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On Thursday, June 26, Archbishop Raymond Burke imposed penalities on Sister Louise Lears, Sister of Charity, for her support of women's full equality and justice in the Roman Catholic Church.
After six months of proceedings, the decree was issued the day before Pope Benedict XVI appointed Archbishop Burke to head the highest court in the Catholic Church, as the Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome.
Archbishop Burke of St. Louis imposed two penalties on Sister Lears, 1) the penalty of interdict, which means that she cannot participate in public worship in a ministerial capacity and cannot receive the Sacraments and 2) the penalty of prohibition from reception of a mission anywhere in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, which means she can no longer serve in her positions as a member of the Pastoral Team at St. Cronan's Catholic Church and as the Coordinator of Religious Education.
We the undersigned believe the penalties callously imposed on Sister Louise Lears-a Sister of Charity who has dedicated her life in service of the Catholic Church-is a prime example of the way women are often wrongly treated by the hierarchy in the Roman Catholic Church.
We support Sister Louise Lears in her life and ministry in the Church. We oppose these penalties as way of dealing with differences and dissent. Such misuse of Church discipline will not extinguish the widespread call for women's equality nor intimidate women into accepting marginal status within the Church.
Sister Louise has the support of millions of Catholics who seek only the gospel promise of equality and we demand that these penalties be revoked as quickly as possible.