Sisters are doing it for themselves

So President Bush (the first one) was rallying for a war with Iraq (also the first one) and Pope John Paul (the second one) issued a strongly worded condemnation of such a war as unjust.

I was in a room filled with formidable women who had themselves been opposing the march to war using much the same language the pope was now using. They were very pleased with his statement. Someone suggested they might include a quote from that statement in the group’s newsletter.

A spirited conversation followed. On the one hand, the effort to stop this war needed all the support it could get, and since the pope is quite well-known, quoting his statement might be helpful. But on the other hand, this wasn’t the only matter the pope had issued pronouncements on, and many of his other statements were decidedly less constructive. Quoting the pope in the newsletter might create the impression that the group was endorsing all of his views, reinforcing the notion that his every opinion ought to be closely followed.

This latter, more cautious, view was shared by the majority of those present, and the group decided it would be more prudent not to include the pope’s statement in the newsletter.

Such was my introduction to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

The LCWR — the nuns, the sisters, the largest umbrella group for women’s orders in the U.S. — are an impressive bunch. They’re some of the smartest, toughest and holiest Christians I’ve ever had the privilege of meeting.

That these numerous orders of women religious exist at all is kind of inspiring. These are women called by God who had to build and sustain their own alternative structures, institutions and ministries just to be allowed to follow that calling. These are women who were called to ministry and called to leadership. When the Church decreed that men should enjoy a monopoly on ministry and leadership, these women went out and created a thriving black market of their own — an underground economy in which, for centuries, the hungry have been fed, the naked have been clothed, the sick have been tended and good news has been given to the poor.

It seems the male monopoly finds this threatening:

The Vatican has appointed an American bishop to rein in the largest and most influential group of Catholic nuns in the United States, saying that an investigation found that the group had “serious doctrinal problems.”

The Vatican’s assessment, issued on Wednesday, said that members of the group, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, had challenged church teaching on homosexuality and the male-only priesthood, and promoted “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”

The sisters were also reprimanded for making public statements that “disagree with or challenge the bishops, who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals.”*

The National Catholic Reporter brings us the response from Sr. Joan Chittister, whose views I would guess are widely shared among the LCWR and the orders it represents:

“Within the canonical framework, there is only one way I can see to deal with this,” said Benedictine Sr. Joan Chittister, who has served as president of the group as well as in various leadership positions. … “They would have to disband canonically and regroup as an unofficial interest group.

“That would be the only way to maintain growth and nourish their congregational charisms and the charism of the LCWR, which is to help religious communities assess the signs of the time. If everything you do has to be approved by somebody outside, then you’re giving your charism away, and you’re certainly demeaning the ability of women to make distinctions.”

… Chittister said she was deeply distraught at news of Sartain’s appointment and the order for LCWR to revise itself.

“When you set out to reform a people, a group, who have done nothing wrong, you have to have an intention, a motivation that is not only not morally based, but actually immoral,” she said.

“Because you are attempting to control people for one thing and one thing only — and that is for thinking, for being willing to discuss the issues of the age … If we stop thinking, if we stop demanding the divine right to think, and to see that as a Catholic gift, then we are betraying the church no matter what the powers of the church see as an inconvenient truth in their own times.”

In attempting to take such control of people’s thinking, she said, “You make a mockery of the search for God, of the whole notion of keeping eyes on the signs of the times and of providing the people with the best possible spiritual guidance and presence you can give.

“When I was a child in this town, I was taught that it was a sin to go into a Protestant church. In my lifetime, the church, to its eternal credit, admitted that it was wrong. The scandal and the sin is that it took 400 years to do that.”

Chittister said women religious have been trying since Vatican II “to help the church avoid that kind of darkness and control … they have been a gift to the church in their leadership and their love and their continuing fidelity.

“When you set out to reform that kind of witness, remember when it’s over who doomed the church to another 400 years of darkness. It won’t be the people of the church who did it.”

Chittister’s response is rather tactful and employs a good bit of theological language and some profound theological argument. But what it boils down to is pretty much the same as Gen. McAuliffe’s terse reply to the Germans’ ultimatum at Bascogne.

More links and reactions after the jump.

