Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Catholic church's tragically misplaced priorities

So instead of addressing the perverted, violent sexual assault perpetrated on hundreds of innocent children by priests whom they trusted, the Catholic church is attacking the nuns. Talk about a case of misplaced priorities and ignoring the cancer right in front of its nose, instead choosing to pop that irritating pimple that just won't go away...the pimple of faithful women who work day in and day out for social justice, serving the poor and disadvantaged across the world. As Nicholas Kristof writes so powerfully in the New York Times, "we are all nuns."

I've always had a fascination for nuns, no matter where they stand on the religious spectrum. Whether it's Mother Teresa (who, some sources say, could be particularly self-serving), the 106-year-old nun who cast her first vote in 50 years for Barack Obama, the kind but strict nuns portrayed in theater (Sound of Music, Nunsense, etc.), the nuns well known for lashing out discipline in formal Catholic schools (and parodied so well in Late Night Catechism, which is an event not to miss!), or the sisters working in the inner city, serving the least of these. Last year I even had a "Nuns Having Fun" calendar in my office. To me, they epitomize the best of the Catholic church.

Then of course, there's my favorite nun: Mike's Aunty Gena, who has dedicated her entire life to serving the elderly as a nurse in her "Little Sisters of the Poor" order. Sadly, she's being affected by dementia and is no longer able to work, but her community is caring for her because she is one of their own. Sadly, we have not seen her since the photo below--she moved to Scotland several years ago, and we haven't been back to the UK since 2007. She is definitely a nun of the conservative stripe (perhaps even more so than American nuns), but I love what her life has stood for. She has led a selfless life, dedicated to God and service. That's what all nuns do. (She's also a complete hoot and in her day, loved to drive fast and go shopping for her little old ladies, buying finery and little treats for them that she couldn't have herself.)

At her 50th Jubilee Celebration, with me,
my sister-in-law Shemara, and a tiny Kieran
Nuns are the heart of the Catholic church. Not only are they more actively involved in serving the community day by day than priests are (running schools, hospitals, and soup kitchens), but they are also more educated (even though they cannot even give a homily, much less communion). They have sacrificed their lives and freedom for the church, and what do they get in return? Insults and persecution.

At the same time, Catholic priests, bishops, and cardinals who knowingly participated in covering up sexual abuse by priests are protected and shielded from punishment, and heaven forbid, not defrocked. For example, Cardinal Sean Brady participated in shielding abusive priests from prosecution, refused to protect other children who were being abused, and also did not warn their parents about what was going on. Now he refuses to take responsibility and is rejecting calls for his resignation as Ireland's top Catholic leader. The Vatican, for its part, is defending Brady by saying that "He did what he should have done. He forwarded all the information to the people that had the power to act."

My question is this: what kind of message is the Vatican sending by bullying the nuns instead of disciplining those who have forsaken human justice and compassion by protecting their own in lieu of protecting innocent children? As Maureen Dowd writes in the New York Times,
"How can the church hierarchy be more offended by the nuns’ impassioned advocacy for the poor than by priests’ sordid pedophilia? 

How do you take spiritual direction from a church that seems to be losing its soul?"
Amen to that. Let's hear it for those nuns!


  1. Let's hear it for a doughter who stands up for what is right and just! Thanks, Marie. Love,Mom

  2. Good for you - and there are women in other countries around the world keeping track of this situation. In Canada we like our sisters and nuns and their orders are connected to the US and European ones. Even Mother Teresa found in some of our inner cities that we needed her order. We have all - non-Catholics and even non believers of any kind - worked with and love the sisters and nuns. So the Vatican or the Pope seems to be on the wrong track which is all very sad.

  3. Thanks Mom, and Anonymous! Yes, I agree with you...very much on the wrong track.