This article by Barbie Latza Nadeau entitled, “No More Mr. Nice Pope” is a hoot to read. Barbie, you see, is disappointed and feels deeply letdown that the Vatican’s “clampdown” on the über-liberal Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) is continuing under Pope Francis. Say it ain’t so, Francis! Pope Benedict set the review of the LCWR into motion back in 2012 and many thought that Pope Francis would put the kibosh on the process, you know, give the good sisters a break and let them get back to saving the environment, protesting wars, and so on.
The Vatican’s review of the LCWR fits neatly into the media’s favorite narrative of an all-male, power-hungry hierarchy getting its kicks by bullying women religious who, after all, just want to make this world a better place for you and me. Well, no more pope and change, apparently. Disappointment on the left is starting to set in.
What began with Benedict continues under Francis.
Did these media types really think that things were going to fundamentally change with Pope Francis? I suppose so. Here’s an excerpt from Nadeau’s piece that captures the frustration:
But the sisters, it seems, were dead wrong to think they might get a fair shake under Francis. In what is being viewed as an even stronger clampdown, the Vatican has essentially warned the nuns that they must reform their organization and mend their errant ways or risk further scrutiny by the Holy See. In scathing remarks at an April 30 meeting, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, criticized the nuns’ choice of speakers to address their conferences, their leadership awardees, and the lack of spiritual guidance in their work.
And lest anyone assume the strong language was a leftover from Benedict’s days, Müller made sure the nuns knew Francis heartily endorsed the criticism. …
Francis, for his part, does not appear flexible on the topic. In several interviews, including one last September with the Jesuit magazine America, he dismissed the idea of women as equals. [Wait a second, how are we defining “equality”?] “I am wary of a solution that can be reduced to a kind of ‘female machismo,’ because a woman has a different make-up than a man. But what I hear about the role of women is often inspired by an ideology of machismo,” he said then. [That’s actually a great point. Feminism confines a woman’s abilities to the parameters of masculine qualities…no room for genuine and exclusively feminine gifts.] Now it is up to the nuns to flex their muscles or succumb.
Conveniently omitted from these mainstream media analyses of the LCWR situation is that female religious, just like male religious, take a vow of obedience to the Church. If there’s no intention of obeying the Holy See, it’s simple: Don’t sign up for the work. Yes, being Catholic, especially a Catholic religious, means committing, and submitting, to certain things. My question: Why isn’t the breaking of solemn vows, or the prospect of it, seen as the real story here? No one is forcing these women, or men for that matter, into the religious life; they freely choose it, and freely take a vow of obedience. So isn’t breaking that vow kind of a big deal? What does that say about one’s character?