The suppression of women isn’t just happening here in secular America, it seems to be a spreading phenomenon, with the Catholic Church cracking its whip against the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), a group of over 55,000 US nuns, who apparently have failed in their duty to sufficiently attack things like gay marriage, abortion and ordination of female priests. Not only that, but they did the unthinkable – endorsed President Obama’s health care reform bill.
What’s at the heart of this rebellion, the Vatican claims, is the group’s feminist bent:
Rome also chided the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) for sponsoring conferences that featured “a prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”
“The current doctrinal and pastoral situation of the LCWR is grave and a matter of serious concern, also given the influence the LCWR exercises on religious congregations in other parts of the world,” said the eight-page statement issued by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which Benedict led for a quarter century before his election.
Radical feminist themes…no, we can’t have that running amok among the cloisters.
But this is not the first time LCWR has been targeted by the Holy See. In 2008, the Vatican launched two investigations of the nuns for their “behavior,” which it claimed went outside of church doctrine:
Some sisters surmise that the Vatican and even some American bishops are trying to shift them back into living in convents, wearing habits or at least identifiable religious garb, ordering their schedules around daily prayers and working primarily in Roman Catholic institutions, like schools and hospitals.
“They think of us as an ecclesiastical work force,” said Sister Sandra M. Schneiders, professor emerita of New Testament and spirituality at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, in California. “Whereas we are religious, we’re living the life of total dedication to Christ, and out of that flows a profound concern for the good of all humanity. So our vision of our lives, and their vision of us as a work force, are just not on the same planet.”
Methinks the Sisters have aspired to too much for ol’ Pope Benny, who seems to be a Catholic hard-liner. But many of the nuns are not backing down. Even in the face of Inquisition-like scrutiny, many of the Sisters remained defiant, but they’ll need to gird their loins for this round, because it seems the Vatican and the U.S. Bishops are determined to break them and force them into submission. In their findings released on Wednesday, the Church made clear that changes would be made:
The Vatican’s assessment, issued on Wednesday, said that members of the group, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, had challenged church teaching on homosexuality and the male-only priesthood, and promoted “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”
The sisters were also reprimanded for making public statements that “disagree with or challenge the bishops, who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals.”
They have been given up to five years to revise the group’s statutes, approve of every speaker at the group’s public programs and replace a handbook the group used to facilitate dialogue on matters that the Vatican said should be settled doctrine. They are also supposed to review the Leadership Conference’s links with Network and another organization, the Resource Center for Religious Life.
This seems to be part of a broader crackdown on female spirituality within the Church, with the male patriarchy reasserting its authority. As Jason Pitzl-Waters at The Wild Hunt points out, what they’re really being reprimanded for is the practicing of another religion:
“Another religion. That is what Catholic Women Religious in America are being accused of, practicing another religion. When nuns start advocating for the ordination of women, for making poverty and health care a priority over abortion and making sure gays can’t marry, they are no longer Catholic. They trigger an atavistic fear in the Catholic mind, the fear that women will start listening to a Goddess instead of a God.”
Which would make sense, because female spirituality is not centered around the quest for power and control, it tends to be very intuitive and nurturing and concerned with healing what ails the world, rather than dictating and demanding that people adhere to rigid dogma that no longer works in the 21st Century.
So, when you put all of this together – the right wing-freak out over women’s rights and their rush to quell them, the Catholic freak-out over feminist nuns and the Church’s effort to silence them – what you have is a concerted effort to control the larger half of the population, which is asserting its sovereignty in every way imaginable: physically, emotionally, academically and yes, spiritually.
It’s a new paradigm, fellas, and we ain’t goin’ anywhere. So you’d better get used to it.