Postage for Pakistan and other parts of the planet

Thursday, April 19, 2012

When do we get to stop beating the dead horse?

With reference to the post's subject line, it does get really tiring.

To wit, today, the Vatican issued it's long-anticipated, long-in-the-making report on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. Of course, the inanities that typically accompany such reporting were well on display.

Take this oh-so-banal piece by the Associated Press. With a hat tip to Fr. Z's way of doing things, I'll bold certain points and my comments will appear in red:

Vatican orders crackdown on US nun association  Already the emotional manipulation goes forth before we even get to the lede. "Oooooh ... the big, bad, bogeyman Vatican (Evil! Evil!) cracks down (!) on those po' widdle o'd nuns. Boohoohoo." (You can almost see Elmer Fudd or Bugs Bunny weeping copious tears.)

The Vatican orthodoxy watchdog [Why not just "a Vatican office" or "the Vatican" or "The Vatican office responsible for overseeing doctrine"? And how many readers even know what "orthodoxy" means?] announced Wednesday a full-scale overhaul of the largest umbrella group for nuns in the United States, accusing the group of taking positions that undermine Roman Catholic teaching on the priesthood and homosexuality while promoting "certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith." [Objectively verifiable if you've paid attention at all over the last 30-40 years. This isn't a new problem that just got noticed yesterday.]

An American archbishop was appointed to oversee reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which will include rewriting the group's statutes, reviewing all its plans and programs -- including approving speakers -- and ensuring the organization properly follows Catholic prayer and ritual. [Per the last comment, it's about time.]

The Leadership Conference, based in Silver Spring, Md., represents about 57,000 religious sisters and offers programs ranging from leadership training for women's religious orders to advocacy on social justice issues. Representatives of the Leadership Conference did not respond to requests for comment. [In 1997 or 1998, I heard Ignatius Press founder Fr. Joseph Fessio, SJ, say that the LCWR had 90% of the nation's women religious, but only 10% of vocations, while another group of women religious that is more faithful and orthodox (wears habits, loves the Pope, loves and follows Church teachings, etc.) has 10% of the religious, but 90% of the vocations.]

The report from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said the organization faced a "grave" doctrinal crisis, in which issues of "crucial importance" to the church, such as abortion and euthanasia, have been ignored. [I haven't seen the report so maybe this wholly fair, but I get the feeling the journalist is cherry picking the "such as" subjects he lists in order to push a political point. I hope I'm wrong.] Vatican officials also castigated the group for making some public statements that "disagree with or challenge positions taken by the bishops," who are the church's authentic teachers of faith and morals."

Church officials did not cite a specific example of those public statements, but said the reform would include a review of ties between the Leadership Conference and NETWORK, a Catholic social justice lobby. NETWORK played a key role in supporting the Obama administration's health care overhaul despite the bishops' objections that the bill would provide government funding for abortion. The Leadership Conference disagreed with the bishops' analysis of the law and also supported President Barack Obama's plan.

Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, said in a phone interview that the timing of the report suggested a link between their health care stand and the Vatican crackdown. The review began in 2009 and ran through June 2010, a few months after the health care law was approved. The report does not cite Obama or the bill. [Either Sister is being disingenuous or she knows nothing about the workings of the Holy See. The review took three years. In some corporations, that's less than a snail's pace, it's a cadaver's pace. God bless the visitors in the process who took the time to look at all the facts before releasing the report. And, really, let's be honest, as alluded above, this Visitation was really to formalize what everyone already knew: The LCWR is a hornet's nest of dissenters, syncretists, radical feminists (as opposed to the authentic feminism of Pia de Solenni et al), social libertarians, and neo-pagans (e.g., the goddess Gaia worship and labyrinth and reiki and Buddhist meditation seminars that pass for retreats in several convents in which I've personally been.]

"I can only infer that there was strong feeling about the health care position that we had taken," Campbell said. "Our position on health care was application of the one faith to a political document that we read differently than the bishops." [Yeah, right. It's all about your stand on health care, Sister. That's it. That's the ticket. Just keep on thinking that, Sister. Keep on thinking that.]

[OK, so here's the first secondary source quote of the piece, and it's someone who objects to the Vatican's position. Fair enough. A reporter's supposed to get both sides. Good. I'm sure the other side will get represented soon ...]

When the Vatican-ordered inquiry was initially announced, many religious sisters and their supporters said the investigation reflected church officials' misogyny and was an insult to religious sisters, who run hospitals, teach, and play other vital service roles in the church. [Ah, man! It just keeps getting worse. The Visitation "reflected church officials' misogyny" ... not alleged misogyny, mind you, but de facto misogyny, as in taken-as-a-matter-of-course/taken as read misogyny. Also these poor sisters. All they're doing is running hospitals, taking care of the sick and dying, teaching, and playing other vital service roles in the Church. Those mean Vatican bullies! Oi vey.] Conservative Catholics, however, have long complained that the majority of sisters in the U.S. have grown too liberal and flout church teaching. [Finally. Eight paragraphs into the piece, and we get an inlinking of the support for this besides just those big, bad, Vatican patriarchal men. I just know a secondary source quote from one of these "Conservative Catholics" will be up soon enough.]

Around the same time of the doctrinal review of the Leadership Conference, the Vatican ordered an Apostolic Visitation, or investigation, of all American congregations for religious sisters, looking at quality of life, the response to dissent and "the soundness of doctrine held and taught" by the women. The results of that inquiry have not been released.

The report released Wednesday paints a scathing portrait of the Leadership Conference of Women's Religious as consistently violating Catholic teaching.

Investigators cited a speech by Sister Laurie Brink at an annual assembly that argued that religious sisters were "`moving beyond the church' or even beyond Jesus." Brink is a professor at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. She did not respond to an email request for comment. [Sr. Laurie's quote is key. Kudos on this at least for its inclusion in the piece.]

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said the Leadership Conference had submitted letters that suggest that sisters in leadership teams "collectively take a position not in agreement with the church's teaching on human sexuality." [From how I read this, the Sisters did themselves no favors in this process. Does that show how out of touch they are or ... Hmmmm.]

In programs and presentations, investigators noted "a prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith."

"Some commentaries on `patriarchy' distort the way in which Jesus has structured sacramental life in the church," the authors of the report wrote. The investigation also found that while the Leadership Conference has emphasized Catholic social justice doctrine, the group has been "silent on the right to life from conception to natural death, a question that is part of the lively public debate about abortion and euthanasia in the United States.

The reform will be managed by Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain and could stretch over five years.

Nick Cafardi, a canon lawyer and former dean of Duqesne Law School, said he has worked over the years with many nuns and that the description in the report does not reflect his experience with them. Cafardi is an Obama supporter.

"I don't know any more holy people," Cafardi said of American religious sisters. "I see a lot more holiness in the convents than I see in the chancery."

[OK, first, where's the secondary source quote from a conservative to balance the piece and give a perspective on why this was needed? You have two quotes from this action's opponents. Why not at least one from a Dr. Scott Hahn, a Curtis Martin, a Teresa Tomeo, a Dr. Janet Smith, a Johnnette Benkovic or the like? Second, Cafardi is a learned man, we can see by his credentials. But how he is fit to judge these women's personal virtue, I don't know, and what that has to do with this issue, again, I don't know. But it does allow the reporter to end the piece on a snide note. Good for you, anonymous reporter! Sneaky, just like we've come to expect.]

So you see what I mean? On several different points, this piece shows why the much villified gets pretty much what they deserve in terms of people's growing disgust and voting with their feet. It wouldn't have taken much to have made this a sound piece, but I guess not much is too much. Oh well.

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