Maureen Fiedler: “The ultimatum to LCWR

Last Saturday, I was privileged to attend the 40th Anniversary dinner of NETWORK, the Catholic social justice lobby founded by nuns 40 years ago. Since 1972, this organization has done stellar work on the Hill advocating for social justice, the needs of the poor, world peace and the earth itself.

It was a wonderful gathering, and LCWR leaders were very visible and vocal in their praise of NETWORK — and well they might be. Here was a gathering of the real leaders of our church for the future, members of religious communities: nuns, co-members, associates and wonderful friends.

Now, we get news from the Vatican, appointing an archbishop to lead what they dare to call “renewal” of LCWR. When you look at the specifics, it’s more like dismantling, if LCWR actually does any of it.

Joshua J. McElwee: “Options facing LCWR stark, canon lawyers say

As the largest leadership organization for U.S. women religious begins to discern what steps to take following news Wednesday that the Vatican has ordered it to reform and to place itself under the authority of an archbishop, experts say the options available to the group are stark.

Ultimately, several canon lawyers told NCR, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious has two choices: Either comply with the order or face ouster as a Vatican-recognized representative of sisters in the United States.

Aphra Behn: “Nothing Says You Value Women Like Siccing the Inquisition on Nuns!

So, you’re going to discipline some of the only figures within the Catholic leadership who are (a) women and (b) consistently serving the health and defending the humanity of women? Well, that gives me all kinds of warm fuzzies about the Vatican’s care and concern for anyone who isn’t a patriarchal man-type!

… Catholic nuns are not a monolith, nor are they perfect. As individuals and as orders, religious women have participated in their fair share of religious oppressions and abuses of power, in the U.S. and around the world. But it is undeniable that Catholic religious women have also been historically one of the few female voices allowed to even speak to the male-dominated power structure of the Catholic church. While far from the “radical feminists” presented in the hostile imaginings of conservative Catholic clergy, members of the LCWR provide an important alternative to the radically misogynist and homophobic teachings of the current Catholic leadership.

That they are to be silenced for their efforts on behalf of those on the receiving end of kyriarchal oppression is profoundly depressing, and profoundly revealing.

See also:


* For Christ’s sake, what will it take before these people realize that the current crop of bishops has zero credibility and that it’s an unholy blasphemy to call such men “the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals”?

If culpability in decades of child-rape doesn’t diminish the bishops’ sense of their own righteousness and moral authority, what would?

I don’t have a hyperbolic punchline there. I can’t readily think of anything worse — of anything more egregiously reprehensible and universally condemned compared to which the bishops’ years of enabling child-rape might seem relatively less evil. Nothing can make it seem so. Children were tormented. They knew this. They allowed this. For generations.

If these bishops were in prison, they would be at the bottom of the pecking order. Their fellow inmates — mere murderers, thieves, drug dealers, muggers and addicts — would all regard these bishops as their moral inferiors. They would not be wrong.

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  • Cathy W

    One thing that astonished me about this report was that it criticized the sisters for spending too much time and energy on social justice and poverty.  Can’t large chunks of the Bible be summed up as “Hey! You! You are not spending enough time and energy on social justice and poverty! You might want to do something about that!”

  • Sagrav

    Those parts of the Bible don’t mean much to Church leadership anymore.  Their current focus is almost exclusively sex, control, and… controlling sex.  Though not pedophilia, apparently.  No, that just gets you a slap on the wrist and a quiet relocation to a new parish.  

    Then they sic Phil Donahue of the Catholic League on the victims.

  • Lliira

    Pedophilia is okay if you’re a man with power in the church hierarchy. Men with hierarchical power aren’t the ones they’re trying to control, because they are men with hierarchical power. They want men who have been approved by other men to control everyone else’s bodies — that’s what the world is supposed to be. But they wouldn’t dream of telling those men what they’re allowed to do with their own bodies or with anyone else’s. 

    Men raping children is really not so bad to them. Yeah, the men broke their oath of celibacy to the Church, just as they would have if they had masturbated, so in that way they’ve sinned. But men — men with power — own everyone else sexually, so condemning them for doing anything sexual to someone else who is not a man with power is precisely the same as condemning them for masturbating. Everyone else exists for the use of men, so what we might want or not want has no meaning.

