American Nuns and the Vatican: More Pain than Promise

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The other shoe dropped on December 16, 2014 at a press conference announcing the “final report” on at least one phase of the long-simmering Vatican struggle with U.S. Catholic sisters.

It was not a red Prada slipper, and the devil is still in the details.

Despite herculean efforts to make nice, the 12-page report and its presentation reinforce the Roman Catholic Church’s patriarchal power paradigm. And although many have hailed the report as a sign of the Vatican’s warming toward women, I am not convinced.

Six Years of Scrutiny

The first shoe dropped in 2008 when Cardinal Franc Rodé announced an Apostolic Visitation of active women’s religious communities. The goal of the inquiry—akin to a grand jury—was “to look into the quality of life of apostolic Congregations of women religious in the United States.”

The benign-sounding rhetoric was, to those in the know, an unmistakable signal of disapproval of how women religious were living increasingly self- and community-directed lives.

The Visitation was in no way experienced by the subjects or meant by the perpetrators “to convey the caring support of the Church in respectful, ‘sister-to-sister’ dialogue, as modeled in the Gospel account of the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth” as one “eyebrow-raising paragraph” in the report asserted—this revisionist history is pure fantasy.

Rather than do it themselves, the men deputized Mary Clare Millea, A.S.C.J., to direct written materials and in person visits from 2009-2012 to more than 400 “entities” of religious communities in the United States.

While some of the visits were cordial enough, according to reports, there was never any illusion about why they took place or who ordered them. The nuns under study had no part in the overall process, no say in when, whether, and with whom they would share their lives. Instead, they were expected welcome “visitators” into their midst and to engage in data-gathering conversations which would be reported to Rome—and have the privilege of paying for it as well.

Ironically, the women reported that they became closer to one another within and among communities as well as to other lay Catholics—not that this was Rome’s intent.

Many of the women’s communities took deep offense at the notion that men in Rome would dispatch underlings to investigate their lives and lifestyles, especially their prayer and ministries. Nonetheless, because women’s religious communities belong to the kyriarchal structure of the church there was pressure to participate or suffer unnamed consequences.

As it played out, Mary Clare’s report was secret, hence the so-called “final report” is without any data to back it up, save the most easily quantifiable numbers of people, visits, and the like. Individual reports will go to “those Institutes which hosted an onsite visitation and to those Institutes whose individual reports indicated areas of concern.”

No one expects those to be love letters.

We Are (Still) All Nuns

As I have written here at RD (See, “We Are All Nuns” and other stories. -The Eds) the Visitation was not the only inquiry launched six years ago. The Visitation was prompted by the same kinds of concerns about progressive theological explorations, failure to fall in lockstep with the institutional church on moral issues, and some hint of “radical feminism” that motivated the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) to conduct its ongoing doctrinal assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

The Vatican “resolved” the LCWR matter in 2012 by naming an “Archbishop Delegate, assisted by two Bishops, for review, guidance and approval, where necessary, of the work of the LCWR.” Peter Sartain and two auxiliary bishops were named to do the work.

In 2014, the LCWR presented their Leadership Award to theologian Elizabeth Johnson, whose work the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops charges “differs from authentic Catholic teaching on essential points.” (I sincerely hope that it does.) Regardless, the award was enough to wake up the gentlemen to the fact that their “review, guidance and approval” were not necessary to the orderly functioning of LCWR.

This prompted yet another salvo from Rome, saying that now the women really must submit.

So goes the Roman blustering, ineffective in practice, but enough of a nuisance to distract attention, cost money, and sap energies all of which would be better spent doing the corporal works of justice and mercy to which the nuns are committed.

A Cloistered Culture

Abundant speculation surrounded the resolution of the Apostolic Visitation, which seemed to have fallen into oblivion with Pope Francis’ relatively warmer approach.  Some thought that the Vatican would be content to focus its scrutiny on the LCWR, maybe split the difference, and let the Apostolic Visitation fade. The pedophilia scandal and its cover-up, along with financial and membership losses, have so weakened the institution’s moral standing that any critique of the social justice-seeking nuns was plainly out of order.

Vigorous pushback by the nuns and other Catholic lay people, especially the Nun Justice Project of which I am a part, was an attempt to end clerical dominance and to reshape the top-down structure of the church, as much as it was a defense of the women religious’ right to live by their own lights. While women religious do seem to have won a victory in the latter case, nothing has shifted in the direction of a horizontally integrated model of church.

The recent press conference was an occasion, live-streamed around the world, to showcase an alleged newfound rapport between the Vatican and the U.S. nuns. It succeeded as theater, but as a model for future Catholicism it left me with more questions than answers, more pain than promise. Up jump the details.

“The Final Report on the Apostolic Visitation of Institutes of Women Religious in the United States of America” was signed by Cardinal João Bràz de Aviz and Archbishop José Rodriguez Carballo on September 8, 2014. But why did it take three months to announce it?

One can only speculate that the creaky wheels turn slowly in Rome. Some jockeying for position was involved, not to mention the time needed to plan face-saving remarks and try to get everyone on the same page. Still, three months? Why were there no embargoed advance copies of the text—for either the press or for the subjects of the report itself?

