There is a scene in The King and I where Anna mimics the way the Siamese people respond to the King, sing-songing “Yes, your Majesty. No, your Majesty. Tell us how low to go your Majesty. Give us a kick if you need, your Majesty. Give us a kick if you please, your Majesty. O-o-o-o-h, that’s good, your Majesty.” That’s pretty much how the Vatican expected the Leadership Conference of Women Religious to respond when the men in the skirts admonished the ladies that they were not being properly Catholic.
Pity the poor Vatican. They really do not understand Americans, and understand women even less.
The Vatican is upset with our American nuns for not beating the streets fighting abortion and same sex marriage, not being involved in the political battles of the right wing against the secular laws of our nation, and instead concentrating on such leftist issues and housing, education, abuse intervention, and a host of social injustices. Respectfully, but clearly, the Leadership told the Vatican that the indictment of their group is “unsubstantiated” and “flawed”
Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain has been charged with overseeing the LCWR for the next five years. On Friday, in 26 paragraphs in America magazine, the Archbishop reflected on the history of religious women in the United States and on his view of his job overseeing the good sisters. He wrote, “No one expect that such a sensitive task will be accomplished quickly or effortlessly, but by God’s grace and with mutual respect, patience and prayer, it can be indeed accomplished for the good of all. Challenges larger than this have been met before, with renewal and even deeper faith the outcome.” Just a tad delusional, this Archbishop, if he thinks he’s going to succeed in bending the sisters to the Vatican’s narrow view of their function in society or in the Church.
The LCWR board, which represents 80% of the American Catholic sisters, issued a four paragraph response to the Vatican, also on Friday, that challenged the Vatican to “openness, honesty and integrity.” When honoring the sisters in 2010, Pax Christi said that the LCWR is made up of “strong, prophetic and compassionate women…always on the front lines where the weak and most vulnerable suffer at the hands of violent and unjust power.” Well, that pretty much covers working with the poor, the abused, the abandoned, the crippled, the sick, the damaged, the hopeless and the despairing.
The Vatican has been conducting secret investigations of the LCWR, beginning in 2008. The sisters found out about these investigations from the press, not from the Vatican. When the leaders of the LCWR visited the Vatican in April, they were informed that the results of these investigations had been delivered to the bishops, and the ladies didn’t really need to know what they had been accused of or found guilty of. The ladies will be returning to Rome within two weeks for a face-to-face meeting with Vatican officials. Sister Theresa Kane, a former president of the LCWR has said that the American bishops and the Vatican resist talking directly with the LCWR and the sisters don’t know how to break through the barriers to discussion and exchange of ideas. Cardinal Franc Rode, who is responsible for the investigations, initially said he was concerned about the “quality of life” of the sisters. Now, he expresses concern over their “feminist spirit” and has accused them of “radical feminism” without explaining what he’s talking about. Her charge of indirect communication was certainly proven with Archbishop Sartain’s choice to publish his editorial instead of meeting with the LCWR leaders.
How far backwards has the Vatican gone since the Second Vatican Council in 1965 issued the Gaudium et Spes, which said, “With respect to the fundamental rights of the person, every type of discrimination, whether social or cultural, whether based on sex, race, color, social condition, language or religion is to be overcome and eradicated as contrary to God’s intent.” It seems only our nuns remember that statement of purpose for a religious life. And not incidentally, Pope Paul VI, who completed the Second Vatican Council begun by his predecessor Pope John XXIII, also opposed the participation of priests in politics and Pope John Paul II unequivocally ordered all priests to withdraw from political offices. One has to wonder what they would think of Cardinal Dolan.