Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Nuns on a Bus

At first, it sounds like a parody on Jon Stewart or something. But it's not. It's righteous Roman Catholic social justice of a sort we too seldom hear about any more.

 The Bishops may whine that they are misunderstood and that their religious freedom demands the oppression of gay people and women in the secular world. But the nuns are targeted on the miseries proposed in Paul Ryan's budget proposal in the US House of Representatives--you know, the one that would increase defense spending and decimate help for the poor? Yeah, that one.  Destroying what tatters remain of the social fabric, that's the Republican way.

 And the nuns say, not in our name. We serve the weakest among us.

 What is it? Why, it's Nuns on the Bus!

From the NY Times:
 In a spirited retort to the Vatican, a group of Roman Catholic nuns is planning a bus trip across nine states this month, stopping at homeless shelters, food pantries, schools and health care facilities run by nuns to highlight their work with the nation’s poor and disenfranchised.  
The bus tour is a response to a blistering critique of American nuns released in April by the Vatican’s doctrinal office, which included the accusation that the nuns are outspoken on issues of social justice, but silent on other issues the church considers crucial: abortion and gay marriage.

The sisters plan to use the tour also to protest cuts in programs for the poor and working families in the federal budget that was passed by the House of Representatives and proposed by Representative Paul D. Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican who cited his Catholic faith to justify the cuts. 
 “We’re doing this because these are life issues,” said Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a liberal social justice lobby in Washington. “And by lifting up the work of Catholic sisters, we will demonstrate the very programs and services that will be decimated by the House budget.”

Everyone appreciates the Sisters.  The nuns are being greeted like rockstars, says the Des Moines Register.  Quoting an observer,
“They are precisely what I used to love and revere about the Catholic Church before I decided I could no longer tolerate the anti-woman stuff and exclusion of my gay brothers and sisters — and I had to walk away.” These nuns, she said, “are my heroes. True servants of Christ and true feminists.” 
After hearing what the sisters were saying, I had to agree. .... 
The most credible religious leaders stand up for the downtrodden and marginalized, both in words and in deeds, challenging power structures when necessary and evolving their teachings to stay relevant. 
These nuns, who live in the trenches alongside the poor and suffering, can claim a credibility few others among us could. They should be listened to.
They should, indeed.  But don't expect this to change the hearts and minds at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, let alone the Vatican.  Right wing RC pundit Bill Donohue is pretty clear about that, as NY Times writer Bill Keller tells us.
Donohue notes that roughly a quarter of Americans identify themselves as Catholic. He reckons maybe half of those, the more conservative half, attend church regularly and contribute. “They’re the ones who pay the bills,” he said. “Can we afford to ignore the other half? I think we can.” And as for the unsettled religious orders, the nuns and priests who vowed allegiance and now preach dissent, why should the church put up with insubordination? 
“Do we have more than a handful of nuns who have totally lost their moorings?” Donohue mused. “Oh, yeah.” 
His point: “Quite frankly I believe, as Pope Benedict the XVIth said just before he became pope, that maybe a smaller church would be a better church.”
Keller amazingly agrees with Donohue (pigs are flying):
Much as I wish I could encourage the discontented, the Catholics of open minds and open hearts, to stay put and fight the good fight, this is a lost cause. Donohue is right. Summon your fortitude, and just go. If you are not getting the spiritual sustenance you need, if you are uneasy being part of an institution out of step with your conscience — then go. The restive nuns who are planning a field trip to Rome for a bit of dialogue? Be assured, unless you plan to grovel, no one will be listening. Sisters, just go. Bill Donohue will hold the door for you.
And then, only slight snarky, he suggests a mechanism:
Thankfully, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York has offered us one possible remedy for this problem. As Laurie Goodstein documented in The Times recently, when he was archbishop of Milwaukee Dolan authorized payments of up to $20,000 to predator priests if they agreed to leave the clergy without resisting. He described this as “an act of charity.” Bill Donohue calls it “a severance package.” 
I suggest that any long-serving nun who has come to find church teachings incompatible with her conscience should be offered a generous severance. We could call these acts of charity “Dolan Grants.” Surely a church that offers a lifeline to men who brought disgrace on the institution can offer a living stipend to women who brought it honor at great sacrifice.
Well, I think there's some merit to that.  What do you think?

When my wife left the RC for the Episcopal Church, she resonated with this quote from the late John Cogley, who also swam the Thames. "I do not look upon this move as a 'conversion' since I have not changed any of the beliefs I formerly held," he said. "Rather, it is a matter of finding my proper spiritual home."

So, to the Sisters:  You totally rock.   And if it comes to it, just remember, the Episcopal Church welcomes you.

1 comment:

JCF said...

I just got a (published, Google it) email from Wayne Besen, saying "Catholics, Don't Enable: Just Exit"

I suggested a tweak: "Catholics, Sick of the Hypocrisy? Try a Sabbatical from the RCC".

If Roman Catholics just want to take a TEMPORARY leave-of-absence (along w/ their money!!!) from the RCC, that's fine w/ me. I think they might like what they find in TEC . . . until the RCC is REFORMED, as it's needed for a bunch of centuries now (and as John XXIII tried)