Of course this was the Vatican’s report, not the still-secret data that Mother Millea submitted, so no one can validate anything. So much for transparency going forward.

Much Air, Not Much Light

The press conference itself was odd on many fronts. I was reminded of a world I do not inhabit in which women and men call one another “mother” and “father” when none of them seem to have children. The very anachronism of that in-house jargon cued me to the kind of walled-off discourse (and culture) that allows unjust treatment to fester.

I would have hoped, naively to be sure, for a robust apology on the part of the Vatican officials, a gracious but cautious acceptance of it on the part of the women religious, offer of restitution by the men, and a common plan to make sure that no such egregious act is ever perpetrated again. Nunca mas, or so I dream. Nevertheless, this formula—used so effectively in dealing with abusers and abused—is the most relevant parallel I can find to understand what occurred in this case.

Instead, the two prelates delivered themselves of sonorous but largely vapid discourses. The Prefect acknowledged that some institutes chose “not to collaborate fully in the process” (maybe more than you will ever know, Cardinal Braz de Aviz), but called for the whole church to engage in “full reconciliation, which will offer a radiant and attractive witness of fraternal communion to all.”

Not so fast, Sir, since not all of us caused the nasty breach in the first place. Besides, future “communion” must reflect the full agency of all involved, impossible under present conditions for women in canonical communities as long as these kinds of shenanigans go on.

The Secretary was left to repeat what was already known about the Visitation process without offering much content of the report. Perhaps this is because there is not much content, or at least not much that is new or helpful for creating the next phase of religious life set in an egalitarian church.

Rather, he offered “the Congregation’s response to the Visitator’s General Report” with the sociological information of high median age/low number of new members.

He avoided discussing the sticky wickets about Christo-centric prayer as opposed to the spiritual eclecticism that many religious favor, the need for theological formation along the Vatican’s own lines not the broader, more useful ecumenically sensitive courses that characterize some programs, and a reinforcement of top-down authority patterns that many religious communities have long left behind in favor of mature, respectful consensus building, collective approaches to adult human relating.

All of this is in the report and surely will be disputed. No wonder they did not release the report in advance of the press event. There wasn’t much news that could be shared without airing differing views, something this group avoided like sin.

Let’s be frank: differences started the whole Visitation ball rolling in the first place, but the very process precluded discussing them openly among equals.

The women’s statements illuminated another problematic dimension of the whole sorry affair, namely, the ways some women are, and allow themselves to be, used in patriarchal power pyramids.

Mary Clare Millea led the way by thanking the gentlemen profusely and without the least hint of irony for their “deep trust,” for agreeing “to let us establish” a process for women’s own investigation. Thanks? She singled out one man who “showed great sensitivity,” others who “brought the Visitation to its completion.” She praised them for “hearing our voices…responding to us with sensitivity, respect and clarity…inviting us to continue our open and honest dialogue with one another….”

What planet was she visiting when thousands of lay Catholics, including a lot of nuns, called foul on this whole process?

Willingness to collaborate obviously got her the job and prompted her to take it in the first place. Her words had a plaintive quality; she was, after all, thanking the churchmen for things that any human being should do.

Could they have pulled off the Visitation without women’s willing participation? I can only wonder what, if anything, Mary Clare heard from the nuns who were so aghast at the Visitation, and whether in retrospect she had any regrets about her role.

Sharon Holland, I.H.M., current president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, had the unenviable job of saying something from the perspective of the majority of American nuns while her own organization is in receivership. She wisely reflected on her own experience, and gamely laid out some of the report’s elements such that women religious can “feel appreciated and trusted to carry on.” Hers was a delicate dance done with a certain grace. But it is hard to pirouette with an elephant in the living room—in this case the LCWR’s censure by another Vatican office.

Agnes Mary Donovan, S.V., rounded out the many ways women figure in these complex patriarchal paradigms. She played a spoiler role, affirming the Vatican’s less than condemnatory report on the nuns, but claiming that her group, the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR), knew all along that things were hunky-dory.

After all, they, the self-proclaimed real McCoys of American nuns, have bucked the feminist-seeming trends and are sitting pretty for the future. Her members’ median age, she claimed (the numbers are disputed by some experts) is twenty years younger than the national average (53 versus 70+). Her sisters are encouraged to embrace a self-less spirituality in which, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Gal. 2:20). It is religious life as the Vatican would have it.

For all the feel-good efforts of the day, this presentation gave me the distinct impression that the speaker may have gone a little off script to distance herself from the aggregate. In so doing, she tried to position the CMSWR as the future and LCWR as the past—despite the fact that she represents a fraction of the whole of women religious. I am sure the Roman officials smiled on her. While variety is good, efforts like this to promote one way to be religious and eclipse go against the grain.

Feminine Genius or Feminist Genius?

A close look at the text leaves me disconcerted on three additional fronts.

First, there is the essentialism. Women’s “feminine genius” is a patriarchal fiction. Yet, it is trotted out time and again by Pope Francis and those who would curry his favor. In this report, “competent women religious will be actively involved in ecclesial dialogue regarding ‘the possible role of women in decision-making in different areas of the Church’s life.’” (EG, 104)

Any feminist genius will say that such nuancing is no substitute for a full-throated affirmation of human equality uttered with sleeves rolled up to create egalitarian civil and ecclesial structures. Anything less is bogus. Every time such code language is used, feminist geniuses will be happy to flag it for what it is.

