|The Ya Ya Sisterhood could show the Vatican men a thing or two. So can the LCWR.|
I've been meaning to post this essay by Mary C Johnson for about a week, but between actual work, the latest Legion mess, the Vatileaks and Vatican Bank stories, I almost forgot that the LCWR Board meets the end of this week to determine a response, or non response, to the Vatican's CDF investigation mandate. The following is an excerpt of this longer article.
The Vatican Lays A Cunning Trap For American NunsMary C Johnson - Huffington Post - 5/21/5012
At the end of this month, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious will meet to formulate a response to a Vatican trap whose cunning is best appreciated within the long tradition of religious authorities who craft impossible dilemmas for those they perceive as threats.
Two millennia ago, the chief priests sent someone to ask Jesus, "Should we pay taxes?" If Jesus said yes, he would pit himself against Jewish resistance to Roman occupation and therefore, in Jewish eyes, against God. If he said no, the Romans could execute him for sedition. Instead, Jesus famously replied, "Render to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's."
In the 15th century, Joan of Arc's ecclesiastical inquisitors asked her, "Do you know yourself to be in God's grace?" If Joan answered yes, she would commit heresy because the Church had long taught that no one could be certain of being in God's grace; if no, they could interpret her answer as an admission of guilt. Joan looked them in the eyes and replied, "If I am not in God's grace, may God put me there; if I am, may God so keep me."
Today, the Vatican tells the women of the LCWR, "Submit to our oversight and control of your every action for the next five years." The Vatican's official "or else" clause remains unstated but clear to all involved. "Submit to our authority, or call yourselves Catholic no longer."......
......In the 50 years following the Second Vatican Council, the American sisters represented by the LCWR have engaged in discernment and renewal, a process initiated by decree of the popes and bishops at the Council. Not without controversy from Catholics nostalgic for long habits and authoritarian discipline, LCWR Sisters have abandoned traditions that infantilized their members. They've educated themselves, many earning advanced degrees. Inspired by the examples of Jesus and the founders of their religious communities, they moved into ministries with people on the margins: prisoners, the homeless, women, gay and lesbian people, immigrants.
And yes, some of them have occasionally spoken to advocate for gay rights, for women's ordination, for a healthcare plan the bishops opposed. Throughout the process, the LCWR has sought "to develop leadership, promote collaboration within church and society, and serve as a voice for systemic change." The Vatican hasn't been happy to see women blossom as real leaders and they especially don't like that "systemic change" stuff......
.......Now the Vatican is telling these women they're not Catholic enough.
If the LCWR submits to Sartain's oversight, they assent to being treated as ecclesiastic children who don't know what's best for them; they relinquish the haven they've created to challenge and support each other. As Sister Jeannnine Grammick, founder of New Ways Ministry, a group that works with gay and lesbian Catholics and has been cited in the Vatican assessment, told The New Republic, "If we comply, if we submit to what is being asked by the Vatican, it would be a repudiation of all the renewal that we've done in religious life. I don't believe that nuns will say we can do that."
If they don't submit, if the sisters disband the LCWR and regroup in a configuration beyond Church control, then the official Church will claim that they aren't really Catholic any more. If the Vatican would declare any group of sisters to be outside the Catholic Church, then those sisters might risk losing anything their communities had accrued over the years -- housing, savings, medical care.
Even more significantly for many, sisters who have never considered themselves anything but Catholic would find themselves banished.
The sisters of the LCWR face two basic choices: submission or exile.
Like Jesus, like Joan of Arc, the sisters may find a way to reframe the discussion -- or they may choose not to respond at all. I'm afraid that ultimately it won't matter. The religious authorities of their days didn't really care how Jesus and Joan responded; in the end, they had Jesus crucified and Joan burned at the stake. In service of Vatican power and the moral authority the bishops claim is theirs alone, what harm is there in inconveniencing a few old nuns? (Yea, really, what's a little elder abuse on top of all the other abuses perpetrated by this hierarchy on lay Catholics? In for a penny, in for a pound.)
As the sisters gather to formulate their response, their years of prayer and discernment will serve them well. These are strong, centered women placed in an impossible position by powerful men who feel threatened. May Jesus and Joan show them the way.
I find both the response of Jesus to the Chief Priests and St Joan's response to her inquisitors brilliant not just because they answered cunning questions, but because they separated out some real truth. As I look at this LCWR problem, separating out the real truth is not going to be as easy, but the sisters could try a response along these lines: "We give to Jesus the obedience that is Jesus' and to our order the obedience that is our orders'. This might work because the Vatican is demanding obedience from the umbrella group the LCWR, and not the individual orders, and secondly sisters do not take vows to the Pope or any bishop. This way the orders themselves could demand their membership drop out of the LCWR agreeing with the CDF that the LCWR was, oh I don't know, somewhat unwieldy. That would put Archbishop Sartain in the position of supervising an organization that no longer exists. Should the CDF then push the issue, they would look foolish. On the other hand, looking foolish does not seem to be a problem for the men of the hierarchy. They are on something of a role with this 'looking foolish thing'.
Once the members of the LCWR made themselves ex members of the LCWR, they could then agree to meet informally once or twice a year for tea and chocolate and a chat around a camp fire. Kind of like the Ya Ya Sisterhood:
Little Vivi: These are the headdresses of the queens that have gone before us. They come from Indian holy ground... the jungles of the ancients... prairies of the Norwegians... and the forests of the mighty Amazons. The royal crowns of our people.
[pouring something from a jar into a glass]
Little Vivi: This is the blood of our people, the wolf people, the alligator people, and the moon women from which we gain our strength to rule all worlds.
[Hands glass to Little Teensy. Little Teensy shakes head no]
Little Vivi: It's ok, it's just chocolate.
Little Vivi: Teensy Melissa Whitman: I declare you, Princess-Naked-As-A-Jaybird.
Little Teensy: [whispers] Ah Cha Cha!
Little Vivi: [turns to Little Caro] Caro Eliza Bennett: I declare you, Duchess Soaring Hawk.
[turns to Little Necie]
Little Vivi: Necie Rose Kelleher: I declare you, Countess Singing Cloud. And I: Viviane Joan Abbott, am hereby and forever Queen Dancing Creek.
[pulls a knife out of a shield]
Little Necie: Now, wait just one second y'all... I don't think we should be cutting ourselves with that knife...
Little Vivi: Silence!
[nicks her hands with knife and passes it down to Little Teensy]
Little Vivi: We are the flames of the fires, the whirling of the winds. We are the waters of the rains and the rivers and the oceans. We are the rocks and the stones. And now by the power invested in me, I declare we are the mighty Ya-Ya priestesses. Let no man put us under. Now our blood flows through each other as it's done for all eternity. Loyal forever. We raise our voices in the words of Mumbo Gumbo... YA-YA!
All little Ya-Ya's: YA-YA!
No offense intended, but you get my drift. Who needs men supervising them when they have been "the flames of the fires, the whirling of the winds, the waters of the rains and river and oceans. They are the rocks and the stone......and the blood that built the American Church. Amen Sisters. YEA-YEA!