Posts Tagged ‘Nuns on the Bus’

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.

US nuns call for more dialogue with the Vatican

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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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.

Nuns, Rebuked by Rome, Plan Road Trip to Spotlight Social Issues

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.

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I am reminded of this incident.

5 Nuns in New Jersey Break Away Over Break With Tradition

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.

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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!!!!!!

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