Second, the document sets women in canonical religious communities against one another and over against other laywomen. If “competent women religious” are to be pseudo-clericalized as the next step forward, I say, no thank you.

The goal of progressive Catholics who have supported the nuns in this skirmish is not to make some of them equivalent to clerics in decision-making. Rather, it is to flatten out a hierarchal model of church so that all adult members can participate fully. Privileging women religious is an attempt to co-opt them.

Note the Vatican’s careful effort to claim an “essential difference” (par. 3) between vowed religious and their associates or co-members. This is purposely divisive as women’s religious communities are finding creative and life-giving ways to share their ministries and goods broadly. Just as I hope LCWR will not fall into the trap of being compared to CMSWR, neither should the rest of us take the bait nor allow ourselves to be divided over different lifestyle decisions and community connections. There is plenty of ministry and justice work for all.

Third, “follow the money” has never been better advice.

I found the financial discussion to be the most distressing part of the report. Among the reasons given why many congregations do not have sufficient resources to care for their sisters—including many elderly sisters who volunteer instead of getting paid, women who work with poor people and are not highly remunerated, for example—is “the long-term consequences of women religious having been undercompensated for their ministry over an extended period of time.” (par. 9)

Whose fault was that?

Another reason given is that “Some sisters serving in ecclesial structures receive relatively low salaries or have lost their positions in the downsizing of the institutions they serve.” (par. 9)

Well, those would be churches for the most part.

These statements astonish in their baldness. It is the institutional church that “undercompensated” women religious for generations. In parishes and schools, priests and nuns inhabited entirely different economic circles, with nuns modeling simple living before it was fashionable while many priests drove late model cars, had housekeepers, and lovely quarters.

Reparations are in order. How about some millions of the Vatican’s newly found “hundreds of millions of Euros” (their creative accounting is a subject all its own) going to women’s religious communities to make up for centuries of economic injustice? If not, let every Vatican official take a vow of silence about women’s economic choices.

Watching this unsavory chapter of church history unfold, I am reminded of how batterers often return home with flowers to win back the women they have beaten. So the cycle starts again, with kind words and pledges to do better next time. But the battering (or “assault,” as Thomas C. Fox wrote this week in NCR) begins again.

The time for serious change is dangerously overdue in Roman Catholicism: I refuse to be a bystander, and I encourage others to join me in taking action.

  • http://www.thepopesfool.com The Pope’s Fool

    I couldn’t agree more. I was beginning to gag on all the glowing reports. The visitation (and the LCWR investigation) were abusive from the get go. Treating it like some sort of olive branch or pat on the back belies the nastiness that went into it and thus plays into a falsehood. Unquestionably Pope Francis agrees with Cardinal Sean’s assessment that it was a catastrophe and this may be the most politic exit that can be made at this time, but it should be seen for what it is — the walking back of a hurtful and expensive indulgence in episcopal malfeasance. Such are the fruits of autocracy.

    On the bright side, I hear that the LCWR just issued their Apostolic Report on the US bishops! (And it didn’t take six years and over a million bucks.) For more on that, see thepopesfool dot com …

  • Luis Gutierrez

    Sin has a long tail, and it is not reasonable to expect that centuries of patriarchal abuse can be atoned for in short order. Going forward, I wonder what the “new discernment” that was mentioned is about.

  • Judith Maxfield

    Not being Roman Catholic, its a bit hard for me to understand the details, except I would still favor believing the Sisters who, from the outside looking in, do seem to really live the Gospel and probably do not defend themselves against the hierarchy very well. Women tend to work to pull people together for the sake of the community. I hope that they find the way to continue the servanthood for those who are the poor, the orphan, the oppressed. For me, I see the Vatican always in the way of truly living how Christ would want us to be. Thats how its always been.

  • http://sisterlea.wordpress.com SisterLea

    BRAVA! BRAVA, Mary Hunt!…for your continued fearlessness in speaking truth to power and for your deep and persevering love for God and the People of God! You speak out, like the prophet/esses of old, against the idolatry and blasphemy of a church system that models and promotes an autocratic god.

    THE RCC CAN AND MUST DO BETTER… Or those who see the problem must, in all concern for the world and what leadership potential still exists in the Catholic Chirch, provide an alternative model of leadership and service. Many were hoping this would be LCWR’s position???

    Nevertheless, as you say, “The time for serious change is dangerously overdue in Roman Catholicism: I refuse to be a bystander, and I encourage others to join me in taking action.” I AM WITH YOU!

    As you say, “The goal of progressive Catholics who have supported the nuns in this skirmish is not to make some of them equivalent to clerics in decision-making. Rather, it is to flatten out a hierarchal model of church so that all adult members can participate fully. Privileging women religious is an attempt to co-opt them.”

    And not simply “flattening out a hierarchical model of church,” but transvaluing the very theology that supports hierarchism in the first place!

