Joseph Ratzinger v. Catholic nuns' "quality of life"

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martin dufresne
Joseph Ratzinger v. Catholic nuns' "quality of life"

Excerpted from the New York Times, see full story at (free registration): http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/25/opinion/25dowd.html?em

The nuns' story
By columnist Maureen Dowd, October 25, 2009

Once, in the first grade, I was late for class. I started crying in the schoolyard, terrified to go in and face the formidable Sister Hiltruda. Father Montgomery, who looked like a handsome young priest out of a 1930s movie, found me cowering and took my hand, leading me into the classroom. Sister Hiltruda looked ready to pop, but she couldn't say a word to me, then or ever. There was no more unassailable patriarchy than the Catholic Church. Nuns were second-class citizens then and - 40 years after feminism utterly changed America - they still are. The matter of women as priests is closed, a forbidden topic.

In 2004, the cardinal who would become Pope Benedict XVI wrote a Vatican document urging women to be submissive partners, resisting any adversarial roles with men and cultivating "feminine values" like "listening, welcoming, humility, faithfulness, praise and waiting." Nuns need to be even more sepia-toned for the über-conservative pope, who was christened "God's Rottweiler" for his enforcement of orthodoxy ( . . . ).

The Vatican is now conducting two inquisitions into the "quality of life" of American nuns, a dwindling group with an average age of about 70, hoping to herd them back into their old-fashioned habits and convents and curb any speck of modernity or independence. Nuns who took Vatican II as a mandate for reimagining their mission "started to look uppity to an awful lot of bishops and priests and, of course, the Vatican," said Kenneth Briggs, the author of "Double Crossed: Uncovering the Catholic Church's Betrayal of American Nuns." The church enabled rampant pedophilia, but nuns who live in apartments and do social work with ailing gays? Sacrilegious! ( . . . ) "It's a tragedy because nuns are the jewels of the system," said Bob Bennett, the Washington lawyer who led the church's lay inquiry into the pedophilia scandal. "I was of the view that if they had been listened to more, some of this stuff wouldn't have happened."

As the Vatican is trying to wall off the "brides of Christ," Cask of Amontillado style, it is welcoming extreme-right Anglicans into the Catholic Church - the ones who are disgruntled about female priests and openly gay bishops. Il Papa is even willing to bend Rome's most doggedly held dogma, against married priests - as long as they're clutching the Anglicans' Book of Common Prayer. "Most of the Anglicans who want to move over to the Catholic Church under this deal are people who have scorned women as priests and have scorned gay people," Briggs said. "The Vatican doesn't care that these people are motivated by disdain." The nuns are pushing back a bit, but it's hard, since the church has decreed that women can't be adversarial to men. A nun writing in Commonweal as "Sister X" protests, "American women religious are being bullied." ( . . . )

When then-Cardinal Ratzinger was "The Enforcer" in Rome, he investigated and disciplined two American nuns. One, Jeannine Gramick, then of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, founded a ministry to reconcile gays with the church, which regards homosexual desires as "disordered." The other, Mary Agnes Mansour of the Sisters of Mercy, headed the Michigan Department of Social Services, which, among other things, paid for abortions for poor women ( . . . )