American Nuns, Radical Feminism, and the Fear of “Another Religion”

American Nuns, Radical Feminism, and the Fear of “Another Religion” April 19, 2012

“I loved the Church for Christ made visible. Not for itself, because it was so often a scandal to me.”Dorothy Day, Catholic Worker

For years now there’s been a quiet effort to rein in the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), the Catholic Church’s largest association of American women’s religious orders. Back in 2008 it was announced that the Vatican was undertaking two large-scale investigations of American nuns who may “have opted for ways that take them outside” of Church teachings (meanwhile, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops instituted a ban on Reiki ). Many American nuns didn’t take kindly to this display of authority, did not participate in the investigations, and in some cases spoke out about what was happening.

LCWR National Board

“Where did the impetus for the visitation and investigation originate? During a visit to Rome last April, several officers of the Leadership Conference put this question to Cardinal Franc Rodé, head of CICLSAL, and were informed that the initiative had been suggested by American members of the curia, some U.S. bishops, and some members of religious communities. Cardinal Rodé told LCWR officers that “concerns” had been expressed on issues ranging from living arrangements to the lack of new vocations to the public positions some women religious take on topics such as women’s ordination, homosexuality, and abortion.”

In short, too many American nuns were openly questioning Catholic doctrine on hot-button issues. Now, the results of one of those investigations has been released, it states that the LCWR has “serious doctrinal problems” and the conference will be “reformed” by a Cardinal and two Bishops.

“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.” […] “I’m stunned,” said Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobby founded by sisters. Her group was also cited in the Vatican document, along with the Leadership Conference, for focusing its work too much on poverty and economic injustice, while keeping “silent” on abortion and same-sex marriage.”

While this decision may have shocked some American nuns, the writing was on the wall for some time that a crackdown on their autonomy and spiritual authority was coming. Last year, the US Conference of Bishops accused Catholic theologian and nun Sister Elizabeth A. Johnson of violating church doctrine in her 2007 book “Quest For the Living God,” issuing a 21-page critique and recommending the book not be taught in Catholic universities due in part to her suggestion of using female imagery for God.

“The passages drawing the harshest admonishment, however, concerned Sister Johnson’s proposal that feminine as well as masculine imagery be used in prayers referring to God, a recommendation that has been debated and rejected by the bishops before. Still, the book persisted, “all-male images of God are hierarchical images rooted in the unequal relation between women and men, and they function to maintain this arrangement.” Wrong, the bishops said: If the Gospels use masculine imagery, it is because divine revelation would have it that way. […] Dr. Tilley, the Fordham theology chairman, described that argument as “approaching the incoherent.”

So let us place the pieces together, shall we? Banning energy healing, banning a book that suggests female pronouns for the Christian God, banning gender-neutral formulations of baptism ceremonies, turning access to contraception (for women) into a national referendum on religious freedom, and now, accusing the largest conference of American nuns of promoting “radical feminist themes” and moving to bring them under control.  What do you get? In his book “The Ratzinger Report”, then Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, made very clear his views as to what radical feminism was.

I am, in fact, convinced that what feminism promotes in its radical form is no longer the Christianity that we know; it is another religion.”

Another religion. That is what Catholic Women Religious in America are being accused of, practicing another religion. When nuns start advocating for the ordination of women, for making poverty and health care a priority over abortion and making sure gays can’t marry, they are no longer Catholic. They trigger an atavistic fear in the Catholic mind, the fear that women will start listening to a Goddess instead of a God.

“We will not listen to the things you’ve said to us in the name of YHWH. On the contrary, we will certainly do all that we’ve vowed. We will make offerings to the Queen of Heaven, and pour libations to her as we used to do – we and our ancestors, our kings and princes in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem – because then we had plenty of bread and we were satisfied, and suffered no misfortune. But since we ceased making offerings to the Queen of Heaven and pouring libations to her, we have lacked everything and have been consumed by sword and famine. And when we make offerings to the Queen of Heaven and pour libations to her, is it without our husbands’ approval that we make cakes in her likeness and pour libations to her?”Jeremiah 44:15-19, translation by Graham Harvey, from the Hebrew text of the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, excerpted from “The Paganism Reader”.