  • dove

    my memory of the nuns I had in school in the 1960s was quite positive, and they lived as comfortably as the priests of the parish. I don’t agree with this exaggeration of the way priests and nuns have been forced to endure opposing lifestyles. As a married woman of 40 yrs I like the vaticans idea of what a nun should be and can relate to it as a successfully married Mother and wife, an attitude that has worked and has enabled mine and many marriages to last as long as they have. What I hear in this article is the nature of an ego struggling for power, it rings of wives ive met over the years blaming their husbands for why they do not feel good about themselves. We have to take responsibility for our own choices.

  • 1LittleBear

    Sorry, but many “religious communities” were not founded to be ‘cloistered’
    Sisters. They were founded to be ‘lay-led’ societies. But in the 18th and 19th centuries—the Vatican forced women doing charitable works to be under the ‘jurisdiction’ of men. So all of these groups were told—become
    canonical religious communities (active rather than monastic), engage in
    community living, take the three Evangelical vows, and wear habits.

    We are in a new age and era! NO WOMAN has to take the ‘wife-abuse’ from the Vatican. Several communities—got out of the habits that their founders never intended them to have.

    And your concept of “ego” is just like that of the male-culture of the early 20th century in America who didn’t want women to vote, to get degrees in professional areas, to work outside the home, etc. Get a grip! Women aren’t adult versions of little children. Just as men have the right to pursue independent ministries, and to assert themselves (and the hierarchy and some clergy certainly do), the Sisters have that same right.

    God did not create women to be the handmaids of the male gender—no matter how they ‘couch’ this position (virtue of humility, being Mary-like, etc.).

  • mike gallagher57′

    A big steamroller is needed to take the starch out of the male bishops and sister superiors who act like them . As a chaplain at Villanova in the 60’s summer schools, it was one sister after another getting ready to leave because of their mail being censored, being assigned a companion one did not get along with,to go on a home visit etc.. The sisters got rid of the starch and your analysis needs to be taken to heart and the religious life will flourish again. Too many ands-sorry Sister!

  • RudyM

    Will a “Visitor” be appointed to look into the financial improprieties of the Franciscan friars? I think not. “Machismo” is alive and well, not only in Latin America but in the RCC.

  • dove

    I hope you are a nun to explain your narrow views about what a relationship is between a husband and a wife, Its certainly nothing like you describe and any wife will tell you she cant imagine what you are trying to say by comparing the Vatican to a Wife abuser!!! This reminds me when I was studying nursing we got a female psych professor who told us she ASKED to teach the female nursing students, because she wanted to enlighten us to feminism, she assumed we were going to be too conservative , etc. Some of us were older and already married and thought she was a pathetic nut. The younger nursing students just smiled and didn’t have a clue what she was talking about and didn’t care.

  • TheRealReginaPhalange

    Why is @1LittleBear’s view of relationships ‘narrow’ but your’s isn’t? You argue that women wanting equality is all about ‘ego’, yet men wanting dominance is not about ego?

  • dove

    are you referring to nuns who entered the convents and then decided they should have new rules made to accommodate their change of opinions? if they don’t like the rules, leave. If they entered the convent intending to try and change the way the church is run, does that mean they entered the convent pretending to be committed to the rules about authority and isn’t that like a bride marrying her spouse but not really meaning what she say in vows so it makes her eligible for an annulment? if so cant nuns get an annulment from their convent and just go live as a single lay woman and get on with her life?

  • TheRealReginaPhalange

    I was actually referring to your comment claiming that @1LittleBear’s view of equality in a marriage is ‘narrow’, but that your view in which a woman is expected to be submissive to a man is somehow open-minded. I was also pointing out the comment you made in which you claim that wanting equality is about ego.

    And what exactly are you referring to in marriage vows that a woman decides to go back on? To love someone in sickness and in health? For richer or poorer? For better or worse? Because I’m fairly certain men have to make those vows as well.

  • MJ Warren

    Wishing it were so does not mean it is so. The mere fact there is a report being made tells us they are in control. All the “talking” will not change that. The women are taking control of their own lives and the patriarchy doesn’t like it. No change there.

  • dove

    a husband and wife that plan to stay married forever have to submit to one another back and forth all through their marriage. Wanting power is from the ego. The nuns complaining of not having equality expect the Vatican to change their minds to cater to their opinions instead and if they wont they accuse them of refusing to give them equality. This same misrepresentation of equality is why 50% of marriages end in divorce.

  • Janice Poss

    Mary, Right on! I’ll post more later, but using the feminist hermeneutic, not of suspicion, but of righteousness is brilliant as always!! The Vatican has a long way to go before they sleep with this one, so let’s stay vigilant an make sure they don’t until deep transformation takes place at all levels!! I rest positive that this is a start, albeit always clumsy and bruising, yet in a direction that all cannot yet see if for the betterment of the entire instittution and all of God’s people!

  • JATK

    And women religious have done so for many decades!

  • 1LittleBear

    Sorry, but your concepts about sisters is full of baloney.1) Consecrated women in active congregations are not NUNS (nuns are cloistered, take solemn vows, etc.). 2) Religious congregations have over the centuries been able to/and have been required to regularly re-examine their constitutions, and policies’ handbooks—to keep them up to date.

    Women religious have through the ages wrote their own rules (I suggest you study the life of St. Clare of Assisi who even faced excommunication—in order for her sisters and herself to live their religious life practicing poverty as St. Francis had directed]. Clare wanted to live the privilege of poverty—despite what the Curia at the Vatican wanted to impose upon them.

    As a church historian—I have access to many chronicles of the religious communities. These chronicles were written from the time of the founding of the congregation up to the current day.
    Nobody is trying to dictate to the Pope or to the Curia how the Church is to be run. The Sisters, do, however, expect the Curia to tell the truth, and to be just in their dealings with the Sisters. And believe me, that has not been the case when the investigations began during the papacy of Benedict.

  • TheRealReginaPhalange

    Oh please, your idea of equality is a man having dominance and a woman being submissive. That is not equality no matter how much you wish to redefine the term. Why have women historically been required to promise to ‘obey’ their husbands but the same was not required of men? And that’s changing too.

    And the reason why divorce rates are high is because its no longer taboo to get divorced as it once was. And if the reason a marriage ends in divorce is because a woman wants equal partnership (equal division of labor in the home, equal say in major decisions, ability to work outside the home and not be expected to do all the house chores on her own), then that’s the husband’s fault for not treating his wife with respect, not the woman’s for expecting it.

  • dove

    I have to laugh at the demand for equal house chores, so they get divorced and now each one of them is having to do every chore themselves without any break or sharing of responsibilitys and both are so tired after work and the poor kids end up living often in disorderly homes or having paid help to come in and invaid their privacy to clean up and cook. ( and the single parent has to pay for the chores to be done) How brilliant is that? they really showed their spouse good by divorcing , right???

  • dove

    they sound like they want to be provided for as if they are estranged wives of the priests, its very odd. If they want the rights of wives they need to choose to marry. If women want to be single and do christs work and get paid for it I guess they have to start up their own church and see if it happens for them.

  • TheRealReginaPhalange

    Oh, so the alternative is for the woman to do everything on her own? That’s your solution? Why not the man do all the house chores on top of working outside the home? Does that seem fair to you? Or is it only fair that the woman do everything herself? And I’m sure that being single and doing all the work on your own makes a person happier than having to do even more work for someone else who expects you to be their servant. At least the resentment isn’t there.

    You seem to be under the impression that this is the only reason people get divorced – there are many reasons. And children are far better off with divorced parents who are happy than having their parents live together in a hostile environment where nothing changes and they see how miserable they are together. I’m sick of people romanticizing the past as though everything was perfect when divorce was taboo and attainable under only a select few circumstances. I’ve met elderly people who have described how miserable they were in their marriages because there was no such thing as no-fault divorce. And there are many people who will tell you how they wish their parents had gotten divorced instead of living together in misery. You need to stop looking down on divorced couples when you have no idea what they have been through or how much happier they are apart.

  • dove

    they made a vow to stay married in sickness and in health, I stayed married in ups and downs, so I can speak from experience, Theres no such thing as a long marriage without ups and downs and that , Im sure , is why the part about sickness and health is included in the vows. I know many spouses who both work full time fight about chores and some end up hiring a maid rather then fight with the children who don’t do the chores they are supposed to be doing and the maid becomes one of many series of bills the working couple is working for…..if you marry say, a husband from a homelife where mom stayed home and kept the house while dad worked and then you marry him and expect him to suddenly adapt to the feminist thinking, you can expect a problem, just like if he expected his wife to do the things she watched the men do. This working full time for both spouses causes adjustment on many levels, if the wife makes more then the husband in pay and subconsciously this does not feel right to either one of them, fights erupt from resentment. There are real reasons of struggle of preconceived ideas about what is a man and what is a woman that come into play and its an overall failure when the success rate of marriage in the usa has become 50%. The application of feminism thinking is not working. It interferes with the way men and women regard one another as strong and soft, feminine and masculine, we are effected by what we do and what we witness our spouses doing, we are born different and need to see each other in a respectful light in one anothers different roles. Out of the 50% of marriages that WORK and LAST you can be sure there are plenty of spouses who adjusted their roles for the sake of peace, a wife who said the heck with this fighting, and gives up her outside employment and takes over the control of the home and children the old fashioned way and tells her husband he is now going to be fully responsible for everything else and they make it work and it does work. The children benefit from the adjustment better then seeing mom and dad divorce. This is one way it works, but any marriage that endures sooner or later requires submission and adjustment and compromise, giving up something to gain a lasting marriage.

  • TheRealReginaPhalange

    Instead of writing all of that, you could have simply responded with: ‘yes, the alternative is for the woman to do everything on her own’ because that is what you are arguing here. That, and for women to give up their careers. Marriages that don’t end in divorce aren’t necessarily successful – like I said, you are romanticizing the past instead of accepting the fact that not everything is so black and white. You are advocating that women give up their careers and become submissive rather than both of them take on equal responsibility and make equal sacrifices. Your argument is beyond absurd.

  • dove

    I had a career after my kids were in school full time, being an employee also requires submission, whos kidding who? Some women prefer to give their 100% to their family first, no exceptions.

