The Vatican calls an early end to -- but doesn't abandon -- the old regime's inquisition into American nuns
NYT caption: "Pope Francis met with a delegation from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious at the Vatican on Thursday. Pool photo by L'Osservatore Romano"
"Women are not capable, in the Vatican's mind, of governing others or even themselves. Is it any wonder so many nuns have left the orders or avoided joining them? Who wants to be bullied?"
-- Garry Wills, writing in NYRB in 2012
As of now, it looks as if you can choose your spin on the Vatican's sudden wrapping up, two years ahead of schedule, of its inquisition into the bad behavior of American nuns, which most rational observers was the only organized part of the Catholic Church that could be seen pursuing Jesus's mission under the increasingly medieval papacies of Pope Francis's predecessors, the monstrous John Paul II and the even more monstrous Pope Cardinal Ratguts.
It seems clear that the present pope wanted the matter put to rest, and it's perfectly plausible that if the inquisition, pushed elements of the unspeakably vile scum that had accumulated power under the authority of John Paul II and Ratguts, had proceeded to term under the regime of a pope in the same mold -- some of whom, like the unspeakable Cardinal Raymond Burke, have in fact been purged by Pope Francis -- the results would have been worse, that those people would have known how to really put those uppity bitches in their place.
As it is, however, it looks to me as if the reactionaries have gotten an awful lot of what they were crusading for, and the uppity bitches have indeed been put in their place.
HERE'S HOW THE NYT HAPPY-SPINS THE STORY
Laurie Goodstein's report, headlined "Vatican Ends Battle With U.S. Catholic Nuns' Group," sees sweetness and light emanating from Pope Francis's happy-days Vatican.
The Vatican has abruptly ended its takeover of the main leadership group of American nuns two years earlier than expected, allowing Pope Francis to put to rest a confrontation started by his predecessor that created an uproar among American Catholics who had rallied to the sisters’ defense.
Anticipating a visit by Francis to the United States in the fall, the Vatican and the American bishops were eager to resolve an episode that was seen by many Catholics as a vexing and unjust inquisition of the sisters who ran the church’s schools, hospitals and charities.
Under the previous pope, Benedict XVI, the Vatican’s doctrinal office had appointed three bishops in 2012 to overhaul the nuns’ group, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, out of concerns that it had hosted speakers and published materials that strayed from Catholic doctrine on such matters as the all-male priesthood, birth control and sexuality, and the centrality of Jesus to the faith.
But Francis has shown in his two-year papacy that he is less interested in having the church police doctrinal boundaries than in demonstrating mercy and love for the poor and vulnerable — the very work that most of the women’s religious orders under investigation have long been engaged in.
Ending the standoff with the nuns is one of several course corrections that Francis has set in motion. He has also worked on reforming the Vatican Curia, the Vatican’s central administration, instituting tighter oversight of Vatican finances, and has created a commission to deal with sexual abuse by clergy members.
He has made no changes in doctrine — on Wednesday, he reiterated the church’s teaching that marriage can be only between a man and a woman — but Catholics worldwide say he has done much to make the church’s tone more welcoming.
On Thursday, that included calling an unexpected meeting with four of the leaders of the Leadership Conference. The four women were photographed in his office and said afterward in a statement that they were “deeply heartened” by Francis’ “expression of appreciation” for the lives and ministry of Catholic sisters.
“He met with them himself for almost an hour, and that’s an extravagant amount of papal time,” said Eileen Burke-Sullivan, a theologian and consultant for women’s religious orders and vice provost for mission and ministry at Creighton University, a Jesuit school in Omaha. “It’s about as close to an apology, I would think, as the Catholic Church is officially going to render.”
Francis has never talked explicitly in public about the imbroglio with American nuns. But he has spoken about creating “broader opportunities” for women in the church, and the value of nuns and priests in religious orders. He is a member of the Jesuit order.
A clear signal that the Vatican under Francis was taking a more conciliatory approach to American sisters came in December with the announcement of the conclusion of another, separate investigation of American women’s orders, which was known as an apostolic visitation. That process involved sending questionnaires to 350 religious communities and teams of “visitors” to 90 of them, asking about everything from their prayer practices to living arrangements.
Both of these investigations of American women’s religious orders began at the urging of American and some foreign prelates who accused the sisters of disobeying the bishops and departing from Catholic doctrine. It set off protests by Catholic laypeople across the country, who signed petitions and sent letters to the Vatican in defense of the sisters. . . .
BUT USA TODAY SAYS "THE HONEYMOON MAY BE OVER"
Cathy Lynn Grossman's report, headlined "Pope Francis to keep Vatican reins tight on U.S. nuns," begins:
The honeymoon between progressive Catholics in the USA and Pope Francis -- cheered for his humble ways and dedication to the poor -- may have ended Monday when he "reaffirmed" last year's stinging rebuke of most U.S. nuns.
Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an umbrella group of religious order leaders who represent 57,000 American nuns and sisters, were told Pope Francis supports the Vatican takeover of the LCWR initiated by Pope Benedict XVI last year.
A controversial report issued last spring by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) ripped into the sisters for allegedly spending more energy on social justice causes than on promoting church doctrine and for espousing "radical feminism."
In June, Archbishop James Peter Sartain, archbishop of Seattle, and two other bishops were assigned to revamp the group's structure and programming. Although the sisters called the original CDF report a "scandal" based on "misconceptions," their members voted in August to prayerfully participate in the Vatican-run governing structure while maintaining what they called "mission integrity."
Monday, the nuns' top leaders and Sartain met with Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Muller, head of the CDF, in Rome. Muller told them that while the pope "expressed his gratitude" for their contributions to "schools, hospitals, and institutions of support for the poor," Francis also "reaffirmed" the Vatican takeover.
Muller told the sisters their job is to promote "cooperation" with local bishops and bishops' conferences, according to Religion News Service.
After Monday's meeting, the LCWR issued a statement calling their conversation "open and frank." . . .
WOULDN'T IT BE NICE TO KNOW WHICH IT IS?
Because this is one of the eye-poppingest smackdowns of the Ratguts regime. I wrote a couple of posts about it in May 2012 (most recently this one), heavily under the influence of a remarkable New York Review of Books blogpost by Garry Wills, later published in the NYRB of June 7, 2012, "Bullying the Nuns," which I had reposted here, in which, as I wrote, Wills "stood up for American nuns under attack by the Vatican (its dirty work done by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' designated pit bull, Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain)."
The Wills piece, I recalled, began:
The Vatican has issued a harsh statement claiming that American nuns do not follow their bishops' thinking. That statement is profoundly true. Thank God, they don't. Nuns have always had a different set of priorities from that of bishops. The bishops are interested in power. The nuns are interested in the powerless. Nuns have preserved Gospel values while bishops have been perverting them. The priests drive their own new cars, while nuns ride the bus (always in pairs). The priests specialize in arrogance, the nuns in humility.As I wrote, "I reread the piece when I plucked the [June 7 NYRB] out of the mailbox, and it seems to me if anything more remarkable than it did orignally, and as always with Garry Wills, it defies -- no, positively mocks at -- the impulse to compress. It includes, among many other things, a stunning tribute to his seventh-grade teacher -- 'Sister John Joseph when I met her, but she recovered her real name after the [Second Vatican] Council, and as Anne O’Connor congratulated me on anything I wrote,' having 'kept in touch with me for all the years until her death in 1996."
If, as it appears, the Vatican has knuckled under to the troglodytes, and returned to the John Paul II-Ratguts attitude toward women, "Them Bitches Be Hos," it might help them begin to develop a glimmering of the appropriate sense of shame to reread Wills's tribute to his old teacher.
Anne O'Connor was just the kind of nun the Vatican is now intent on punishing. She had been a social worker before she became a nun, work that she loved and went back to several times as a Dominican. She was quick to shed the old habit (which was designed to disguise the fact that there was a woman somewhere in that voluminous disguising of hair, breasts, and hips), and quick to take back her own name. After she took on several high offices in her order, she became the mother provincial of the California branch of the Dominican order during the 1960s, coping with the changes of that volatile era on her college campuses."This," I wrote, "is vintage Garry Wills, reminding us seemingly offhandedly that what the bishops are denouncing as 'the social Gospel' is in fact the Gospel, whereas the things that now obsess the Church fathers and their bully-bishops, like abortion and contraception, have never had any place in the actual Gospel." Small wonder, then, that the Vatican, as Wills wrote --
Now the Vatican says that nuns are too interested in "the social Gospel" (which is the Gospel), when they should be more interested in Gospel teachings about abortion and contraception (which do not exist). Nuns were quick to respond to the AIDS crisis, and to the spiritual needs of gay people-- which earned them an earlier rebuke from Rome. They were active in the civil rights movement. They ran soup kitchens.
stripped the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, representing most American nuns, of its powers of self-government, maintaining that its members have made statements that "disagree with or challenge the bishops, who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals." Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle has taken control of the Conference, writing new laws for it, supplanting its leadership, and banning "political" activity (which is what Rome calls social work). Women are not capable, in the Vatican's mind, of governing others or even themselves. Is it any wonder so many nuns have left the orders or avoided joining them? Who wants to be bullied?I hope American Catholics, and American Catholic women in particular, are paying close attention.