The move against American nuns is just the latest effort to squash reform-minded thinking, just as the Franciscans in Assisi, Italy were smeared with accusations of allowing blood sacrifices at their altars when interfaith gatherings there became too popular and high-profile (the Pope, naturally, doesn’t meet with “pagans”). Like Cronus, the Catholic Church fears too much reform will act as an emitic, and all the pre-Christian elements, traditions, figures, and imagery it has swallowed over 2000 years will vomit forth and usurp the Church’s role as religious power-player on the world stage.

Pope Benedict XVI at the Assisi interfaith gathering. (Getty Images)

Think I’m perhaps overstating things? In 2007 Benedict asserted that indigenous populations in South America were“silently longing” for the Christian faith of the colonizersAt the recent Assisi gathering the Pope made clear that four token agnostics were invited “so that God, the true God, becomes accessible” to them. He has mocked and criticized “paganism” in any form one could imagine, describing pre-Christian gods as “questionable” and unable to provide hope, and engaged in a kind of Holocaust revisionism by saying that Nazi-ism was born of “neo-paganism.” During his Papacy the practice of exorcism has boomed once more, a practice that explicitly lists adherence to other faiths as a sign of demon possession. There are the words and actions of a man, of a church, who fears that as religion becomes female-dominated, it might also become “pagan.”

The question now is, will there be unintended repercussions from this move by the Vatican and the US Conference of Bishops? Will the nuns, pushed into a corner, and ordered to heel, simply leave? Can anyone imagine the chaos that a mass exodus by Women Religious would instigate? Perhaps this action will really amount to nothing more than a slap on the wrist, leaving the sleeping giant(s) in the Catholicism’s belly alone for awhile longer, but I think the more this quiet force is insulted and ordered the more the Church risks exactly what it fears: the rise of another religion.

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91 responses to “American Nuns, Radical Feminism, and the Fear of “Another Religion””

  1. And another page turns in the orthodox history to quash the heterodox and heretical.  Sounds eerily familiar to the Waldensians.

  2.  I’m really sorry to see this happen.  Despite theological differences, I’ve always felt comfortable supporting the local sisters (Sisters of IHM).  They do a lot of good work including a school for minority girls in urban Detroit, promoting economic reforms in 3rd world countries, and promoting environmentalism and sustainability locally.   

  3. “I am God, says Love, for Love is God and God is Love, and this Soul is God by the condition of Love. I am God by divine nature and this Soul is God by the condition of Love. Thus this precious beloved of mine is taught and guided by me, without herself, for she is transformed into me, and such a perfect one, says Love, takes my nourishment.” – Marguerite Porete, The Mirror of Simple Souls. 
    Marguerite was a Beguine, and for having written those words, and written them in French rather than Latin, she was burnt alive. Plus ça change…

  4. If they’re so iffy about the Divine Feminine and the Queen of Heaven, maybe they shouldn’t push her quite so hard as a role model on women.   You can’t have a all-male heaven with Mary around.

  5. The Vatican’s actions are born of fear, whereas American nuns (and other groups within the Leadership Conference of Women Religious) are working in love. 

  6. Before he was elected Pope, Ratzinger gave a traditional sermon to the other Cardinals and outlined the direction he thought the church should be going, as opposed to the actual state of affairs. It was an open campaign speech: Make me Pope and this is what you get.

    Everything brought up here flows naturally from that speech. One thing he said is that a smaller, more faithful church was preferable to a larger, more lax one; so he will not be deterred by the thought of all those women-religious leaving. Perhaps he should be.

  7. When someone loves an institution but not all of its teachings,  you have a choice: suck it up and stay, reform it, or leave it. When it comes to reform, there is reform from the inside or reform from the outside. In this situation they have tried reform from the inside but as long as the head will not tolerate such reform, it’s a dead end. So that leaves reform from the outside – what would that look like in this context? Increasing pressure from actual Catholics upon the Vatican, making changes to the leadership, demands on the leadership? The Church is not democratically run, so it would almost have to be something drastic like violence or sabotage. (You can’t blackmail these folks – look at how they continue to defend pedophile priests.) So it looks like these nuns, as you said, will have to decide if they stay inside the Church for all its failings, or leave it. I imagine they’d take a lot of believers along with them, but unfortunately there is probably no legal way for them to take the infrastructure with them – the bank accounts and buildings that allow them to support themselves and do their good works.

