Of Buggery, Nuns, and the World’s Oldest Good Old Boys Club

Last updated on February 8th, 2013 at 02:22 pm

The Catholic Church is the world’s oldest good old boys club and I found it strange recently that so many could get so incensed over Augusta National Golf Club’s refusal to admit women but give the Papacy a free pass. Think of the reaction if Augusta opened an “outer” area, a lesser annex to the golf course and said, “Ladies can play here – but not inside with the men.” This is the position of the Catholic Church: you women can be nuns, but you can’t be priests.

You would think an organization with such a poor equal rights record would want to lay low and stay out of the public eye – I mean, I’m not even going to get into the widespread and institutional buggery here – but instead it has managed to keep itself in the news pretty much nonstop since President Obama said that women deserve an equal shot at healthcare. That’s really what it all comes down to – not religion – but women’s health. It’s always women with the conservative mind. And it’s difficult to see a sign that says “men only” is any less damning than one that says “white’s only.”

Look at the Inquisition’s (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s) latest Inquisition – officially a “doctrinal assessment” eight pages in length and the culmination of an investigation that began in 2008 – against the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), a Catholic organization that represents roughly 80 percent – eight out of ten – of the 57,000 Catholic nuns in the United States. That’s a lot of nuns. And oh, by the way, just to stress this point: nuns are women and apparently those eight out of ten have become uppity.

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If only the Inquisition would crack down on the Catholic hierarchy’s embrace of the man- boy love culture. But apparently it’s okay for male priests to abuse young men (and young women let’s not forget) – something Jesus never in any of his recorded words ever encouraged – but it’s not okay for a woman, for a nun, to do what Jesus said.

As Melinda Henneberger, writing for the She the People blog in the Washington Post Friday relates that as a fellow Catholic friend put it, since the nuns “Only do what Jesus told us to do,” in their hospitals, schools and orphanages, “no wonder they’re in trouble.”

That’s it, in a nutshell. The Leadership Conference expressed dismay over the reprimand, which said the group spent too much time on poverty and social-justice. But as they say, “nobody expects the inquisition”, whose chief weapon is, after all, “surprise.” Well, that and fear – and a ruthless efficiency – and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope.

As the LATimes reports,

The eight-page document stunned affiliates and the conference, which oversees and acts as a support system for nuns in leadership roles.

“We are so shocked by this action that we’re still putting our thoughts together,” said Stephanie Niedringhaus, spokeswoman for Network, a social justice lobby formed by nuns, and part of the conference. “We never expected this and we are deeply grieved for the tens of thousands of sisters who dedicate themselves to social justice work.”

The Office of the Inquisition, formerly headed by the current Pope, now run by American Cardinal William Levada, who used to be the archbishop of San Francisco, says (read the full doctrinal assessment here) that the organization has been influenced by “radical feminism.” That’s one we’ve been hearing a lot lately from the Inquisition’s fundamentalist Protestant allies. Another way of putting it is that “they don’t hate gays and lesbians enough,” or “they don’t hate abortion enough” or yet another way of putting it is that “they like to help the needy more than they hate gays and lesbians and abortion.”

Jesus, significantly, said nothing about abortion. He said nothing about homosexuality. Sorry: those are just facts.

The LCWR also don’t embrace the approved stance of the Church on matters relating to the ordination of women.

Here are the actual “charges” from the doctrinal assessment:

  • Addresses at the LCWR Assemblies.   Addresses given during LCWR annual Assemblies manifest problematic statements and serious theological, even doctrinal errors.  The Cardinal offered as an example specific passages of Sr. Laurie Brink’s address about some Religious “moving beyond the Church” or even beyond Jesus.  This is a challenge not only to core Catholic beliefs; such a rejection of faith is also a serious source of scandal and is incompatible with religious life.  Such unacceptable positions routinely go unchallenged by the LCWR, which should provide resources for member Congregations to foster an ecclesial vision of religious life, thus helping to correct an erroneous vision of the Catholic faith as an important exercise of charity.  Some might see in Sr. Brink’s analysis a phenomenological snapshot of religious life today.  But Pastors of the Church should also see in it a cry for help.
  • Policies of Corporate Dissent.  The Cardinal spoke of this issue in reference to letters the CDF received from “Leadership Teams” of various Congregations, among them LCWR Officers, protesting the Holy See’s actions regarding the question of women’s ordination and of a correct pastoral approach to ministry to homosexual persons, e.g. letters about New Ways Ministry’s conferences.  The terms of the letters suggest that these sisters collectively take a position not in agreement with the Church’s teaching on human sexuality.  It is a serious matter when these Leadership Teams are not 3providing effective leadership and example to their communities, but place themselves outside the Church’s teaching.
  • Radical Feminism.  The Cardinal noted a prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith in some of the programs and presentations sponsored by the LCWR, including theological interpretations that risk distorting faith in Jesus and his loving Father who sent his Son for the salvation of the world.  Moreover, some commentaries on “patriarchy” distort the way in which Jesus has structured sacramental life in the Church; others even undermine the revealed doctrines of the Holy Trinity, the divinity of Christ, and the inspiration of Sacred Scripture.

Think about all this for a minute. Henneberger brings up the instructive case of Marcel Lefebvre, who has said that 6 million Jews were not gassed by the Nazis but that he is closer than ever to being welcomed back with open arms, “but that women accused of dissent can leave if they like.”

It’s all about the women. Different rules for men; always have been, and if the Pope and the Inquisition have their way, always will be.

Which is odd, because Jesus hung out with some pretty dynamic women and scholars no longer believe women were quite so cloistered in first century Judaism as people once thought. Paul too hung out with dynamic women, treating them as the equal of any man.  Scholars, at least, recognize that Paul’s supposedly misogynistic remarks about women remaining silent and not instructing men are later interpolations and not the genuine words of Paul. They’re words out of the Roman Church, whose biases have always been apparent.

The Vatican has put Seattle’s Archbishop J. Peter Sartain in charge of putting the mandated changes into effect – or in other words, “to implement a process of review and conformity to the teachings and discipline of the church.”

There is a time limit on achieving conformity with the Good Old Boys Club’s expectations – the Inquisition calls this “implementing an ecclesiology of communion founded on faith in Jesus Christ and the Church”. The LCWR has up to five years to meet the Vatican’s requirements. Apparently buggering little boys and girls doesn’t violate the Papacy’s “ecclesiology of communion” and so doesn’t warrant a time limit. They’ll hush up buggery and even blame the victims, but the nuns, being women, won’t get the same treatment for a far lesser offense in the eyes of the world.

The Inquisition did not say what the failure to comply would mean to the LCWR but it doesn’t take much imagination to guess.  Look to the example of Joan of Arc, if you have any questions about how the Church feels about uppity Catholic women who don’t think they need a man to tell them what to believe.

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