The rebel nuns are gathered in St. Louis to figure out a way to reason with their male bosses. That being the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Rome. The Vatican. The Pope, for God’s sake.
The Catholic hierarchy doesn’t appear ready to negotiate. They want the nuns to stop talking about social issues like war and poverty and child hunger. And get with the guys who are going after birth control and abortion.
The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents 80 percent of the nuns who work for the Catholic Church, came under attack this spring by the Conference of Catholic Bishops, the new best friend of the religious right and anti choice and anti-women politicians.
The big boys of the church denounced the nuns for talking too much about things like same sex marriage, supporting health care reform and advocating more women in church leadership roles. They called them radical feminists which sometimes will get timid women to clam up, but name-calling didn’t muzzle the nuns.
The nuns felt they were being progressive. The church said they preferred conservative.
The nuns said the church itself had long encouraged religious women to become educated thinkers. Back in the 1960s the nuns began expanding their traditional roles, getting advance degrees and entering the professions. They even started dressing different.
Well, all American women can relate to that.
It seems we have a match. A patriarchal church and a patriarchal country are both trying their last desperate best to control women who’ve gone too far. Some do it through birth control. Some through thought control.
It’s like Jane Fonda told Salon, the online magazine, about the Republican war on women. “They’re defending the patriarchy, which is a wounded beast. And wounded beasts are always dangerous.”
Not only have the nuns refused to cool it, they openly defied their critics. They held news conferences and went on record as being at odds with their church. Instead of waiting for big money to take out big TV ads they piled into a big bus and took themselves and their message across the country.
If some of the guys in charge would look around, they might see that these uppity nuns are really good for business. According to a Pew study, American Catholics think a lot more of the work of nuns than the Pope.
Even if you’re not Catholic you know the real good that nuns do. They’re the ones downtown at the Catholic Worker handing out bread and peaches to hungry people.
Sister Pat Farrell, the outgoing president of the nuns association and an Iowa Franciscan nun, has said that the sisters’ works “are very much pro-life. We would question, however, any policy that is more pro-fetus than actually pro-life. If the rights of the unborn trump all of the rights of all of those who are already born, that is a distortion, too.”
The nuns were reminded that the Vatican regards questioning as defiance and defiance is not healthy for the church. And doesn’t that just sound like some religious right politicians who are weeping over health plans that have to offer birth control as the death of religious freedom? All these guys seem to have the same problem. They want to run a church and a country like they did in the good old days. But modern women just keep getting in the way.
Well, too bad.
The wickedly funny Caitlin Moran, a British columnist and feminist, who wrote a book called How to Be a Woman said feminism taught women how to speak up. She says, “Without feminism you wouldn’t be allowed to have a debate. You’d be too busy giving birth on the kitchen floor biting down on a wooden spoon so as to not disturb the men’s card game.”
It’s not exactly nun humor but any thinking sister gets it.