The Nuns’ Story
By MAUREEN DOWD
Published: October 24, 2009
There is no love lost between lifetime Catholic Maureen Dowd and the current Vicar of Christ in Rome.
In 2004, the cardinal who would become Pope Benedict XVI wrote a Vatican document urging women to be submissive partners, resisting any adversarial roles with men and cultivating “feminine values” like “listening, welcoming, humility, faithfulness, praise and waiting.”Her particular beef is with the treatment of nuns who dare question the increasingly reactionary orthodoxy of The Church.
Nuns need to be even more sepia-toned for the über-conservative pope, who was christened “God’s Rottweiler” for his enforcement of orthodoxy. Once a conscripted member of the Hitler Youth, Benedict pardoned a schismatic bishop who claimed that there was no Nazi gas chamber. He also argued on a trip to Africa that distributing condoms could make the AIDS crisis worse.
The Vatican is now conducting two inquisitions into the “quality of life” of American nuns, a dwindling group with an average age of about 70, hoping to herd them back into their old-fashioned habits and convents and curb any speck of modernity or independence.She contrasts this Inquisition (and nobody ever expects the Spanish variety) with the rather light wrist-slapping sexually straying male clergy endure.
The church can be flexible, except with women. Laurie Goodstein, the Times’s religion writer, reported this month on an Illinois woman who had a son with a Franciscan priest. The church agreed to child support but was stingy with money for college and for doctors, once the son got terminal cancer. The priest had never been disciplined and was a pastor in Wisconsin — until he hit the front page. Even then, “Father” Willenborg was suspended only because the woman said that he had pressed her to have an abortion and that he had also had a sexual relationship with a teenager. (Maybe the church shouldn’t be so obdurate on condoms.)She accurately assesses the recent overtures to ultra-conservative breakaway Anglicans as appeals to anti-feminism and homophobia.
As the Vatican is trying to wall off the “brides of Christ,” Cask of Amontillado style, it is welcoming extreme-right Anglicans into the Catholic Church — the ones who are disgruntled about female priests and openly gay bishops. Il Papa is even willing to bend Rome’s most doggedly held dogma, against married priests — as long as they’re clutching the Anglicans’ Book of Common Prayer.In the age-old doctrinal debates over the celibacy of the priesthood and the ordination of women, Dowd clearly sees what the current Church position is.
Nuns were second-class citizens then and — 40 years after feminism utterly changed America — they still are. The matter of women as priests is closed, a forbidden topic.And that, ladies, is a dealbreaker.