This past week the Washington Post (and numerous other sources) reported that the Vatican—following an investigation by the office formerly known as the Inquisition—had ordered what amounted to punishment and possible dissolution of the organization that represents nearly 58,000 American nuns and religious sisters, the vast majority of whom do solid WWJD-type work in education, charity work, health care, social services and ministry.
American nuns struggled to respond Friday to a Vatican crackdown on what it calls “radical feminism” among the women and their purported failure to sufficiently condemn such issues as abortion and same-sex marriage.
Some nuns in the Leadership Conference of Women Religious characterized the disciplinary action announced Wednesday as an “ambush,” but others — including the leadership — said they couldn’t publicly comment on a system that mandates their obedience.
A Vatican investigation of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), an umbrella group representing 80 percent of Catholic sisters and nuns in the United States, found serious theological errors in statements by members, widespread dissent on the church’s teaching on sexuality and “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith” a church report released Wednesday stated.
The church appointed Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle to oversee “reform” of the women’s organization.
“I think we scare them,” Sr. Simone Campbell, a lawyer who serves as the executive director of the lobby said of the church’s male hierarchy.
The Post also noted in a later article that:
The Vatican report didn’t focus on public positions the women took but rather on the private conversations they had at their own meetings and comments they made in private letters to Vatican officials about such issues as how to minister to gays and lesbians.
Some experts said the conflict embodies the gender dynamics of a male-led church.
Gee, ya fucking think?
Sister Joan Chittister, a Dominican nun and former leader of the LCWR, told the National Catholic Reporter that she was “deeply distraught” and that: ”When you set out to reform a people, a group, who have done nothing wrong, you have to have an intention, a motivation that is not only not morally based, but actually immoral.”
The greatest irony? That women religious in the Roman Catholic Church are the ONLY morally uncompromised clergy the Church has left.
Consider: In the same edition of the Washington Post was this article about a priest who has been the head of Northern Virginia diocese’s office responsible for protecting children against sexual abuse. He’s just been placed on “administrative leave” because of…wait for it…allegations he sexually abused children. (Quis custodiet ipsos fucking custodes?) Presumably that priest will go exactly the same way as the vast majority of Catholic priests who’ve been suspected of sexually abusing children—no criminal charges, a move to another parish so they can molest again, or maybe if the allegations are especially heinous, some time off at retreat house for “prayer and contemplation.” There isn’t much of a crackdown on abusive priests’ bosses, either—archbishops who cover up for child molesters often go on to get a cardinal’s hat. In the worst case scenario, if there’s a real public outcry, abuse-condoning bishops might wind up like Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston: given a cushy retirement in Rome, drinking wine and running one of the Vatican’s fanciest churches. If you’re a lifelong, incorrigible pedophile and sexual predator but you also run a hardcore conservative order beloved of Pope John Paul II (and Rick Santorum), some of the faithful within the Church might even put your name up for possible sainthood.
Oh, and you know who else the Church hierarchy is not cracking down on? The anti-Semitic excommunicated ultra-right-wing order whose bishop is a public Holocaust denier. Those priests the Church is actively in dialogue with because Benedict XVI wants to find a way to welcome them back into the fold.
It’s the highest form of hypocrisy for the Church to accusing women religious of “being silent” or overly permissive on moral issues when they uniformly hushed up, permitted or simply ignored the rape and torture of defenseless children, and refused to bring their abusers to justice. After the Cloyne Report produced indisputable evidence that the Church in Ireland had tried to cover up widespread child abuse and thwart criminal investigations, the Vatican’s silence and stonewalling on the issue extended to recalling its ambassador from Ireland. It was so egregious that Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny took to the floor of Parliament to condemn the “dysfunction, disconnection, elitism — the narcissism — that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day.” I’d add to that “oppression, corruption, and amorality.”
But while they have relatively few options for fighting the crackdown beyond disbanding and reorganizing the LCWR as an independent group outside the Church’s purview, Sr. Chittister was not pulling any punches when she spoke to the media about the role of women religious and the sickness within the Church hierarchy:
“Because you are attempting to control people for one thing and one thing only — and that is for thinking, for being willing to discuss the issues of the age … If we stop thinking, if we stop demanding the divine right to think, and to see that as a Catholic gift, then we are betraying the church no matter what the powers of the church see as an inconvenient truth in their own times.”
In attempting to take such control of people’s thinking, she said, “You make a mockery of the search for God, of the whole notion of keeping eyes on the signs of the times and of providing the people with the best possible spiritual guidance and presence you can give.
“When I was a child in this town, I was taught that it was a sin to go into a Protestant church. In my lifetime, the church, to its eternal credit, admitted that it was wrong. The scandal and the sin is that it took 400 years to do that.” Chittister said women religious have been trying since Vatican II “to help the church avoid that kind of darkness and control … they have been a gift to the church in their leadership and their love and their continuing fidelity.
“When you set out to reform that kind of witness, remember when it’s over who doomed the church to another 400 years of darkness. It won’t be the people of the church who did it.”