I think my BFF, Kim, likes to increase my blood pressure at times.
Yesterday she sent me a link to read and watch with a note saying she would love me to blog about this. The link was regarding a controversial book written by a Religious Sister on Sexuality. The Vatican has criticized this book because it is written contrary to Catholic teaching on sexuality. In the defense of the author, from the article:
Farley said Monday she never intended the book to reflect current official Catholic teaching. Rather, she said, she wrote it to explore sexuality via various religious traditions, theological resources and human experience.
This is the latest in a string of issues seeming to divide the Catholic Church… again. This time, the divide is among the liberal-leaning “Magisterum of Nuns” Religious Sisters of the Leadership Council of Women Religious (LCWR) and the Vatican. (and before you ask, I haven’t read much on the drama with the Vatican and the butler… that’s next.)
As a quick aside, we have to clarify: Nuns and Religious Sisters are NOT the same. From A Nuns’ Life:
A Catholic nun is a woman who lives as a contemplative life in a monastery which is usually cloistered (or enclosed) or semi-cloistered. Her ministry and prayer life is centered within and around the monastery for the good of the world. She professes the perpetual solemnvows living a life according to the evangelical counsels of poverty, celibacy, and obedience. Check out the Carmelite Nuns of Baltimore for example.
A Catholic sister is a woman who does lives, ministers, and prays within the world. A sister’s life is often called “active” or “apostolic” because she is engaged in the works of mercy and other ministries that take the Gospel to others where they are. She professes perpetualsimple vows living a life according to the evangelical counsels of poverty, celibacy, and obedience. Check out my community, the IHM Sisters of Monroe, Michigan
Appearance wise, nuns tend to wear habits and veils. Religious Sisters tend not to. But I don’t believe there is a hard and fast rule. Also, some semi-cloisered nuns are out in the world. A good example is the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia out of Nashville TN. They were some of the teachers at the Catholic school at our Parish in Missouri. As far as those in the consecrated life having to do with the Vatican, according to the Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata 46:
A great task also belongs to the consecrated life in the light of the teaching about the Church as communion, so strongly proposed by the Second Vatican Council. Consecrated persons are asked to be true experts of communion and to practise the spirituality of communion as “witnesses and architects of the plan for unity which is the crowning point of human history in God’s design”.The sense of ecclesial communion, developing into a spirituality of communion,promotes a way of thinking, speaking and acting which enables the Church to grow in depth and extension. The life of communion in fact “becomes a sign for all the world and a compelling force that leads people to faith in Christ … In this way communion leads to mission, and itself becomes mission”; indeed, “communion begets communion: in essence it is a communion that is missionary“. In founders and foundresses we see a constant and lively sense of the Church,which they manifest by their full participation in all aspects of the Church’s life, and in their ready obedience to the Bishops and especially to the Roman Pontiff. Against this background of love towards Holy Church, “the pillar and bulwark of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15), we readily understand the devotion of Saint Francis of Assisi for “the Lord Pope”,the daughterly outspokenness of Saint Catherine of Siena towards the one whom she called “sweet Christ on earth”,the apostolic obedience and the sentire cum Ecclesia of Saint Ignatius Loyola,and the joyful profession of faith made by Saint Teresa of Avila: “I am a daughter of the Church”.We can also understand the deep desire of Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus: “In the heart of the Church, my mother, I will be love”.These testimonies are representative of the full ecclesial communion which the Saints, founders and foundresses, have shared in diverse and often difficult times and circumstances. They are examples which consecrated persons need constantly to recall if they are to resist the particularly strong centrifugal and disruptive forces at work today.A distinctive aspect of ecclesial communion is allegiance of mind and heart to the Magisterium of the Bishops, an allegiance which must be lived honestly and clearly testified to before the People of God by all consecrated persons, especially those involved in theological research, teaching, publishing, catechesis and the use of the means of social communication.Because consecrated persons have a special place in the Church, their attitude in this regard is of immense importance for the whole People of God. Their witness of filial love will give power and forcefulness to their apostolic activity which, in the context of the prophetic mission of all the baptized, is generally distinguished by special forms of cooperation with the Hierarchy.In a specific way, through the richness of their charisms, consecrated persons help the Church to reveal ever more deeply her nature as the sacrament “of intimate union with God, and of the unity of all mankind”.
If you read through all of that, you deserve a cookie. Basically it says that those who are called to a consecrated life and are out in the public have to remember that they are essentially the face of the Catholic Church. They are to remain obedient to the Bishops and the Roman Pontiff (aka The Pope) and that they (Brothers, Sisters, Monks, Nuns) are to be in communion and in allegiance with the Magisterium of Bishops. Therein lies the divide.