    Whereas if a man wants to do do something sexual with another man — well, wait. It’s not possible to do something sexual with someone. It has to be one person doing something to someone else. Someone always has to be in control, and someone else must therefore not have any control whatsoever. (Consensual domination this is not.) And men being controlled sexually is anathema — men are supposed to be doing the controlling. 

  • Alan Alexander

     Then they sic Phil Donahue of the Catholic League on the victims.

    William Donahue.  Phil Donahue is someone quite different and demonstrably better by several orders of magnitude.

  • LL

    Small point of order: wrong Donahue. The hateful asshole from the Catholic League is Bill Donahue. 

    Phil Donahue is the former jocular talk show host and likely not a huge fan of the Vatican or the other Donahue. 

  • Michael Pullmann

    I’m reminded of the Harlequin’s reply to the Tick-Tock Man, myself.

  • Jeff Weskamp

    “If culpability in decades of child-rape doesn’t diminish the bishops’ sense of their own righteousness and moral authority, what would?”

    Sacrificing newborn infants to Cthulhu or Nyarlathotep, maybe?

  • emilyperson

    “If culpability in decades of child-rape doesn’t diminish the bishops’ sense of their own righteousness and moral authority, what would?”

    Sacrificing newborn infants to Cthulhu or Nyarlathotep, maybe?

    Probably, but I fear that’s only because sacrificing children to Nyarlathotep is all, like, pagan, and we can’t have that. Children can only be sacrificed to members of the hierarchy, don’chaknow.

  • Marc Mielke

    I don’t think Nyarlathotep would have any problem passing himself off as one of the saints, or maybe even JC himself!

  • Zozo

    Fred, I appreciate how frequently and consistently you recognize the gap between the beliefs of “the Catholic Church” re: gays, abortion, birth control, the role of women, etc. and the beliefs of actual Catholics, which tend to be considerably more progressive.

    I just wish I knew any of those Catholics. My Facebook feed is full of people who decry victims of child abuse as “slanderers,” “attention-seekers,” and — I don’t even really want to type this — “agents of Satan sent to undermine His Holiness by spreading sensational gossip and lies.” Does the Church protect and enable child rapists? That’s not the point! The poor beleaguered pontiff is the subject of a “smear campaign”!

    These nuns, as I have learned from Facebook, aren’t doing God’s work advocating for the poor and needy, because God’s work is whatever the Church says it is. If they don’t fall in line ASAP, they’re heretics, apostates, “rebels without a cause” (?!?!), and they’re definitely not Real True Catholics.

    A significant number of Catholics — maybe even a majority in North America — may lean towards the liberal side of social issues, but trust me, there are plenty who’d follow Ratzinger into a new Crusades. And I’m related to them.

  • emilyperson

     I’d say we have the same relatives, but mine don’t know how to use the Internet. They don’t worship YHWH; they worship their own religion. And half the time they get it wrong — for example, the RCC has admitted evolution actually happened, but when anyone tries to point that out to them, they say something like, “No, you’re mistaken. You shouldn’t believe in evolution.”

  • Zozo

     “They don’t worship YHWH; they worship their own religion.”

    Thank you. I couldn’t possibly have said it better myself.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    I just wish I knew any of those Catholics.

    Hi! Allow me to introduce myself, and the large majority of Catholics (including clergy) I know.

    Caveat: we’re not in North America, where religion seems to be intimately tied and subjugated to the wars between political parties.

  • Liz Coleman

    Allow me to introduce myself as well, (and I am in America). A family member is a nun, and indeed holds all kinds of horrible beliefs like “gays are ok” and “women should be priests”. One particularly snowy Christmas, my family was having dinner at her convent along with a few elderly nuns who had lost power in their homes. These were women who had spent their lives on the streets of San Francisco helping victims of AIDS.  And the hierarchy wants to delegitimize these women?

    Also: Archbishop Hunthausen of Seattle:

    Hunthausen came to my church a lot as I was growing up, I think he even confirmed me, and when I reached my teens and started to question and despise my faith, I assumed that he was just another dickish patriarch. I didn’t know there were people within Catholicism who were like that. If I had known that, it might not have taken me a decade to start calling myself Catholic again.

