By far, the biggest Vatican story at the moment in the American media market is an announced overhaul of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the main umbrella group for superiors of the roughly 400 women's orders in the States. The move has been presented by the Vatican as a "reform" but styled as a "crackdown" in most press coverage.
After I posted the blog, A few famous sisters, about the Washington Post web feature on famous, significant women religious, a reader sent me a note about a blog by Mary Lou Kownacki, an Erie, Penn., Benedictine.
Writing on the Monastery of the Heart website, Mary Lou says that when she first heard of the Vatican ordered reform of the LCWR, she was "as enraged as Samson who tore down a building with his bare hands." The rage has lessened to a low simmer, she continues, as she prepares for the days to come. Then she describes her preparation:
I stay close to these women, this communion of saints, because they remind me that, "if this is of God, nothing can destroy it." They teach me all I have to know of courage, of compassion, of creativity, of tenacity, of faith, of vision.
Did you see this feature on the Washington Post website:
In light of the Vatican’s action on Wednesday, here is a list of nuns who have become known in the broader world. Two of the Americans listed have been canonized.
No real surprises in the slide show: Mother Teresa, Elizabeth Ann Seton, Katharine Drexel. Typing "catholic sister" in Google images will give you these search results. Let's be a bit more creative.
How about: Anita Caspary, Margaret Brennan, Dorothy Stang, Mary Luke Tobin, Joan Chittister?
Chime in here: Who are women religious who should have been named to that list? Post their photos to the Facebook page: Support Our Catholic Sisters
Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary around the world are celebrating the life of their founder, Mother Nano Nagle.
It was 228 years ago today, April 26, 1784, Nano, ended a life of service to the poor in Ireland. On her deathbed she was to have given her daughter sisters the following injunction: “Love one another as you have hitherto done. … Spend your lives among the poor.”
A dictatorship is threatened by that which speaks to the heart of a people. If one can crush that which stirs the soul, a dictator needs not worry about the soul being stirred to resistance.
Mary E. Hunt, co-founder and co-director of the Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER) in Silver Spring, Maryland, writes that when it comes to the Vatican’s crackdown on women religious, I believe it’s time to declare that for the purpose of this struggle: we are all nuns.
Gary Wills, writing in The New York Review of Books, says the U.S. sisters are guilty at charged.
What's left to say? By now the whole world has heard the Vatican is going to take care of those uppity, radical feminist nuns.
Except they're not that uppity. They're not radical feminists. For Pete's sake, they're not even nuns.
The leadership of the largest organization representing U.S. women religious announced this afternoon that the board of the group will meet in an "atmosphere of prayer, contemplation and dialogue" in May to discuss news that the Vatican has ordered it to revise its statutes and has appointed an archbishop to oversee the revision.
The attitude toward women that prompted the Vatican crackdown on the LCWR was there in the beginning and it's never been exorcised from Catholicism. It even got into the New Testament, in 1 Corinthians, for example, where the writer declares that women "should keep silence in the churches for they are not permitted to speak but should be subordinate. ... If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husband."
Today, we are assured by every credible Scripture scholar that this was inserted by some scribe after Paul's death; it totally contradicts his attitude toward women and his acceptance of women as co-workers. In Romans, he commends an entire list of women, including Junia, whom he calls "prominent among the apostles." Nevertheless, several putdowns of women got placed in the texts and have remained as stumbling blocks for the unwary.