While everyone is paying attention to Greece and Spain, Italy is teetering on the brink. Some pundits say that the real fate of the Eurozone lies in Italy’s ability to weather the current economic winds. It occurred to me that I did not know whether the Vatican was part of the EU. It is not, but, oddly, its currency is the Vatican Euro which is made in Rome.
With brand names like Prada, Ferrari, and Armani continuing to do well, Italy may come through just fine. That is not why I raised the subject. It is pretty clear to anyone who knows anything about the Vatican why that sovereign state would eschew EU membership. Legendary accumulated wealth and perennially resurfacing Vatican Bank scandals hint at roiling financial and economic storms beneath the serene surface. A two thousand year history of borderline incestuous relations with European royalty may have established much of the Vatican’s wealth, but a side effect might be the belief that the tiny city-state gets to dictate what happens politically in other countries. When Vatican officials tried to bitch-slap American nuns recently, the nuns not only stood their ground, but, in an all-American huff, decided to take their message on the road.
Published: June 5, 2012
In a spirited retort to the Vatican, a group of Roman Catholic nuns is planning a bus trip across nine states this month, stopping at homeless shelters, food pantries, schools and health care facilities run by nuns to highlight their work with the nation’s poor and disenfranchised.
Doug Mills/The New York Times
Sister Simone Campbell is organizing a bus tour to draw attention to nuns’ work with the poor and to protest planned aid cuts.
Doug Mills/The New York Times
The bus’s decal.
The bus tour is a response to a blistering critique of American nuns released in April by the Vatican’s doctrinal office, which included the accusation that the nuns are outspoken on issues of social justice, but silent on other issues the church considers crucial: abortion and gay marriage.
I am reminded of this incident.
By ROBERT HANLEY, Special to the New York Times
Published: October 08, 1988
Five cloistered nuns are protesting at their monastery here over the relaxation of rigid monastic lifestyles rooted in the 16th century.
Since Tuesday, the five have secluded themselves in the monastery’s second-floor infirmary, fearful they face eviction from the monastery because of their opposition to the recent introduction of a television, classical music and brighter lighting in the prayer chapel.
To the five sisters, these 20th-century society elements are distractions to their dedication to solitude, silence and daily contemplative prayer, and the abandonment of the reclusive principles of their order, the Discalced Carmelite Nuns, founded in 1562.
A brilliant friend, mentor, and colleague of mine, a naturalized American able to see our culture through eyes more objective than our own and trained in anthropology, and I were driving past that cloister a few years later. “I wish I could have spoken to the Pope during that stand-off,” she said. “He didn’t realize he was dealing with protestant nuns.” Her larger thesis was that all Americans, regardless of the religious tradition in which we are raised, are essentially protestants. It’s what we do. We protest. Our nation was born in protest and the founders enshrined that right in the very first amendment to our constitution. That is the importance they lent to the role of protest in our infant culture.
Sister Simone Campbell and her bus mates along with Sister Margaret Farley (whom the Vatican officials appear to regard as a ring leader in all of this disruption to their traditional message of vilification for the practices of birth control and gay marital union) stand with the grand majority of Roman Catholic American nuns who have not missed the connections between these practices and the economic health of the greater society. Gay marriage more than affords equal rights to gay couples. It permits medical coverage, pension and social security benefits to dependents of those marriages – benefits that parties to straight marriage accept without the blink of an eye – to which, in fact, they feel entitled. Birth control permits reproductive responsibility in families that calculate their fiscal ability to support a family at $235,000 per child per year 0 – 17 years (not including post secondary education).
The nuns are very much part of the fabric of American life. Their long tradition of working on the ground with children and families allows them insights that men isolated in Vatican enclaves cannot possibly appreciate. The Nuns on the Bus are out to educate Americans – voting citizens (which Vatican officials are not) – as to the dangers inherent in the proposed Ryan budget. Les eminences grises could learn a thing or two from them as well. American nuns have been educating Americans for more than two hundred years. We applaud this effort by our all-American protestant Catholic nuns. Go Sisters!!!!!!