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Vatican reprimands US nuns.
April 19, 2012 6:21 AM   Subscribe


 
Seems like the crazies are hell-bent (literally, as far as I am concerned) on erasing the progress John Paul II made in the church.
posted by gjc at 6:27 AM on April 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


Sorry guys, but rights for homosexuals and equal opportunities for women is not radical. It's mainstream.
posted by hydrophonic at 6:27 AM on April 19, 2012 [41 favorites]


Love the Vatican's approach here. Facing dramatically declining numbers of nuns, priests, and plain ol' ordinary lay people, what's a poor, anachronistically hierarchical leadership to do?

Tell everybody that they're doin' it wrong. I mean hey it's been working for the last two thousand years!

(Like the story of the skydiver whose parachute wouldn't open: all the way down, you heard, so far so good! so far so good!)
posted by entropone at 6:27 AM on April 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


Here's the first three paragraphs from the second link:
The Vatican has appointed an American bishop to rein in the largest and most influential group of Catholic nuns in the United States, saying that an investigation found that the group had “serious doctrinal problems.”

The Vatican’s assessment, issued on Wednesday, said that members of the group, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, had challenged church teaching on homosexuality and the male-only priesthood, and promoted “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”

The sisters were also reprimanded for making public statements that “disagree with or challenge the bishops, who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals.” During the debate over the health care overhaul in 2010, American bishops came out in opposition to the health plan, but dozens of sisters, many of whom belong to the Leadership Conference, signed a statement supporting it — support that provided crucial cover for the Obama administration in the battle over health care.
It's like the Catholic Church just can't stop being completely and stupidly rigid.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:27 AM on April 19, 2012 [19 favorites]


I'm not hugely surprised. What does surprise me is that they are still RC instead of Lutheran or Episcopalian.
posted by PinkMoose at 6:27 AM on April 19, 2012


Fuck yeah American nuns!

And holy shit, can the Vatican be more clueless and out of touch? I actually thought way back when (from an outsider's perspective) that maybe Benedict wouldn't be as bad as everybody said he would be. It's obvious now that he's even worse.
posted by kmz at 6:28 AM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is the takeaway, I think:

“I’m stunned,” said Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobby founded by sisters. Her group was also cited in the Vatican document, along with the Leadership Conference, for focusing its work too much on poverty and economic injustice, while keeping “silent” on abortion and same-sex marriage.

The Vatican is evil and nuns can be awesome. It's about time for a nice big schism, I think.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:29 AM on April 19, 2012 [62 favorites]


That quote sounds like it's either from the voice over of a B-movie trailer or a Ministry sample.
posted by ignignokt at 6:30 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


“I’m stunned,” said Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobby founded by sisters. Her group was also cited in the Vatican document, along with the Leadership Conference, for focusing its work too much on poverty and economic injustice, while keeping “silent” on abortion and same-sex marriage.

Yeah. The Vatican is angry that the sisters have not read Jesus's words about abortion and gay marriage in the Gospel of Benedict.
posted by Roentgen at 6:31 AM on April 19, 2012 [62 favorites]


Love the Vatican's approach here. Facing dramatically declining numbers of nuns, priests, and plain ol' ordinary lay people, what's a poor, anachronistically hierarchical leadership to do?

Tell everybody that they're doin' it wrong. I mean hey it's been working for the last two thousand years!
They can just bring in as many priests and nuns as they need from overseas.
posted by delmoi at 6:32 AM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, Vatican. You're going to punish people because they concentrate "too much" on trying to fix poverty? That's just...do you ever listen to yourselves?
posted by rtha at 6:32 AM on April 19, 2012 [49 favorites]


The Vatican is evil and nuns can be awesome.

In related good news, the nuns are almost certainly younger than Benedict, and will probably also outlive most of the bishops.
posted by jaduncan at 6:32 AM on April 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


I was raised RC, a regular Sunday Mass-goer for most of my life. For the past few months I have been leaving Mass, stopping to pick up bagels for the fam, and then attending Quaker meeting.

Mass is rapidly becoming the least significant part of my Sunday mornings.

But I will say, the cultural affinity is strong, and that's pretty much all the Church has going for it anymore.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 6:35 AM on April 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


If there's any group in my mind that screams "radical feminism" it's Catholic nuns! This from the same people that brought you the report blaming the rampant pedophilia of their priests on the permissiveness of the 60s.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:38 AM on April 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


One day the Vatican is just going to have to get round to disciplining and correcting that young guy who emphasises poverty all the time and never speaks out against gay marriage or abortion.
posted by Segundus at 6:38 AM on April 19, 2012 [37 favorites]


The best thing about things like "church teaching on homosexuality and the male-only priesthood" is that they're supposed to be not just matters of culture or social convenience, but fundamental characteristics of the structure of the universe.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 6:38 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]




I think it's well past time for liberal american Catholics to leave the roman church behind.
posted by empath at 6:41 AM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


In related good news, the nuns are almost certainly younger than Benedict, and will probably also outlive most of the bishops.

I wonder. I know several nuns who are laboring well into their 80s precisely because of this kind of this assholery. Their communities are finding new recruits as rare as hen's teeth, and as a result, have to work for a living until they drop dead. Some of these sisters are terribly bitter about this situation. And who can blame them. It's been a long, slow trend, and by the looks of things, you'd think Benedict is trying finally to put the nail in the coffin.

But, hey, he'll have an ideologically more pure church as a result. Even if it's numbers strain under the iron fist of orthodoxy.
posted by 2N2222 at 6:41 AM on April 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


I just posted this on Facebook. I can't wait to see the resulting firestorm.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:42 AM on April 19, 2012


While the Catholic Church has a stupid position I have to say that I'd find them even more laughable if they just adopted whatever trends of the age happened to surround them at any given time. The Bible says what it says, you can't just "reinterpret" that every few hundred years to mean something else by ignoring passages, retranslating or whatever.

I guess my point is that the Catholic Church's problem is not that they are stupid but that they are faithful to stupidity.
posted by DU at 6:42 AM on April 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


Yeah what's it gonna take for another schism to break out over here? Between S.J. and nuns, it's gotta be brewing, right?
posted by silby at 6:42 AM on April 19, 2012


How long can the RCC keep this up? It seems like between the pedophilia scandals, the declining numbers of priests, reprimanding its devoted religious communities, the birth control/condoms/AIDS issues, etc that the final pin holding it (the Church) together will have to pop out and the institution will collapse - from my outside perspective it seems like that day has to come soon...or am I naive?
posted by pointystick at 6:43 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I feel bad for these nuns who sacrifice so much for their fellow men and get punished for it by their own leaders. Essentially the Vatican is taking yet another step towards its demise by undermining its own foundation.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 6:43 AM on April 19, 2012


The idea of nuns "focusing its work too much on poverty and economic injustice," is just mind boggling, but isnt this like Ford workers being criticized for driving Toyotas? The social preferences of the Catholic hierarchy has been pretty well documented for a pretty long time. Think the Bishops don't get to say what doctrine is? Terrific! hope that works out for you. There's the door, sister.
posted by shothotbot at 6:45 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was taught by nuns (Sisters of Providence, mostly, with a few School Sisters of Notre Dame, Sisters of St. Joseph, and a Dominican), and they certainly weren't radical progressives. But they were (and still are) kind, caring women devoted to helping others through education, charity, and medical care.
If I never looked beyond nuns, I might still be Catholic.

The Vatican needs to be reminded it's Little Sisters of the Poor, not Little Sisters of the Defense of Marriage or Little Sisters of Hierarchical Obedience.
posted by bryghtrose at 6:45 AM on April 19, 2012 [20 favorites]


It seems like between the pedophilia scandals, the declining numbers of priests, reprimanding its devoted religious communities, the birth control/condoms/AIDS issues, etc that the final pin holding it (the Church) together will have to pop out and the institution will collapse - from my outside perspective it seems like that day has to come soon...or am I naive?

They have money. A lot of it. As long as you have money, you can do pretty much whatever you want.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:46 AM on April 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


I was recently in Rome and declined a visit to St. Peter's and Vatican City because there might be some fantastic art there but fuck them. I am so fed up with this paleolithic, hateful, self-absorbed, and criminal organization. The sooner it's dissolved, arrested, and looted, the better.
posted by Legomancer at 6:46 AM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Seems like the crazies are hell-bent (literally, as far as I am concerned) on erasing the progress John Paul II made in the church.