  8. So, fighting economic injustice and helping the poor while not spewing hate are “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.” That just about says it all doesn’t it? 

  9. The same thing happened in South America a few years ago when the Jesuits were deemed to have “gotten too involved in local and regional politics” because they were trying to protect the poor and the communities from poverty and drug crimes. There was a threat of schism there, too.

    This just proves: The Pope is a poor risk player.

  10. There is a level of circularity in some of the Catholic Church’s attitudes towards dissent:

    1. Catholics torn between teachings of Church and Issue X.
    2. Church worried Issue X might drive people away if they choose it over Church teachings.
    3. Church declares Issue X in opposition to teachings.
    4. Goto 1.

    “Agreement in all or nothing!” “If those are my only choices, nothing”

  11. I don’t know how this played elsewhere but it was front-page news in New Orleans. I work with nuns, at an institution founded by nuns, so I’m very interested to see how this plays out.

  12. In fairness these Nuns are not practicing Roman Catholicism. They do have the option of leaving and joining a Non-Roman Catholic faith.

  13. Sphinx, they talked about this over at GetReligion(dot)org. In fact the Vatican praised the sisters’ work on economic injustice and with the poor. It was critical of their silence on abortion and gay marriage. The meme that they were hit for being “too interested” in economic injustaice and the poor is a media error.

  14. Different Pope. That was John Paul II, this mess belongs to Benedict XVI.

  15.  So Roman Catholocism can never evolve, never change, never respond to new ideas or ways of thinking, never acknowledge that its policies are outmoded and just plain wrong? No thanks. I hope this latest paternalistic attempt to cling to power awakens more Catholics to exactly what their collection-plate dollars are supporting. And I hope Catholic women, in particular, reject this condemnation of “radical feminism.” Perhaps if there were more women in roles of power, the church wouldn’t have the problems it has today.

  16. Dear Catholic Church,
    Are you still upset about that whole Protestant Reformation thing? Dudes, it’s been 4 centuries and some change already. The more you squeeze, the more minds and hearts will slip right through your fingers.

    A Unitarian Universalist radical feminist Reiki student

  17. Just like with the GOP I do not understand why any woman would voluntarily associate with the RCC, the largest misogynistic and homophobic religious cult and “good ol’ boys” club the world has ever known.  All they care about is raking in those tithes and donations.  The Church as shown itself time and time again that just like any mega corporation that care more about maintaining profit margins than creating a good product or caring for its customers. 

    One has to wonder what Jesus would think about the direction the Church supposedly founded in his name would think to find that caring for the poor and the healing of the sick are now considered “radical feminism” and deemed incompatible with what he taught?

  18. The rise of a new religion? Maybe. But the relative safety of the Church makes the decision to form a new religion and Church a decision of courage. This Wiccan follows the events with great interest. This is fascinating.

  19.  And do what?  Many of these Nuns are part of aging population.  They can leave but they would be giving up their “retirement” (put in quotes because most nuns I’ve met remain active in their work until they are physically unable to do so).  They have no income, no savings.  They may have family to go to, but that would be it.   This isn’t just a matter of religion for them, since their careers are tied up in this as well.  What other faith would provide for the basic needs so they can continue their work?

  20. Ganked from Hecate’s Twitter feed, a tweet from buddhAnonymous:

    “Vatican cracks down on US nuns for being too busy helping the poor to give a f*ck about gay marriage”

    And, for good measure, another quotation, this one from Dom Hélder Câmara:

    “When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.”  

  21. Gotta love this new Pope . If he keep this kind of stuff up …………he will inadvertantly increase our numbers , the pagan community . By tightening church rules , Vatican control and acting like it’s still the inquisation he will drive people away from the RC Church . This Sinnsreachd  is also watching .          Kilm , btw Sinnsreachd is a RC faith.

  22. Maybe some totally new religion will emerge. One that has a Goddess, uses mystical ‘energy’ and has women in positions of leadership (we could call them’priestesses’ or even ‘high priestesses’). It’ll be a religion like no other before it. 

