The NYTimes had an article the other day about U.S. Nuns Facing Vatican Scrutiny. It seems that the nuns in this country have been playing fast and loose with the rules. Not wearing habits. Living outside the convent. And God forbid, doing good deeds in the communities while spreading God’s word.

On the Apostolic Visitation website, these visitations seem completely harmless. The Catholic Church is looking into the “‘quality of the life’ of women religious in the United States.”

But the NYTimes has found a few nuns who feel that this visit is not so genuine. Looking at the FAQ sheet, question 10 explains that the outcome of the visit is a confidential report to be given to the Prefect of the Congregation for Consecrated Life. So the women in the study may or may not ever know what information is actually gathered and reported back about how they live.

Question 7 notes that “Various institutes will be visited. Communities of cloistered, contemplative nuns will not be visited.” This sent up a red flag for some nuns who, according to the NYTimes article, “Surmise that the Vatican and even some American bishops are trying to shift them back into living in convents, wearing habits or at least identifiable religious garb, ordering their schedules around daily prayers and working primarily in Roman Catholic institutions, like schools and hospitals.”

I found this quote from the NYTimes article to be most interesting:

“They think of us as an ecclesiastical work force,” said Sister Sandra M. Schneiders, professor emerita of New Testament and spirituality at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, in California. “Whereas we are religious, we’re living the life of total dedication to Christ, and out of that flows a profound concern for the good of all humanity. So our vision of our lives, and their vision of us as a work force, are just not on the same planet.”

And this passage in the article gives me hope that the women who have taken these vows are not doing so by completely relinquishing their rights as women:

A few nuns have also been active in organizations that advocate changes in the church like ordaining women and married men as priests.

These are changes I could see making a huge difference. Although it might still not be enough to get me to come back to the Church. There are other issues where we disagree.

Below, I have re-written a previous post about Me versus Religion to give you an idea of why this article bothered me as much as it does.

I am a recovering Catholic, like being a recovering alcoholic—-you are never not one. I spent 18 years being brainwashed, and another 17 years trying to determine what is right and what is wrong from what I was led to believe.

At age 16, when my family, my friends, the Girl Scouts, and my teachers were all telling me that as a woman, I could do anything I wanted (iDad did recommend that I not try pissing on a campfire), the Catholic Church, through Catechism classes and preparing to be confirmed, was telling me that as a woman I am not equal.

One day during Confirmation Class, someone asked, “Why can’t women be priests?”

The priest barely hesitated when he replied in his heavily accented English, “Because women can’t keep secrets.”

I do not blame my priest for not having a good reason. He had led a difficult life, but the Catholic Church had rescued him. He had escaped Vietnam on a boat and was taken in by Canada where he learned English from Sesame Street. He later moved to the United States where the Catholic Diocese in their infinite wisdom, placed him in the center of Maine.

My hometown had culture if you think that different economic levels of white people is culture. The only people of color were five adopted children with white parents. As a kid, I secretly thought that my black and Vietnamese friends would grow up to be white. This was confirmed when a friend of mine, who lived with his two white aunts (it took me until college to realize that they weren’t related, but were probably lesbians) admitted that when he was five, he thought that he was black because he drank too much chocolate milk.

So my Vietnamese priest was put into a town that lacked exposure to other races. His accent was thick, but I enjoyed the challenge of understanding him, which was easy since all the readings seem to repeat from year to year and after 16 years of hearing the same words, I knew what to expect. His accent though, was a barrier for the elderly with hearing difficulties and the closed-minded people. They stopped coming to church, exclaiming in their Downeast accents—with their slow drawl, harsh sarcasm, and insurgence of “ayuh” ending sentences—that they couldn’t understand him. His Latin, however, was excellent, and he sometimes helped me with my homework.

The next to leave the Church were the liberals. The priest who had preceded him was a flamboyant man who let women loose upon the alter and made us all hold hands while saying the Lord’s Prayer. It took a while before the congregation was comfortable with holding hands across family units and sometimes across the aisles, but once the tradition was established it was hard to break. So when the new priest came in and God went back to his fire and brimstone ways and women were removed from the alter, the liberals left in droves, including my Meme, who’d I’d always known as a fixture in the Rectory.

It made sense then, that in Confirmation Class, when we were being told that the Catholic Church is the “one, right, true religion,” that we would question the presence of women on the alter. I conflicted with the Church in many respects. I couldn’t understand why they were so against homosexuality when it was obvious that many of the priests were in the closet themselves. I didn’t understand how they could be against both contraceptives and abortion when they themselves acknowledge that evil exists. How are women supposed to protect themselves? This was another indication that in the eyes of the Catholic Church women are not equal and have no rights over their own bodies. We aren’t even allowed to stop the Devil from impregnating us.

But the thing that really pushed me over the top was realizing that our previous priests had all been playing fast and loose with the rules by allowing women on the alter. Now we had a priest who followed the rules direct from the Vatican. And the rules are that there are no alter girls. No women on the alter at all.

This is when I realized that the Catholic Church believes that a penis is a microphone to God. As a woman, I can not be a priest, a bishop, or the Pope. I must speak through a penis if I want to talk to God. Sure, I can talk to him myself, but for confession, I must speak into the penisphone. And confession is the most important thing because that is why women can’t be priests—they can’t keep secrets.

Obviously, that is true, since I am telling this to all of you.


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