John Paul II was not as progressive as most people think he was, gjc. He was quite a conservative pope. If anything, Benedict XVI is following his script to the letter.
posted by Omon Ra at 6:47 AM on April 19, 2012 [10 favorites]


What actually is the relation between American Christians and the Vatican? I've never really thought about it, but it seems that the Vatican and your average Catholicism might not be wholly compatible with the American flair of religion.
posted by Harry at 6:47 AM on April 19, 2012


While the Catholic Church has a stupid position I have to say that I'd find them even more laughable if they just adopted whatever trends of the age happened to surround them at any given time. The Bible says what it says, you can't just "reinterpret" that every few hundred years to mean something else by ignoring passages, retranslating or whatever.

But that's exactly what they've done. The church's opinion on both abortion and homosexuality have changed just in the past few hundred years. They change to match the prevailing morals, they just do it very slowly.
posted by empath at 6:48 AM on April 19, 2012 [12 favorites]


Honestly, the Bible doesn't have a lot to say about some of these issues. So I guess I should say the stupidity they are being faithful to includes their own "infallible" pronouncements.
posted by DU at 6:49 AM on April 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


It seems like between the pedophilia scandals, the declining numbers of priests, reprimanding its devoted religious communities, the birth control/condoms/AIDS issues, etc that the final pin holding it (the Church) together will have to pop out and the institution will collapse - from my outside perspective it seems like that day has to come soon...or am I naive?


Keep in mind that this church has survived countless schisms, continental wars, and a second pope, just to name a few catastrophes. The old money is strong with this one, I don't think a few social issues located mostly within the US will be the end of it all.
posted by Think_Long at 6:50 AM on April 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Her group was also cited in the Vatican document, along with the Leadership Conference, for focusing its work too much on poverty and economic injustice, while keeping “silent” on abortion and same-sex marriage.

How do you keep a wave upon the sand?
posted by ColdChef at 6:50 AM on April 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


empath: "I think it's well past time for liberal american Catholics to leave the roman church behind."

I can't exactly do it AGAIN.
posted by mkb at 6:50 AM on April 19, 2012 [13 favorites]


What actually is the relation between American Christians and the Vatican? I've never really thought about it, but it seems that the Vatican and your average Catholicism might not be wholly compatible with the American flair of religion.

In my experience being raised Catholic, adherence and belief in official dogma varies greatly from person to person and parish to parish. There are some very liberal parishes and others that like to pretend the Enlightenment never happened. The many Catholics I have known in general quietly disagree with various bits of the official party, er, Vatican line and quietly live as they think best aligns to Jesus's teachings.

I went to mass on Easter with a friend for the first time in years, and was surprised by how much I kind of enjoyed it, atheist that I am now. I had even considered starting to go more often, I found it so peaceful. But, nope. Thanks Pope Benedict for reminding me why I left the Church so many years ago!
posted by smirkette at 6:52 AM on April 19, 2012 [10 favorites]


The Vatican is evil and nuns can be awesome. It's about time for a nice big schism, I think.

Roving gangs of nuns with guns, rulers and dark sunglasses, cruising the highways in station wagons on a REAL mission from God.

Put this on TV in real-time and the channel will never change.
posted by delfin at 6:52 AM on April 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


What actually is the relation between American Christians and the Vatican?

American Baptists probably don't have much of one....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:53 AM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Too bad for the nuns, but come on. They knew it was a snake when they picked it up.
posted by Bookhouse at 6:54 AM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


A lot of non-Catholic American Christians (especially the more conservative branches) don't even think Catholics are Christians.
posted by kmz at 6:55 AM on April 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


American Baptists probably don't have much of one....

Actually, the Baptists I've known talk about the Vatican more than the Catholics. It's all conspiratorial whispers, but it is talk.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:55 AM on April 19, 2012


Honest and serious question here:

I realize it would be political suicide and hence will never be done, but in principle, if prosecutors could demonstrate a pattern of obstruction of justice and concealing of illegal activities orchestrated from above in the various clerical pedophilia scandals, could the Catholic Church as an organization be prosecuted under RICO laws?

What would that look like?
posted by R. Schlock at 6:56 AM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Such nostalgia for the turn of the first mellinia. Seriously, guys...you might have ruled the world in 1000AD, but you on lived to, what, 35. Not so much fun.
posted by kjs3 at 6:56 AM on April 19, 2012


What actually is the relation between American Christians and the Vatican? I've never really thought about it, but it seems that the Vatican and your average Catholicism might not be wholly compatible with the American flair of religion.

I don't understand what you are asking here. Could you define what you see is the "American flair" of religion? Remember that the largest single Christian denomination in the US is the Roman Catholic church.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:56 AM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Our nearby Catholic hospital has a big poster of the Pope reaching out to hug a group of kids... it's a very creepy poster.... which just reminds me of their problems with pedophillic priests.
posted by MikeWarot at 6:57 AM on April 19, 2012


DU: "The Bible says what it says, you can't just "reinterpret" that every few hundred years to mean something else by ignoring passages, retranslating or whatever.
"

but isn't that what they do now? When someone comments on a passage that puts the religion in a bad light, we are told it is a metaphor/analogy or some sort. We are told that it isn't meant to be taken literally. Whereas the passages that does put them in a good light are to be taken literally.

Also there is the hand-waving that all the horrific actions condoned and mandated in the old testament were a product of their times.

And of course translation does have a huge difference on what the Bible says. Look at the most basic bible teaching of the 10 commandments and the debate on whether it says "thou shalt not kill" or "thou shalt not murder"
posted by 2manyusernames at 7:00 AM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


could the Catholic Church as an organization be prosecuted under RICO laws?

You might be able to prosecute local dioceses, but keep in mind that the Vatican itself is a sovereign nation.
posted by drezdn at 7:01 AM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


What actually is the relation between American Christians and the Vatican?

Evangelicals respect the Vatican for the anti-abortion and anti-gay stance. But, they're still pretty standoffish about whether Catholics are true Christians. Though, they did get all warm and gooey over Passion of the Christ. I think that sort of endeared a certain flavor of Catholicism to them.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:01 AM on April 19, 2012


i tend to sum up the church's treatment of nuns with a simple observation in over 20 years in health care: i've never met a priest who didn't have maximum-coverage gold-standard health care coverage; i've never met a nun who wasn't on Medicaid.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 7:02 AM on April 19, 2012 [85 favorites]


Seriously, guys...you might have ruled the world in 1000AD

Even then they were overrated. All they dominated was feudal Europe and they couldn't even guilt the armies at the time into taking and holding Jerusalem for more than a couple of years.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:03 AM on April 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


The Roman Catholic church is dying a slow death. Yes they have a ton of cash, but the cash has to come from the parisioners ultimately, and their kinda getting pissed off at the church diddling kids, covering up the diddling of kids, and then going out of their way to protect kiddie diddler, oh... and telling the poor to go fuck themselves.

It will take a while, but there will be a day when Vatican tour guides will be saying, "Here's where Pope _______ the __, the final leader before the Catholic church officially dissolved, resided."

I grew up Catholic and while I was never particularly religious, I remember a time when the church actually did good work and the leadership actually supported that good work. The Vatican is clearly delusional in its thinking, grossly misguided in its approach, and actually hostile to those in the ranks of the priesthood and sisterhood that are actually out there trying to help the poor and downtrodden of this world. Those are the people I feel bad for.

And it's abundantly clear that Benedict is evil to the fucking core.
posted by prepmonkey at 7:03 AM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


What actually is the relation between American Christians and the Vatican?

Sorry to disappoint, but there's not one category of "American Christian" upon which you can distinguish a "relationship".

it seems that the Vatican and your average Catholicism might not be wholly compatible with the American flair of religion.

What exactly does that mean? Because unless "the American flair" means "we have every variety under the sun, and short of sacrificing animals they're pretty much allowed to practice", it's a pretty condescending and parochial statement.
posted by kjs3 at 7:04 AM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


You might be able to prosecute local dioceses, but keep in mind that the Vatican itself is a sovereign nation.

Which should seriously call into question their meddling in electoral politics.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:04 AM on April 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


Does anyone have a link to the document? I can't find it.
posted by michaelh at 7:07 AM on April 19, 2012


Even then they were overrated. All they dominated was feudal Europe and they couldn't even guilt the armies at the time into taking and holding Jerusalem for more than a couple of years.

A few hundred years.
posted by empath at 7:10 AM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's like the Catholic Church just can't stop being completely and stupidly rigid.

I feel like at some point we should stop defining the Catholic Church by what the Pope and a handful of Cardinals say and look at the actual makeup of the Church body-- 98% of Catholics use or have used birth control, so it seems safe to say that that RCC is not opposed to the use of contraceptives, just for example.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:11 AM on April 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


The Vatican: a tiny theocratic dictatorship that hates American freedoms.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 7:11 AM on April 19, 2012 [11 favorites]


Word of the Vatican’s action took the group completely by surprise

No one expects a Papal Visitation. Their chief weapon is surprise...surprise and fear...fear and surprise.... Their two weapons are fear and surprise...and ruthless efficiency....
posted by Esteemed Offendi at 7:14 AM on April 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


The doctrinal assessment is at this link.