  23. The Vatican specifically praised the sisters’ activites with the poor and the sick. Anything to the contrary is a media error. What honked off the Vat was the sisters’ lack of an echo chamber for the bishops about abortion, gay marriage and the like.

    That being said, I’ve been a radical feminist for about 40 years and I don’t find anything pejorative about the label.

  24. At the risk of being blunt, people who stay with such an abusive cult deserve what they get. The RCC as an institution, at least from the bishops on up, bears no resemblance at all to Christianity’s messianic figure or its early followers. It is an utterly amoral corporation concerned only with maintaining and maximizing its financial and political power. In this country, the USCCB is simply a lobbying firm for the Santorum wing of the GOP and another division of the Religious Right’s culture war army. So long as these nuns hold themselves answerable to these men, they are not serving any god, but a cult of personalities.

  25. Theoretically they could look for another church to adopt them in toto, eg, the Episcopal Church. The effect on the people they help could just be that the soup kitchen moves up the street. Or they could reach out — they must have an awesome network — for private donations that could let them go autonomous.  Yes, they do need a supportive institutional surround; each one quitting and striking out on her own is not feasible.

  26. Sorry for the double comment, but, having read the linked news item, I see that “The verdict on the nuns group was issued by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.”

    For those who are not familiar with the history of the Curia, the CDF was formerly called “The Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition.”  Yup–that Inquisition. Of which Cardinal Ratzinger (now B16) was once the Cardinal Prefect (formerly called “Grand Inquisitor”).

    In case anyone was wondering.

  27. Power hierarchies fester and rot with age, and no power hierarchy is older than the Catholic one.  There are many good people in the church because the Sacred can be approached from anywhere, but those who like scum have risen tt the top do not care about the Sacred, in fact they fear it as a condemnation of the hypocrisy and degeneracy of their lives. They seek to push the Sacred into the crabbed little confines of their emotional and doctrinal lives. 

    I dream of the day when decent Catholics pay them the respect they deserve. . . .

  28.  Because that’s how the world worked since at least civilization origin times in most of our recorded history. That’s why changing that is such a big deal.

  29.  I agree with you in most of what you say but, there are other posters here who have zeroed in on an important factor – most of these Nuns have their entire lives intertwined with the Church. They gave up the opportunities to save for retirement or have other social support systems in most cases. It would be nice if they could find a home with the Episcopal Church or financial and social support from the laity so that they could leave the Ratzinger nest.  The orders are an aging population and I think it would be hard to find a source of retirement security that they deserve for all their years of service to the poor and marginalized in our society.

  30. The sole goal of the Catholic Church hierarchy is to preserve its own power and authority. And that, with such poetic justice, is now proving to be its downfall.

    Recall that in Nazi Germany the Church was faced by the kind of radical evil that its own dogma said HAD to exist. For two thousand years it had waited for the genuinely satanic challenge, something adversarial to all Good. In the Nazis it found
    it – and submitted to it.

    Suggesting a relationship between Nazism and ‘neo-paganism’ (Gods how I hate that term) is merely the Church’s way of attempting to bend reality around it’s theoretical framework. The truth, however, is that the Church’s accommodation of the Holocaust was the beginning of the end of its existence, the mask of moral rightness irrevocably torn.

    Everything that has happened since then (the abuse scandal etc.) has been the death-throes.  So too the persecution of Women Religious.

  31. I haven’t been keeping in touch with my old high school, but I wonder if, in the school church services, they’re still singing that song with the line “Like a mother in labor I bring all to birth.”

    ’cause, you know, they might find themselves under investigation for that, I guess. You know, for speaking too intimately to an all girls school run by nuns. 

  32. In fairness these Nuns are not practicing Roman Catholicism

    I’d have to disagree. Those nuns are indeed practicing Catholicism – the same Catholicism that I was taught growing up just-post-Vatican II. They’re simply not practicing Ratzinger’s Catholicism.

