You’ve probably heard by now about the decision by the Roman Catholic Church to take over the largest order of nuns in the United States, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, because it has dared to focus more on helping the poor and the powerless than on abortion and attacking gay people. Gary Wills points out that the Vatican is letting far more unsavory characters back in the good graces of the church while pushing the nuns out the door:
Last week, following an assessment by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican stripped the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, representing most American nuns, of its powers of self-government, maintaining that its members have made statements that “disagree with or challenge the bishops, who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals.” Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle has taken control of the Conference, writing new laws for it, supplanting its leadership, and banning “political” activity (which is what Rome calls social work). Women are not capable, in the Vatican’s mind, of governing others or even themselves. Is it any wonder so many nuns have left the orders or avoided joining them? Who wants to be bullied?
It is typical of the pope’s sense of priorities that, at the very time when he is quashing an independent spirit in the church’s women, he is negotiating a welcome back to priests who left the church in protest at the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. These men, with their own dissident bishop, Marcel Lefebvre, formed the Society of Saint Pius X—the Pius whose Secretariat of State had a monsignor (Umberto Benigni) who promoted the Protocols of the Elder of Zion. Pope Benedict has already lifted the excommunication of four bishops in the Society of Saint Pius X, including that of Richard Williamson, who is a holocaust denier. Now a return of the whole body is being negotiated.
Pope Benedict fits in very well with his predecessors in his position.
None of the anti-Semitic ties of the Pius X crew matter to Rome, since that crew holds to the hard line against women priests, gay marriage, and contraception. They have also retained the Latin Mass, which Rome has been inching back toward. All these things, you see, are the work solely of male hierarchs, distrustful of the People of God—who are the church, as defined by the Second Vatican Council. Those Lefebvre defiers of the Council are all the things the nuns are not, and all the things Rome wants to restore. The real Gospel must be quashed in the name of the pseudo-Gospel of papal monarchs. Poor Anne O’Connor—she thought caring for the poor was what Jesus wanted. She did not live to see that what Rome wants is all that matters.
The RCC has long been a church divided. While the leadership has focused more and more obsessively on denying equality to women and gay people, there are thousands and thousands of priests and nuns who have devoted their lives to feeding the poor, aiding the sick and downtrodden, hiding and protecting political dissidents from brutal dictators and fighting for human rights. A perfect example of that split was the Third Reich, when the church hierarchy got in bed with Hitler while many brave priests and nuns helped hide Jews from his underlings, some losing their lives because of it.
Like Dispatches on Facebook: