Call to Action: Excommunicated!

Call to Action: Excommunicated!

Catholic World News reported today that the Vatican has confirmed the excommunication order by Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska, for members of Call to Action. (I reported on this for Catholic World Report when it first happened back in early 1996; It was my first article for the magazine.)

At the time, Bruskewitz announced the excommunication of anyone in his diocese who belonged to Call to Action, Catholics for a Free Choice, any Masonic organization, the SSPX-affiliated St. Michael the Archangel Chapel, the Hemlock Society, or anyone who worked with or for Planned Parenthood. The bishop called these groups “totally incompatible with the Catholic faith.”

Call to Action’s local chapter appealed his decision and on November 24, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, wrote a letter to Bruskewitz informing him that the disciplinary action was “properly taken.”

The Vatican has determined that “the activities of ‘Call to Action’ in the course of these years are in contrast with the Catholic Faith due to views and positions held which are unacceptable from a doctrinal and disciplinary standpoint,” Cardinal Re writes. He concludes: “Thus to be a member of this Association or to support it, is irreconcilable with a coherent living of the Catholic Faith.”

Now the decision is specific to Bruskewitz’s order in Lincoln, but it raises an interesting question. If membership in Call to Action is “irreconcilable with a coherent living of the Catholic Faith” in Lincoln, Nebraska, wouldn’t it also be the same everywhere else? And what about membership in organizations that have grown out of CTA, like say We Are Church and Voice of the Faithful? Hmm.

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
  • A key principle of modern warfare is that you must always do your best to define your ranks, that is to stay together and be able to tell your troops from the enemies. This is because when your lines are disorganized you provide opennings which the enemy will exploit, and once you and your enemy are engaging hand to hand, modern weaponary becomes useless. 

    Similarly, the Church can not use the two edge sword that heals even as it wounds, if there is infighting going on within the Body of Christ, which wields the sword.  Until the day that the Church defines its ranks, and forces the enemies within the gates out, the Church will continue to be ineffective at preaching the Gospel.  Sadly this infighting was precipitated by Vatican II which desired the exact opposite; that is to remind Catholics that we are called not just to be insular but also apostolic.

    This story, along with the preceding story about the openly gay pair who were Interdicted by their Bishop,  therefore seem to be a perfect developement in the life of the Church.

  • “Until the day that the Church defines its ranks, and forces the enemies within the gates out, the Church will continue to be ineffective at preaching the Gospel. “

    Of course, enforcing an excommunication is impossible when the targets don’t even really accept papal authority, like the CTA people. 

    How is it to be put into action?

  • “The excommunication order applies only within the Lincoln, Nebraska diocese. But the Vatican’s judgment against Call to Action raises clear questions about the status of the group’s members in other dioceses.”  CWNEWS Report

    It’s great that the Holy See affirmed the excommunication but the weakness is that it is local and a quirk of that particular diocese.  That’s not good governance.  If the Holy See affirmed because they agree that Call to Action and like-minded organizations are heretical and contrary to what it means to be a Catholic then how could it leave it at that?  Per force the excommunication should have been made universal.

  • While I’m delighted to see that most of these organizations are being categorized as they should be with official sanction from Rome, it surprises me that apparently the same treatment is being meted out to the SSPX as is being applied to the Lodge and CTA membership.  I would think they are not in the same category given the Holy See’s efforts to unite with the SSPX, and given that they and the Orthodox are in essentially the same position of schism. Of course there is still the question of what exactly constitutes “membership” in the SSPX that may have an impact here.

    Certainly seems that this puts the burden on other dioceses to comply.  It could be this is what Benedict meant when he said the Church would get smaller.  The Roman confirmation brightens up my day at any rate.

  • Carrie,

    There is absolutely no reason whatsoever for a faithful catholic to assist at Mass in an SSPX chapel in the diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska.  There are a lot of places where this is not true, but the diocese hosting the FSSP seminary is not one of them.

  • I suppose it will get complicated if members of the other organizations appeal the decree; the various groups are problematic for various reasons, so differing provisions of law might be involved.

  • Ok, Franklin, but the edict still mixes apples and oranges in my mind.

    In any case I have some other concerns that turned up in a comments box at Amy’s blog on this topic.  Since they’re too involved for a comments box here, I’ve blogged them here.

  • I went to the CTA’s website, and I read a lot of whinging about how they think the Church should be a democracy (and CLEARLY the documents of Vatican II support this!), and the bishops should listen to THEM, and it’s OK to engage in whatever sexual behavior you like. Oh, and the Pope should answer to them about how he spends money.
    When are American Catholics going to learn that the Church is not an American thing? It’s not a democracy, and if you don’t like it, go somewhere else.

  • Ten years??  It took ten years to affirm the excommunications?

    If it were up to me – and folks should thank God these things aren’t – ten minutes tops.  Check the names of the groups, check to see the documents were properly signed.  My signature of affirmation appears below.

    Well, OK, I guess I’m not being charitable.  This is a serious matter, and in the spirit of pastoral leadership, I think a more deliberative approach would be called for.

    Fifteen minutes.

  • Naw, Steve.  The Vatican should have moved first, and it would have taken Bruskiewicz <15 minutes to second it. 

    Instead, they made awesome old Brusckiewicz do it himself.  Bravo for him.

    [St. Fabian to be.  Pray for him—we could use another American saint—and he’s already partway there.]

  • Can we get Bishop Brusckiewicz down here in Memphis to take care of our NADGLQM.!@#*$?%  – whose website, by the way, is blocked by the filters at local parish schools.