedict XVI and the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith.

Lears was a member of the pastoral team at St. Cronan's parish in Saint Louis and was the coordinator of religious education for the archdiocese.

The petition reads: "We the undersigned believe the penalties callously imposed on Sister Louise Lears, a Sister of Charity who has dedicated her life in service of the Catholic Church, is a prime example of the way women are often wrongly treated by the hierarchy in the Roman Catholic Church."

"We support Sister Louise Lears in her life and ministry in the Church. We oppose these penalties as way of dealing with differences and dissent. Such misuse of Church discipline will not extinguish the widespread call for women's equality nor intimidate women into accepting marginal status within the Church."

"Sister Louise has the support of millions of Catholics who seek only the gospel promise of equality and we demand that these penalties be revoked as quickly as possible."

The Women’s Ordination Conference says that its mission is to "advocate and pray for the ordination of women as deacons, priests, and bishops into an inclusive and accountable Roman Catholic Church."

It dates back to the mid-1970s in the United States when it patterned itself after similar movements in support of ordination in Protestant and Episcopalian denominations.

The following are some who have signed the petition and the reasons they offer for doing so.

Charlotte Therese, Sweden

I don't think I'm the only one in this world who thinks this is totally insane. Why punish a sister - who follows her heart in an exemplary way as far as I can see? She hasn't committed any crime. She's not the one who should repent here. Christ welcomes her and everyone else who loves Him, to participate at his festive table.

John O' Loughlin Kennedy, Ireland

One reason why the world does not listen when the Pope preaches love and justice is that the Roman Curia is so often seen to practice neither.

Ken Ehlers, Oregon

As the father of four very active and successful grown daughters who would like to be more involved in the Church but are turned off by the lack of respect shown all women, wake up, Archbishop Burke and see the light that our Lord has been showing you and other leaders of the church all along! You cannot ignore half the population of people and probably two-thirds of those that serve and support the church - women!

Ann Carberry, California

Whenever any empire sees its autocratic power slipping away, it tightens the noose on those brave enough to say the emperor has no clothes. Here's to Louise who has given her life to serve the People of God and who has the audacity to believe that women are people called to be servants of God in all forms. Louise's courage and Burke's sanctions of her and promotion to Rome confirm the rotten foundation that will soon collapse to be reborn in love and service and acceptance: the inclusive Church of Jesus, the Revealer of God.

Jillian Proehl, Missouri

Louise is the most caring, thoughtful, reflective person I know and is my spiritual leader. Jesus, please forgive Raymond, for he knows not what he has done!

The petition can be found at:


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