Vatican Attacks Nuns

Richard Sipe
May 12, 2012

The boys are at it again. I use boys pointedly and advisedly. The guys in the Vatican cannot tolerate honest women who think for themselves, tell the truth and put Gospel values above conformity and submission to Vatican appointed males.

Nuns in the United States have educated many of us, our parents, and our grandparents, built hospitals and cared for our sick and poor all the while on slave wages and in quiet subservience to boy bishops and cardinals who never developed psychosexual maturity and balance in their homosocial bubble; there they wrap themselves in pretty - I repeat pretty dresses, and expensive - I repeat expensive hats protected by toadies who agree and adulate them as if boyfriends.

Nuns paid attention to the voice of the Vatican Council. Vatican II changed things for all women. They became part of the People of God. Nuns increased and accelerated their own education (there are more nuns than priests with earned masters and doctoral degrees).

Sr. Mary Luke Tobin, S.L. was one of the few nuns allowed to be an auditor at the council, but she could stand shoulder to shoulder spiritually and intellectually with any of the best men there. She could recall by heart to her dying day the pledge of the document Gaudium et Spes, "With respect to the fundamental rights of the person, every type of discrimination, whether social, cultural, whether based on sex, race, color, social condition, language or religion, is to be overcome and eradicated as contrary to God's intent." We are all one in Jesus Christ.

The boys have forgotten the primacy of that doctrine and the importance of conscience. They think that American nuns spend too much effort on eradicating poverty and injustice. The boys want nuns to "talk" about important doctrinal issues like abortion, contraception, premarital cohabitation and same-sex marriage. They want nuns to spend more energy like bishops do - fighting sex, namely, everybody else's sex.

Bishops are more than reluctant to step up to the plate to answer the myriad questions about their sexual play (crimes) with children, affairs with grown women and men (and each other). They are not reluctant to spend their time, money and energy covering up their sexual lives and covering up their cover-ups. That price tag is close to a billion dollars. But nuns must be quiet and conform. Consciences be damned.

For instance Tommy Olmsted a person innocent of any expertise in medicine or the medical ethics procedures that hospitals employ, from his throne in Phoenix excommunicated Sr. Margaret McBride, R.S.M. who heads St. Joseph's Hospital, despite scrupulously following ethically appropriate procedures in the difficult medical case of an abortion to save a life. Like a sixth grade boy on the playground he threw his hissy fit because she did not "respect my authority".

Bishops do not like women they can't control. In fact, many bishops don't like women. Women threaten their authority; little girls who surround bishops can be managed and even manipulated.

I was in a Vatican room with Pope John Paul II in 1993 when he said that he as pope did not have the authority to change the rules on celibacy; and it goes without saying the same holds true in Vatican minds about the ordination of women to the priesthood. Fr. Roy Bourgeois, M.M. ruffled the boys club feathers by attending the ordination of a woman. His support of an issue that an ever-increasing proportion of Catholics also support merited him dismissal from the Maryknoll fathers and the penalty of a Roman excommunication. Abuse of children merits far more tolerance, understanding and even personal support than adult dissent and dialogue. That would not be the case if women could be priests. Pope John Paul II literally embraced two clerics who without doubt sexually abused young men: Cardinal Hans Groer of Austria was a close personal friend of John Paul. Despite this he was forced to resign by courageous fellow bishops. (Real men those Austrians.) Father Marcial Maciel the discredited founder of the Legionaries of Christ was disciplined already in 1948 for sexual misbehavior and later reported to Rome for grave sexual offences years before John Paul put his arms around him in 2004 at a public audience. After all boys will be boys. They are out of their depth in dialogue. They dare not stray into adult territory where issues of equality and justice prevail. It is above their developmental grade and comfort level. They all quickly disavow responsibility for their conspiratorial part in countenancing abusive priests.

The Vatican's boy, Peter Sartain former bishop of Joliet, is now sent to investigate head-strong and devout nuns who head up the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. He presided over one of the dioceses most resistive to openness and transparency about its documentation of clergy abuse. In contrast, women who have led the LCWR are vigorous adults with a sense of right and courage unmatched by most bishops. Sister Theresa Kane, R.S.M. spoke directly and openly to the pope in 1979 about the rights of women to the squirms and gasps of the boys in the pews - she wasn't playing fair speaking frankly, with respect as one adult to another. That's not the way the boys play the game - don't women know about all the secret handshakes that have to be observed?

Sister Joan Chittister, O.S.B. is spiritually and character-wise superior to any of the boys in their flowing silk skirts and lace who are out to investigate the doctrinal purity of American nuns (that 2008 visitation report is not yet public) and bishops now aim their sights on the LCWR. Chittister led the LCWR in its early days and helped set its course solidly in the Vatican II tradition. Their strength is in willingness to dialogue about important issues that effect people's lives not just blindly echo doctrinal pronouncements.

Catholic women theologians are another cause for the boys' fear and envy. Sister Elizabeth Johnson, C.S.J., author of Quest for the Living God, is currently widely considered the best Catholic theologian in the United States. Her book raised close and restrictive scrutiny - all but an outright condemnation - by the authority of the American Bishops Conference.

If these are the women leading the "radical feminist agenda" the Vatican is so worried about more power to them. They lead the solid Christian way in the tradition of American nuns. They are involved in leadership not politics.

Paul Claudel said, "The church turns to politics when it fails to produce enough saints". Today that is exactly where the Vatican and American Catholic church are - looking for political power and passing up and impeding the strength and sanctity in the corps of women most dedicated to Christian service, its method and message.

The boys just can't compete. Women won't play their game.








Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.