Monday, April 23, 2012

Don't mess with nuns

May 1, 2012
Catholic nuns are not the prissy traditionalists of caricature. No, nuns rock!

They were the first feminists, earning Ph.D.’s or working as surgeons long before it was fashionable for women to hold jobs. As managers of hospitals, schools and complex bureaucracies, they were the first female C.E.O.’s.

They are also among the bravest, toughest and most admirable people in the world. In my travels, I’ve seen heroic nuns defy warlords, pimps and bandits. Even as bishops have disgraced the church by covering up the rape of children, nuns have redeemed it with their humble work on behalf of the neediest.

So, Pope Benedict, all I can say is: You are crazy to mess with nuns.
Nicholas Kristof
Read the whole of Kristof’s article to see why I say, not only do nuns rock, but Kristof rocks! Remember, he’s the author of Half the Sky, which I blogged about a few posts ago, and his name has appeared here before. Kristof’s work for women’s equality has no parallel in today’s media world.

Once again, the Catholic hierarchy's bullying (see below), intended to stifle dissent, has instead revealed its own decay— its theological straggling and its fear of losing control. Also, of course, embarrassment over its own scandals. From the wealth of media attention to this issue, we can see that its attempts to intimidate are not working.

I surmise that one reason the Vatican is launching crackdowns on dissenting voices is Pope Benedict's advancing age. Maybe he wants to whip the Church into his idea of good shape before his term is over.

The boat of women’s work has not tipped, as we can see from LCWR plans moving forward. On the agenda of its next assembly are prophets steering us toward a new consciousness, stars in the firmament of an evolving spiritual awareness—Barbara Marx Hubbard and S. Sandra Schneiders, IHM.

I rejoice, as I feel the Spirits working in, under, behind, and through all this!
Sing a new song to El Shaddai, the Breasted One;
                           sing a new song to the Comforting Friend;
                           sing a new song to the Rock of Salvation,
                           sing a new song to the soaring Mother Eagle;
                           sing a new song to the nurturing Mother Hen;
from “Psalms of Thanksgiving” by Jann Aldredge-Clanton
American Catholics stand in solidarity with nuns as the hierarchy tries to impose top-down power.

Now I turn to a huge ruckus going on in the Catholic Church. The Vatican shot itself in the foot by attacking the one religious group that is above reproach and universally admired—religious sisters. Its Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, notorious for suppressing freedom of conscience, accused the U.S. Leadership Conference of Religious Women (LCWR) of flouting Church teaching.
The congregation had three major areas of concern with the group:
  • The content of speakers' addresses at the annual LCWR assemblies;
  • "Corporate dissent" in the congregation regarding the church's sexual teachings; and
  • "A prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith" present in some of the organization’s programs and presentations.
No group, inside or outside the Church, has done more than American nuns to promote the common welfare through their work in health, education, social work, and spiritual care. These spiritually and intellectually mature women have the guts to think independently and that’s what riles the hierarchy.
Sister Campbell suggested that her organisation's vocal support for President Barack Obama's healthcare bill was behind the slapdown.
"There's a strong connection," she said. "We didn't split on faith, we split on politics."
A recent challenge to bishops came from S. Margaret McBride, the hospital administrator who allowed the termination of a pregnancy that would have resulted in the death of both the mother and the child. She was excommunicated for this “sin.”
Outrageand scorn have come swiftly:
These nuns—“radical feminists,” says the Vatican—have failed to understand that the bishops are their “authentic teachers.”
Does that include Boston’s Cardinal Bernard Law who, after obstructing justice in one of the most horrific chapters of the pedophile scandal, now lives in Rome as a prince of the church?

S. Campbell said, “I don't think the bishops have any idea of what they're in for."

Neither does the Vatican. But it will learn that, instead of bolstering obedience, its foolish move will cripple Vatican authority.


April 25


A new NCR blog gathers the latest news, actions and reactions arising from the Vatican ordered reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), the umbrella organization for 80 percent of American Catholic sisters (see below).
American bishops are tight-lipped about their role in the Vatican order. They seem to have learned some caution from the theological community’s indignation over their rash condemnation of S. Elizabeth Johnson’s book, Quest of the Living God.
The general public’s fun with this latest controversy shows in this headline: “Pope Says American Nuns Too Focused on Poor, Not Enough on Gay Bashing.

My optimism, not to say exhilaration, over this furor, mystifies some readers. Let me explain. I see it as forcing the hierarchy—lumbering, blundering, baffled and bewildered but determined to stay in control—closer to losing their control.


View from the left, May 12
When shenanigans of the hierarchy get me down, I read National Catholic Reporter for evidence of sanity in  my church. Recent samples:

Jamie Manson writes about radical obedience to the voice of God.
His concern was for “true obedience,” Benedict said, “as opposed to human caprice.”
Of course, the pontiff fails to point out that Jesus was obeying God while also radically disobeying the religious leaders and laws of his time. Like so many archconservative Roman Catholics, he is confusing God with the institutional church and its doctrine.
Another writer observes the hierarchy’s panic over losing control.
The Catholic hierarchy from the papacy on down seems to be roiling through a series of manic episodes in which they execute perverted power plays against those perceived as enemies. . . .

Catholicism and Saudi Arabia are the last all male kyriarchical monarchies left on the planet.
Tom Roberts wonders why bishops want Catholics to think that Obama threatens religious liberty. He quotes Margaret O’Brien Steinfels who asks,
Is it religious liberty, as they insist? . . . Is it a desire, conscious or unconscious, to reassert their authority after the dog days of the sexual abuse scandal?  Is it simply anti-Obama prejudice?
My answers to these questions are No, Yes, and Yes. Another factor is retaliation for having their authority conspicuously undermined by Catholics who obey their conscience, not themselves, the bishops.

The NCR editorial comments on the words of Bishop Robert Lynch who tried to calm the fears of sisters after the Vatican takeover of their leadership conference. Lynch explains that the “Holy Father” does not dislike women; it’s just “the way things work over there . . . turf protection and a pecking order . . .” 
What Lynch describes -- and what the Vatican continues to demonstrate -- is a dysfunctional, secretive palace culture of another age. . . .
Lynch obviously means well, but his language is that of the older brother in an abusive family where everyone knows Dad is beating up Mom and a few of the kids regularly. But older brother wants to assure everyone that it will work out all right in the end, because it always does, because Mom stays on for the sake of harmony despite Dad's quirks and flare-ups. Besides, he always ends up apologizing the next day, saying he loves us.
Finally, Joan Chittister writes about rape in the Congo (I cannot bear to call it a “Democratic Republic”).
From where I stand, it seems to me that male "protection," paternalism and patriarchal theology are not to be trusted anymore because the actions it spawns in both men and women have limited the full humanity of women everywhere, and on purpose.
I recommend one more article, this one in the secular media. It reports—no surprise and no small matter—that American churchmen instigated the Vatican attack on American nuns, among them the notorious Cardinal Bernard Law and Cardinal Raymond Burke.

1 comment:

Karen Tate said...

Can I say women are weary - of unenlightened men whether they be Republicans or Popes and Bishops, who would tell them what to do! We don't need to be controlled. We don't need to be supervised. We don't need probes in our vaginas. We don't need humans with a penis in authority over us - not now and not ever! FED UP and SICK of the SEXISM and male desire to dominate and control!