No amnesty in NZ for outspoken US nun

Christchurch Bishop Barry Jones says that he cannot allow US Benedictine nun Sr Joan Chittister, who will also visit Australia this month, to speak in his diocese over concerns about her stance on women's ordination and life issues.

Stuff.co.nz reports that Bishop Jones has written to priests saying that next week's visit by Benedictine nun Sister Joan Chittister is unauthorised.

Permission for the event had not been sought or given, and Jones did not want it promoted through Catholic churches.

"The point is that silence generates the misunderstanding that this is all approved, when it's not. I have made my position clear to the priests," he said.

Chittister, from Eire, Pennsylvania, has clashed with church authorities internationally over her strong stance on issues such as women's ordination and contraception.

She attended the first Women's Ordination Worldwide Conference in 2000, defying an order by the Vatican.

An independent group of Catholic lay people, the Adult Education Trust, has invited Chittister to Christchurch.

She will speak about spirituality, culture, justice and "God, women and the world".

Jones opposed the visit because he said Chittister did not agree with the Catholic Church's teachings.

"I don't see how I, as a bishop, can advance the teachings of the Catholic Church by appearing to condone other views," he said.

High-profile Sister Pauline O'Regan, of the Sisters of Mercy, backs Chittister's visit and was surprised by Jones's stance.

"It sort of sounds like censorship, doesn't it?" O'Regan said. "I think she has a very loving attitude towards challenging the church in matters where it needs to look at itself. She should not be feared. She's a very, very spiritual woman."

O'Regan and her colleagues had studied Chittister's more than 30 books and knew her teachings well.

"Sure, she challenges various things within the church, but then so do a great number of other people. Jesus challenged the leaders of his religious era," said O'Regan.

"It makes me wonder if he (Jones) has read her books and articles that she has written. In my opinion, people have the capacity to judge for themselves."

However, a pro-life US news service, Lifesite, said that Sr Chittister had "garnered a well-earned reputation as a vociferous advocate of contraception, abortion, and homosexuality", and had "lambasted the Church's teachings on the latter as 'spiritual violence and abuse'".

US bishops pressure Amnesty over abortion

Meanwhile, Catholic Online reports the Bishop William S Skylstad, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops has called on Amnesty International to reverse its new "pro-abortion" stance.

In a 2 July statement, Bishop Skylstad noted that the human-rights group, founded by Catholic layman, Peter Benenson, has been admired and worked with the Catholic community and "has been a beacon of hope to thousands of prisoners of conscience and victims of abuse and torture".

Amnesty International (AI) has been a source of inspiration to millions of supporters,” Bishop Skylstad said. "Much more urgent work remains, work which we believe will be harmed by this unprecedented and unnecessary involvement in the abortion debate."

Bishop Skylstad urged members of the International Council of Amnesty International to reverse its decision on abortion policy when it meets in Mexico in August.

"It is never too late to seek justice for all vulnerable and oppressed members of the human family," he said. "The action of the executive council undermines Amnesty’s longstanding moral credibility, diverts its mission, divides its own members (many of whom are Catholic or defend the rights of unborn children), and jeopardizes Amnesty’s support by people in many nations, cultures and religion," the bishops’ conference president said.

While acknowledging that the Amnesty International policy "may appear to some to support women’s freedom or provide a compassionate response to women in difficult situations of pregnancy", Bishop Skylstad noted that abortion is not a "compassionate response", but rather "injures the health and dignity of women at the same time that it ends the life of the unborn child".

US nun's visit opposed by bishop (Stuff.co.nz, 30/6/07)
New Zealand Bishop Speaks Out Against Visit of Pro-Abortion Nun (Lifesite, 3/7/07)
US Bishops urge Amnesty to restore neutral position on abortion (Catholic Newsagency, 4/7/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Joan Chittister (Wikipedia)
Amnesty International

Nun defies order not to attend women's ordination conference (CathNews, 3/7/01)
Vatican, Amnesty in abortion stoush (CathNews, 14/6/07)

5 Jul 2007