Fellowship of Saints and Sinners

Fellowship of Saints and Sinners

Vatican “Nunsense”: Why Old “Habits” Die Hard

Catholic school never had been so fun, thanks to Sister Bernice.

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers…” – Genesis 3:15

“But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” – Luke 24:11

I’ve been following with interest the Vatican’s crackdown on women religious and in particular one group of American nuns, the “Leadership Conference of Women Religious.”  There’s something laughably ironic here: only recently the Vatican was coming out with loud censures of the movie, “The Three Stooges,” for the movie’s caricatures of nuns as loose and naughty; now the Vatican is denouncing these same women in orders for their “unlicensed” theology, and with a similar effect; women like Elizabeth Johnson or Margaret Farley, brilliant, thoughtful theologians in their own right, are made to look like loose, naughty hussies with little respect for authority- “radical feminists” out to bring down centuries of church tradition.  (I guess the implicit assumption at play here is that you have to first belong to the family if you want to throw chauvinistic insults at the mothers and sisters of the household.)


Just last week the Franciscan friars became the first Catholic religious order to come to their sisters’ aid, calling the Vatican’s crackdown on the women “excessive.”  I applaud this move, and hope it signifies the beginning of more support in the direction of genuine, mutual dialogue in which power and authority are no longer wielded as weapons but as instruments in service of truth and love.

That said, I’m also pessimistic in my optimism here.  The Bible describes the reality of the world we live in as one in which, after the Fall, men and women’s enmity against one another is an abiding sign of their accursed state.  This world is one in which men do not believe their female friends and sisters- even when these women bring joy-filled tidings of a God who has conquered the grave out of love for us.  The men dismiss their accounts as mere “idle tales.”


Does this reality justify complacence with the order of things? I don’t think so.  The kingdom of God is a place in which there is no male or female, Jew or Greek (Galatians 3:28).  It is an oasis where lambs peacefully lie down with leopards (Isaiah 11)- where, in fact, the one who rules is both the Lamb and the Lion of Judah (Revelation 5).

I am left wondering how we as brothers and sisters in Christ are to incarnate this kingdom of God when the conflicts before us, often in the form of hot-button issues such as abortion or gay marriage, threaten to undo us.  What does it look like to live as if our prayer, “thy kingdom come,” is coming true?  Maybe a realistic start is simply remembering how our world works and vowing to be different.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts below!



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