  • TheRealReginaPhalange

    The issue here isn’t the dynamic you and your husband have chosen, its the holier-than-thou attitude you hold over every other woman who may not choose to do the same, not to mention your judgement over divorced couples. You have no idea what some people have gone through in their marriages (abuse, cheating, lies, and/or simply a partner who absolutely refuses to make positive changes). You can sit their with your martyr fetish and think how much better you are than everyone else because you assume that you would sit their and take whatever abuse they may have gone through, but until you’ve actually been in their situation, I’d advise you to tone down your arrogance.

    Oh, and your false equivalence of an example isn’t quite as clever as you think it is, since by your argument, men have to be ‘submissive’ to their bosses too. Since they take on a submissive role at work, then they should have no problem taking on that role at home with their wives.

  • dove

    a smart women knows how to get her husband to submit sometimes without rattling his ego. Women today or many women, most of them divorced did not know how to keep a marriage. Men are much easier to work with then women, and many good long marriages survived abuse, and cheating and everything else you posted. You marry and don’t know all the facts, about yourself or about your spouse and neither do they, no one is perfect, and the way we relate to the world is pretty concrete by the age of 7 or so so when you marry you find out what works and what does not, that requires flexibility and that’s after you’ve checked them out dating. Its outrageous how old first brides are today and they end up divorced. Like they have not learned a thing in all the years of dealing with different boyfriends and relationships, they have to still go and make a bad choice in marriage.

  • TheRealReginaPhalange

    There’s that arrogance again. But I suppose its far more important in your world that a marriage not end in divorce than a person’s safety and dignity. Marriage does not and should not trump absolutely everything else, especially a person’s right to feel safe without facing abuse by someone who is supposed to love them.

  • dove

    we all know 50% of divorces is not due to spousal abuse. There ia so much self centeredness now it brings out friction and destruction of any relationships. Selfishness can bring about abuse and many other things that break down the fiber of a marriage. Many divorced people are full of such excuses of justification.

  • TheRealReginaPhalange

    I was responding to the comment in which you said:

    ‘many good long marriages survived abuse, and cheating and everything else you posted.’

    You’re the one with the no-exceptions attitude here, not me. I was merely pointing out that there are many reasons why people get divorced (of which abuse is one that most compassionate, reasonable people can agree is a very good one). I never said that all divorces were a result of abuse and you know that.

  • dove

    where in the marriage vows when it says In sickeness and in health, do you hear anything about exceptions?

  • Jim Reed

    The whole point of the church is to cover up the fact that the church has become the God that people look up to. You need a certain amount of dishonesty to make it in that environment and there is no way to do it “correctly” without upsetting things. The women will always lose if they try to make sense of it because if they ever found a way not to lose, the church would lose.

  • TheRealReginaPhalange

    Not that you’d care to show any respect, but not all marriage vows adhere to the traditional Christian vows. Buddhism is one example in which marital vows are different to the traditional Christian ones, not to mention that a lot of people write their own vows these days.

    And I suppose you think that Susan Smith’s husband should have remained married to her after she killed their kids? What about Connie Culp after she was shot in the face by her husband?

  • dove

    Im focusing on catholic marriages, life is too short to worry about the ” other” vows.

  • TheRealReginaPhalange

    No word on Connie Culp or David Smith, then? And those divorce rates you keep mentioning aren’t all from Catholic-officiated marriages, yet somehow you seem to ‘worry’ about them.

  • dove

    anyone who makes a wedding vow that leaves out ” till death do us part” is not entering into a marriage but into a term lease.

  • TheRealReginaPhalange

    So you think that David Smith and Connie Culp should have remained married to their spouses?

    It must be so easy to pass judgement when you lucked out and didn’t marry a complete sociopath.

  • dove

    so now we have reduced exceptions to divorce to psychopaths? I suppose this is progress , however, they say there are plenty of psychopaths amongs us, probably in every 4 people has psychopathic tendencies. Im thinking of the Iceman who was from nj and everyone in his family and neighbors thought he was a find upstanding citizen and he was said to never be abusive to his wife or daughters. Perhaps you want to define ” psychopath and I have no idea who those two people are you keep mentioning.

  • TheRealReginaPhalange

    You are the one who said there were no exceptions whatsoever when you asked ‘where in the marriage vows when it says In sickeness and in health, do you hear anything about exceptions?’. Now that you have been confronted with two very real and horrifying cases (of which I have explained so quit pleading ignorance), you refuse to answer the question.

    Its very simple: Yes or no, should David Smith have remained married to his wife after she murdered their children? Should Connie Culp have remained married to her husband after he deliberately shot her in the face?

  • dove

    any exception for divorce disrespects the sacrament of marriage. If people don’t regard marriage as a sacrament then it really does no matter if they divorce or not. or why bother marrying at all? they just want the secular benefits of marriage I guess. I can not relate to mentally ill people who come together and marry and the woman takes abuse and over looks red flags and loud whistles warning her that the guy is not someone a sane person would date never mind marry. I know a woman who caughter her fiancé cheating on her weeks before their wedding and she justified it and said she would straighten him out and went through with the marriage and kept having kids with him and the fourth child arrived and he told her he was in love with a woman he met at work and left her. Stupid, she was just a series of affairs he had after the marriage. People you think are smart can be very stupid when it comes to who they marry. Better to separate, don’t divorce and just stay away from relationships of romance, focus on the kids on other things but some people ought not trust themselves to getting involved. I still say don’t divorce.

