Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Now, Notre Dame's Fr. Richard McBrien weighs in ...

In his column today for NCR, "Women religious leadership conference has been faithful to its mission," here.  An excerpt:

[I am amazed] that there could be any "doctrinal" concerns about the organization and its leadership.

Some of the finest women religious in the United States, and worldwide, have headed the Leadership Conference. By identifying only a sample, I do not mean to imply that those sisters who remain unmentioned are (or were) of lesser quality and achievement.

The list of past national chairpersons and presidents of the Leadership Conference reads like a Hall of Fame of religious life: Mary Luke Tobin, Thomas Aquinas (Elizabeth) Carroll, Margaret Brennan, Francis Borgia Rothleubber, Joan Chittister, Mary Dooley, Theresa Kane, Nadine Foley, Doris Gottemoeller, Camille D'Arienzo, and so many others.

Moreover, the Leadership Conference's mission statement is as straightforward in its pastoral and doctrinal purposes as it could possibly be: "to promote a developing understanding and living of religious life by: assisting its members personally and communally to carry out more collabora-tively their service of leadership in order to accomplish further the mission of Christ in today's world; fostering dialogue and collaboration among religious congregations within the church and in the larger society; [and] developing models for initiating and strengthening relationships with groups concerned with the needs of society, thereby maximizing the potential of the conference for effecting change."

But there are certain key words and phrases, like "developing," "dialogue," "collaboration," "change," and "today's world," that are red flags for some church officials and a minority of women religious who are locked into the religious culture of the 1940s and 1950s, when nuns wore elaborate habits, remained for the most part confined to their convents and religious houses, took the names assigned to them, often those of male saints, and limited their apostolic activity principally to teaching children, and ministering to the sick, orphans, and unmarried pregnant girls.

It was unthinkable in those pre-conciliar years for a nun to appear in secular clothes, however simple, to engage in apostolic activities outside the convent or religious house, to reclaim their baptismal names, and to become engaged in ministries of social justice, human rights, and peace.

It was even more unthinkable that these now highly educated women would begin to think for themselves and to speak and act accordingly.

That is what seems to bother their critics the most.


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