  33. There is that. I’m not entirely sure how this works, but it’s always been my impression that most nuns are not financially dependent on the church itself nor do they get any real help from the church financially. Nuns seem to be mostly members of whatever order they belong to, and that order is responsible for its own finances and property.
         The orders exist by some sort of authority from the pope or whoever, but I think they’re their own corporate entities so to speak. Nuns as a rule don’t live nearly as high on the hog as pastors or even most American diocese priests. On the other hand, many of the more well established orders seem to have a certain level of financial safety. They never made tons of money, but their members live very frugally, and many of these orders hold property they bought 100 years ago that is now very valuable real estate in many places.    Maybe you’re right and they have no good way out, but the truth is the church by and large treats nuns and women as virtual slaves, and they will happily continue to do so as long as women put up with it. I know there’s the line of thinking which says “we are the real church” and we can reform it from within, but that ain’t gonna happen. Ever. It’s like people who go to D.C. with the idea that they’re going to clean up the federal culture. They get crushed or co-opted every time. 

  34.  IIRC the article I’m thinking of was in 2007, so perhaps it crossed over the boundary between the two of them. 

  35.  The Pope spoke out AGAINST
    paganism??? Oh say it isn’t so! I mean Christianity and paganism are
    only diametrically opposed to each other in almost EVERY way; how could
    the Pope, the successor of countless Popes before him who were crucified
    and fed to lions by pagans, POSSIBLY be motivated in any stretch of
    the imagination have anything negative to say about paganism? Oh, and to
    top it all off he had the NERVE, as the leader of the ENTIRE CATHOLIC
    WORLD, to dictate to a CATHOLIC ministry what its goals and priorities
    should be? Oh the humanity! Oh the scandal! Oh the oppression! Oh the
    misogyny! How dare he! Oh shame on him!

  36. NPR’s All Things Considered interviewed Sister Elizabeth.  To paraphrase her:

    We women religous are doing what Pius (the something or other) told us to, getting advanced degrees and using our brains.  They’re complaining about the consequences of our being faithful and doing what we were told.


    It’s just like it’s always been.  Just as happened when Jesus was reborn, the women were the first at the tomb and the first to hear and tell the Good News.  We had to convince the menfolk what was right then, and we’re still having to convince them what is right today.

    I have a new heroine.

  37. …Or we’ll just absorb them into the Episcopal Church. La la la! …Oh, and also, the Pope has now also given the bitch-slap to church organizations in Austria and Ireland over the same set of issues. Issues of gender and sexuality are really undergoing a deep sea change in Christianity generally, and a lot of allegiances are getting shifted around because of it.

  38.  Yup, I saw that too. I teach at Loyola so it’ll be interesting to see what folks there have to say about this. (Jesuits, ya know…gotta keep an eye on them or they’ll go around sticking up for immigrants or something.)

  39. Banning energy healing while reviving exorcism. That about sums up the churches spiritual hypocrisy  in a nutshell.

  40. Because the rise of another religion means the death of the old one. With fewer taking orders every year in the U.S., and fewer attending, and of the few most of those not subscribing fully to the tenets of the Church – the story of the Catholic Church in the U.S. is telling itself. 

  41. Many of us Pagan women are refugees from Rome. Becoming Pagan — or realizing we were Pagan — is a no-brainer: we are good at ritual; after growing up with Mary, it isn’t a stretch to embrace the Goddess; and, most importantly, we are fed to the teeth with the geriatric patriarchy running the church.  Many of us were taught by nuns, and we’re sophisticated enough to remember and honor them for the moral compass they helped inculcate in us, and the sense of endless possibility to which they opened us. 

    We feel shame and rage at how our teachers, the nurses who took care of us in the hospital, the women who run homeless shelters and food banks, and provide services for poor immigrants are being treated by those men in dresses.  We will not be distracted from the scandal of clerical sexual abuse — rape of children, after all — by Rome’s attempts to clamp down on women who are the brightest and best the church has to offer.

    Many of us also believed in “change from within” and left what Lenny Bruce used to call “the only church that calls itself  `THE church’ ”  only after years of giving service and energy to an institution that demeaned us, dismissed us, and finally, we believed, loathed us.  It was hard to leave, but far harder to stay.

    So we can understand the struggles of the nuns, and recognize them as our sisters.  We will welcome them with open arms.  They can join us as we celebrate the turning of the wheel of the year, and dance with the Goddess. We will appreciate their energy, intelligence, compassion, dedication, capacity for hard work, commitment to social justice.