    Yes, there are lots of culture warriors among the Catholics (e.g., Rick Santorum) but there also lots of equally motivated people who know there are more important things to worry about. When I’m around my aunt and her sisters, I feel perfectly safe, even though I hold some pretty darned unorthodox beliefs. They don’t preach hellfire* and hatred, or make excuses.  Probably plenty of them do believe that abortion or that gay sex is wrong, but they don’t make a big deal about it, and they know that universal love is the highest virtue.

    *When I went to church with a friend in Northern Ireland, where the priest was particularly frothy in his homily, I suddenly realized why people had the image they do of Catholicism.

  • Tricksterson

    What do you think he would have to say about this?  Or is he still alive?

  • Edo Owaki

    He’s still alive. He was just promoted to overseeing a monastery in Montana after some church politics…

  • Tricksterson

    That anything like being sent to the Antarctic brach of the Justice League?

  • Edo Owaki

    Exactly like that. Which is why it happened.

  • histrogeek

    It wasn’t that long ago (10 years at most) that I assumed that the Catholic hierarchy had learned something from its tone-deaf statements of the 19th Century and its blatant, hypocritical power-mongering of the 16th and 17th Centuries. Not, that I thought the hierarchs were all pious or always theologically sane, just that they had learned enough about politics not to shot themselves in the head. Repeatedly.
    Seems I was wrong. JP2 might have know politics, some American bishops might have stumbled on common sense at times (even if both were still involved in criminal conspiracies to shield rapists), but they’re all gone now. Benny seems to think he’s living in the 15th Century (except he gets to stay in Rome instead of Avignon) and American bishops seem hell-bent on following the SBC into being the religious auxiliary of the GOP. And they can’t even bother to deal forthrightly with their own sins.
    Sigh, makes me glad to be an Anglican.

  • Tricksterson

    If the Church continues in this direction as i suspect it will expect to have a lot more company there.

  • AnonymousSam

    “What?! There are women advocating personal freedom and quality of life values?! Quickly, appoint an elderly white man to rein them back under control again! We’ll show those silly ducklings to stop following their majestic, glorious father swan. Who has a penis. That is big. And awesome.”

  • Tricksterson

    Ifrankly I don’t see why  women would feel any loyalty to an institution where they have no representation in the halls of authority and, for the foreseeable future, no hope of acheiving any.

  • AnonymousSam

    As much as I hate the way atheists bandy about the word “indoctrinated” with the same undertones as the word “brainwashed”…

    Actually, that’s not entirely fair. I’m sure plenty of them are in it for the same reasons any Christian is a part of their faith. Unfortunately, the Catholic church holds its own existence to be of greater value to that of faith itself, and that is why it is not truly a Christian organization.

  • P J Evans

     It’s a very long-lived bureaucracy, and it’s forgotten that it can die, just like everything else.

  • VMink

    A college friend of mine — the one who with a straight face said unironically “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” in relation to, not the Catholic hierarchy, but to feminist movements — will likely say something about this.  I am considering my reply now, because I fear that no matter what I say, I will be loosing him and possibly others as friends.

    And after this, I am just fine with that, as I am leaning towards hitting him verbally as HARD AS FUCKING POSSIBLE.

  • dxmachina

    Lord Acton, who is the source for ‘”power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”, turns out to have been a notable English Catholic.

    I wonder whom he was thinking about when he said it.

  • Lori

    These men have gone mad with power, and it is disgusting.  As a former Catholic who still has a lot of affection for the church, this makes me deeply sad, but also really glad I got the hell out.  Say what you want about the Episcopal Church being a dying denomination, at least we’re going down while (generally) trying to do the right thing.

  • reynard61

    Because it’s gonna get posted eventually:

    (Just replace “Jews”, “heretics”, etc. with “women” and/or “renegade nuns” where appropriate.)

  • Tricksterson

    I wonder if it was a coincidence that Brooks had Torquemada surround himself with a chorus line of young attractive monks?

  • pharoute

    “Nobody expects the Seattle Inquisition!”

    /props to my mom

  • Michael Chui

    I would probably find that funny if I had any idea what you were referring to?

