Jesus would be rolling over in his grave if he hadn’t already left it. The pope is taking on the nuns.
The Roman Catholic Church is a hierarchical institution if there ever was one. Nobody does anything without consulting a superior. Eventually, that would lead to His Holiness. And this time he has gone too far.
When Vatican bishops issued a report condemning nuns, including the tens of thousands represented by their superiors in the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, for “radical feminism” and ordered disciplinary action, all hell broke loose.
This must be heartbreaking for the many great priests and nuns and good Catholics everywhere to watch. I think of someone like Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, one of the most honorable people I’ve ever met.
What were the crimes of these devout ladies? Well, they supported the White House over health care reform, lining up against the bishops. Big mistake. Then they had the audacity to compromise with President Obama on the issue of birth control mandates in employers’ health-care programs. Finally, they have not been outspoken enough on gay marriage and abortion.
What have these silly, recalcitrant women been doing with themselves? Burning bras? Marching in the streets? No. They have been ministering to the poor, the sick, the young and helpless, “the least of these,” as Jesus Christ so mercifully put it.
The report concluded that the nuns made “occasionally public statements” in which they disagreed with the bishops “who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals. “
In a Washington Post article by Michelle Boorstein and Elizabeth Tenety, Sister Julie Vieria, a member of the Michigan-based Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate heart of Mary said, “our vow of obedience applies to God … it doesn’t reside in a bishop, a body of bishops or even the pope. For us, that sense of obedience has to do with listening deeply to the call of the Spirit.”
Tell it, sister!
What she said might well be seen in some quarters of the Vatican as heresy. The next time you read her name, don’t be surprised if it is because she was excommunicated.
These bishops aren’t messing around. To prove they’re still in charge, they have chosen Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain to lead the “reform.”
Sartain recently asked priests in his archdiocese to sign a petition condemning gay marriage. Several refused. But if Pope Benedict is called “God’s rottweiler” then Sartain is the pitbull of the American Catholic Church. Could it be that he has dreams of becoming a cardinal, or, perhaps envisions white smoke in his future?
While the “radical feminist” nuns were taking care of the poor and the sick, what were the priests and bishops doing? More than a few were being accused of sexually abusing children and covering up for each other. Take the case of Cardinal Bernard Francis Law, who stepped down as archbishop of Boston in 2002 for covering up sexual abuse by priests in his archdiocese. Instead of leaving Boston in disgrace, Law was summoned to Rome by Pope John Paul II and given the plum assignment of archpriest of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. He was allowed to keep his title of cardinal and participated in the papal conclave. He resigned last November at age 80 after throwing himself a big birthday party. Let’s hope the victims of the sexual abused he covered up have been able to on with their lives as fortuitously as he has.
The numbers of sexual abuse scandals are too numerous to mention, but include the recent charges against a priest who was head of the Office of Child Protection and Safety in Northern Virginia, and is being investigated for sexual misconduct with a boy and is now on administrative leave.
The only reason this kind of behavior continues is because the priests understand that on some level their behavior, if not sanctioned by the church is not fiercely condemned or punished. Also, because they are men.
That those in charge of the Catholic Church are all celibate men already eliminates the possibility of justice. Women are not allowed to be priests. But they sure can be humiliated by priests, bishops and the pope – as they just have been for speaking about truth and justice. What this says is that the Catholic hierarchy is on a suicidal mission and beginning to disintegrate. It bespeaks extreme insecurity among the men who run the church. How can one follow leaders who would condemn nuns for their charity while allowing the heinous crime of child sexual abuse to go, in many cases, unpunished?
It’s no wonder so many Catholics are leaving the church. They go longing for spirituality and they get dogma. A young friend of mine raised Catholic by nuns, wanted to return to the church and decided to go Easter Sunday. In the end she couldn’t go, she said, because by walking into the church she felt she would be condoning the handling of the sexual abuse scandal, health care reform, the issues of contraception, abortion rights (even in the case of the life of the mother) and gay marriage.
With this assault on nuns, the Catholic Church is moving farther from the teachings of Jesus, which has been for centuries, the greatest criticism of the church.
I’m not a Catholic but when I attend services I want to feel holy and spiritual and uplifted. I want to feel the transcendent, the divine. I want to be reassured of the goodness of the world and not the evil.
The nuns are facing the worst possible conundrum. Do they stay in a church that vilifies and condemns them, tells them where they can speak and what they can say, disrespects them and does not value what they do? Do they leave the church? Or do they stay and fight for their rightful place in the church, turn into “radical feminists” and take on the boys’ club?
Correction: The column has been corrected to reflect the membership of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). More than 1,500 women are members of the LCWR; they represent tens of thousands of American nuns.
Sally Quinn | Apr 24, 2012 1:33 PM