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General News    H2'ed 6/20/12

The Nuns' Revolt: Why Benedict's Own "War On Women" Has Backfired.

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Update: Nuns On The Bus

DES   MOINES , Iowa (The Blaze/AP)   -- A group of Roman Catholic nuns who have come under fire aren't quieting down. In fact, they're doing quite the opposite, as they began a nine-state bus tour on Monday protesting proposed federal budget cute. The women said they weren't trying to flout recent Vatican criticisms of socially active nuns but felt called to show how Republican policies are affecting low-income families.

The most frequent method in disposing of strong-willed or inconvenient women has been to send them to a convent: "Get thee to a nunnery" was a phrase that voiced exasperation and contempt for the "uppity" or   unmarriagable   female. Indeed, the restrictions of the confines of a prison with the inmates subservient to the dictates of a distant male hierarchy. 

It was this image of total subservience that permeated western civilization's psyche*, so ideas of   leadership, authority or initiative were always relegated to the absurd. Mother Theresa aside, nuns have had exceptionally few chances to make a difference.

The New American Nun and "Radical Feminist Doctrines"

As with all Catholic controversies these days, Pope Benedict XVI is at the center: from condoms to corruption, "Papa   Ratzi " has had a direct hand, especially in the realm of Church doctrine. Before becoming pope, Cardinal   Ratzinger   was, after all, the head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, rooting out heresies and advocating strict adherence to policy. So it comes as no surprise that Benedict disapproves of actions by nuns that the Church deems "inappropriate."  

And America's nuns have been "inappropriate" for years:

[The latest, yet-unpublished] report approved by Pope Benedict XVI, claims that vast majority of American nuns are pushing "radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith." But rather than preaching against Church doctrine, the sisters are often just staying silent on the church's pet issues of abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, and the ordination of women. Their silence is interpreted as endorsement so by not speaking out against such evils, the report says the sisters are effectively showing their approval.,

Deja   vu : the same image crisis occurred with librarians decades ago as "book people" started exhibiting a very liberal streak - e.g. the fallout from carrying Heather Has Two Mommies was the image of the meek, quiet, benign little woman. Overnight, they turned into "radical feminists." Now, like their librarian counterparts, nuns actively participating in social issues are painted as "commie pinko" rabble- rousers , as this tweet from an associate of   NOM   (National Organization for Marriage) can attest:

Because those "radical feminist themes" are actually akin to the dreaded themes of "social justice" feared by today's Christian Right. The "silence" on gay issues and the rumblings of women in the clergy along with the Vatican's own "war on women" threaten to undermine two misogynistic millenniums determined to keep women in their place: both the Leadership Conference of Women Religious   LCWR ) and the National Coalition of American nuns have veered away from the issues of abortion and homosexuality in favor of taking overt action against issues like cuts in government programs for the poor and disenfranchised.  

And then there's Sister Margaret Farley:

Coming as it does   in the wake of the   rebuke delivered last month to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the censure of Sister Farley's book Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics, is enough to make one wonder if there are doctrinal risks taken simply by being Catholic while female. The Vatican has now censured Sister Margaret Farley and threatens dire consequences to the   LCWR   if it does not clean up its act: within the next five years it is instructed to formulate new rules and regulations - even a stricter dress code - to conform with what the Vatican deems "appropriate." In other words, American nuns have to shut up and go back to the 15th century where they belong.  

The   LCWR , needless to say, is not taking this lying down and will soon come up with a strategy to counter the Vatican's demands: a "nun war" may be looming.  

Instead of nuns on buses, we may yet see nuns on tanks.

*Of course the image of the tough-as-nails teaching nun will always veer to the absurd as well: the most humorous novel to ever touch upon the subject of nuns - John Powers' Last Catholic In America - exploded the myth of the quiet, acquiescent nun and portrayed her as a bully taking out her frustrations on every male ever created:

[Sister] Boom Boom   Berbadine   liked to grab guys by the ears and bang their heads against the wall whenever they annoyed her. Fortunately for Boom Boom, most of the kids at St. Bastion Grammar School weren't too bright to begin with, so if there was any brain damage, it was years before anyone realized it. At the peak of her career, Boom Boom Bernadine got over-zealous and ripped an arm muscle while bashing some head against a banister. Never again were her hands to crunch a set of earlobes. The arm muscle refused to heal. For Boom Boom Bernadine, banging heads against walls was what being a nun was all about. She left the school, never to be seen or heard from again, though there are some graduates of St. Bastion's who still hear her name whenever they brush their hair or other wise touch their heads.

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Rev. Dan Vojir is has been writing/blogging on religion and politics for the better part of ten years. A former radio talk show host (Strictly Books éČ" Talk America Radio Network) and book publisher, Dan has connected with some of the most (more...)
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