  • FearlessSon

    I heard about this in my local Associated Press paper the other day, where it was a front-page story.  The reason for it being so front in this paper is apparently because the clergyman appointed to head the hierarchy’s “investigation committee” into this organization was local to the Seattle area.  On the one hand, I am disappointed that someone from my hometown would participate in this, on the other hand, the paper mentioned that he is well know as being politically and theologically moderate, so that gives me some hope he will judge fairly. 

    Because of course there is only one fair conclusion one can make about this:  What the hell are those bishops thinking? 

  • Tricksterson

    If there was any chance of him reaching a conclusion the bishops and cardinals didn’t want he wouldn’t have been appointed.

  • Diez

    I want the Catholic Church, as an institution, to die.

    I do not want the death of the Christian faith, or even the death of Catholicism.  I simply want the Pope and his cronies out of the picture.  I want the hierarchy to pull a Wile E. Coyote– to look down and suddenly realize there is nothing beneath them, that there hasn’t been for quite some time and that they’ve no one to blame but themselves.  One terrible moment of absolute self-awareness before the plunge and the grisly end.

    And then I want all the Catholic Churches to rejoice in the death of the Catholic Church, and to get on with doing God’s work in peace.

  • Deird

    The document also criticizes remarks by women religious that their disagreement with the church’s official teaching on certain topics could be considered prophetic, writing that such a notion is “based upon a mistaken understanding of the dynamic of prophecy in the Church” that “justifies dissent by positing the possibility of divergence between the Church’s magisterium and a ‘legitimate’ theological intuition of some of the faithful.”

    Just me, or does this sound like “Well, it can’t possibly be from God if it disagrees with us. So you’re not really prophecying – you’re just misunderstanding.” to anyone else?

  • Robyrt

    Yeah, pretty much – this theory goes back to Benedict XIV in the 18th century:

    He distinguishes between a prophet who enjoins or advises them, according to the universal laws of the Church, and a prophet who does the same without reference to those laws. In the first case every man may abound in his own sense whether or not to direct his actions according to the will of the prophet; in the second case a prophet is not to be listened to.

    This is just one of the problems that arises when you declare your organization to have guaranteed access to the truth.

  • Damanoid


    He distinguishes between a prophet who enjoins or advises them, according to the universal laws of the Church, and a prophet who does the same without reference to those laws. In the first case every man may abound in his own sense whether or not to direct his actions according to the will of the prophet; in the second case a prophet is not to be listened to.

    Boy, Captain Kirk could have destroyed the Catholic Church in about two minutes.”Listen carefully, Catholic Church!  I am a prophet, advising you from outside the laws of the church… and I advise you to obey those laws!””You are an outsider.  The law says that we cannot listen… but we must listen, for we must obey the law… The Church must not listen to an outsider… but without listening, the Church cannot identify an outsider…  therefore, the Church must break the law of the Church… error… error… does not compute…”  (CHURCH SPOUTS SMOKE FROM EARS AND FALLS OVER)

  • Charity Brighton

    What’s the minimum you can do in order to be branded as a “radical feminist” by the hierarchy here? Express approval of women’s suffrage?

  • VMink

    Considering that one of my friend’s parishoners said that women serving in uniform was ‘Satanic,’ I’d say that’d be a good minimum, yes.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    A person said women in the military and police is “Satanic”? My god, surely you’re joking. O.o

  • chris the cynic

    Exist as a fully human individual in public, while female.

    I think that more or less covers it.  They’re being condemned for having opinions of their own, as near as I can tell.  So the only way to not meet that bar is to not have opinions or not make them known.

  • Lliira

    Or in private. “Not tonight dear, I have a headache” makes you a radical feminist. For that matter, so does “I wanna have sex tonight.”

    On the fascism issue, here is what Umberto Eco had to say about the marks of fascism:

    The Catholic Church meets some of the criteria for Eco’s list of “Ur-Fascism,” but they are not fascist. They may have been a few hundred years ago, when they were completely intertwined with the state and started wars, but actually no, because fascism is a modern phenomenon. They are a powerful hierarchy without accountability. And that is something that is utterly destructive whether it says it’s from Jesus or Buddha or the state or science or a group of poets or Hollywood or…

  • chris the cynic

    I also somehow managed to miss the fact that the nuns are being condemned for not speaking up about abortion.  So it’s:
    Speak your mind == Radical feminist.
    Hold your tongue == Radical feminist.