The LCWR has been criticized by the Vatican for not following the doctrine of the Catholic Church at best, and at worst, just making up their own rules and teachings. The media has painted this as the Vatican saying “You Sisters are spending too much time with the poor and indignant and not teaching about the evils of Same Sex Marriage and abortion!” This is not the case. The Vatican never wants us to stop caring for the poor, but not by sacrificing the other church teachings. The Vatican wants ALL of Catholic teaching to be taught, not just the stuff that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. If you are professing your love for Christ by becoming a Religious Sister… you have to follow the rules. Period.
That leads to my next point. In the same link sent, there was an interview with Sister Maureen Fielder, host of the public radio program “Interfaith Voices,” and member of LCWR. Needless to say, this video seriously got my blood a-boiling! (Please remember, I am one of those odd traditional/ conservative Catholics. I believe in a sort of feminism in which female nature should be embraced, not made into psuedo-masculine byproduct. And, I won’t lie… my biggest struggle with Church teaching is the teaching on same-sex marriage. I don’t understand it fully, meaning I understand the words and the teaching but I have yet to fully understand it in my heart.)
If you don’t have time or the desire to watch the video, here’s a quote from her, from the article accompanying the video:
”This is about what kind of a Catholic Church we’re going to be,” she said. “Because when I hear Vatican mandate, what I hear is the voice of the church of 19th Century, the voice of the church before that wonderful reforming council, the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, when it was exhilarating to be a Catholic in those days, when the windows were open and fresh air was let into the church. That’s what nuns today have embraced, is that kind of a church. Not a dictatorial one, but a collaborative one.”
So, according to Sister Fielder, “nuns today” have embraced a more collaborative church rather than an antiquated 19th Century dictatorial Church. She goes on to compare the assignation of an archbishop to oversee/ revamp the LCWR as a “hostile takeover,” and in her eyes, the LCWR should become a separate non-profit as the Vatican and Catholic Church are behind the times and out of touch. In her opinion, there should be a “Vatican III” to encourage more participation by the laity and a move to make the Church more democratic.
Here’s the thing:
The Catholic Church is NOT a democracy. If nothing else, it’s one of the last remaining monarchies out there… with God as supreme ruler and king. (How many of you thought I was going to say the Pope?) God then calls those He would like to be his human voices here on Earth. Yes, these men and women are fallible and yes, they can and will make mistakes, but they are still called by God. And there is a bit of democracy within the Catholic Church… after all, the next Pope is elected by the College of Cardinals by a vote.
Believe it or not some people, like me, actually LIKE that about the church. You know that saying “Too many cooks spoil the pot?” To me, that’s what democracy does to religion. When everyone has a different opinion of how things should be run and as different people come into power, there is the risk of church doctrine changing on a whim or even better, with the times or with what is popular NOW. I like knowing that if our Pastor retires, a new priest is assigned to our parish… a priest who has sworn allegiance to the Pope and to Catholic teaching. I like knowing that there isn’t an inner circle of people in our church charged with picking the “right” person or the person with the most popular view points to lead our flock. I like knowing that I can walk into a Catholic Church ANYWHERE in the world and know what’s going on. The Catholic Church is a constant in a world in flux.
So, depending on the type of reader you are, you might be wondering… If things are so hunky-dory with the Catholic Church, what was the point of Vatican II? According to Vatican2Voice.org:
the Church attempted a study and an understanding of itself. That internal study involved a more overt return to its roots in Scripture and its early apostolic, sub-apostolic and patristic traditions. But it also began to emphasize it’s humanity: the Church is in the world but not over and against the world.
There are some Catholics who look at Vatican II as a sham and/or don’t even recognize it… but that’s another post for another time.
I, as a lay Catholic, do not know everything about Church doctrine or teachings… other than what I can look up in the CCC. This is going to sound VERY antiquated, but just like I tend not to elect a President based on if he or she is “just like me,” I like the fact that my Church doesn’t rely on the people to make decisions that are most popular or with the times. I want the head of my church to be more educated that I am, more read, more immersed in Scripture and in Tradition. The Catholic Church is not a popularity contest, it is not the cool kids clique. It is timeless. The Church is in the World, but that doesn’t mean that it’s OF the world.
So what can we do? We can pray for the women of the LCWR. We can pray for Wisdom for them, Wisdom for ourselves, Wisdom for the Priests, Bishops and Cardinals, Wisdom for the Holy Father.
Anger will get us nowhere. Griping about it will get us nowhere.
Prayer will get us somewhere.
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