Gen’s recent post on the upcoming retirement of Sr. Joan Sobala drew some interesting comments, one of which mentioned her participation in a teach-in at St. Bernard’s protesting the promulgation of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.
It should be noted that Sr. Joan’s “problems” with Church teaching predated that 1994 St. Bernard’s event by at least 14 years and have not been limited to the ordination of women to the priesthood.
In his 1982 book, The Homosexual Network – Private Lives and Public Policy, Fr. Enrique Rueda detailed some of the collaboration then occurring between Catholic groups and elements of the homosexual movement. One of these Catholic groups was the Women’s Ordination Conference, represented by Sr. Joan Sobala.
Fr. Rueda writes …
Another indication of the pattern of collaboration between significant elements within the Catholic Church and the homosexual movement is the availability of prohomosexual materials at Catholic meetings. This is not a matter of individuals standing in doorways or on sidewalks handing out leaflets, but the fully accepted presence of representatives of the homosexual movement by Catholic agencies and national organizations. For example, during the March 1982 East Coast Conference on Religious Education in Washington, D.C. prohomosexual material was available at an official New Ways Ministry Booth.127 Homosexual booths were also installed at the National Catholic Charities 66th Annual Convention and at the 10th biennial meeting of the Association of Ladies of Charity of the United States. Dignity could boast that some “1600 Bishops, priests, nuns and laity from the U.S.” had been reached at these events.128 The value of being officially admitted to these functions comes not only from the resultant ability to influence the leadership of the Catholic Church, but from the fact that from a political point of view, this is equated with acceptance of the principle “gay is good,” in practice if not in theory.
At times, even the bishops’ conferences become the occasion for networking. As noted, the homosexual movement is closely related — ideologically and organizationally — with feminism. This relationship is then carried over to the Catholic Church. During the 1980 meeting of bishops in Washington, D.C., this relationship was cemented at a meeting which included Father Robert Nugent, SDS, and Sister Jeannine Gramick, SSND, for the homosexual movement and the leadership the Women’s Ordination Conference (WOC, a radical Catholic feminist organization). WOC was represented by, among others, Sister Joan Sobala, SSJ,. a “chaplain” at the University of Rochester. The purpose of the meeting was “to explore ways of collaboration and to obtain support from WOC for the Catholic Coalition for Gay Civil Rights. “129 At this meeting, the homosexual movement was able to gain specific commitments from the WOC: “WOC will publish articles on homosexuality and will also offer New Ways printed resources to their readers.”130 There is evidence that WOC has indeed lived up to its commitment to the homosexuals: the January 1982 issue of New Women New Church, the publication of WOC, included an article by a female homosexual on the “Feminist Theological Perspectives of Lesbian and Gay Male Experience.”131 The same issue also published a very favorable report about the homosexual symposium sponsored by New Ways Ministry.132 This should not be surprising, since the WOC sent a homosexual as a representative to the symposium who was also one of the speakers.
The evidence that there is a strong relationship between the movement to ordain women to the Catholic priesthood and the homosexual movement is obvious from the overlap between the Catholic homosexual network (the Catholic Coalition for Gay Civil Rights, of which more will be said later) and WOC. A comparison between the membership in WOC as of September 1977 and the current membership in the Catholic homosexual network reveals that fifteen percent of the members of WOC are also members of the homosexual organization. (Our analysis included a sample of members of WOC in eight States and the District of Columbia.)
Twenty-seven percent of the individuals whose names appeared in the Proceedings of the Second Conference on the Ordination of Roman Catholic Women which took place on November 1978 are also members of the Catholic homosexual network.
The leadership of the Women’s ordination movement is closely connected with the homosexual movement. Thirty-three percent of the membership of the task force charged with organizing the 1978 conference of WOC are members of the Catholic homosexual network. The proportions for the WOC Advisory Board and the WOC Core Commission for 1979-1980 are even higher (fifty-seven and sixty-seven percent respectively.)133 It is obvious that in terms of number of participants, increasing involvement in WOC correlates strongly with increasing involvement in the Catholic homosexual network.
It is difficult to imagine a logical relationship between the desire to engage in sexual intercourse with persons of one’s own sex—for either males or females—and the question of the acceptance of females as part of the Roman Catholic clergy, unless all should be linked under the umbrella of “social justice.” This could hardly be the case, however, since consistency would demand that practically every other issue be included as a suitable subject for adoption by both WOC and the Catholic homosexual movement acting in unison. Of course, as a matter of fact, this is not the case.
The relations between WOC and New Ways Ministry are obviously not a matter of a one-shot deal. This is clear from the following item, which appeared in a New Ways Ministry publication: “New Ways sent letters of congratulations to the new WOC Core Commission members and had a short visit at the New Ways house from Sr. Barbara Ferraro, a member of WOC Core Commission.”134
What we have presented is merely a sampling of the many instances of cooperation between Roman Catholic institutions and leaders and the homosexual movement. Obviously, neither most Catholics nor most Catholic institutions would dream of becoming tools of the homosexual movement. However, the emergence of a pattern of collaboration between certain circles within the Church and the homosexual movement is unquestionable. The question, from the point of view of traditional Catholicism, is whether the Catholic Church will be strong enough to resist the attempts of a movement alien to its ideology and interests to utilize this ancient and venerable institution for its own political purposes.
Footnotes Cited Above:
127Bondings, Spring-Summer 1981, p. 1.
128Dignity 12 (Washington, D.C.: Dignity, Inc., January 1981): 1.
129Bondings, Winter 1980-81, p. 3.
131 Barbara Zanotti, “Feminist Theological Perspectives on Lesbian and Gay Male Experience,” New Women/New Church 5 (Rochester: Women’s Ordination Conference, January 1982): 6.
132 Barbara Zanotti, “Traversing New Ground,” New Women/New Church 5 (Rochester N. Y.: Women’s Ordination Conference, January 1982): 6.
133 Base data taken from Maureen Dwyer, New Women/New Church/New Priestly Ministry, Proceedings of the Second Conference on the Ordination of Roman Catholic Women, Rochester, especially pp. 173, 174, and 175.
134Bondings, Winter 1980-81, p. 3.
135America, June 25, 1977, p. 558.
Bondings is the newsletter of New Ways Ministry
[Text from pages 330-332 of Fr. Rueda's book, with the footnotes appearing on page 379.]
Sr. Joan was not just some rank-and-file WOC member who happened to show up at that 1980 meeting of the Bishops’ Conference. She is, rather, one of “the very women who first envsioned … the first Women’s Ordination Conference” and “served on the WOC staff from 1979-1982.” It therefore seems more than likely that she played a role in deciding that the WOC would participate, along with representatives of 15 other mainline churches, in the 3-day, May 1979 Strategy Conference on Homophobia in the Church. Concerning this conference Fr Rueda writes,
It is important to realize that this meeting was not an intellectual exercise, but that it had three clearly political and action-oriented objectives: 1) to raise the consciousness of the participants and those represented by the participants in various aspects of the homosexual ideology; 2) to form and cement the homosexual religious network; and 3) to develop and begin implementing an action plan to use the churches for the advancement of the movement’s objectives.
[Text from pages 277-278 of Fr. Rueda's book.]
Given this history of dissent, the departure of Sr. Joan from active ministry in the Catholic Church is long overdue.