Tuesday, May 13, 2014

In the News: Vatican Attack on U.S. Nuns, Jesuit Theologian Under Vatican Investigation, Vatican Before U.N., and Liberal Responsibility to Talk Religion in Public Square

Snippets of articles about important religious (but mostly Catholic) topics discussed this past week in various publications:

At Religion Dispatches, Mary Hunt notes that, far from having countered the determination of his predecessors John Paul II and Benedict XVI to shrink the Catholic church to a leaner, meaner shell of its wide catholic self, Pope Francis appears to be continuing the initiative: and so, under the current pope,

The institutional church now appears more like a pup tent from which all but the most entitled are excluded. A review of current affairs demonstrates the reasons for my concern. 

Mary then focuses on the abuse crisis, the recent double canonization (the day of the four popes), and the renewal of the vendetta against American nuns. About the latter, she notes that Cardinal Müller has just upped the ante, with Francis's apparent blessing — shape up or ship out. The church is ours, the top clerical leaders of the Catholic church are telling all the rest of us. If you don't play according to our rules, we're perfectly capable of taking it away from the rest of you:

This time around Cardinal Müller’s trump card was in an expression set off by commas toward the end of his discourse. Having worked himself into a lather over the nuns’ purported failure to comply, he closed his statement with the notion that religious life can “only flourish within the ecclesial faith of the Church. The LCWR, as a canonical entity dependent on the Holy See [emphasis mine],* has a profound obligation to the promotion of that faith as the essential foundation of religious life. Canonical status and ecclesial vision go hand-in hand.” I.e., shape up or ship out. This threat—to make the institutional church even smaller by ousting LCWR and probably replacing it with the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious that would be more likely to do the men’s bidding—is consistent with the other two examples of church shrinkage.

Here's Maureen Dowd's take on this in the New York Times

SO much for all the cozy hugs and soothing cold calls and fun selfies and humble gestures and talk of mercy, love, inclusion, equality and justice. 
Pope Francis appears guilty of condoning that most base Vatican sport: bullying nuns. 
The cool pope suddenly doesn’t seem so cool, allowing Rome’s grand inquisitors to torque up the derogation this Mother’s Day of the American sisters who have mothered so many — even as an endless parade of ghoulish priests were shielded as they defiled vulnerable kids in their care.

And Barbie Latza Nadeau for the Daily Beast: 

But the sisters, it seems, were dead wrong to think they might get a fair shake under Francis. In what is being viewed as an even stronger clampdown, the Vatican has essentially warned the nuns that they must reform their organization and mend their errant ways or risk further scrutiny by the Holy See. In scathing remarks at an April 30 meeting, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, criticized the nuns’ choice of speakers to address their conferences, their leadership awardees, and the lack of spiritual guidance in their work. 

For Religion Dispatches, Patricia Miller notes who's driving the attack on the nuns in the U.S.: 

For their part the LCWR seems reluctant to realize the weight of the forces aligned against them and the deep hostility toward progressive nuns harbored by many in the Catholic right. That it is the Catholic right here in the United States driving the doctrinal assessment has long been suspected. To them, nuns living in autonomous, self-actualized communities are everything that is wrong with the modern church. As theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether has noted: "Control over nuns, particularly American nuns, is seen as a particular priority in this effort to restore a monolithic church."  

And, as David Gibson reports for Religion News Service, as all the above unfolds, this, too, is happening on Francis's watch: 

The Vatican is investigating a Jesuit theologian from India for allegedly espousing unorthodox beliefs, raising new questions about whether Pope Francis — the first Jesuit pope — is in fact moving the Catholic Church in a new direction.

About the recent Vatican grilling by the United Nations, at which the Vatican argued (ludicrously) that the Catholic church is really, really tiny — it's the size of the Vatican city state, insofar as the responsibility of the Vatican to curb sexual abuse of minors by priests goes — here's The Tablet

What did the Holy See think it was doing when it originally signed up to these two UN conventions? Did it not appreciate that it was submitting to their supervision; and on their terms, not its own? Did it not realise that the "immediate universal jurisdiction" that every Pope may exercise over the whole Church, as defined by the First Vatican Council, makes him responsible for every uncorrected crime or misdemeanour anywhere in the Church? This imposes the duty to see justice is done in every case, including the application of sanctions. It is indeed ironic that a measure passed in 1870 as part of the aggrandisement of the papacy, the high point of Ultramontanism, has been turned against it to bring it into disrepute. Not until the Vatican truly faces up to this painful fact can recovery from this scandal really begin.

And, finally, here's Christopher Moraff at Daily Beast on what liberals have effected by yielding discourse about matters religious to fundamentalists, in the religion-saturated public square of the nation with the soul of a church: 

The result is that instead of engaging in nuanced discussions on the ethical lessons to be drawn from religious tradition and their relevancy today, we’re treated to zero-sum debates on the literal meaning of texts that are thousands of years old and require informed interpretive effort to relate to a modern context, if they can be related at all.

*I'm quoting Mary verbatim, so the "emphasis mine" is Mary speaking about her own addition of boldface to Müller's text — and not me adding emphasis to Mary's text. 

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