Sunday, April 29, 2012

Three Statements on Vatican Attack on U.S. Nuns: Maureen Dowd, Nicholas Kristof, Ivone Gebara

Some statements about the Vatican's attack on American women religious worth reading, I think, as the week turns:

At New York Times, Maureen Dowd asks how Catholics can take spiritual direction from a church that seems to be losing its soul as the "crepuscular, medieval men" who run the church go after, of all people, the religious women who do much of the church's work in the U.S.  Dowd puts the current attempt of the hierarchy to bully nuns in the broader context of the political and religious right's astonishing attack on women in general as the 21st century begins.

And she's right.

In the same issue of the Times, Nicholas Kristof takes as his theme the recent Religious Dispatch article of Mary Hunt to which I directed readers' attention earlier in the week: "We Are All Nuns."  Kristof argues that in a face-off between the Vatican and bishops and the nuns, the nuns will win, hands-down, because they more perfectly mirror Jesus in the contemporary church and the world than does the hierarchy:  

In effect, the Vatican accused the nuns of worrying too much about the poor and not enough about abortion and gay marriage. 
What Bible did that come from? Jesus in the Gospels repeatedly talks about poverty and social justice, yet never explicitly mentions either abortion or homosexuality. If you look at who has more closely emulated Jesus’s life, Pope Benedict or your average nun, it’s the nun hands down.

And he's right, too.  What's stingingly ironic about that conclusion, of course, is that the ultimate theological card John Paul II played when he declared ordination of women a closed question is that he argued that women cannot image Christ as perfectly as men can--because they lack penises.  And since priests must image Christ . . . . 

At Iglesia Descalza, Rebel Girl offers a translation of Brazilian theologian Ivan Gebara's statement about the Roman inquisition of American religious women.  Gebara reminds us of just whom the men in Rome and the episcopal palaces of the U.S. now want to attack--and what we all stand to lose as these women are bullied: 

They are writers, philosophers, biologists, theologians, sociologists, and lawyers. They have broad resumes and nationally and internationally recognized competence. They are also educators and catechists, and they promote the  practice of human rights.

And she concludes that a glaring double standard is at work in how the Catholic hierarchy treats women, as opposed to how it treats men:

It's not new for the bishops and church officials to use a double standard. On the one hand, the upper echelons of the Catholic Church have been able to welcome again into their midst far-right groups whose harmful history, especially towards youth and children, is widely known. I'm thinking especially of the Legionaries of Christ, of Marcial Maciel (Mexico), and the male religious of Monsignor Lefebvre (Switzerland) whose disobedience to the pope and coercive methods to win disciples are attested to by many. 
This same institutional church welcomes and receives men who interest it because of their power and repudiates women whom it wants to keep submissive. With its attitude, it exposes them to ridiculous criticism spread even by Catholic media acting in bad faith. The prelates seem to formally acknowledge that these women have a certain merit when their actions are focused on those tasks traditionally performed by nuns in schools and hospitals. But is that all we are? 

And she's right.  Absolutely so.

The graphic is from the Codex of Hildegarde of Bingen, ca. 1165, depicting Holy Sophia sustaining the church, from the Abbey of St. Hildegard at Eibingen.

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