    We Pagans don’t proselytize,  but I will say that we’ve built it, this Pagan community of ours,  and they’ll come to us when they’re ready.   I suspect some of them will find soon just how ready they are.  There will be grief and pain at letting go,  but dear sisters, once you get on the other side, you will find joy, celebration, creativity, closeness to nature,  and community with sisters and brothers who will welcome you.

  42. ” how could the Pope, the successor of countless Popes before him who were crucified and fed to lions by pagans, ”

    Oh, the hyperbole!

    And of course, the Early Church was far more tolerant of pagans once it gained political power within the Roman Empire.

    No, the meek inherited the earth, and promptly scoured it and sowed it with salt.

  43. IIrc there’s no solid evidence that Christians were fed to loins, let alone Popes.

  44. How is that hypocrisy? The orthodox Catholic world-view has demons that can possess people (hence exorcism, which is a long-standing tradition), but no concept of spiritual energy or anything similar that might appear in energy healing.

  45. I really feel bad for these nuns.  They kept the social justice teachings of the bible alive.  They didn’t take a hard line against their fellow human beings because they took commandments like “love thy neighbor” to heart.  Male bishops have been doing this too, but the pope would rather attack their female officiants because of course to them the female is suspect.  This is why I have kept my distance from Catholicism and its a shame that they are trying to kill off anything good and loving in their tradition.  This whole thing feels like a war and I shudder to think what will happen to these cast outs who have spent their entire lives in the convent.  Where else can they go?

  46. I’d love to see a Female Pope (as in the Tarot High Priestess) step forth and claim the power to lead the Catholic Church.  After all, this is not a new religion so much as re-claiming the real teachings of Jesus and The Magdalene.

  47. just to clarify.  Any financial holdings the nuns have built up to provide for their older sisters or continue ministry would be confiscated by the Vatican and become its property .  the POpe  could supress the orders and take the assests if the nuns dissent.  CAnon Law of the Catholic church 

  48. No one is taking issue with the sister’s social justice work, their work ethic, or their value to society. The problem is with their wacky, radical theology, which many of them admit, is essentially post-Christian.

    You can’t be authentically Catholic and post-Christian, at the same time.

    If they’re really Catholic, let them strive to live and faithfully uphold all the divinely revealed truths of the Catholic faith. If they’re not really Catholic, then they should no longer be permitted to call themselves Catholic, since such a thing is and has long been a source of public scandal.

    It’s that simple.

    For the record … I have the greatest love and appreciation for faithful, truly Catholic sisters and nuns, regardless of their particular choice of dress or living arrangements. It’s the faithless, prideful, radical feminist “wackos” who are intolerable and scandalous.  

  49. Anyone remember this quote from Star Wars.

    “The more you tighten your grip the more star systems will slip through your fingers.”

    It is fortunate that some of these women got degrees when they did. They will be able to find jobs. And the others did work so they have experence

    If they close the order who will be teaching. The bishops? Not likely.

    Its a shame tne RCC seeks to silence their greatest asset

  50. Except the attestations of laying on of hands and the conferring of the Holy Spirit and the enabling of one person so ordained to act in persona Christi.  While faith healing is more of an Evangelical off-shoot, there are Catholic churches (some in communion with the Holy See, some not) that idealize the healing aspects of the laying on of hands that Christ supposedly had.  Regardless, being able to channel the Holy Spirit in the ordination of priests/communion certainly smacks of spiritual energy, to me. 

  51. I’m many thousands of dollars in debt from earning a Doctorate in Sacred Theology.  Your post resonates with me.  I did both my thesis and dissertation on Mary (Black Virgins and Mexican folk devotion to her), and I still love rosaries, holy cards, statues and all the “sacramentals” that go with Catholicism.  But I couldn’t stay.

  52. She would probably have one hell of a vision involving God and Sophia sending Pope Benny flying over the horizon on a giant Eucharist  and then write some damn fine music. 

  53. It’s an interesting indictment coming from the bishops, the current generation of whom, to a man, is involved in either negligent or willful oversight of of the largest pedophilia ring in human history, the one crime for which Jesus prescribed the death penalty.  Of course, when you have the corner office, you get to say what is “intolerable and scandalous” and what is not. 

  54. Not that I wouldn’t welcome them, but I’m not sure being fed up with the church hierarchy or misogyny is a great foundation in itself for conversion to paganism. There are huge theological differences between us and Christianity, differences which cannot be bridged even by shared appreciation of the feminine divine. 