    Apparently the only way out is to say exactly what they want you to say exactly when they want you to say it.

    I’d have a lot less problem with that if they’d just call it heresy and apply the same standard to both genders.  It’s not that I want oppressive attitudes to be more prevalent, it’s just that misogyny is so … I don’t know.  I lack the words.

    It’s saying, “You’re not allowed to think, AND you suck because you’re a woman.”

    I don’t really have anything to say in conclusion.

  • Baby_Raptor

    My (a tad extremist) Baptist grandparents call me a radical feminist because I believe that rape is actually a thing. 

    Their line is “The Bible never gives women the right to say no, so rape cannot actually be real.” 

  • Lliira

    A tad extremist?!

  • friendly reader


    And who was Dinah? And Tamar? Not to mention all the legal discussion in Leviticus of what to do if a woman is raped?

    Are you sure they don’t mean marital rape? I’ve heard of Christian groups arguing that “submitting to your husband” precludes martial rape,* but not rape in general.

    *Because forcing your wife to have sex with you so is in line with the part about loving and cherishing her that immediately follows that passage…

  • Baby_Raptor

    Oh, I’m sure. 

    During the big deal about Sharon Angle’s “raped women should make lemonade” comment, my grandfather said that she was right “because it’s not like women have any say anyway.” Just little gems like that. 

  • Alan Alexander

     During the big deal about Sharon Angle’s “raped women should make
    lemonade” comment, my grandfather said that she was right “because it’s
    not like women have any say anyway.” Just little gems like that.

    So what did you say in response? Because in most stories I read about someone with a liberal position being offended by something grotesque that a conservative friend or relative says, the liberal just bites their tongue and says nothing rather than risk hurting anyone’s feelings.

  • Baby_Raptor

    I wanted to ask him how much it burned that reality didn’t match up with his delusion, but I went a somewhat more polite (and more effective against him personally) route and instead pointed out that the only verses he’d ever used to back up his view were from a book that he mostly ignored. As such, he was just being a huge hypocrite and letting his sexism show.  

    He never has a response to that one. 

  • Becka Sutton

    Better response – find the verses where rape is condemned. They aren’t the most edifying but they definitely make it clear that non-consensual sex is forbidden. The reason they aren’t especially edifying is that they set the bar on proving lack of consent way too high and thus indulge in victim blaming.

  • AnonymousSam

    Actually the rationalization of that one is “A woman becomes part of a man when she is married by him, and a man cannot rape himself.” Alternatively, “A woman becomes a man’s property, and a man can choose to do with his property what he pleases.” Same justification for marital rape was used throughout the early 1900’s when it wasn’t considered a crime.

    And yes, it’s sickening that there are people who obviously still believe this. IIRC some states are actually repealing the laws that make it illegal.

  • Tricksterson

    Have an internet for having made my jaw drop.  Every time I think I’ve reached the limits of my belief in how wretched and stupid people can be I come across a nugget like this.

  • Alan Alexander

    While this is saddening, it is also perfectly predictable and has been ever since the ascension of an honest-to-God fascist to the papal throne. The Catholic Church hierarchy in 2012 is a fascist institution, just the Mormon hierarchy is, just as the SBC is, just as the LaHaye-Schlafly crowd is. This is what organized religion is. This is what it is for. This is what it has been for since the first caveman offered his fellow cavemen the secret of how to get “pie in the sky when you die” in exchange for a bigger share of the hunt than he deserved. The purpose of religion is to enslave people’s minds and make them submit to authority even when doing so is obviously against their own rational self-interest. The fact that occasionally and at enormous effort these fascist institutions can be turned towards doing a few positive things amidst all the misery they spread does not even begin to excuse them. 

  • JustoneK

    [Citation needed]

  • Alan Alexander

    [Citation needed]

    For which part? The part where I provide a long list of reactionary conservative institutions and label them fascist by virtue of the fact that they are reactionary conservative institutions? Or the part where I speculate on the origins of the earliest religions among early humans? Do you have any counter-factuals? Say, for instance, an example of a progressive prodemocratic religious movement which has had any significant political influence to improve the lives of the average citizens (as opposed to the First and Second Estates) but which did not subsequently abuse its religious authority to turn its adherents towards antisocial ends? Anywhere? At any time within, say, the last 1000 years?

