Thursday, April 26, 2012

Mary Hunt on LCWR Situation: "We Are All Nuns"

As ever, Mary Hunt is right on target with her commentary at Religion Dispatches about the Catholic hierarchy's attack on American women religious, entitled "We Are All Nuns."  An excerpt:

Roman Catholic Church history is unfolding before our eyes. The difference these days is that tactics Rome employs are transparent. Just as Archbishop William E. Lori was recently rewarded for his work on contraception and “religious liberty” by being named bishop of Baltimore (and will likely become a cardinal soon) we can predict that Archbishop Delegate Peter Sartain of Seattle who is doing this work on behalf of Rome has already had his head measured for a new hat. 
Catholics schooled in the ways of justice—largely by the nuns—recoil at the power play this mandate represents. Three things are especially repugnant. First, there is no real discussion. The Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Cardinal William Levada asserts that “the first step in the implementation of the findings” is a personal meeting “in a spirit of mutual respect and collaboration.” This is rather fanciful since the LCWR leaders who received the document were not at all sure it was coming. They went to Rome with the intention of engaging in dialogue, not being presented with a fait accompli.  
Second, this move seems like an effort to cut off the head of lay people in the Church, beginning with the nuns. The Vatican acknowledges, “the influence the LCWR exercises on religious Congregations in other parts of the world.” Add to that its political influence in the US and the hydra that is LCWR was ripe for beheading. 
I insist on the larger lay component of this chapter in church history because groups like Women-Church Convergence and Catholic Organizations for Renewal represent far more progressive theo-politics than LCWR. Because those groups and others like them are canonically independent of the Vatican they simply can’t be touched, but they are no less Catholic. LCWR was punished for associating with such groups, including Women’s Ordination Conference, New Ways Ministry, and others of “radical feminism” of my intimate acquaintance. Efforts to squelch LCWR are simultaneously efforts to discredit those groups. 
And finally, there’s the current “war on women,” with Catholic bishops leading the charge. In the U.S., it is manifest in the skirmishes around reproductive rights. Young and poor women suffer greatly, but all women are implicated in these policy conflicts. Around the world, we find the Vatican successfully making alliances with other religious fundamentalists to prevent UN-based consensus on women’s reproductive health care. Casualties are many among poor and young women, the very ones the nuns would protect. So it is no surprise that the same bellicose ways operate within the kyriarchal church itself.

Mary's is, unfortunately, the kind of voice that those who pretend to occupy the objective center want to read out of the Catholic conversation--to the great loss of the Catholic church and its future-making conversations. 

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