  • TheRealReginaPhalange

    There aren’t always red flags before marriage and you know that. You think that Connie Culp should have remained married to the man who deliberately shot her in the face? Look her up and see what he did to her. You are a heartless, arrogant person and you represent everything that is wrong with your cult of martyrdom.

  • dove

    it is not just respecting marriage its respecting the period of time that perceives marriage. The Catholic teachings to remain a virgin till marriage is to protect the woman most of all and she in turn is the heart of the home later on. It sure weeds out the bad guys if you are denying them sex before marriage.Women are so easy today they play with fire from day one, and make poor judgement calls right from the beginning. They fail at the process of finding a husband who will fall in love with them long before they engage in sex. It was the women who controlled men now the men control the women.

  • TheRealReginaPhalange

    Now I know you’re definitely a troll. Since when were we talking about virginity? We were talking about divorce and the belief you have that there should be no exceptions. In case you actually believe what you are saying, you have further exposed your hypocrisy by claiming that women should be virgins, yet you say nothing about men ‘saving themselves’. And if a man expects his wife to be a virgin on their wedding night when he isn’t one himself, then he has no respect for her or any woman. I’d rather die than marry some insecure hypocrite. A good man would be someone who believes that women should have the same rights as he does.

    Oh, and you continue to romanticize the past I see. You and your ilk have deluded yourselves into thinking everything was perfect in the past. I guess as long as you weren’t gay, or black, or a woman, or mentally ill, or a religious minority, then yeah, everything would have been perfect for those in power.

    If you truly stand by your convictions, then don’t be a coward. Come out and respond with this exact sentence: ‘Yes, I have seen the pictures of what Connie Culp’s husband did to her and yes I believe she should remain married to him’. Go on, copy and paste that exact sentence and admit to your belief rather than going around in circle with some crap about virginity (as though you have any record of their dating history – you think no one was abused by their spouse in the 1950s? You think a virgin was never abused by anyone?).

    Also, go on and say that David Smith should have remained married to the woman who murdered his children, instead of remarrying and having children with his new wife and attempting to find some happiness after what he had been through. Type those sentences out and let the world see what you stand for. Don’t write anything else but those two statements.

  • dove

    why are you fixated on that one story? maybe you read Star magazine but Im not interested in the gory mistakes people make in their lives. Without knowing the facts let me guess, she had a history of domestic violence and social services were called in and didn’t much help and she had a restraining order and he ignored it. Was he insane? About virginity, a virgin bride stands apart from the sexually active woman a man has already pleasured himself with. This demonstrates in you a lack of understanding of the way women and men complete each other. I know feminism has completely left women clueless, instead trying to force women to all be sexual and yet thinking that is going to get them advanced respect from men! Look around!!!! Go back to you gory story you keep posting. Men have lost respect for women sinces feminism prompted women to become sexually liberated. You can stand on your head and insist virginity is just old fashioned but Gods will never changes and men value a woman who hasn’t slept around. Its natural for men to be territorial, theres not a thing that’s ever going to change it and women making themselves so easy to men makes the men feel totally unchallenged and they soon become dissatisfied. That’s never going to change.

  • http://sisterlea.wordpress.com SisterLea

    “The women are taking control of their own lives and the patriarchy doesn’t like it. No change there” you say.
    I agree with you that “wishing” change is not enough. Is it enough to just take control of our own lives? Surely this is a good example to our children, but if the Church is worth anything as an institution mediating hope, don’t we need to work on transvaluing the theology that supports a patriarchal god?

  • MJ Warren

    While you may be right in thinking they (patriarchy) have promised to look at the question and the ideal is good. However, you are assuming that changes will be made and that they will be made in your favor. Another promise of what they will do. A promise of doing is not the same as doing. As far as I can see, they are making the parameters to talk amongst themselves and decide what is good for women in the church. Discussion only works if two play, and you only have the promise they will play. If you do not have control of your lives and work, you have control of nothing. As I see it, you (collectively) have decided you need to serve the people as well as the church, not just the church. They (patriarchy) feel they are losing control, and they are lashing back to regain that control. They have not even hinted they will look at the theology behind their form of control of women. IMHO, thinking they will is simply wistful thinking on our part. We must have a Plan B just in case we do not get our wishes. Is anyone thinking of what they will do if the decision is to keep the status quo? You can, and IMO should, be, working to mediate with the Vatican while compiling a Plan B, C, D …etc, as many as is needed. Your point people can try to convince the Vatican they need to change while the rest are planning what to do if they don’t listen. This Bargaining 101. I agree with your aims, just not the thought that if you can just talk long enough or say the right words in the right ears, you will get what you want. The Vatican has a huge vested interest in keeping things just as they want. You need a bargaining chip that will make them realize fighting with you is more trouble than what they gain.

  • MJ Warren

    Christ had many women he talked to and listened to while the apostles admonished him for this heresy (in their view). When he died, these women disappeared from the gospels. When Christ was gone, the apostles gt their way. I think their vow of obedience has a lot to do with the actions of the sisters. Just a thought.

  • MJ Warren

    What? How can you relate service to men and failed marriage as being the fault of the women involved? Wow, I really thought woman-blaming was done with. When a marriage fails or is in trouble, both partners share the blame and both partners must be ready to compromise. Years of being a counselor taught me that.