"The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will examine the various forms of canonical intervention available for the resolution of the problematic aspects present in the LCWR...."
posted by Roentgen at 7:14 AM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


I feel like at some point we should stop defining the Catholic Church by what the Pope and a handful of Cardinals say and look at the actual makeup of the Church body-- 98% of Catholics use or have used birth control, so it seems safe to say that that RCC is not opposed to the use of contraceptives, just for example.

Let's just say that I can confirm anecdotally that a couple Catholics I know don't have a problem with contraception. (Unless they went to confession on their way home from my place.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:16 AM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Roman Catholic church is dying a slow death.

I'm not so sure about that. There are large chunks of the world where the RCC is growing and vibrant, particularly in the third world. I doubt it's going to "die" any time soon, though I wouldn't be a bit surprised if in the next couple of centuries, the throne of St. Peter moves to Africa or South America. Such a thing has happened before.
posted by kjs3 at 7:16 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


But, they're still pretty standoffish about whether Catholics are true Christians.

I haven't gone to church since I was in my early teens (several decades ago) but a number of years ago I was surprised to hear several older (and generally moderate and not at all charismatic / evangelical) Methodist relatives commenting about "idol worship" and "paying to get out of sinning" after a wedding where the new in-law was Catholic and the service was held in a Catholic church. They were really cranky that the Catholic side trumped the Protestant side as the venue for this cross-denominational marriage.

It took me aback, with the sense people are still acting out the Reformation in modern times. (I've never been religious as an adult, so maybe this is a common thing I just never knew about as a kid.)
posted by aught at 7:18 AM on April 19, 2012


The findings of a multiyear Vatican study

I thought they called those "inquisitions".
posted by kjs3 at 7:18 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I thought they called those "inquisitions".

The whole thing was carried out by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - renamed from the "Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition" - or the Holy Inquisition for short.
posted by Francis at 7:23 AM on April 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


The post is incorrect.

"The findings of a multiyear Vatican study on US nuns have been announced: the largest and most influential group of nuns are promoting 'radical feminist themes incompatible with the teachings of the Catholic Church.'"

There was a "multiyear Vatican study on US nuns" in progress, the Apostolic Visitation of Institutes of Women Religious in the United States.

That process concluded and the final report was submitted to the Vatican in January (pdf). The findings have not been announced. What typically happens is that the Vatican takes actions on the recommendations/information in the report, but the report of an apostolic visitation is not typically made public, but is a working document for the Vatican curia.

What actually happened yesterday was the announcement of action on the Doctrinal Assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The report was released with lists of findings and a mandate for reform (pdf).

These are two distinct (though related) processes.
In related good news, the nuns are almost certainly younger than Benedict, and will probably also outlive most of the bishops.
I wonder. I know several nuns who are laboring well into their 80s precisely because of this kind of this assholery.


These liberal religious congregations, as groups of sisters are called (those that are closely linked to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious), are in fact often quite elderly and declining in membership. The growing ones are actually conservative and aligned with the Pope's vision. The Archbishop of Seattle, Peter Sartain, who was appointed to oversee the renewal of the LCWR is the brother of Sr. Marian Sartain, O.P., the secretary general of the Nashville Dominicans, one of those young, growing, conservative congregations.
posted by ThisIsNotMe at 7:24 AM on April 19, 2012 [16 favorites]


A few hundred years.

From your link:

Capital:

Jerusalem (1099–1187) [88 years]

Tyre (1187–1191)

Acre (1191–1229)

Jerusalem (1229–1244) [15 years]

Acre (1244–1291)

Total time for occupation of Jerusalem in the "Kingdom of Jerusalem": 103 years. Don't let the name fool you.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:25 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'll chime in as supportive of the Vatican's criticism here, but completely baffled by its strategy. All it does is stir up trouble as mark the Catholic Church for NY Times articles and stirring up a ten minutes hate on MeFi; the LCWR surely won't give a rat's ass what the Vatican says about anything.

The strategic value of this eludes me because the Vatican is dealing with a group that represents truly dying religious orders. You know the type--they dress like flight attendants and are, effectively, "social workers who don't date," as the joke goes. They are all old and getting older. All of the younger, flourishing (relative to the overall drop in the number of women's religious vocations in the U.S.) orders are members of a parallel group that formed in the '90s because they felt alienated by the LCWR platform of focusing only on the "social justice" issues, the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious. The CMSWR members practice social justice outreach and what we think of as traditional "nun" stuff. Apparently, younger women in the United States pursuing a religious vocation are attracted to this both/and theory of being a nun.

If you want the actual figures to back up what I'm saying, see this 2009 report comparing the two groups to see where the demographic future of women religious is in the United States (link here, then click the link called "NRVC/CARA Study Complete Report"). But if you're too busy for that, just compare the pictures on their websites and you'll see where the biological solution is already taking care of the LCWR problem to which the Vatican is, for some reason, calling attention.

Again, I don't understand why the inquiry into U.S. women religious was really necessary at all. The problem will literally be dead in 20 years.
posted by resurrexit at 7:27 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


From the report Roentgen linked to (PDF):
The overarching concern of the doctrinal Assessment is, therefore, to assist the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in the United States in implementing an ecclesiology of communion founded on faith in Jesus Christ and the Church as the essential foundation for its important service to religious Communities and to all those in consecrated life.
It's an impressive document, magisterial in the way it combines the dead language of bureaucracy with the dream-logic of theology into a whole that is even worse than the sum of its parts. Then there's the delightful condescension directed at the "sisters".
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 7:28 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


As an atheist teenager I attended a catholic high school (long story) and my major take-away from my four years there is that - Priests are of little importance, the Catholic religion is funny and Nuns are awesome. I still feel the same way as an adult.

My teachers who were nuns were intelligent, kind and wanted us to have every success in life. They occasionally prefaced something with "Don't tell the Vatican we said this, but.."

Our comparative religion teacher was a Catholic Nun and she happily taught us about the tenets of other religions without a single hint she found them in any way lesser than her brand of faith.

It would be awesome if one of my teachers was the head of the organization - the Catholic Church would actually function closer to its true mission.
posted by Julnyes at 7:28 AM on April 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


Oh, Vatican. You're going to punish people because they concentrate "too much" on trying to fix poverty? That's just...do you ever listen to yourselves?

Perhaps the top levels of the RCC don't see poverty as a problem. After all, the church is growing most in the most impoverished places. The brand of escapism they push pretty much requires an audience unhappy with their own lives.

From the Wikipedia article on "Criticism of Mother Teresa":

Christopher Hitchens described Mother Teresa's organization as a cult which promoted suffering and did not help those in need. Hitchens said that Teresa's own words on poverty proved that her intention was not to help people. He quoted Teresa's words at a 1981 press conference in which she was asked: "Do you teach the poor to endure their lot?" She replied: "I think it is very beautiful for the poor to accept their lot, to share it with the passion of Christ. I think the world is being much helped by the suffering of the poor people."
Chatterjee added that the public image of Mother Teresa as a "helper of the poor" was misleading, and that only a few hundred people are served by even the largest of the homes. According to a Stern magazine report about Mother Teresa, the (Protestant) Assembly of God charity serves 18,000 meals daily in Calcutta, many more than all the Mission of Charity homes together.

posted by rikschell at 7:30 AM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Our comparative religion teacher was a Catholic Nun and she happily taught us about the tenets of other religions without a single hint she found them in any way lesser than her brand of faith.

Precisely why those groups have no new recruits.
posted by resurrexit at 7:30 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


ThisIsNotMe: "These liberal religious congregations, as groups of sisters are called (those that are closely linked to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious), are in fact often quite elderly and declining in membership. The growing ones are actually conservative and aligned with the Pope's vision."

He's got it right there. It is actually the older priests and nuns who tend to be liberal - the generation who helped make Vatican II possible. I've read many a screed by younger Catholics who can't wait for the old, liberal guard to die off or retire.

I think the Catholic Church is only going to get more conservative.
posted by charred husk at 7:31 AM on April 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


"...we’re living the life of total dedication to Christ, and out of that flows a profound concern for the good of all humanity. So our vision of our lives, and their vision of us as a work force, are just not on the same planet.”

It's because of great people like this that I can't dismiss religion wholesale as backwards, useless, and harmful. It would appear that the bath water is attempting to throw out the baby.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 7:32 AM on April 19, 2012 [15 favorites]


Nuns are probably the only good thing American Catholicism has going for it.

Leave it to the Vatican to sabotage even more good will among American Catholics.

