There is a new war being waged against women, but this time it’s not being fought by the usual misogynists. The arena is not the bedroom or the courthouse or even the halls of our legislatures, although the women are accused of harboring “certain radical feminist themes.” Can you believe that the bellows of outrage are coming from the Vatican in Rome and are directed not at pedophiles but at the good nuns who teach the young and care for the poor, the infirm, the ill and the dying--the ones that Jesus talked about.
Last week the Church’s doctrinal group, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), issued an eight-page report, [Here] directed at the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).[Here] (We should recall that the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly known as the Inquisition, interprets Catholic doctrine and was headed by the current pope before his election to the papacy.) The CDF report charges that those good sisters have turned aside from fundamental Catholic teachings and are in need of correction and change. The Church has taken umbrage with the LCWR’s position on homosexuality, male-only priesthood and a “prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.” [Here]
The Leadership Conference of Women Religious is an organization of the heads of most of the groups of nuns in the United States. Wikipedia tells us that it has 1500 members and represents about 56,000 women religious in this country.[Here] It is thus fair to say, that the men in charge have told the women religious that they have acted too rashly and too independently. An Archbishop from Seattle, has been dispatched to meet with the leadership of the LCWR and is empowered to rewrite the organization’s bylaws.
Before I go further, I should warn the reader that I am not a Roman Catholic but have profound respect for most of the Catholic nuns whom I have met over my lifetime. I also confess to being a lifelong feminist, even a radical one, (whatever that means.) To add further brimstone on my head, I happen to be living blissfully and happily with my same-sex spouse, whom I recently married after 33 years of co-habitation.
So what did the good sisters of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious do to incur the wrath of their Church’s hierarchy? The New Yorker’s Amy Davidson has some thoughts. [Here] Davidson points to the Vatican statement which mentions that the LCWR has made public statements that disagree with the American bishops’ positions. Notable among them has been the support that the Women Religious has given to Obama’s Affordable health Care Act. Sister Carol Keehan, the head of the Catholic Health Association with its 600 hospitals, had been honored by the LCWR last year and had been very publicly supportive of the bill as it worked its way through Congress.
Last winter, when the controversy about the federal mandate to have employers’ insurance plans offer coverage for contraception, both the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the LCWR objected. When Obama offered a compromise, however, Sister Carol agreed but the Catholic bishops did not. Moreover, the bishops went public with their disagreement with the nuns. As Davidson pointed out, the Vatican was not so much concerned that the nuns were speaking out, but that they were not parroting what the bishops wanted them to say. [Here] In other words, they were saying what they believed and what 98% of sexually-active Roman Catholic woman, who use birth control, would most certainly agree with.
The Roman CDF also despatched Archbishop Peter Sertain of Seattle to oversee the “wayward” LCWR and to review and revise its policies. [Here] Sertain will have two bishops and five years to help him put everything to rights within the women’s group.
Do you suppose the good Archbishop is going to start with Eve and work his way forward?