Technically, this is yesterday’s news, but for anyone who hasn’t yet heard, the Vatican is ratcheting up its scrutiny of nuns here in the United States. The New York Times had a fairly comprehensive article on the subject yesterday, and while I wish I had been able to tackle it before this afternoon, here are my (slightly belated) thoughts:
– The number of nuns in America has been steadily dropping over the past few decades. This “doctrinal inquisition,” as the article terms it, is probably not going to help turn that around anytime soon.
– “The visitation focuses only on nuns actively engaged in working in society and the church, not cloistered, contemplative nuns.” In other words, the Church is only alarmed by those women who are not cloistered and who dare to actually try and help the communities they’re living in. They could be spreading dangerous womanly ideas! But no worries about priests (or monks) who are doing the same thing. Being a nun does not equal being a hermit — at least, it shouldn’t.
– I would think there are a few other active issues that might get priority over whatever “renegade” tendencies these sisters may have. Last I heard, sex abuse hadn’t been eradicated from the clergy and I’m sure that’s more deserving of apostolic visitations.
– One of the organizations being investigated is The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, a probe which is the result of:
“[A] letter to the Leadership Conference saying an investigation was warranted because it appeared that the organization had done little since it was warned eight years ago that it had failed to “promote” the church’s teachings on three issues: the male-only priesthood, homosexuality and the primacy of the Roman Catholic Church as the means to salvation.
How much “promotion” needs to be done on those issues? They seem pretty self-evident as far as current doctrinal certainties within the Catholic Church. Those are three of the first things this Harpy — a former theology major — learned when she started reading about Catholicism. Of course, the male-only priesthood and the belief that homosexuality is a sin are two of the biggest patriarchal bugaboos, and the fear that they are not being actively touted, especially by women, probably does scare the Church a lot more than some other, more pressing issues.
– Finally, nuns are not the only people within the Church who may choose to agitate for change. But they are women. The only time I can recall any kind of wide-scale scrutiny of male members of the Church is when it was part of pedophilia investigations, and not because of any perceived doctrinal missteps. In other words, when the Church’s sisters get out of line with their words and deeds, it becomes a Very Big Deal that must be investigated. If the Church’s fathers or brothers get out of line, it’ll be ignored and/or swept under the rug as quickly as possible. It’s enough to make me want to rap the Church’s knuckles with a very stiff ruler.