  55.  there both aspects of the spiritual. stating that one (the negative) is real and the other (the positive) is false is hypocritical.  then again I don’t believe in demons and I doubt most pagans do, so you’re probably right.

  56.  same old story. Women do all the work, the man take all the credit and toss the women aside when they have served there purpose. Remember that the church was really into whores at one time.

  57.  If that ever even came close to happening, the world would explode in an end times frenzy.

  58. It’s not a matter of living up to some criteria, but I think if someone wants to be pagan, or anything else, it ought to be because it really speaks to their heart and mind more truly than whatever religion they’re converting from.  Paganism is not New Age Christianity minus the dogma and plus goddess figures. There are big differences in how we view the divine and humanity’s relations with it. If some nuns really feel called to it, great, but if they or someone else just sees us as a haven from the bishops or problematic dogma, it’s going to be an unsatisfying experience both for the converts and those they circle with. 

  59.  I think that once the patriarchy’s voice inside one’s head is stilled, Paganism does indeed speak to the mind and heart more truly. That’s been my experience, and the experience of many others who have come to Paganism from the patriarchal religions. 

  60. You ask”
    “Can anyone imagine the chaos that a mass exodus by Women Religious would instigate?”

    I certainly can. I was Catholic until 15, when I saw too many conflicts between my beliefs and dogma.

    Schools, hospitals, social service agencies, missionary work–all these would suddenly need a large influx of staff, most of which would want to be paid market value for their skills, and who would likely have serious difficulties with Vatican policies in their work.

    If this means that suddenly, many convents are empty, I suppose the Church could rent or sell the land and its improvements…

    I’m finding it hard to feel sorry for the Church hierarchy: they’re only getting what’s been coming to them for decades or centuries of taking women’s  participation in the church, at little or no pay, for granted.

  61. “There will be grief and pain at letting go,  but dear sisters, once you get on the other side, you will find joy, celebration, creativity, closeness to nature,  and community with sisters and brothers who will welcome you.”

    The teaching that not attending mass every week was a (constructed) sin kept me from leaving for about six months, until the realization that if I didn’t believe some of the other things RCism preached, then maybe I didn’t have to heed that. 

    Two or so years after that, while in college, I started to meet Pagans–mostly Wiccans. There was an “occult store”, as they were called then, in town, and I wandered in one day. I began visiting regularly, and one day I just happened to meet a young Isaac Bonewits. In the SCA Kingdoms of the West and Caid, there were quite a few Wiccans and Druids, and they were comfortable to be around. I had actually been rather pantheistic since high school, and I slid right in to pagan belief and practice.

    Lots of “recovering” Catholics in Wicca, and women who related quite well to a female Deity. I expect a lot of women religious who strongly venerated Mary in their order, or private devotions, would have no problem accepting the Goddess once they found the right place.

  62. I remember about 15 years ago when some US bishop “volunteered” some retired nuns in his bishopric for testing/helping to develop an AIDS vaccine as a control group.

    Mighty white of him.

  63. The problem is with their wacky, radical theology, which many of them admit, is essentially post-Christian.

    Nope, their theology is neither ‘wacky’ nor ‘radical’. Their theology is purely old-skool Catholic. You know, the theology that those of us Of A Certain Age were raised with (love your neighbor, serve the poor, seek peace).

    Nowadays, the RCC seems more concerned with teaching its members to hate other people than teaching the sacraments (paraphrased from a life-long Catholic friend who stopped going to mass because all her son was hearing in CCD were right-wing political talking points and no actual religion. I believe she’s attending an Episcopal church now.)

  64. PeterB. wrote:
    >I mean Christianity and paganism are >only diametrically opposed to each other in almost EVERY way

    I strongly disagree.  Most Christian practices (especially the Catholic) contain a great amount of Pagan practices and customs which, because the people would not give them up, were incorporated into the Church.  Including many “saints” who were, previously, Pagan Goddesses and Gods. Think about it…did Jesus teach the Rosary, the Solar/Lunar timing of Easter and Christmas, the lighting of candles to Deity, etc.?

