Pope Benedict should not throw nuns under the bus
Irish America Magazine looks at the Vatican’s latest censorship move to silence American nuns
Last year I brought Marine Gen. Martin Berndt and his wife, Diana, to St. Mary-of-the-Woods. General Berndt was extremely impressed by the efficiency of the operation: the nun teachers at St. Mary-of-the-Woods College, the retired Sisters who staffed the food pantry and the Sister nurses who ran a free clinic. He was also very surprised at the lack of Church support and wrote a check for $1,000 then and there.
And now three of the Indigenous Grandmothers had come to accept this award. Beatrice Long Visitor Holy Dance is an Ogala Lakota from the Pine Ridge Reservation. Mona Polaca is Hopi-Tewa on her father’s side and Havasupai, the people of the blue-green water from the Grand Canyon, on her mother’s.
Grandmother Agnes Pilgrim-Baker, whose native name is Taowhywee, Morning Star, is the oldest female member of the Roque River Indians in Oregon and chairs the Grandmothers Council. The three prayed with the Sisters and spoke of how heartened they were to receive this award. One of the nuns read from the citation “Your lives are a deep message to the entire world that living your vision of hope and healing is the only option.”
Hope and healing. I’m sure these Sisters could use a dose of that right now. I thought, if I was upset about the Vatican’s action, how must they feel? Their general superiors belonged to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious that the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had just ordered to reform under the direction of Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain and two other bishops.
These men have complete authority to preside over the revision of the Leadership Conference’s statutes, plans and programs and publications. All future speakers at assemblies must first be approved by the Archbishop.
What caused such a sweeping takeover of an organization that has been working with and for the American bishops and the Vatican since its founding at Rome’s request in 1956?
According to the Vatican’s eight-page “Doctrinal Assessment,” the investigation was triggered by problematic addresses given at annual assemblies which advocated “policies of corporate dissent.” For example, the Holy See said it received letters from nuns asking that women’s ordination be discussed, and that the Church be more open to ministering to gay Catholics. And “radical feminism” had been evidenced by commentaries on the patriarchy of the Church.
The document also complains that while the Conference did a great deal of work “promoting issues of social justice” the nuns had not spoken out enough on right-to-life issues. The Vatican concluded the nuns were guilty of serious doctrinal error.
Bryan Cones, editor of US Catholic, challenges that claim and in fact finds the whole Vatican document “a tissue of misinformation, misrepresentation and innuendo that does a profound disservice to these religious women.” His persuasive analysis makes the actions of the Vatican even more puzzling.
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