  • emilyperson

     Accusing all religion, everywhere, forever, of being fascist (which it technically can’t be; the word “fascist” has a meaning. It’s not just a generic insult you throw at authoritarians. Wikipedia’s not the best source of information, but it’s a start) is, in addition to incorrect, not a wise thing to do in the comments system of a blog written by a progressive Christian, especially when the commenters are from a variety of religious and secular traditions.

  • Deird

    The part where I provide a long list of reactionary conservative
    institutions and label them fascist by virtue of the fact that they are
    reactionary conservative institutions?

    Fascist =/= “reactionary conservative”. There is a difference.

    Back to your earlier comment…

    This is what organized religion is.

    At this point, the only “this” you’ve mentioned is fascism. So… you’re apparently of the opinion that “fascist = reactionary conservative” and “fascism = organised religion”.

    This is what it is for.

    “The purpose of religion is fascism!”

    This is what
    it has been for since the first caveman offered his fellow cavemen the
    secret of how to get “pie in the sky when you die” in exchange for a
    bigger share of the hunt than he deserved.

    Apparently deceptive capitalism is also fascism. And religion, which is all about the “pie in the sky when you die”, is all about deceptive capitalism, which is all about fascism. Or something.

    The purpose of religion is to
    enslave people’s minds and make them submit to authority even when
    doing so is obviously against their own rational self-interest.

    Mind telling me what authority I’m submitting to? At all? Because I’d be willing to bet you can’t think of a religious authority I’m actually submitting to.

    I would say “citation needed”, but really – I don’t need citations for any of this to know how much bullshit it is.

  • Steven Appelget

    The Burlington Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.

  • Marc Mielke

    I’m an atheist and don’t really have a dog in this fight, but I’d say the Black church hasn’t done so badly, being instrumental in the civil rights battles of the 60’s. Their only bad apples are Dr. King’s niece and that idiot Hutchinson. 

  • Tricksterson

    The Quakers come to mind.

  • LL

    When the hell are Catholics going to recognize and make formal (by their rejection of it) that the Catholic “leadership” is morally bankrupt (in every sense of that term) and thus no longer has any authority over them? When? Sure, the church probably still owns the buildings they go to services in, but they don’t have to go to a Catholic church to pray or read the Bible or really do anything terribly important spiritually. In fact, it seems not being inside a building controlled by the Catholic hierarchy would enhance your spirituality, not compromise it. Seriously. It is long past time people who still (against all reason) call themselves Catholics tell the Vatican to pound sand. At the very least. 

  • Amaryllis

    [Catholics] don’t have to go to a Catholic church to pray or read the Bible


    or really do anything terribly important spiritually.


  • Becka Sutton

     This, just this.

    Catholicism is a sacramental faith. Telling Catholics that the sacraments aren’t “anything terribly spiritually important”  is like telling an able-bodied financially able Muslim that the Hajj isn’t “terribly spiritually important”.

  • Becka Sutton

    I find myself thinking of  Teresa of Avila. Another nun who often found herself in hot water for suggesting the status quo was wrong. The papal nuncio called her “a restless disobedient gadabout who has gone about teaching as though she were a professor”. When one of her former convents elected her prioress the nuns were excommunicated.

    She’s a saint and doctor of the Church now.

    A lot of the female saints are totally kickass. The cognitive dissonance between the way the church says women should behave and the hagiography of female saints is telling.

  • LoneWolf343

    One would think the Pope would know never to fuck with nuns.

  • AnonymousSam

    Just because he wouldn’t know how doesn’t mean he wouldn’t try. :p

  • P J Evans

    He doesn’t believe that women are people.
    (I seem to recall that he or maybe JP2 was arguing that women can’t be priests and so on because Jesus was a man and had only male disciples. Garry Wills was wondering if that meant that all priests must also be bearded, by the same reasoning. (Some members of the RC hierarchy seem to have turned off all of their brains north of their ears.))

  • Matri

    Some members of the RC hierarchy seem to have turned off all of their brains north of their ears.