(I gave up Catholicism for Lent one year and it took rather well).
posted by zizzle at 7:33 AM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thank you, ThisIsNotMe. I'd correct the original with your better info if I could; I hope everyone makes it down to your comment.
posted by apparently at 7:35 AM on April 19, 2012


Catholicism is shrinking due to the departure of liberal Catholics. The future of Catholicism is as an increasingly marginal religion, with a foreign-born clergy, attended by folks like Rick Santorum.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:38 AM on April 19, 2012


Yes, my first reaction was. "That's good news. Power to the feminist nuns."
posted by jb at 7:43 AM on April 19, 2012


From the assessment: Some speakers claim that dissent from the doctrine of the Church is justified as an exercise of the prophetic office. . . . 'Prophecy,' as a methodological principle, is here directed at the Magisterium and the Church’s pastors, whereas true prophecy is a grace which accompanies the exercise of the responsibilities of the Christian life and ministries within the Church, regulated and verified by the Church’s faith and teaching office.

They went out of their way to use such obfuscatory wording that direct quotes wouldn't be terribly useful, but that is a bang-up job of "No True Scotsman" right there.
posted by solotoro at 7:44 AM on April 19, 2012


I think the Catholic Church is only going to get more conservative.

Yeah. Human nature being what it is, it's always been easier to attract followers with a mixture of fear, hatred and resentment (but ultimate moral superiority!) than with tolerance and intellectual openness. Any North American liberal Catholics who leave the church will be replaced elsewhere. Ratzy knows exactly what he's doing.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 7:48 AM on April 19, 2012


Catholicism is shrinking due to the departure of liberal Catholics. The future of Catholicism is as an increasingly marginal religion, with a foreign-born clergy, attended by folks like Rick Santorum.

This is all probably true except the "increasingly marginal" part. The growth of religion in America is mostly in conservative denominations. The growth of global religion is largely in the more religiously conservative places like South America and Africa. Liberal religion is the segment being marginalized.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:52 AM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]



It took me aback, with the sense people are still acting out the Reformation in modern times. (I've never been religious as an adult, so maybe this is a common thing I just never knew about as a kid.)


It's important to remember that the KKK started out as an (among others) anti-catholic organization. Wikipedia has a nice summary of anti-Catholicism in the USA.
The second KKK preached "One Hundred Percent Americanism" demanded the purification of politics, calling for strict morality and better enforcement of prohibition. Its official rhetoric focused on the threat of the Catholic Church, using anti-Catholicism and nativism.[19] Its appeal was directed exclusively at white Protestants.[20]
There is a pretty strong anti-catholic bias in America. Although I do have to wonder where the hell that got off to before Santorum aborted his campaign. I guess complaints about a candidate's Catholicism are only relevant if they are running as a democrat.

My own opinion ? I don't think a man wearing a dress has any business telling me how to live my life.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:08 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


The growth of religion in America is mostly in conservative denominations.

According to Pew, there is a decrease in religion in America, with the largest loser being the Catholic Church.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:09 AM on April 19, 2012


DU: "The Bible says what it says, you can't just "reinterpret" that every few hundred years to mean something else by ignoring passages, retranslating or whatever.

Now, admittedly, I was a terrible Catholic, but I'd argue that the continual assessment and reassement of the Bible and theological though is one of the big things Catholicism has going for it (I'd make a similar argument for Judaism, but don't know as much about it). To me it's totally bizarre to say that something written getting on for 2000 years ago and then translated a few times over should somehow be literally true and unchanging. That the original words were written by people at the instruction of God, sure (if we want to believe in God for a minute), but it's not such a stretch to think that those words were at least partly influenced by the context where they were written, divine involvement or no. Then there's the bit where the Church is infallible. (Papal infallibility is more complicated and, coincidentally, only dates from 1870.) There's an 'Oops, got to change course and God (well, the Holy Spirit) says it's okay' built into the religion.
posted by hoyland at 8:09 AM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Again, I don't understand why the inquiry into U.S. women religious was really necessary at all. The problem will literally be dead in 20 years.

The Vatican has been making a show of it's conservative tide since JPII, but is really ratcheting up the noise. They're signaling in solidarity with the reactionary tide of conservative politics that the Republican finds itself in. Facing increasing scrutiny over it's coverup of sexual abuse in house, marginalization over homosexual rights, this crackdown appears a take-charge attitude, without actually having to do much. It's not clear how effective it will be in the long run. This shift makes them compete with more conservative, more fundamentalist Christian sects, an already highly competitive sector. Liberal Catholics will be pushed elsewhere. And we'll all be the poorer as the RCC is more in union with the religious right, as the stupid, divisive, useless parts of politically powerful religion overtake the socially redeeming parts.
posted by 2N2222 at 8:13 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


DU: "The Bible says what it says, you can't just "reinterpret" that every few hundred years to mean something else by ignoring passages, retranslating or whatever."

Why? Jews have been interpreting the Torah for a couple of thousand years. We modify our understanding of life, the universe and everything as we learn and integrate new information. Prohibitions against organ donation, for example, used to be widespread. Within my lifetime, many Jewish groups realized that saving lives should take precedent over keeping bodies intact in the grave. So now, post-mortem organ donation is probably not only considered acceptable to the majority of Jews, but in some synagogues people are even encouraged to fill out their donor cards.

The two religions (Catholic Christianity and Judaism) are not equivalent, but religions and religious sects that are so tightly structured they can't adapt to modernity quickly become marginalized.
posted by zarq at 8:22 AM on April 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


I feel like at some point we should stop defining the Catholic Church by what the Pope and a handful of Cardinals say and look at the actual makeup of the Church body-- 98% of Catholics use or have used birth control, so it seems safe to say that that RCC is not opposed to the use of contraceptives, just for example.

The above is the issue in a nutshell. Who truly controls the direction of the RCC:

* the authoritarian Catholic hierarchy, following a very specific chain-of-command all the way back to The Big CEO In The Sky, who feel strongly that their positions on How The World Should Be and How People Should Act should not be compromised or questioned;

* the millions and millions who self-identify as Catholic but who are more than willing to ignore the Church's official views on various social and political issues and actions;

* or the ground workers -- the nuns, the charity workers, the local-level functionaries -- who are the go-betweens and recruiters trying to balance official doctrine with real-world concerns and attitudes, and who have an uphill battle trying to win people over to an organization many think of as "a bunch of kiddy fiddlers in funny hats"?

If the RCC loses parishioners, there are lots more people out there who might take their places with the proper encouragement. If they lose the functionaries who put it into motion, the whole machine breaks down. Whether the carrot or the stick is a better tool for reasserting Papal authority is left as an exercise for the reader.
posted by delfin at 8:23 AM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


They're signaling in solidarity with the reactionary tide of conservative politics that the Republican finds itself in.

Sort of. The RCC managed to piss of republicans this week by calling out Paul Ryan's plan to end welfare as an attack on the poor.

Still, yeah. I grew up with a church that had been, in recent history, something of a leader on social issues (integration, helping the poor) but the Church's politics are complicated and the way that they intersect with American politics even more so.

Still. It's got ritual cannibalism.

And I used to eat communion wafers by the handful.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:26 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


There was a really interesting commentary in the Catholic Reporter about people leaving the Church, and what Church leadership should or could do about it. I had assumed that most of the people leaving had stories like mine - they could no longer stand attaching their name to a religion that systematically covered up known abuse for hundreds of years and that increasingly preaches anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-poor messages like a fight against marriage equality, an insistence on men only in the priesthood, and a suggestion that the use of condoms to stop the spread of AIDS in Africa is somehow unholy. And there were a decent number of people like that. But there appears to be an almost equal number of people leaving because the Church is not evangelical enough. They want more reliance on the Bible as God's divine word and strict interpretation of the Old Testament creation story and all of that.

So as backward as a lot of the Church's stances seem (and to the majority of commenters here, I'd say there's not a lot of disagreement), it's not a terrible move from a Church membership standpoint. When I was a "cultural Catholic," I went to mass maybe once a year and didn't give them any money. So losing me - or another few million of me - won't really make much of a dent, because we never really participated in the Church in any meaningful way to begin with. If they can shore up or even increase their right-leaning members - the ones that actually go every week and give money - they have arguably helped themselves.
posted by AgentRocket at 8:29 AM on April 19, 2012


Sort of. The RCC managed to piss of republicans this week by calling out Paul Ryan's plan to end welfare as an attack on the poor.


Which makes the signaling all that much more important.

It's true that the RCC has a complicated relationship with conservative American politics. However, when it comes down to it, the RCC will overlook the lack of accord on social economic issues if it means they can find common ground over sex and gender issues. Priorities, priorities...
posted by 2N2222 at 8:34 AM on April 19, 2012


According to Pew, there is a decrease in religion in America, with the largest loser being the Catholic Church.

There is an overall decrease in religion, but the denominations that are doing the relative best are the conservative protestants, especially non-denominationals. Catholics are losing the most in some terms, but they're also the biggest, and the percentage of the population that is Catholic has remained relatively constant (I believe) thanks to immigrants and converts.

The churches that are dying in America are the mainline, liberal, Protestants; the trend in American religion right now seems clearly to be toward fewer, more conservative adherents.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:38 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


But there appears to be an almost equal number of people leaving because the Church is not evangelical enough. They want more reliance on the Bible as God's divine word and strict interpretation of the Old Testament creation story and all of that.

This is exactly my fear. Not that I care about the Church's numbers. But rather, that Americans are finding even dumber religion more attractive. When that happens, we all end up losers.
posted by 2N2222 at 8:38 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sounds like the Vatican will hear nun of it!

HOW DID NO ONE MAKE THIS PUN YET
posted by TwelveTwo at 8:42 AM on April 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


AgentRocket: " So as backward as a lot of the Church's stances seem (and to the majority of commenters here, I'd say there's not a lot of disagreement), it's not a terrible move from a Church membership standpoint. When I was a "cultural Catholic," I went to mass maybe once a year and didn't give them any money. So losing me - or another few million of me - won't really make much of a dent, because we never really participated in the Church in any meaningful way to begin with. If they can shore up or even increase their right-leaning members - the ones that actually go every week and give money - they have arguably helped themselves."

Yes, but what a tradeoff. Instead of encouraging the group that is apparently thoughtful and is concerned with morality, equality and fair-mindedness to remain members, they're choosing to embrace reactionary bigots who want the Church to convert the heathens and fight gays, women and poor people.
posted by zarq at 8:43 AM on April 19, 2012


But if you're too busy for that, just compare the pictures on their websites and you'll see where the biological solution is already taking care of the LCWR problem to which the Vatican is, for some reason, calling attention.

Again, I don't understand why the inquiry into U.S. women religious was really necessary at all. The problem will literally be dead in 20 years.
posted by resurrexit


Excellent point.

This is about keeping the Sisters from interfering with the Vatican's plan to defeat Obama, as they did in the health care debate.
posted by jamjam at 8:43 AM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


With respect to the age distribution of the LCWR versus the CMSWR and the assertion that the LCWR is just going to die out, I think something important is being missed: the relative overall sizes of the two groups.

LCWR represents ~80% of the relevant population. CMSWR represents ~20%. The result is that while, for example, CMSWR has 15% of its members in final or perpetual vows aged 40-49, and LCWR has only 1% of its members similarly situated, the raw numbers are close to 1700 CMSWR members in that condition versus 470 LCWR members in that condition.

If the older generation (say, all those 60 and older) simply disappeared, the relative sizes of the two organizations would change: what is not 80/20 in favor of LCWR would become roughly 40/60 in favor of CMSWR. But that would hardly mean that LCWR folds up.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 8:43 AM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


The American Catholicism I was most familiar with growing up (I'm not a Catholic) was strongly involved in the Sanctuary Movement of the 1980s. At the time, I knew in my head that the Catholic Church had many policies that I disagreed with, but all of the Catholics I knew in life were leftist, ecumenical types who thought the most important things were peace and justice; they all spent much more time (and money) feeding and housing refugees from Nicaragua and Guatemala than they did marching around outside women's clinics.

The Vatican's fist closes ever more tightly on American Catholics, and they slip away like water.
posted by rtha at 8:49 AM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


"... what is now 80/20 ..."

Stupid typo.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 8:49 AM on April 19, 2012


But that would hardly mean that LCWR folds up.

Fair point. All the snark just brings out the hyperbole in me.
posted by resurrexit at 8:55 AM on April 19, 2012


silby: "Yeah what's it gonna take for another schism to break out over here? Between S.J. and nuns, it's gotta be brewing, right?"

Not really.

Most of the faithful Catholics that I know have been selectiely ignoring the things out of Bennedict's Vatican that they don't want to hear. There's a strong unspoken understanding among American Catholics that Bennedict was a bad choice, and that it will be best to "ride things out," given how old he is.

Many Catholic churches now only have tenuous connections to the Vatican, and very strained connections with their dioceses. You can even tell that many members of the priesthood are growing extremely uncomfortable. A few (such as my former hometown pastor) began to speak out after the pedophilia scandal, and were subsequently (and ineffectively) shunned by the church.

If anything, a schism has been quietly happening since Vatican II, and was greatly sped up after John Paul II's death. As they say, this revolution won't be televised.

Like `stupidsexyflanders,` I grew up Catholic, and the cultural affinity still affects me, 7 or so years after I began drifting away from the church (and 4 years after my immediate family followed suit and joined an absolutely wonderful Lutheran church). I don't think that it's any stretch to say that I owe my liberal-leaning tendencies to my Catholic upbringing, and I still consider myself to "culturally" be a Catholic, even though I don't currently practice any faith. It simply hurts too much to label myself as an ex-Catholic; the church never did anything to hurt me, but it's hurt plenty of other people, and I'm ashamed of what it's been doing for the past decade.

And, yes. Nuns are AWESOME. I've written about this here before. I used to be the (volunteer) IT guy for the convent in my hometown, and they were undoubtedly the most wonderful people I've ever worked with. I gladly worked for free, and they were simply the most appreciative, friendly, and generous people that I've ever worked with.

I remember working late one night, fixing a particularly nasty bug with their Exchange Server*, and (after I thought they'd all retired for the night), one nun that I'd never gotten to know walked in with a grilled cheese sandwich, some fruit, and a glass of OJ. She put it down, smiled and said "I noticed you were still here, and it looked like you could use a little snack. I want you to know that we all really appreciate everything you do for us."

On her way to bed, this woman whom I had never met before saw a light on in the server closet, and quietly went downstairs to prepare a meal for a complete stranger, simply because she knew that it would make my day a bit better. It did.

*The Catholic church is anachronistic, and their mail server was no exception. The server ran NT4, and connected to the web via a pair of Courier V modems. It took me a while to wrap my head around the idea that this configuration ever worked in the first place. I also helped maintain a room full of immaculately-maintained Apple ][s that they used to teach typing. Why fix what isn't broken?
posted by schmod at 8:59 AM on April 19, 2012 [22 favorites]


I remember an argument I had with a family friend, a very devout, very well educated catholic woman who is an activist for many issues and very active in the church. This was during the time of GW, after he had launched two wars. This woman was remarking that it was good to finally have a great president who was against abortion. I was shocked, and brought up the point that he had also started two wars, killing countless people. But it didn't matter, because only his stance on abortion mattered. Her general stance was that no amount of other things mattered if he was the only candidate whose stance on abortion was 'correct'. Her weight on that singular issue was so large that, in weighing evil to evil, it out-weighed all others.
posted by Bovine Love at 9:09 AM on April 19, 2012


I think it's well past time for liberal american Catholics to leave the roman church behind.
There's a term for people who do that: not Catholic. The Anglican church keeps a lot of the traditions of Catholicism without the whole "Pope" thing.
Yeah what's it gonna take for another schism to break out over here? Between S.J. and nuns, it's gotta be brewing, right?
I don't really think it's legally possible for the branches of the U.S catholic church to split off, as the church owns the actual buildings. The bishops all support the Vatican, as far as I know.

The other thing you're missing is that while they are pissing off liberals, they are working to appeal more to conservatives. Newt Gingrich became a catholic, Rick Santorum was catholic. These are the people they want to bring on board.
I feel like at some point we should stop defining the Catholic Church by what the Pope and a handful of Cardinals say and look at the actual makeup of the Church body-- 98% of Catholics use or have used birth control, so it seems safe to say that that RCC is not opposed to the use of contraceptives, just for example.
Actually that figure includes the withdrawl method, as well as natural family planning and other methods which are OK with the church.
This shift makes them compete with more conservative, more fundamentalist Christian sects, an already highly competitive sector. Liberal Catholics will be pushed elsewhere. And we'll all be the poorer as the RCC is more in union with the religious right, as the stupid, divisive, useless parts of politically powerful religion overtake the socially redeeming parts.
Exactly. The catholic church is probably jealous of all the affection that evangelical Christians gets in the U.S. from their members. I would imagine They'd rather have followers who had the same fervor as those who follow Jerry Farwell and Pat Roberson, as opposed to people like Steven Colbert who go out of family tradition and identification, while being ambivalent towards the hierarchy itself.

Or, compare it to the Mormon religion, which also has a central "Prophet", somewhat like the pope and Mormons tend to take the central leadership seriously, rather then viewing it as an inconvenient or embarrassing anachronism.
If the RCC loses parishioners, there are lots more people out there who might take their places with the proper encouragement. If they lose the functionaries who put it into motion, the whole machine breaks down. Whether the carrot or the stick is a better tool for reasserting Papal authority is left as an exercise for the reader.
Again, they can bring in as many people as they want from overseas, legally they don't need to worry about immigration quotas or anything like that (IIRC). I would imagine it wouldn't be difficult to recruit people from the third world to live in the U.S as popes and nuns.
posted by delmoi at 9:21 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


So are nuns getting to go on the pill or what?
posted by Artw at 9:39 AM on April 19, 2012


Again, I don't understand why the inquiry into U.S. women religious was really necessary at all. The problem will literally be dead in 20 years.

That's a bleak, heartless thing to say.

Also, ressurexit, do you really think people are leaving the Catholic Church because they weren't taught that other religions are false? You really think that's the reason membership is declining?
posted by You Guys Like 2 Party? at 9:42 AM on April 19, 2012


Won't claim a familiarity with the inner workings of a church, so I don't have a macro point to make, but I'll say this: this is a strange inversion of the usual standard, in that a religious organization seems to be persecuting its members for their political beliefs.

Just as it is a problem when political organizations persecute people for religious beliefs, and just as the increasing politicization of the court can get to be a problem, the politicization of religion will be a problem.

The Roman Catholic church losing its liberal voice will be problematic; now, I don't know what anyone can do in the face of such obstinacy as this report, but it is certainly troubling.
posted by the cydonian at 9:47 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I grew up Catholic, at least while my parents were married. My dad's side were the Catholics and my mom's side were southern Baptists. At age 8 or so I was already an atheist (probably helped by attending both churches and seeing that they both claimed correctness and yet were very different ... I reasoned that they couldn't both be right, and probably neither was). I found the Catholic masses incredibly dull and the Baptist ones terrifying. But a lot of the people at both seemed nice.

When I got older I found out that the reason my mom never finished college was because she became Catholic and her parents cut her off. They definitely considered Catholicism a foreign/idolatrous/non-Christian religion. So that soured me on that side of the fence. And then on the Catholic side I just didn't find anything compelling that I couldn't get by just being me and living as I see fit. But maybe some of the humanist/moral bits of the teachings rubbed off on me.

As an adult I have a tough time understanding how such a large number of people feel comfortable being parts of groups they don't agree with. My dad is still a pretty devout Catholic - he even tried to have his marriage with my mom annulled after they had been divorced for over 20 years - and we've had some discussions/arguments about it. I finally gave up. He's smart, somewhat liberal and disagrees with a lot of the church's positions, but has no problem with being a member and thus lending his support to some of the bad things they do. Some people are just like that - they like to be in groups. Me, I'm more of a loner. If a group espouses some kind of baloney I disagree with, I'm outta there. And "has an arbitrary hierarchy", "discriminates against women", and "promotes world overpopulation and sexual disease" are all on my baloney list.
posted by freecellwizard at 9:59 AM on April 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


"... disagree with or challenge the bishops, who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals."

Yup, there it is, the cornerstone of Catholicism. Which is why the "schism" will never be healed.

Of course, the whole Protestant thing wrecked a whole other branch of humanity, at first be stealing all the fun, smells and bells that the Old Church used to have, and eventually morphing into the incredibly dangerous variety of vastly over-exported evangelical churches that have colonized and zombified America's brain.
posted by clvrmnky at 10:05 AM on April 19, 2012


Actually that figure includes the withdrawl method, as well as natural family planning and other methods which are OK with the church.

Including withdrawal in that statistic for the purpose of showing how few Catholics follow Rome's edicts makes sense, since the church is against it - indeed, coitus interruptus is the exact topic in the passage in the bible on which they base their entire anti-birth-control doctrine.
posted by solotoro at 10:12 AM on April 19, 2012


Sounds like the Vatican will hear nun of it!

HOW DID NO ONE MAKE THIS PUN YET


I have a bad habit of doing just that.
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:27 AM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


i tend to sum up the church's treatment of nuns with a simple observation in over 20 years in health care: i've never met a priest who didn't have maximum-coverage gold-standard health care coverage; i've never met a nun who wasn't on Medicaid.

posted by fallacy of the beard


That's really sad, and speaks volumes about the Church's (lack of) respect for women.
posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons at 10:40 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


New Statesman: Scruffies against the straights. How much longer can the Catholic Church resist change as its influence shrinks?
posted by adamvasco at 11:13 AM on April 19, 2012


Word of the Vatican’s action took the group completely by surprise, Sister Sanders said.

Nobody expects the Holy Inquistion Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith!
posted by mikepop at 11:15 AM on April 19, 2012


What exactly does that mean? Because unless "the American flair" means "we have every variety under the sun, and short of sacrificing animals they're pretty much allowed to practice", it's a pretty condescending and parochial statement.

Ask a lawyer, but I'm pretty sure you are in the clear if you want to sacrifice animals. We draw the line at using pot apparently.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:23 AM on April 19, 2012


The churches that are dying in America are the mainline, liberal, Protestants; the trend in American religion right now seems clearly to be toward fewer, more conservative adherents.

It seems to me that this is largely due to the increasing politicalization of religion. Young people are leaving religion in droves ("People not affiliated with any particular religion stand out for their relative youth compared with other religious traditions [...] if these generational patterns persist, recent declines in the number of Protestants and growth in the size of the unaffiliated population may continue"). This is partly because religion has become so strongly linked with conservatism; thanks to twenty years of relentless branding, young people who dislike anti-gay, anti-woman, and anti-sex policies are increasingly likely to identify them as a problem with religion and/or Christianity itself, not just conservative Christianity. Meanwhile, evangelicals and other conservative religious groups are picking up membership, and Catholics are holding steady thanks to growing numbers of Catholic immigrants and Latino & Hispanic Americans... but this simply can't make up for the increasing non-participation of everyone else.

In short, from an anti-theist to American Christianity: thanks, and keep up the great work!
posted by vorfeed at 11:41 AM on April 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


I met a former nun at a book reading I did last year. She had written a book looking at the lives of nuns after Vatican II. The story she told was riveting: Essentially, nuns were thrown to the wolves with VII. After millennia of being told what to do, what to study, what to focus on, Vatican II opened nuns up to focus on what they felt their calling was, instead of what priests told them to do.

Guess what? Most of them threw off their habits and went into the world instead of staying cloistered. There, they found poverty, AIDS, social injustice, etc., and they set about doing something about it as a group. Only now is the Vatican realizing that they "created a monster" and that they want their oversight (and their control) back. They're branding a group of people who are actually acting on their faith as left-wing heretics who must be stopped.

In my opinion, the ship has sailed...and, as a cultural/lapsed Catholic, nuns are essentially the only people in the Catholic establishment I have any respect left for.

In short: The Vatican can suck it.
posted by mynameisluka at 1:03 PM on April 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


Guess what? Most of them threw off their habits and went into the world instead of staying cloistered. There, they found poverty, AIDS, social injustice, etc., and they set about doing something about it as a group.

Guess what? You have very little clue about what you're talking about! Most religious sisters weren't cloistered before Vatican II. They didn't leave the cloister after the council because they weren't cloistered to begin with.

And strangely they were concerned about poverty, illness and social justice before Vatican II too! (e.g. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (1774-1821)).

The Vatican considers the authentic social mission of the religious sisters to the poor, opressed etc. to be of great importantance, that's a good part of why they're organizing this "crackdown." The social mission of the religious sisters will cease to matter if there are no sisters to carry it out ... which is where things have been heading under the leadership of the LCWR. The young and vibrant communities also serve the poor and oppressed, but this work (and the vocations they attract of others to do this work) are an outflowing of their orthodox religious committment. The attempt is to conserve what's left of these communities and reanimate them from a radical committment to the teaching of Christ's Church in its fullness... rather than just letting them die off and starting over.
posted by ThisIsNotMe at 1:28 PM on April 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Hm. Not sure where I said that nuns weren't concerned with issues of poverty or social justice prior to Vatican II.

Here's an interesting piece on a young group of nuns who are sticking to habits.

Your question makes me wonder, though...which will be more detrimental to the attraction of being a nun—the LCWR or the Vatican's public smackdown of nuns?
posted by mynameisluka at 1:50 PM on April 19, 2012


If I were a nun and sworn to celibacy,* I would want to wear a habit and live in a community. Living in a religious community has long been the main reason that orders exist, and the habit would signal to outsiders who I am (and that I am not available - besides being super-comfortable like most medieval-inspired clothing). I agree with a lot of things from Vatican II, but I never would join any order which had abandoned habits or communal living.

*Unlikely to happen, since I am married and not actually Christian. But relatively familiar with the history of Catholicism and fond of the liturgy, especially the Latin mass.
posted by jb at 2:14 PM on April 19, 2012


jb, I think you've nailed the psychological aspect for why the orders that are doing well are, well, doing well, and why the old line orders are not having their former success. They've lost or, in some cases, have given up what made them distinctive initially; each had a unique charism and habit. Now they all look and act the same, and that doesn't speak well to the range of the human spirit. (If it weren't for the crazy money [trusts, endowments, etc.] and property [universities, hospitals, schools, etc.] issues of combining hundreds of ancient and not-so-ancient religious orders, I could honestly see the LCWR merging as one, big religious order in the next generation or so. Orders merge all the time, this would just be on a larger scale.)
posted by resurrexit at 2:23 PM on April 19, 2012


Today is the seventh anniversary of Benedit XVI's election to Pope. The Pontifical Council for Social Communications, administrators of the Holy See's web presence, have provided a link on their home page to write to congratulate him. So I did…

Your Holiness,

I wish I could congratulate you on the anniversary of your election and the unprecedented renewal of the Church your leadership has brought, but since you have not in fact led us to an unprecedented renewal congratulations are not in order. Instead, I write to you to chastise you for your callous and heavy handed treatment of women religious here in the United States, some of whom I count among my dearest friends.

By all means, Your Holiness, let us have an investigation. Not of religious sisterhoods in the United States, but of your complicity in the worldwide outrage for which the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church is now best known whether you choose to acknowledge that fact or not.

Rather than celebrate, you should use this opportunity to come clean with Catholics and admit to the Church's role in covering up the abuse of children. Then you should step down, and encourage all members of the Curia aged 60 or over, i.e. everyone old enough to bear any iota of guilt in the cover up, to step down as well. With this act of contrition, perhaps when future generations remember you they will revere you for the sacrifice you made that lead the church to genuine renewal across the world.

Leave the Sisters out of it, Your Holiness. They are not the problem with the Church in America or in The Vatican. You are.


With Bitterness and Anger,

ob1quixote
I'll let y'all know if I get excommunicated.
posted by ob1quixote at 3:32 PM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


I feel sure that there are many innocent of that age and older and many complicit who are much younger.
posted by wobh at 4:07 PM on April 19, 2012


My great aunt was a sister (almost from birth) - born in 1917 and sent to the local all-girls convent boarding school when she was six. She was and wonderful, lively and talkative young woman and the sisters loved having her.

When she entered high school, she asked her father to send her to the local Catholic high school instead of the convent, as it was coed and a block away from her house. That meant that she could live at home with her brother and sister, walk to school and be around boys. She started there, but after a few days the sisters came to ask for her to come back and her father agreed to send her back to the convent. She stayed and became an IHM sister when she finished high school. She worked for many years at Catholic schools in New York and Pennsylvania.

The rules of her order prevented her from attending many important family events such as her siblings' weddings, her father's funeral, and countless other special events.

At the same time my grandfather (her brother) had many priest friends who were free to do just about anything they wanted.

My grandfather took over the family business, married and had 9 children. My great aunt enjoyed her nieces, nephews and their children, but I know she always wanted a family of her own. She died in 2007, just after her 90th birthday.

I resent the Catholic church for the life that they forced on her, and I wish things could have been different.
posted by elvissa at 5:05 PM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


This evening on NPR I heard this interview with Sister Simone Campbell. The whole thing is worth a listen but this bit in particular made a lot of sense to me:
Campbell added that she wished she knew "what was in [the Vatican's] mind." But she surmised that what was happening is that the "leadership doesn't know how to deal with strong women and so their way is to try and shape us into whatever they think we should be."

Campbell said it was a "struggle of culture." And that it could also be that the Vatican is used to a monarchy and nuns in the United States are living in a democracy.

"When you don't work everyday with people who live at the margins of our society, it's so much easier to make easy statements about who's right and who's wrong," Campbell said. "Life is way more complicated in our society and it's probably way easier to be 8,000 miles away in Rome.
Godspeed, brave ladies.
posted by dorkydancer at 5:17 PM on April 19, 2012 [11 favorites]


NYT: Given this backdrop, Sister Schneiders, the professor in Berkeley, urged her fellow sisters to use restraint and caution with the visitation, saying the investigators should be treated as “uninvited guests who should be received in the parlor, not given the run of the house.” She wrote this in a private e-mail message to a few friends, but it became public and was widely circulated.

This sensible advice should really apply to any "uninvited guest" anywhere, visiting anyone.
posted by ovvl at 5:53 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Seems like the crazies are hell-bent (literally, as far as I am concerned) on erasing the progress John Paul II made in the church.

Catholic Irony is heavy, it has a heft to it.

Doctrinal issues have been in the forefront during the papacy of Benedict XVI, who was in charge of the Vatican’s doctrinal office before he became pope...

Progress made in the church kinda winded down after John XXIII.
posted by ovvl at 6:27 PM on April 19, 2012


The Vatican considers the authentic social mission of the religious sisters to the poor, opressed etc. to be of great importantance, that's a good part of why they're organizing this "crackdown." The social mission of the religious sisters will cease to matter if there are no sisters to carry it out ... which is where things have been heading under the leadership of the LCWR. The young and vibrant communities also serve the poor and oppressed, but this work (and the vocations they attract of others to do this work) are an outflowing of their orthodox religious committment. The attempt is to conserve what's left of these communities and reanimate them from a radical committment to the teaching of Christ's Church in its fullness.

I've read this over a few times, and I have to say that it makes absolutely no sense to me at all. If the Vatican considers the social mission of the sisters to be important, why the condemnation? How is the LCWR causing the numbers of nuns to fall? What does "an outflowing of their religious commitment" mean? How is telling the nuns to knock off their care of the poor going to reanimate their communities? What the hell is the "teaching Christ's Church in its fullness"? I feel the same way I do when I look at javascript or something-- there are obvious units of meaning there, and the words appear to be in a significant order-- but the sense of coded messages and darker implications between the lines is overwhelming. Does this really just translate to "shut up and concentrate on being as ideologically pure as possible"?
posted by jokeefe at 7:17 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


wobh: "I feel sure that there are many innocent of that age and older and many complicit who are much younger."

Well—fair enough. I should have said, "…any member of the Curia with even an iota of guilt for the cover up…" There's only four Cardinals under 60 anyway, so that would make the election of the next Pope kind of a farce. However, I did have in mind the fact that so many of the College of Cardinals are elderly. I believe the next Pope must be a younger man, free of guilt, who can guide the Church through the healing and rebuilding necessary to see her through another millennium.
posted by ob1quixote at 9:14 PM on April 19, 2012


I hope these nuns will laugh in the face of this report. By spending time with the poor and sick, instead of on opposing gays and health-care, they are more truly following in the footsteps of Jesus than the men who claim to be his successors.

I grew up in the same Catholic Left environment as many commenters here so far, and while I disagreed with a lot of the nuns' theological beliefs, I could never fault their hard work on behalf of the poor and sick. Rock on, you so-called 'radical' nuns.
posted by harriet vane at 1:42 AM on April 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


jokeefe: "I've read this over a few times, and I have to say that it makes absolutely no sense to me at all."

I think I understand...
One of the primary accusations leveled at Catholics by Protestants is that Catholics believe that good works will get you into heaven. According to their beliefs, all that is needed is to accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. The counter accusation is that believing this allows you to be a horrible person but still go to Heaven.

What both sides will tell you is that if you truly accept Jesus, then good works will flow from you naturally (a good tree cannot bear bad fruit and all that).

The implied accusation against the nuns is that they are doing good works for the sake of good works. Since they are so liberal on the Church's teachings, obviously their good works aren't flowing from a place of holiness, which is supposed to be the whole point of their existence.

This actually makes this a bit more inside baseball, as someone from outside the Church won't perceive the nuns as showing any lack of belief in Christ, just having doctrinal differences with the Church. That they believe their actions are flowing from their faith in Jesus is enough for outsiders, but not enough for the Church.

Feel free to correct me if I've got that wrong.
posted by charred husk at 6:49 AM on April 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


dorkydancer: "And that it could also be that the Vatican is used to a monarchy and nuns in the United States are living in a democracy."

Just to clarify one small thing: A lot of orders of nuns in the US still have very strong ties to the European orders that founded them (ironically sometimes much stronger than their ties to the Vatican or even their own diocese).

Also, quite a few nuns are recruited from abroad specifically from parts of the 3rd-world that do not have functioning democracies.

Monarchy might actually not be quite as foreign of a concept to American nuns as you think it is, and I'm not quite sure that I'd characterize the sisterhood as having a particularly strong democratic streak; they generally stay out of politics (more on that later). It certainly attracts a number of strong woman (which I think is what we're seeing here), but the demographics and culture within the convents that I've been to don't quite add up to support your hypothesis.

So, I guess this is really a very small nit to pick, but the convents seem to be very well insulated from American culture. If anything, the culture within a convent is a fascinating melting pot of: Previous-generation Americana (naturally, the current nuns were not always nuns, and there are very few new vocations), the cultures of the order that first started the convent (my hometown convent still had a strong Bavarian streak well over 100 years after its founding), the cultures of the sisters who joined the convent through immigration, and catholic doctrine. Roughly in that order.

You might call this anachronistic, insulated, or backwards, but really it's just a direct consequence of the convent and the sisterhood being insulated enough to develop a strong internal culture. It's really just it's own thing.

Similarly, as far as I can tell, the American nuns that I've met have tended to be politically apathetic, except for issues that directly relate to their mission (namely, helping the poor). The Church has separate people/lobbyists who take charge of those issues [usually men, and I'm not sure if this is a sexism thing, or a fundamental difference between the missions of brotherhood and sisterhood and/or the church's administrative segments], so this could be their excuse of staying out of things. In all honesty, it seems to help them focus on their charitable mission, although there is a nagging reminder in the back of my mind that this might not be such a great thing, as the Church most certainly has discouraged sisters from having strong personal convictions, or doing other sorts of things that priests more normally do.

This is obviously a tremendously complicated subject, but I'd be hesitant to draw any parallels between the sisterhood and current American culture or politics.
posted by schmod at 8:08 AM on April 20, 2012


This actually makes this a bit more inside baseball...

Though you only asked for correction if anyone thought you were wrong, I just have to chime in to say you're absolutely right. And let me add: Your brief, broader analysis* sums it up better for a wide (i.e., non-Catholic) audience than most veteran Catholic analysts (whether secularists would label those analysts left or right), and I read Catholic stuff pretty much all day, every day, on paper and the Internets. Well done, Mr. Husk. I wish you'd have commented sooner on this post.

*The faith/works dichotomy isn't quite right here, but you've shown that it's actually a really helpful vehicle for describing and understanding this from the Catholic perspective (i.e., the Vatican/Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's perspective). It's the point I was trying to make, obliquely, through calling what the "good" nuns do a both/and type of being a nun: they have the faith down and they do good works. The "bad" nuns reject or ignore much of the faith but do the good works. The Catholic Church isn't cracking down on the works half, just the faith half. The secular media outlets typically do a very bad job of explaining this, preferring (?) simply to frame it as a political left/right issue. Again, kudos.
posted by resurrexit at 8:17 AM on April 20, 2012


someone from outside the Church won't perceive the nuns as showing any lack of belief in Christ, just having doctrinal differences with the Church

You're right because, for Catholics, the Church's doctrine is the teaching of Christ (i.e., it's not just belief in his person that gets you there, but in all of his teachings, written or otherwise handed on to his apostles etc. etc.). So a doctrinal difference is a Big Deal.
posted by resurrexit at 8:19 AM on April 20, 2012


vorfeed: "In short, from an anti-theist to American Christianity: thanks, and keep up the great work!"

This would only be a good thing if evangelicals had less, not more, power in political discourse. As anti-theist as you might be, it's better to have a large population of involved theists who are doggedly liberal, than a large population of disaffected atheists. Not that all atheists are disaffected or not engaged in the political process; just that disengagement has been the result of this religious shift, and as a result, fewer people are getting involved, politically, in anything at all.

Catholics were historically very influential in the civil rights movement, in fighting poverty, in supporting the down-trodden. Churches are actually an extremely effective vehicle for social cohesion because they effectively span many traditional barriers of age, education, race, class, gender, etc. You can get evidence of this by visiting a Unitarian church. Extremely politically active parishioners who are also more diverse. In fact I can't think of another kind of social gathering other than public school (which is going to be decidedly young) where you're more likely to encounter people from vastly different backgrounds. Most other settings -- meetups, bars/cafes, clubs -- are going to natural self-select based on economic, cultural, or social lines.

Granted, you're not going to see that many white people at a Jehova's Witness service
posted by Deathalicious at 9:48 PM on April 24, 2012


This would only be a good thing if evangelicals had less, not more, power in political discourse.

They did, in the early 1980s. There was a large population of involved theists who were doggedly liberal then, and that didn't keep Evangelicals from gaining tremendous power and influence. I'm not sure why I should support the idea that politically-active liberal Christians are preferable to disaffected atheists -- at least the latter refuse to support "Christian" political issues, tacitly or otherwise.

As anti-theist as you might be, it's better to have a large population of involved theists who are doggedly liberal, than a large population of disaffected atheists.

This assumes that I want the kind of politics liberal theists are selling. I don't. These people oppose my worldview, and the fact that I agree with them more than with conservative theists on a few issues doesn't change that. One thing I've learned is that people who fundamentally oppose the person I want to be and the society I want to live in make poor bedfellows, and even worse allies. That quiet little "historically" in "Catholics were historically very influential in the civil rights movement, in fighting poverty, in supporting the down-trodden" is a perfect example of what I'm talking about -- fifty years ago more and more people started challenging Church doctrine by being gay/feminist/atheist/promiscuous/fill-in-the-blank, and now we've got ourselves a culture war with Catholic leaders in the vanguard... acting in concert with politicians who openly despise minorities and the poor. With friends like these, who needs enemies?

When I look at exit polls like these and these it's also hard not to notice that Christians were more likely to vote liberal the less involved they were. Those who seldom or never attend church were most likely to vote that way, and those with no religion were even more so. The states in which religion was rated least important (Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Alaska, Washington, Oregon) also had consistently high rates of turnout and/or registration. Looks like disengagement from religion does not necessarily equal disengagement from politics, at least not with regards to presidential elections.
posted by vorfeed at 12:57 PM on April 25, 2012


This assumes that I want the kind of politics liberal theists are selling. I don't. These people oppose my worldview, and the fact that I agree with them more than with conservative theists on a few issues doesn't change that.

I consider myself a liberal theist, and I don't oppose your worldview. I only oppose the fact that you want to eliminate my worldview.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:13 PM on April 25, 2012


....That is: I do if you're someone who has publically stated that religion should be done away with altogether. If you are not of that opinion, then my apologies.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:18 PM on April 25, 2012


I consider myself a liberal theist, and I don't oppose your worldview. I only oppose the fact that you want to eliminate my worldview.

I support religious freedom despite the fact that I think religion should be done away with altogether. Freedom of thought and expression is essential to building the kind of culture I want to live in, and that necessarily includes the freedom to think and speak in ways I oppose... and even in ways that oppose freedom, for that matter.

I'm not sure what else you want from people like me, save for no one to be against religion in the first place... and if you want everyone to have your outlook on religion and not mine, then it does sound as if you oppose my worldview just as much I as oppose yours.
posted by vorfeed at 1:53 PM on April 25, 2012


I support religious freedom despite the fact that I think religion should be done away with altogether. Freedom of thought and expression is essential to building the kind of culture I want to live in, and that necessarily includes the freedom to think and speak in ways I oppose... and even in ways that oppose freedom, for that matter.

Okay, then; may I observe, though, that based on some of the statements you have made in here, and to others on the site, that the fact that you support religious freedom is, frankly, something of a surprise?

I'm not sure what else you want from people like me, save for no one to be against religion in the first place...

I"m not sure what it is you mean BY "people like you." If by "people like me," you mean "atheists," then I don't want anything especially from the entirety of atheistkind, because y'all are different. If by "people like you" you mean "aggresive anti-theists," then the only thing I think'd be cool is if some compassion towards the individual theists you were speaking to could be mixed in WITH the statements against religion itself, is all.

If by "people like me" you mean "MeFites," then I dunno. Beans?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:19 PM on April 25, 2012


Okay, then; may I observe, though, that based on some of the statements you have made in here, and to others on the site, that the fact that you support religious freedom is, frankly, something of a surprise?

I'm probably one of the staunchest First Amendment types on the site. As I've pointed out before, religious freedom is the reason why I'm allowed to speak out against religion; I'd be a fool to oppose it.

I"m not sure what it is you mean BY "people like you." If by "people like me," you mean "atheists," then I don't want anything especially from the entirety of atheistkind, because y'all are different. If by "people like you" you mean "aggresive anti-theists," then the only thing I think'd be cool is if some compassion towards the individual theists you were speaking to could be mixed in WITH the statements against religion itself, is all.

I meant, as you yourself put it, "someone who has publically stated that religion should be done away with altogether". As for compassion, I'm always pretty polite here; to my knowledge I've never had a single anti-religious comment deleted. If that's not good enough, I guess you can me-mail me about it, as we've already derailed the thread enough.
posted by vorfeed at 10:29 PM on April 25, 2012




We Are All Nuns
posted by homunculus at 11:41 AM on April 30, 2012


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