    What the Pope hates (and obviously fears) is that women are taking up their own power in the Church.  He is opposed to what PAST POPES (Pius, John, John Paul I and II) were encouraging Catholic women to do!  He (like Santorum and other throwbacks) wants to go backwards……..however, he (also like Santorum et. al.) wants to choose an arbitrary date to stop at.  Why not go ALL THE WAY BACK to the source….Jesus….and act as he did towards women?

  65. Here’s a few of Mary Daly quotes that may apply:

    “Women have had the power of naming stolen from us.”

    “It is the creative potential itself in human beings that is the image of God.

    “Why indeed must ‘God’ be a noun? Why not a verb – the most active and dynamic of all.

    “We will look upon the earth and her sister planets as being with us, not for us. One does not rape a sister.

    “I had explained that a woman’s asking for equality in the
    church would be comparable to a black person’s demanding equality in the
    Ku Klux Klan.

  66.  Thanks for making me smile! I feel really sad for the RCC and these wonderful nuns (well, mostly for the latter). Speaking of Jeremiah, there is a simile in there where God is described as carrying his child on the hip, like a mother. I feel so hopeless that the men in power only see what they want to see, and then have the nerve to call it the will of God. May the Mother open their hearts some day.

  67.  Processions heading in opposite directions: high church Anglicans decamping for Rome because they cannot tolerate female and/or gay clergy; Catholic women (not just the nuns) moving out because of Rome’s misogyny and homophobia, not to mention years of tolerance of child sexual abuse. 

  68. Reiki releases negative energy. With no negative energy there must be less exorcisms.

  69. Yes, let’s embrace the arise of another spirituality, woman-honoring and life-affirminingto all  instead of the pedophilia and misogyny of the male priestcraft!  A cosmic giggle indeed that this pope’s real name is “Ratzinger.”   A name in the antiquity of his (not any authentic woman’s) church always reflected the true character and nature of a person. 

  70. … life-affirming to all … (to correct the typo).

    And by that I don’t endorse the so-called “right to life” that disregards and marginalizes the greater risks to the lives of real, breathing, thinking women when carrying pregnancies to full term instead of having safe, legal, first-trimester abortions because  the women are unprepared to become mothers with the vast social requirements (and possible joys) involved and/or have been raped by men.  In all of the discussions about rape and abortion, the dots are seldom connected.  If raping a woman was not pleasurable or power-trip thrilling to the rapist man, then he could not have impregnated her.  If we minimize the trauma to the life of any woman a man has raped and force her to suffer the risks of pregnancy and childbirth, we are never affirming her life.   Can we really say that it is life-affirming or “right to life” to prohibit abortion in a world like this where living women bear the principal real-world traumas and primary risks of fetuses inside women?   It is instead the deranged religious legacy of  “evil Eve, the downfall of man” misogyny designed by the book of Yahweh’s tribal forces to suppress the authentic and life-affirming spiritual power of women.   If men in pope Ratzinger’s church could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.  

  71. In other words, being Christ-like.  It just goes to show that the Church’s mission has always been about grasping power, not spreading goodness and love.

  72.  There seem to be two underlying premises to your post: 1) The Catholic Church can not and will not ever change, and 2) anyone (esp female) who doesn’t 100% toe the line within a large hierarchical organization is somehow “radical.”

    Of course, the reality is that even very large, authoritarian, patriarchal, and complex organizations can and do change over time. They do give mass in non-Latin languages now, as I understand, for starters, and even let girls go to school and choose their own husbands.

    “Radical” by definition means working entirely outside the system and/or seeking to uproot/overthrow the existing system. Nuns, by definition, are most certainly not doing that, or they *wouldn’t be nuns.* They’re obviously liberal in some ways, and they may have some feminist leanings (like feeling like they have the right to stand up for themselves and to have their work validated), but radical they ain’t.

  73. I know it was I typo, but I rather like the idea of someone being fed to “loins” instead of “lions”.

  74. Obsidian, you are obviously too radical–go back to the source? Act as Jesus did, regardless of prevailing attitudes of the time? How unthinkably clever of you.

    Of course, it *could* be said that the Church hierarchy is doing just that–treating women the way they are, regardless of current prevailing attitudes. I believe the Jesus they claim to model themselves on would whip *them* from the temple for their behavi0r, not laud them.

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