From the Washington Post:
The Vatican has launched a crackdown on the umbrella group that represents most of America’s 55,000 Catholic nuns, saying that the group was not speaking out strongly enough against gay marriage, abortion and women’s ordination.WaPo reports Bishops were furious with LCWR for endorsing the health care reform bill, over the objections of the hierarchy.
The directive, which follows a two-year investigation by Rome, also comes as the Vatican appeared ready to welcome a controversial right-wing splinter group of Catholic traditionalists back into the fold, possibly by giving the group a special status so that they can continue to espouse their old-line rites and beliefs.
The [Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith], now led by American Cardinal William Levada, appointed Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain to lead the process of overhauling LCWR’s governance and reviewing its plans and programs and its relationship with certain groups that the Vatican finds suspect.
One of the groups singled out in the criticism is Network, a social justice lobby created by Catholic sisters 40 years ago that continues to play a leading role in pushing progressive causes on Capitol Hill.The New York Times spoke to Network's executive director:
“I’m stunned,” said Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobby founded by sisters. Her group was also cited in the Vatican document, along with the Leadership Conference, for focusing its work too much on poverty and economic injustice, while keeping “silent” on abortion and same-sex marriage.I hadn't heard of Network, so I hopped over to their website. It reveals these are listed as their top issues:
“I would imagine that it was our health care letter that made them mad,” Sister Campbell said. “We haven’t violated any teaching, we have just been raising questions and interpreting politics.”
- Economic Justice
- Immigration Reform
- Healthcare Access
- Additional Issues… which leads to Ex-offenders, Gulf Coast
Mostly I read this and my heart goes out to these women. I can't imagine their lives are easy. And I can't personally imagine choosing a life with so little autonomy over your own choices. I can't imagine choosing a life that is so dependent on having to please a man, and never really have a paycheck of your own, always being grateful for what meager compensation the man doles out.
I can imagine there is something beautiful and satisfying about feeling you're serving a divine purpose in life. But WaPo reports the population of American nuns has thinned from 179,954 in 1965 to just 55,000 today. This doesn't seem helpful. I can't see where requiring women to be as myopically focused on the culture war as these rich, sequestered, very old men are will improve recruitment.
Unlike these nuns, I doubt these Bishops ever really encounter real poverty except in passing photo ops. I doubt they ever really speak to people who are profoundly challenged by life.
And for those women who have, I can't imagine fighting gay marriage, or limiting access to birth control, or railing against your own right to be an ordained, fully respected equal in your own Church could really be a spiritually uplifting mission. Certainly not as compared to helping alleviate the suffering they must see in immigrants, or the poor, or those without health care.
I can just hear the Bishops now: "Really, Sister, set aside that work you're doing for helping ex-inmates readjust to life outside prison and start petitioning to put gay marriage repeal on the ballot."
"You there, helping that immigrant with her ICE forms, so she and her children can stay in the country, get busy with something important, like stopping women from making their own health choices. They have men for that."
It's kind of profoundly sad to me to see these groups, LCWR and Network, whose issues of interest square so closely to my own in the crosshairs of the Catholic hierarchy. If there is a faction of the Catholic Church I'd root for, it would be them.
I guess their training has counseled the Sisters they must be prepared to be tested. I doubt they expected it would come from their own Church.