The New York Times of March 2, 1986, carried a full-page advertisement from the “Committee of Concerned Catholics.” Like the first such ad of October 1984, the new one also claimed to be concerned about lack of freedom within the Catholic Church, the right to dissent, the need for dialogue, and “reprisals” concerned the demand of the Vatican Congregation of Religious that the 24 nuns and four priests who signed the original ad be required to retract the statement that there can be “a diversity of opinions” among Catholics on abortion.
The second advertisement states:
We believe that Catholics who, in good conscience, take positions on the difficult questions of legal abortion and other controversial issues that differ from the official hierarchical positions, act within their rights and responsibilities as Catholics.
(Church authorities hold that the teaching against abortion is both clear and fundamental and that one cannot knowingly go against this teaching and claim to be “in good conscience” at the same time.)
The advertisement was headlined: “We affirm our solidarity with all Catholics whose right to free speech is under attack.” The ad was signed by 906 Americans and 172 from outside the United States (including six from Canada). The large majority were women including, according to the N.Y. Times, at least 40 nuns and five priests. A general perusal of the ad would seem to indicate that the number 40 may well be too low.
Among the signers are some well-known priests and nuns (e.g. Giles Milhaven, Daniel Maguire, Anita Caspary and Marjorie Maguire); some known non-Catholics; at least three nuns who signed in October 1984; and representatives from such organizations as NOW and Dignity. Most signers appear to belong to circles of well-educated Catholics.
Among the signatures there was not a single recognized Catholic theologian. But the two leading feminists who claim to be theologians and Catholic, Rosemary Reuther and Elizabeth Schusser-Fiorenza, are included. Both also signed the October 1984 ad. Another person who signed is Mary Ann Sorrentino, whose (automatic) excommunication for directing a Planned Parenthood Abortion centre in Rhode Island became newsworthy in the summer of 1985.
The total number of American Catholics is estimated at around 52 million.