Nothing Says You Value Women Like Siccing the Inquisition on Nuns!

[Content note: religious oppression, institutionalized misogyny.]

I alluded in yesterday's post to the Vatican's announced crackdown on Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents most American nuns and other women religious. The Washington Post has has more details, including the fact that this is the result of an investigation by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

And what have these nuns done to deserve such a "correction"? Not only have they sponsored conferences featuring "a prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith,” the Inquisition CDF also finds that:

"...the church’s biblical view of family life and human sexuality, are not part of the LCWR agenda in a way that promotes church teaching. Moreover, occasional public statements by the LCWR that disagree with or challenge positions taken by the bishops, who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals, are not compatible with its purpose.”
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!

The Vatican would like us to believe that this is simply a matter of "serious theological error." Without delving deeply into Church history or politics, let me simply note that this is a terribly, terribly convenient moment to "discover" this "error." It coincides with the USian debate over the Affordable Healthcare Act, which has tremendous financial implications for Catholic health and social services. It coincides with the U.S. Bishops' increasing attempts to permanently ally themselves with the Republican party, thereby gaining for themselves the kind of political power that the white, conservative evangelical establishment has enjoyed since the 1980s. And it coincides with an astonishing political season in which the leading candidate for the Republican nomination has distanced himself from women's economic rights, announced his intent to gut services which help guarantee women's basic bodily autonomy, and whose sole research into women's issues seems to consist of talking to a woman who shares his economic privilege and conservative religious beliefs.

(Gee, you know, except for that Mormon thing, Mitt Romney would make a great Catholic bishop!)

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.

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