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.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Anybody and Everybody

I posted on my personal blog, Creo en Dios!, some thoughts about reactions to the CDF's recent action with relating to women religious in the United States in a post titled "Here Comes Everybody."  I share them here for MOJ readers who might find them of interest:

There have been a lot of articles and other posts over the course of the last week relating to the decision of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith to appoint a bishop to exercise oversight over reforms of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. The CDF accuses the LCWR of "radical feminism" and "corporate dissent."

Not surprisingly, given the breadth of views within the Catholic Church, there are some who defend the action of the CDF and others who have expressed vehement criticism of the action.

One reaction caused me to pause longer than others. One of my Facebook friends wrote, "These men are not the Church."

As phrased, that is simply wrong. That is to say, the CDF alone is not the Church, none of us individually is. But a lot of people and groups fall under this large tent that is the Catholic Church. The parish I left at the end of this past year because it no longer spiritually nourished me, as well as the parish I joined. The people who share my vision of what Catholic social teaching says and the people who have a different understanding of what it means. The CDF and the rest of the institutional hierarchy and every individual Catholic - whether they go regularly to Mass or not. The people who say things that make me want to join hands and walk with them and the people who say things that make me want to cringe. We are ALL the Church.

It upsets me when some "conservative" Catholics (for lack of a better description) want to tell me I'm not the Church, suggesting I go elsewhere if I disagree with them. It upsets me equally when those at the opposite end of the spectrum suggest that those with whom they disagree are not the Church.

There is something to James Joyce' description of the Catholic Church as "Here Comes Everybody," an acknowledgement of the variety of people that make up the Church. An essential aspect of Catholicism is precisely that. I think we would all be better off if people were less quick to suggest that anybody is not part of everybody.



Stabile, Susan | Permalink

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Could there not have been a more sensitive solution to what seems to me to have been a real problem? It is difficult to look at this situation and not think that "the Church" felt the women were out of control, so they had to put a man in overall charge to whip them back into shape. Yes, I know that this is an obvious task for a bishop, but are there no women of such stature and "orthodoxy" in the Church that there could not have been a committee of men (including a bishop) and women to work with the LCWR?

There is a remarkable, eye-opening comment in a thread over at dotCommonweal which you can find on the page by searching for 04/24/2012 - 12:59 pm.

It begins: "I am a feminist Catholic who has worked in the church my entire life. Some of my best friends have been sisters. I’ve been asked repeatedly in the last days what I think of this. Well, here goes . . . ."

Posted by: David Nickol | Apr 25, 2012 11:39:02 AM

The LCWR, and its constituent religious communities, are not lone rangers. They are under the supervision of the Church. The CDF has the obligation to ensure that the faith is maintained. Pastor Bonus states: the duty proper to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is to promote and safeguard the doctrine on the faith and morals throughout the Catholic world: for this reason everything which in any way touches such matter falls within its competence. They are doing their job. Canonically they are doing precisely what they should.

Has the LCWR been a locus of radical feminism and corporate dissent? Of course it has! This is why there is the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious http://www.cmswr.org/. It isn't a matter of being conservative or liberal, it is a matter of Catholic vs. non-Catholic, orthodoxy vs. dissent/heterodoxy.

I remember back in the day when those of us more traditional Catholics were under siege. I once belonged to a dissenters parish where I was not fed or welcomed. I had to leave, in fact they were delighted to see me go. They didn't say "we are all the Church." We were often told to leave. No compromise was offered. We were marginalized and harassed. Now those who did not listen and persecuted us are expressing shock that their day is done. They are trying to trot out the notion that we should not do to them what they did to us. I have yet to hear any apology from them or any openness to Pope Benedict's reforms. They fight viciously and when defeated suddenly appeal for compassion, the same compassion they never gave. And I know that they only do it to buy time in order to once again try to subvert the faith. This action is long overdo.

Posted by: Fr. J | Apr 25, 2012 1:20:35 PM

A fine article on this issue:


Posted by: Fr. J | Apr 25, 2012 1:50:01 PM

Fr. J,

George Weigel writing for National Review would not be my first pick for an unbiased assessment of a situation like this, but at least some of what he says has already been said by people in publications that I am more receptive to.

The question in my mind is, If things are really as bad as Weigel says, why oh why oh why wasn't something done sooner? It can't be that Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI (in his first 7 years) weren't "orthodox" enough.

Weigel says: "That imagery — three men, acting on behalf of a male-dominated Curia, assuming leadership of an organization of women religious — proved irresistible to Vatican critics . . . "

Talk about "shocked, shocked"! Why shouldn't it prove irresistible? As I said above, are there no "orthodox" women of stature in the Church who might participate in reforming a group of 55,000 women? All the more so because Weigel says, "Ironically enough, it was men, not liberated women, who charted the path to the radical feminism that eventually led too many LCWR sisters and the LCWR itself into a mental universe unmoored from even the minimal requisites of Christian orthodoxy." So men led the sisters astray, and now men will put them back on the right path?

Posted by: David Nickol | Apr 25, 2012 2:18:14 PM

My purpose in writing this post was not to encourage attack or defense of the CDF on this particular issue, but to address the attitude reflected in comments about who is the Church. Since there appears no interest in that subject, I'm going to close comments.

Posted by: Susan Stabile | Apr 25, 2012 2:21:59 PM