Irish American Sisters in the Struggle with the Vatican

June 29, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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As you have perhaps noticed (!!) I’ve been writing a good deal about the recent Vatican attack on US Catholic Sisters.

In this post, which appears in the June issue of the Philadelphia Irish newspaper, The Irish Edition, I discuss the roles played by Irish and Irish American Sisters in present and past struggles with the male leadership of the Catholic Church.

Catholic Sex Teaching is No Laughing Matter

June 25, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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It happens a lot these days. I get together with some other post-Vatican II Catholics and we start joking about the stupid things the Vatican or the bishops have done lately. For a while, my favorite contribution was the title of Andrew Rosenthal’s New York Times blog piece, “First Nuns and Girl Scouts, Next Dora the Explorer.” Now I’ve added Archbishop Sean O’Malley’s observation at the recent meeting of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops that the group may need some help with public relations. Ya think???

Trouble is, this stuff really isn’t funny. In point of fact, a number of official Catholic statements on sexuality—it’s invariably sexuality and gender they’re riled up about—are downright dangerous.

Continue reading on Religion Dispatches

Shall We Give Up on Rome?

June 18, 2012 at 11:32 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments
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Since I became a feminist in the early 1970s, non-Catholics have been asking me the same question: “If you want women ordained, why don’t you just become an Episcopalian?” Or “You know Rome is never going to change. Why not just quit?”

I’ll spare you my responses, which have to do with my six Famine Irish great-grandparents turning over in their graves, and the fact that when I fall down and skin my knee (or break both wrists!), I say “Jesus, Mary and Joseph.”

But now it’s practicing Catholics who are raising this question, and with increasing frequency. First there was a nationally recognized nun (not Sister Joan Chittister),  who didn’t say it’s time to leave, but that it may be time for US women’s religious congregations to give up their canonical status as the Los Angeles Immaculate Heart Community did after Cardinal McIntyre kicked the shit out of them in the late 1960s. Next a local Catholic sister in leadership in her congregation suggested it’s time to separate from Rome and form an American Catholic church. I wasn’t exactly shocked by what she said, but I certainly took notice; this woman is a classic, law-abiding nun, somebody who has spent her life working her butt off for her congregation and the church.

But now the cat is really out of the bag, in an article in today’s New York Times about “The Rottweiler’s Rottweiler,” Bill Donohue, the head of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. I seriously doubt that the author of the article (and former executive editor of the Times), Bill Keller, is a practicing Catholic, but he admits to a level of disagreement with Donohue that I and many of my Vatican II Catholic friends share. Keller is amazed, then, to find himself agreeing with Donohue when he says that the solution to the massive conflicts roiling the American church is for people like the nuns and me to accede to the wishes of the chief rottweiler, Pope Benedict XVI, and go away. Citing the positive example of Spiritus Christi “Catholic, not Roman Catholic” Church in Rochester, NY, Keller writes:

“Much as I wish I could encourage the discontented, the Catholics of open minds and open hearts, to stay put and fight the good fight, this is a lost cause. Donohue is right. Summon your fortitude, and just go. If you are not getting the spiritual sustenance you need, if you are uneasy being part of an institution out of step with your conscience — then go. The restive nuns who are planning a field trip to Rome for a bit of dialogue? Be assured, unless you plan to grovel, no one will be listening. Sisters, just go. Bill Donohue will hold the door for you.”

I can hardly fault Keller for raising the question that many other US Catholics have raised since the crack-down on Catholic Sisters began. Though as for his suggestion that perhaps Cardinal Dolan, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, will agree to pay off the departing sisters as he paid pedophile priests to disappear when he was the archbishop of Milwaukee, I have a different idea. Women’s religious congregations should get themselves lawyers with expertise is disaggregating their savings and property from the institutional church pronto. Some have already done so.

So what do you think? Is this the direction the huge number of American Catholics who support marriage equality, the right of all women to reproductive health care, and the election of political candidates who won’t eviscerate the social safety net, should follow–to give up on the Vatican and its episcopal enforcers? Would we be losing something here, or gaining a whole lot?

Catholic Church is Lucky it’s Just Same-Sex Marriage

June 12, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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This week the representatives of the US Catholic Sisters’ organization, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, are in Rome defending themselves against accusations of “radical feminism.” But what the Vatican means by “radical feminism” is hardly anything at all when you compare it to the increasing complexity of sexuality and gender in our time.

You can find my reflections about all this here on Religion Dispatches.

Holy Father, Please Condemn My Book!

June 7, 2012 at 9:38 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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You have perhaps heard that Sister Margaret Farley’s book, Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics, shot up the Amazon bestseller list after being condemned by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on June 2.

I am amused to report that I just checked Just Love on Amazon and discovered that it is temporarily out of stock, though you can order a copy for future shipment. I imagine Farley’s publisher, Continuum, is having copies printed like crazy at this very minute. In the interim, you may be interested in the dozens of quotes from enthusiastic reviews on the Amazon Just Love web page.

Oh please, Holy Father! Oh please, Cardinal Levada! Condemn Tracing the Sign of the Cross!! Sister Farley’s book was published in 2006, so maybe you haven’t gotten to mine yet. But when you do, please condemn it, I beg you!

St. Joan of Arc, Pray for Us

June 5, 2012 at 10:22 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments
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Well, the Vatican assault on women, especially Catholic sisters, continues. On June 4th, the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a condemnation of Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics, a book by the highly regarded Christian ethicist and Yale Divinity School professor emeritus, Sister of Mercy Margaret A.Farley. Laurie Goodstein and Rachel Donadio offer an overview of events in the New York Times, while Jamie Manson, Farley’s former teaching assistant at Yale, explores the implications of the Vatican’s attack on Farley’s work in an especially insightful way.

A number of commentators have noted the legalistic nature of the Vatican notification and particularly its conclusion that the book is “not in conformity with the teachings of the Church.” Farley herself replies that ““the book was not intended to be an expression of current official Catholic teaching, nor was it aimed specifically against this teaching. It is of a different genre altogether.”

What strikes me about this conclusion, though, is the notion that in this increasingly and extraordinarily complex, multilayered world, it would even be possible to write a three-hundred-page book that accords with the “Church’s teaching” on almost anything. If each member of the College of Cardinals went off now and wrote such a book, would they all agree with one another or  with “the Church”? I begin to envision the “Church’s teaching” especially, of course, on sex, as an electronic template, presented to each Catholic at baptism, that can be used to print the truth on paper, computer screens, walls, etc. The alternative, of course, is that we would talk with one another, read, think, pray, and come to some agreement, for our time, at least. Farley’s book might be of considerable use in this process.

In closing, I’d like to point out that a few days before the Vatican issued its reprimand of an internationally recognized Catholic ethicist, the church celebrated the feast of St. Joan of Arc. Joan is my confirmation saint, so May 30 is always a happy day for me. In his commentary on Joan on May 30 in the daily prayer book that I use, Give Us This Day, Robert Ellsberg recalls that Joan was condemned in 1431 by an ecclesiastical court (a Roman Catholic court, that is) and was burned at the stake. But in 1456 she was found innocent of the charges against her, and in 1920, canonized. Ellsberg concludes:

“Among canonized saints, she enjoys the unusual distinction of having been previously condemned and executed as a heretic. Thus, she may legitimately be claimed not only as a patron of France but of all those holy men and women vilified in their own time in the hope of eventual vindication.”

Saint Joan of Arc, pray for Sister Margaret Farley and for us all. Amen.

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