Nel's New Day

June 18, 2012

The Nuns Take a Tour

The Catholic bishops are calling for a “Fortnight for Freedom” starting Thursday because they believe that the U.S. government is abusing their religious freedom. The real issue is that the government—and most of the Catholics—think that all women should have the right to birth control, but another part of this “freedom” is to silence the nuns who care for the poor and feed them. Earlier this year, the Vatican removed their organizational leadership because all the nuns do is help people. The Vatican wants the nuns out there protesting abortion and marriage equality.

The Vatican has decided that the Leadership Conference of Women Religious undermines Roman Catholic teaching with radical feminist themes and takes positions that don’t Catholic teaching on the all-male priesthood, marriage, and homosexuality. Three U.S. bishops, including Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, have been given five years to reorganize that group.

Fourteen nuns, however, are three days ahead of the bishops. They started a nine-state bus tour today called “Nuns on the Bus: Nuns Drive for Faith, Family and Fairness,” beginning in Iowa, ending in Virginia, and making stops in Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland. Although the Vatican has shown no problem with the lack of economic justice in this country, touring nuns will both protest federal budget cuts that hurt low-income family and praise the nuns’ work in helping the country’s most vulnerable.

Although they haven’t specified opposition to any specific Republicans, nuns plan to visit offices of House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the instigator of the repressive budget that has already passed the House. Today they dropped by Rep. Steve King’s office in Ames (IA). Other activities on the bus tour include visiting homeless shelters, food pantries, schools, and health care facilities nuns to highlight their work with the nation’s most vulnerable.

The nuns have gained a great deal of support. Mary Ann McCoy, of Des Moines, described the nuns as “women of courage.” Sister Simone Campbell also appeared on The Colbert Show where she talked about the best way to enter the kingdom of heaven—and it isn’t by gathering wealth! Groups of Catholics are supporting the Women Religious. Picketers meet monthly outside Archbishop Sartain’s cathedral to protest his stance against equality. The Franciscan brothers issued a statement of solidarity with the nuns.

Another nun has recently distressed the Vatican. According to the leader of the Catholic Church, the 2005 book Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics by Sister Margaret A. Farley is “not consistent with authentic Catholic theology” and should not be used by Roman Catholics. Farley said that she had never intended that the book said express official Catholic teaching. The book, she said, offers “contemporary interpretations” of justice and fairness in human sexual relations, moving away from a “taboo morality” and drawing on “present-day scientific, philosophical, theological, and biblical resources.”

Yet the church has censured Sister Farley, a member of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas. This is the second time within the past few years that a book by an American nun has been denounced. In 2011, the doctrine committee of the United States bishops condemned Quest for the Living God: Mapping Frontiers in the Theology of God by by Sister Elizabeth A. Johnson, a professor of theology at Fordham University in New York.

Sister Farley’s book finds both moral and theological justifications for same-sex marriage. She wrote that marriage quality “can also be important in transforming the hatred, rejection, and stigmatization of gays and lesbians” and “can be justified according to the same sexual ethic as heterosexual relationships and activities.”

What are the male leaders of the Catholic Church doing to help people? Cardinal Timothy Dolan, leader of the U.S. Catholic Bishops, paid pedophile priests to disappear. He also led the Catholic hierarchy in New York in blocking a bill to give child molestation victims more time to file charges—and  not just once but seven times.

The Diocese of Phoenix (AZ) excommunicated doctors and nuns at St. Josephs for saving the life of a 27-year-old woman who would have died without an abortion. Brazilian bishops excommunicated a mother who helped her 13-year-old daughter get an abortion after being raped because she was so small that carrying the fetus might have killed her. But they failed to excommunicate the stepfather who raped the child.

The Catholics lied about contraceptives to Africans to keep them from using condoms that would save their lives. “The AIDS virus is roughly 450 times smaller than the spermatozoon. The spermatozoon can easily pass through the ‘net’ that is formed by the condom,” said the archbishop of Nairobi. Priests also told parishioners that condoms were impregnated with the virus.

They also lied to patients in small secular hospitals undergoing mergers with a Catholic healthcare network. Although the merger was not complete, a woman who miscarried and needed surgery to save her life was sent by ambulance to another hospital 80 miles away. To complete these mergers, CEOs of Catholic healthcare networks claim that the formerly-secular hospital can continue with contraceptives, vasectomies, tubal ligations, fertility treatment, and end-of-life patient directives, only to deny these once the merger is complete. The Catholic directives are in place despite the federal funding provided to these hospitals.

Deadly or “cardinal” sins are defined by Catholics as those from which all other sins derive: the seven cardinal sins are lust, gluttony, wrath, sloth, envy, pride, and greed. How does one classify the attempt to control physical lives of lay people? Or silence child victims to protect church assets? Or launder money? Pride? Greed? Wrath?

Not all the male leadership of the Catholic Church has ignored the needs of the people. Bishops have also opposed the Ryan budget, but they are far busier complaining about birth control for women. It’s the women who are doing the work that represents the Church’s religious belief that “charity is at the heart of the Church.” The bishops should think about this belief during their “Fortnight for Freedom.”


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