Melbourne Archbishop Peter A. Comensoli says he neither invited nor revoked any invitation to US Benedictine Sr Joan Chittister to speak at a national education conference next year. Source: The Age.
Tensions emerged last month when it was revealed that Sr Joan – an author, feminist and advocate of Church reform – had been asked to take part in the 2020 National Catholic Education Conference in Melbourne, only to have her invitation rescinded a few weeks later.
“I am very saddened to say that while our organising committee strongly supported the inclusion of Sr Joan as a speaker at the conference, the Archbishop of Melbourne has failed to endorse her inclusion,” John Meneely, the Ballarat Catholic Education Office deputy director, wrote in a June 1 email seen by The Sunday Age. “I am presently seeking [an] explanation for his reasoning.”
Others have contrasted the outspoken Sr Joan’s treatment to the support Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher recently gave to former rugby star Israel Folau’s right to free speech.
“One hopes that the freedoms advocated for Folau be also extended to Joan Chittister,” Sr Patty Fawkner, the Congregational Leader of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan wrote in an online article last week. “This would certainly help us move towards an adult Church.”
The Archdiocese issued a statement on Friday night acknowledging that Archbishop Comensoli was advised in May of “a proposal for Sr Joan Chittister to speak at the National Catholic Education Commission Conference”.
“When the conference was raised with him, Archbishop Comensoli requested that more names aligned to the themes of a national Catholic education conference be considered,” the spokesman said.
“The conference is a national conference with an organising committee drawn from leaders in Catholic education that is engaged in dialogue as part of the planning with a range of stakeholders including Catholic education leaders, Church representatives and bishops.
“Archbishop Comensoli has neither invited Sr Joan or revoked any invitation that may have been issued to her.”
The Pennsylvania-based sister was previously quoted in The New York Times describing the snub as “pathetic”.
Sister Joan Chittister Statement (Melbourne Catholic)
Chittister, censorship and an adult Church (The Good Oil)
She’s 83 and a Famous Nun. Australia’s Catholic Leaders Want Her to Stay Away. (The New York Times)
A famous American nun rejected by Australia's Catholic leaders (Sydney Morning Herald)