  • MJ Warren

    Um, no. That is your opinion and that does not mean it is right. Have you forgotten the abuse scandals? Have you forgotten the bishop’s role in spreading the abuse? Have you forgotten the abuse that was heaped on the victims by the Vatican? Have you forgotten how two Popes refused to acknowledge there was even a problem until the civil laws were used? You can’t forget the inaction of the Vatican spread the disease and heaped more pain on the real victims. You seem to have a bad case of myopia.

  • MJ Warren

    OMG, the more you say, the more I think you are not thinking. Entropy (change, sometimes chaotic) is the way of the world. Whatever does not change will eventually die under it’s own weight. Are you saying you reject all the changes in science, technology, medicine, public health, personal rights, etc? You accept those changes , but nuns must never, ever change anything at all. If we applied your thinking to daily life, we would all be serfs, oafs or churles, with no rights but to live and die at the whim of some high and mighty male ruler! But then again, you only apply your rules to women. Sorry, I forgot.

  • MJ Warren

    No, in my history in practice, most marriages ended by women is due to violence, which is a direct result of the men in their lives using patriarchal power to rule them. I don’t know where you get your information, but it is all wet. Misrepresentation reasons for marriage breakups to prove nuns must take what is given and be thankful they are given anything at all is akin to a lie, which is a sin.. If, as you recommend, the disaffected nuns did leave the church enmass, where would the church be? Woman taking power from the male means that men now have that power. Your convoluted reasoning contradicts your original premise. You defeated your own argument. I rest my case!

  • http://sisterlea.wordpress.com SisterLea

    Thanks for your reply, MJ. I have no assumptions about the hierarchy making changes in our “autocratic god” theology, ritual, or practice. If anything, I assume needed changes will NOT happen unless women theologians and others move forward, whether or not doctrine is off the hierarchical table of concerns.
    If you click on my picture and view profile of my former posts on DISQUS, you will see that I advocate the formation of a new non-roman catholic rite (a full rite, not simply a liturgical one). The RC rite isn’t fond of Catholics knowing that this has been done in the past and is a viable option today.

    Archbishop Quinn calls these rites “Patriarchates” in his book, EVER ANCIENT, EVER NEW: STRUCTURES OF COMMUNION IN THE CHURCH, (available on KINDLE and Amazon.) Of course, we women would not be interested in the new rite being called a patriarchate.

  • dove

    I don’t mistake nuns to being married wives. No wonder I come across posts here that make some nuns sound like they see themselves trapped in a bad marriage. Wild!

  • TheRealReginaPhalange

    You couldn’t even say what it is you are advocating because you know it is ridiculous to expect the two people in the examples I provided to remain married to a spouse who caused them so much pain and suffering. You don’t even have confidence in your own convictions, otherwise you would have no problem making the statements I asked you to make. And you know the reason I asked you to make them so quite playing dumb. You said no exceptions. I provided examples of two cases where it is clear that the innocent spouse should not be expected to remain married and instead of standing up for what you believe, you went around in circles bringing up virginity and trying so desperately to convince yourself that your beliefs are the fair, rational ones. Keep trying to tell everyone that men had respect for women in the past when history shows that women weren’t allowed to vote, own property, have a bank account without their father’s or husband’s permission, and it was also legal for a man to beat and rape his wife at one point. Keep telling yourself that societal expectations of virginity have been empowering to women when they would get called sluts and whores for going against that expectation. When the alternative has such negative consequences as to cause harsh judgement of a person for doing what an entire group of people are allowed to do without consequence, then its not empowering.

    But keep telling yourself whatever you want. People will only look at you like they look at the loons who think black people were better off under slavery.

    Keep telling yourself whatever you want in order to feel superior to others. No one thinks you’re a saint but you. I’m done responding to you.

  • dove

    am I wrong to believe or take for granted that nuns presumably rise above the secular world and keep their eye on the UNCHANGING TRUTHS REVEALED BY CHRIST? it does not sound like that when I hear whining about worldly positions of authority and who is getting credit for doing what ……to many of us out in the world married wives and mothers who try and follow the teachings of the church we think of nuns as more peaceful then the other women of the world, more able to go through a day without distractions that a wife and mother face daily raising children in this society and having to bump into so many people with so many diverse values. It boggles my mind that there are such discontented nuns among the the content. You ought to know then that we cant expect anyone outside of ourselves to make us happy, if a nun is not happy in her position in the church the door is open anytime.

  • dove

    I know that if its obvious to me its more then obvious to the Vatican that there was a steady assassination of character attack against the entire RCC . Did you forget how much good the RCC does and has done and all the many wonderful priests people have known throughout their lives? Do you think the people perpetrating the assassination of character were to busy feeding the evil one to consider their unfair attack of the entire priesthood was going to make lazy catholics stir awake and come to defend their church? That’s one of the good things happening. You think people are so stupid they don’t see who is attacking the church and what their real goal is?

  • MJ Warren

    Thanks for the clarification. My ideas are from my perspective. That has changed because of your notes. I can see what is going on from the inside. I know that nuns are just not waiting for the Vatican to tell them what they should be doing. You go girl!