03 November 2010

Nadine Brown: Disobedient? Right to Personal Ministry?

[[Dear Sister, do you think Nadine Brown is being disobedient to the Archbishop of Omaha in continuing her ministry? Can she just continue to teach and minister, make visitations to groups of "Companions" and the like and not be disobedient]]

Thanks for the question. First, let me say I have no idea whether Nadine Brown is being or has been disobedient to Archbishop Lucas. As far as I can tell, she has done what she was asked and continues on with her own PERSONAL ministry. She has a right to do this even under Canon Law so long as she in no way uses the term Catholic to characterize it. While she is Catholic her MINISTRY IS NOT --- though this in no way necessarily indicates unorthodoxy! (Please check other posts which distinguish between Catholic hermits, Catholic Theologians, etc and hermits or theologians who are ALSO Catholic.) So long as Brown is clear on all these points, and especially that this is a personal ministry, not a Catholic one, that is, not one undertaken in the name of the Church, or one which is in any way approved by the hierarchy, she can proceed as she has already.

Further, so long as the "Companions" remain the Companions of IOL, INC, and not of the Public Association that was Hermit Intercessors of the Lamb, yes, she may work with such groups how ever she wishes. So long as all members are clear they are participating in Brown's personal ministry, and that it is not done under the auspices of the Church, they may continue as before. However, to the extent this activity detracts from parish involvement or sets up an alternative structure to parish ministry which can injure unity in the parish or diocese, there will be room for serious caution and criticisms. Similarly, to the extent people are participating in a personality cult (and I neither know nor suggest this is the case) there is room for serious caution and criticism. One sign of this is the insistence that no one else in the Church is doing what Nadine Brown is doing, for instance. As charismatic as Brown is, her ministry is not unique. Further, to the extent donations to IOL Inc detract from contributions to Church-sponsored ministry and life, there will be room for criticism. Finally, if Nadine Brown's writings or teaching generally are found to be unorthodox there may be room for serious caution and the Church has a right and responsibility to mark this.

Today's Gospel may well apply to the situation you ask about. Remember that in Luke's text for today the steward is removed from his position, but acts cunningly (actually, he acts dishonestly) to ensure he will have a place and the good will of the people he stewarded after he loses his position. The Gospel certainly distinguishes between acting as children of the light vs children of the dark, but it also advises acting in ways which are cunning or shrewd on behalf of the Gospel's proclamation. In some ways we are always surprised or even shocked by the praise the master gives the steward for the way he has behaved but this does not obviate the lesson regarding shrewdness in proclamation. If the world is cunning in its own ways, so too must the children of light be in its service to the GOSPEL. So long as we do not confuse the two "worlds" (or the two ways of acting), we will be okay. In many things this is certainly a slippery slope and the one acting must be VERY cautious not to overstep, but with regard to IOL, INC and Nadine Brown's personal ministry Canon Law allows what she is doing, and the Gospel may require it.

All this being said, I would certainly like to see Brown's IOL, INC contribute substantially to the upkeep of its former members. While no one has a right to expect the return of money or resources from a community, diocese, etc which they have freely given to these, the simple fact is that IOL, Inc appears to be well funded and economically secure. There is little doubt that former privately-vowed members, Associates, and Companions have contributed to that. "Te Laudamus Deum" on blogspot has listed the members of the lay board and all things considered a little less THIS-WORLDLY SHREWDNESS and a little more Gospel generosity and humility would be nice to see. Of course if this is already the case, it would be wonderful to hear the Archdiocese of Omaha announce it is so --- or IOL, Inc, for that matter.