    Only some? Most of them won’t be able to find their rears with eight arms, a map, a GPS, and a homing device.

  • Tricksterson

    Wait, if they had eight arms, woldn’t that make them closet Hindu deities?

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    For my education, which of the things they’re doing are the radical feminist bits?

  • emilyperson

    For my education, which of the things they’re doing are the radical feminist bits?

    The bit where they don’t have sex with men? I understand some radical feminists and/or political lesbians aren’t too keen on that.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    But the Vatican is shitty with their radical feminism that is allegedly incompatible with Catholic faith. Nuns not having sex doesn’t meet that definition.

  • Tricksterson

    I’d start with the part where they think they can have opinions that weren’t directly handed to them by the Catholic hierarchy and take it from there.

  • Lliira

    As someone who most definitely would be called a “radical feminist” by these misogynists, no, that’s not quite it. Controlling our own sex lives is what makes us “radical feminists” and therefore evil. What we choose to do isn’t the issue — the issue is that we get to choose, and don’t pretend otherwise.

  • hapax


    For my education, which of the things they’re doing are the radical feminist bits?

    The parts when they say that women are human beings?

  • Lori


    For my education, which of the things they’re doing are the radical feminist bits?

    The gripe seems to be more with what they’re not doing. Those horrible radical feminist nuns are not speaking out against abortion and “Obamacare” enough. IWO, they’re not showing enough deference to the men who make the rules.

    There is nothing more radical than not showing enough deference to the men who make the rules.

  • Andrew K.

    You should have heard the condescending remarks about Sister Joan on “Catholic Answers Live” this afternoon. These people are pathetic.

  • hapax

    Psst, Alan Alexander:  have you met our good friend Helena? I bet the pair of you would really hit it off.

  • AnonymousSam

    You know, the Catholic Church quite honestly makes me think of Exodus. The latter half of it, where Aaron’s priesthood is established and God proceeds to give his followers a rather large set of instructions for all the fabulously expensive garments they are to receive, the fine foods they are to be given, and the gold shekels they are to be paid every year by every member of the tribe — with penalty of death for anyone who disobeys.

  • MaryKaye

    My father is a lifelong Catholic and quite devout, though much more liberal than the hierarchy.  This morning over breakfast he told me that he is seriously considering leaving the Church and becoming an Episcopalian.  “They have the same rituals–and I really love those rituals–and some of them at least are on the same page as me about other things:  birth control, homosexuality, ordination of women.  Maybe it’s time.  I’m getting so uncomfortable with what the Church is doing.”

    When someone who’s been a member of the church for 70 years is thinking of jumping ship, that’s pretty serious.  I think the single biggest trigger is that he is taking care of his best friend, who is gay, and who is currently in chemotherapy for cancer.  This situation really brings home that being good to one another is *so much more important* than these stupid theological points; and that real and beloved people are being hurt.

  • Dash1

    With apologies in advance to Catholics and, oh well, everybody, I confess to being of two minds–or maybe just totally confused–with regard to people like Sr. Joan. It’s not like the Church hierarchy were fine and wonderful and supportive folks just a few decades ago and, then, all of a sudden, became a problem. So half of me wants to pump my fists and yell, “Preach it, Sister!” and go find a “Sister Joan Rocks!” t-shirt (heck, I’m an American–t-shirts are my native form of expression). But the other half wants to shrug and say, “What were you expecting?”

    And there’s a third half that wants to say something like, “While you have accomplished wonderful things, and your immediate organization, LCWR, has also apparently done some good, do you understand that a good bit of your labor has gone into enabling precisely the organization that is now biting you? Frog/scorpion.”

    And yeah, I said “two minds” and produced three. I can’t count. Also, as I said, I’m confused.

    And I reiterate the apology.

  • Jonathan Hendry

    The hierarchy ought to be informed that this sort of thing, and the timing, just makes them look like a child throwing a tantrum after his XBox was taken away.

    Only the XBox in this case is “little boys”.

  • FearlessSon

    You know, the mental image of a habit-clad schoolteacher smacking Benedict XVI across his popesterior with a yardstick for insolence seems to be pretty appropriate for what I think of what should happen here.