Tuesday, July 15, 2014

No Freedom in Chicago

Fresh from the "Fortnight for Freedom", a special period around Independence Day designated by the U.S. Catholic bishops to highlight religious liberty, we get the news that the Archdiocese of Chicago has decided to do its own repression of freedom. The Archdiocese's censor ordered the director of its publishing house, Liturgy Training Publications, to withdraw Dr. Margaret Nutting Ralph's Scripture commentaries that it had commissioned for its Sourcebook for Sundays, Seasons, and Weekdays 2015. Dr. Ralph had previously written commentaries that appeared in LTP's 2011 and 2013 editions of Workbook for Lectors, Gospel Readers, and Proclaimers of the Word.

And the letter Dr. Ralph received from LRP was not vague as to the reason she was being censored: "The request was made because of your recent presentation at Call to Action." The noted religious educator and director of the Master in Pastoral Studies Program for Roman Catholics at Lexington Theological Seminary in Kentucky, had presented a workshop at the November 2013 CTA meeting on contextual vs. literal interpretation of the Bible. The application of Scripture to several hot button issues came up, including homosexuality, contraception, and, briefly, women's ordination. In a brief press statement, CTA called LTP's censorship "unfortunate" and praised Dr. Ralph as "a prominent scripture scholar and exceptional educator" who deserves gratitude and respect.

Dr. Ralph, who served 16 years as Secretary of Educational Ministries for the Diocese of Lexington, told National Catholic Reporter that she was not even allowed to know who had censored her work. She wrote a letter of protest to the Archdiocese that has remained merely acknowledged, but not answered. The only explanation she was given was that the Archdiocese wanted to avoid the perception that it was not firm on doctrine, especially with respect to women's ordination and that, merely by accepting CTA's invitation to give a workshop, she had "passively supported this unorthodox group's whole agenda."

Dr. Ralph is the author of numerous books, including Why the Catholic Church Must Change: A Necessary Conversation (Rowman and Littlefield, 2013) and And God Said What? An Introduction to Literary Forms in the Bible (Paulist Press, 2003). As usual, we suggest supporting the censored author by buying her books. In this case, and because this censorship is an egregious challenge to Dr. Ralph's freedom of association, we would also encourage readers to respectfully consider whether or not they wish to continue purchasing from Liturgy Training Publications at all.

Should anyone wish to contact the Archdiocese of Chicago and/or LTP to express their disagreement with this decision, here is the relevant contact information:

Mr. John Thomas, Director
Liturgy Training Publications
3949 South Racine Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60609-2523
Phone: 1-773-579-4900
Toll Free: 1-800-933-1800
Online message form: https://www.ltp.org/ContactUs.aspx

The Most Rev. Francis George
Archbishop of Chicago
Archdiocese of Chicago
PO Box 1979
Chicago, IL 60690-1979
Phone: 312-534-8200
E-Mail: archbishop@archchicago.org

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