I’m not Catholic, I’m an atheist. But it doesn’t really matter what faith you hold or don’t hold if you’re a woman. The smarmy Damien Thompson would like to remind you–and more importantly, everyone else–that women who speak up for themselves are deserving of a good kick.
In his blog for the Telegraph, Thompson, who is also the Editor in Chief of the Herald newspaper, a Catholic publication, doesn’t have much of value to say about the actual issue at hand, which is: a group of liberal-leaning nuns who seem to focus somewhat on social justice causes* in the US (Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary hereafter IHM) are putting up some sort of resistance to a visit, which they see as hostilely motivated, from Vatican representatives.
Thompson provides few links, neither does he limn the concerns that Sr. Sandra M. Schneiders actually outlines in a now published email , which is basically that she considers the Vatican visit a threat to their work, because the IHM Sisters are “no longer ‘Congregations dedicated to works of the apostolate’ – that is, monastic communities whose members ‘go out’ to do institutionalized works basically assigned by the hierarchy as an extension of their agendas, e.g., in Catholic schools and hospitals, etc. We are ministerial Religious. Ministry is integral to our identity and vocation.”
Sr. Schneiders (who is also Professor Schneiders) is claiming the authority of ministry, not just service to the Church, for herself and her sister nuns. And it seems the Vatican, under Papa Ratzi, is none too happy about it.
Now, while this is fascinating whatever side of the debate you’re on, I am unqualified to dissect the theological nuances of her position or the changing face of the Catholic Church (I can only say that helping your community seems more valuable than being blindly obedient to one of the most powerful manifestations of Patriarchy on the planet, but again: atheist). And it seems like Mr. Thompson is as well, despite being himself a Catholic and obviously interested in that institution’s continuance.
No, rather than engaging thoughtfully with the issues, Mr. Thompson instead takes the opportunity to engage in a jolly bit of woman-bashing. From the first sentence, Thompson makes clear that nuns are formidable and terrifying (which of course women have no right to be). You’d think he’d have got over his elementary education experience, but he goes on to pull out a shopworn array of flaccid insults about women living without direct male supervison and lumps them together in an absolute clusterfuck of sexist/classist/nationalist assumptions: these American nuns wear Birkenstocks (dykes!); they drink fair-trade coffee (elitists!); they discuss carbon footprints (fuckin’ hippies!); and the kicker: they’re fat (fatties!). Ho ho ho, Mr. Thompson, you’ve got their number! “Activist butt!” Zing!
I completely understand that Mr. Thompson doesn’t like what these sisters stand for, and he has every right to address what I would guess he views as their heretical perversions of the One True Church’s teachings. But he’s not doing that. He’s bagging on nuns for their looks.
And, unsurprisingly–misogynists looooooove to do this–he borrows the words of a woman, Elizabeth Scalia, to bash them further, painting them as snooty society dames turning up their noses at the rabble. Except that again 1) neither Scalia nor Thompson offers any actual critique of what the IHM sisters are doing, and 2) these are nuns, who have commited their lives to service of others. Really? This is what he considers “the enemy”?
But why bother to inspect a woman’s actions or beliefs when it’s so much easier build a straw-nun and then bash that? Good show, Mr. Thompson. I’m sure you’ve made Catholics everywhere proud.
* I don’t have any details; please share info in comments if you do about these sisters’ work.