Thursday, May 29, 2008

CWN/WWS: Dossier

Catholic Women’s Network (a.k.a. Women Word Spirit)

The Catholic Women’s Network (CWN) was founded in 1984 by radical dissenting feminists, including members of an older dissident organisation, the St. Joan’s International Alliance (SJIA). The inaugural meeting was held at St. Mary’s Teacher Training College, Twickenham, and the key speaker was the American radical feminist Rosemary Radford Reuther. The CWN started off by appointing its own ‘Core Group’, the feminist equivalent of an executive committee. Early members of the Core Group included Jenny Bond, who was personal assistant to Mgr. Vincent Nichols, then General Secretary to the Bishop’s Conference (now Archbishop Nichols of Birmingham). Four years after its inception CWN became a constituent member of the umbrella organisation for Catholic women’s groups known as the National Board of Catholic Women (NBCW), which is also an official advisory body to the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

In 1987 Jenny Bond, along with others, approached the Bishop’s Conference to see if it would agree to a ‘Woman’s Committee’ being officially attached to the Conference. This action eventually led to the admission of both the SJIA and the CWN to the NBCW. Both dissenting groups were formally admitted in 1988 although at the time, CWN had not even finalised its constitution. Indeed, its constitution was still not ready in November 1989 although member organisations of the NBCW are required to have a proper constitution. To this day the bishops have never given any explanation as to why these two openly dissident groups were allowed to circumvent the rules of one of their official advisory bodies, or why favour was shown to such groups. Members of the CWN wasted no time in infiltrating the upper echelons of the NBCW in order to further their radical agenda. To this day there is a disproportionate number of known CWN members/supporters in senior positions in the NBCW, and also in the editorship of its quarterly newspaper, called “Catholic Omnibus”.

The CWN began to be listed as a Catholic Society “with ecclesiastical approval”, in the 1990 Catholic Directory. Up until very recently, it has remained in the National Catholic Directory, in spite of its open dissent from Catholic teaching. One reason it has continued to be listed in the Directory for so many years is by dishonestly stating in its entry that it “acknowledges and accepts the authentic teaching of the Church”, which it clearly doesn’t. Although missing from the 2007 Directory due to an administrative error, and it was also not listed in the 2008 Directory for reasons unknown, it could well return, so vigilance is needed. CWN is still listed in several diocesan directories.

In 1991, the results of an NBCW consultation were published as a booklet entitled “Do Not Be Afraid”. It was presented to the Bishops’ Conference, who decided, in response, to establish what came to be known as the national ‘Joint Dialogue Group’ (JDG). Originally, it was to have six members chosen by the Bishops’ Conference and six chosen by the NBCW. It was quickly agreed, however, that all twelve would be joint appointments, acceptable to both parties. Needless to say, the JDG was full of known CWN members and supporters.

The journal of the CWN is called “Network”. This is where most of the evidence of CWN’s dissent has been gleaned over the years. The CORE group of CWN, which regularly reviews the aims, purposes and approaches of the organisation, issued an open letter to CWN members on page 10 of the December 2003 issue of Network. This open letter contains explicit admissions that CWN:
a) is not Catholic:
“Core meetings – these again show a difference over the past few years in the amount of time and attention given to specific RC Church matters, while Core itself currently has some members not from Catholic backgrounds, or who are detached from the organisation of the RC Church . . .”
“We have members along a wide continuum, from women active in the Catholic Church, those active in other churches or not active in any formal church, and others who are ‘post-denominational’ . . .”
“Many others say that they are deterred by the word ‘catholic’, even though we explain that the term is used in a wide sense . . .”
b) does not have Catholic aims:
“These show a wide range of justice and peace issues, ‘saying yes to God’ women’s liturgies, Taoism and Buddhism, mediation, theology for the 21st Century, writing our funerals. The groups around the country report on action from NBCW, vigils outside Cathedrals, activities in diocesan organisations, deaneries and parishes. . . . ”
“Other predominantly Catholic interests include the activities of We Are Church and Catholic Women’s Ordination . . .”
“We know that CWN has members along a wide continuum from those very active in parishes and local ministries, committed to study and working to change the church from within, and also those whose origin was Catholic but who now place themselves on the margin and either campaign for change from outside or seek to build alternative ways of pursuing spirituality, theology, ministry and liturgy . . .”
c) has nonetheless been very successful in infiltrating and taking control of the NBCW and influencing the Bishops of England and Wales:
“Our main and important Catholic contribution is through the National Board of Catholic Women . . .”
“CWN has made a major contribution in the specifically Catholic world, particularly through our membership of the NBCW and its relationship with the hierarchy . . .”

Although CWN claims to “acknowledge and accept the authentic teaching of the Church” the following three things can be cited as absolute proof of its dissent:-

1) Despite its claim not to be pro-abortion, CWN, as an organisation, co-signed a pro-abortion/contraception document by the group “Catholics for a Free Choice, titled “A Faith-Filled Commitment to Development Includes a Commitment to Women’s Rights and Reproductive Health”, (see )

2) CWN, as an organisation, made an open declaration supporting the aims of Women’s Ordination Worldwide, which was published in the CWN journal Network in September 2001. This declaration stated:- “Women’s Ordination Worldwide, International Conference, Dublin, June 2001. From: Catholic Women’s Network. ‘Catholic Women’s Network believes that the gospel speaks about freedom from oppression and calls women to full participation in all aspects of life and the church as a matter of justice. We strongly endorse the aims of the world-wide movement for the ordination of women in the Roman Catholic Church, and of the recent conference in Dublin, for a renewal of priesthood within transformed and inclusive structures, where women’s gifts are welcomed and accepted. We believe that it is totally wrong to attempt to ban serious debate, reflection and research of this issue. We commend the vision of those who initiated the conference and are grateful that it has re-energised us all to work more vigorously for the above aims. Catholic Women’s Network

3) CWN/WWS’s “starter pack”, issued in June 2006, states on page 1 that the title WWS is “a more inclusive and descriptive name which also recognises that the membership has always included many women from other denominations or none”. It goes on to say that CWN was founded in 1984 and went through a process of “‘denouncing’ aspects of church which inhibit women’s participation and ‘announcing’ a new vision of how church could be”. The group also “identified strategies for bringing about change . . . in our church institutions”. On page 2 it states that “WWS feels that the contribution women can make as responsible Christians, gifted in the spirit, to the RC Church is often ignored; in particular women are excluded from the ordained ministry and thereby from the leadership in the church . . .” On page 5 of the pack, WWS proudly shows its networking links with other dissenting groups, even giving website/e-mail addresses so that they can be contacted – in other words, helping to spread and promote dissent. WWS’s networking group list contains all the usual pro-abortion/contraception, pro-homosexual and pro-women’s ordination groups, which CWN have long promoted and supported:-

• Association for Inclusive Language

• Catholics for a Changing Church

• Catholic Womens’ Ordination / Women’s Ordination Worldwide

• Roman Catholic Caucus of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement

• Living Spirituality Network

• European Network – Church on the Move

• Catholics for a Free Choice

(see for this starter pack. This webpage also contains the WWS documents “How to plan women’s liturgies/rituals” and “Create your own mandalas” )
There is clearly enough evidence here to show that CWN/WWS does not “acknowledge and accept the authentic teaching of the Church” so it is high time that our hierarchy stopped assisting them.

Further information on CWN / WWS and other dissenting feminist individuals and groups can be found in Patricia Phillips’ articles on the website.

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Pope Leo XIII's Prayer to St Michael

Holy Michael, Archangel, defend us in the day of battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust down to Hell Satan, and all wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen