The Department of Homegirl Security (DeHoS) took a stand solidly behind the Nuns on the Bus nearly two months ago. They are a handful of sisters with a social conscience who embarked on a tour in June to educate voters and politicians alike on the social, practical, and moral implications of the proposed Ryan budget as well as particular campaign platforms.
If you thought, however, that the Nuns on the Bus were some kind of radical, breakaway faction, think again.
Seth Perlman / AP
Outgoing President of The Leadership Conference of Women Religious Sister Pat Farrell, right, and president-elect Sister Florence Deacon, left, listen to questions from reporters Friday in St. Louis.
By Becky Bratu, NBC News
American nuns under fire from the Vatican said they will continue their dialogue with Catholic bishops “for as long as possible,” the group announced Friday as it wrapped a week of discussions and prayer at its yearly national assembly in St. Louis, Mo.
According to the National Catholic Reporter, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an umbrella organization representing about 80 percent of the 57,000 nuns in the United States, ”will reconsider if [they are] forced to compromise the integrity of [their] mission.”
Hours before the scheduled press conference, the organization’s president addressed its members, urging the sisters to be “truthful, but gentle and absolutely fearless,” according to the National Catholic Reporter.
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Did you see what I saw? They represent roughly eighty percent – that’s 80% – that is eight of every ten of all the nuns in the U.S. And they are at odds with the Vatican. Put another way, eight of every ten American nuns disagree with the pope, and the disagreement is over social issues. It is about challenges, in this economy, to families at risk, and their ability to make decisions about how many children they can afford to raise, and how they can limit risks to the family they already have.
The nuns have squared off, and tonight, for me, epiphany struck. A late, lamented colleague of mine and I often discussed the American Catholic Church. We agreed that it was a different church from the Roman Catholic Church in that Americans of all religions are also essentially Protestant. (For a larger discussion of this see Nuns on the Bus.)
It was the late-1980s. We were at a Krystalnacht memorial symposium at a Catholic women’s college. When the panel discussion ended, we hung back in the all-purpose room while the sisters came in to prepare for Mass. As they did so, I turned to her and asked, “Would you have a problem with any one of those women saying Mass?” She said no. But I felt we were second-class members of our Church, up against the men, and they would decide – against us.
American bishops are between a rock and a hard place. The Vatican is intransigent, but the nuns are resolved. The bishops have always sort of run an American Church, quietly and under the Vatican’s radar. My friend and I agreed that there could eventually be a schism. Here is where we were reprehensibly wrong. We thought it would be the bishops.
That was my epiphany tonight. Of course it will not be the men. Why didn’t I see that? It will be the women. It will be the nuns. The ones who taught us girls to sing the whole Mass when the boys went to altar boy practice because they knew we were envious that the boys were learning Latin, so they decided to teach us more Latin than the boys knew. Those were feminist nuns. They did not want us to be second-class.
Today’s nuns were my choirmates. Whether the issue is who gets to learn Latin (not really an issue anymore), serve Mass (girls can now, thank you Vatican II), SAY Mass, or who decides how many children a family will have, these nuns believe the answer lies in equality and access to current technology and medicine that should be universally available and used according to personal conscience and common sense. Serving as teachers, nurses, and social workers to the poor, they know the consequences of subjugation. They are not second-class religious. The Vatican is dealing with equals. The nuns will not be bowed.
Before this battle is over, I think we will see a woman lying face down on the floor taking Holy Orders. But even if we do not, the American Catholic Church will either have the blessing of the Vatican or have broken away. The Church needs vocations. They are out there, in earrings and pearls. They already tend flocks and know their needs. They are eminently qualified to pastor. They already do. They actually know how the flock works, what endangers it, and how to protect it better than the current shepherds do.
P.S. As I was writing this, the breaking news was that tomorrow Paul Ryan will be announced as Romney’s running mate. The sky is not falling – yet. But it might be a good idea to just smash that glass ceiling once and for all and put a leader on the top of the Dem ticket. You know – someone who can blast that GOP ticket to Mars along with that Ryan budget. You know who I mean.
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