Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Phyllis Zagano on Vatican Investigation of Women Religious: Two Catholic Churches on Display

Commenting on the latest from the Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Phyllis Zagano captures my own reaction precisely.  Zagano is commenting on a recent statement from the Congregation's Secretary, Archbishop Joseph Tobin.

This Vatican Congregation is the one staging the investigation of American Catholic religious women.  As Zagano notes, that investigation (or, as some say, inquisition) is causing extensive pushback among American Catholics outraged that the Vatican is targeting religious women, while one bishop after another found to have sheltered pedophile priests is allowed a free pass for his immoral behavior.  And as Zagano notes, the pushback is having economic implications for Rome: American Catholics are holding onto their checkbooks and keeping them closed until the results of the investigation are known; and women religious, who are hurt and angered by Rome's implied suspicion of them control huge assets in the U.S.

And here's what Tobin recently said, in response to the pushback: the Vatican needs to develop "a strategy of reconciliation" with American nuns.  Zagano's reaction (which perfectly captures mine when I read about this "strategy":

A “strategy”? Now church officials use words owned by salesmen and the military?

 As Zagano notes, in this investigation and in many other recent events in the Catholic church, we're beginning to see two distinctly different churches:

The world is beginning to see two Catholic Churches: one for bishops and priests and another for the rest of us. The one for clerics collects the money and controls the sacraments.

The church for the rest of us looks to women religious (and, now, male deacons) to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick, shelter the homeless, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead. These ministers of prayer and service slake the deep thirst of all of us for the Living Word. They do so largely without access to the collection basket.

Do priests and bishops get involved in all this Christian charity? Of course they do, but not so well that they’re the first ones you think of when it comes to works of mercy.

Zagano is right.  And the church of the bishops and priests, who collect the money and control the sacraments, sounds more and more to many of us exactly like the world of corporations and salesmen and military officials.  And lawyers with compromised ethical values. 

And less and less like anything that points to Jesus and the gospels.

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