What is the Catholic Church Thinking? Nuns on the Run…

I am not Catholic, although more than half the members of my family, including my husband, are and our marriage was sanctioned by the Catholic Church. I firmly believe that organized religion has much to offer in terms of helping people discern what is ethically and morally right and wrong. And I realize that organized religion has helped many people who are struggling and looking for more meaning in their lives.

But I am absolutely baffled by the Catholic Church of late. It seems to keep digging itself into a deeper and deeper hole with each new scandal. First it was the apparent cover-up of sexual abuse of young boys by priests. After seeing the outrage over the scandal at Penn State earlier this year, I was struck by the lack of accountability illustrated in the tepid response of the Catholic Church to these heinous crimes.

Now, the Church has decided to publicly chastise one of its greatest assets: nuns. The New York Times had two excellent opinion pieces about this issue this weekend, one written by Nicholas Kristof and one written by Maureen Dowd. The Kristof article included a link to the public reprimand recently issued by the Vatican, in which the Church proclaimed that Nuns in the United States were getting a little too big for their habits (my words, not theirs).

I am sure all of us have seen the magnificent work that nuns perform daily throughout this country, indeed throughout the world. As a feminist, it is a wonder to me that women are willing to make the sacrifice that it requires to become a nun, when it appears that the Catholic Church has historically had little regard for women.

I truly believe that this could be the beginning, or at least the middle, of the end for the Catholic Church. I know that many will disagree with me, saying that this is just a conservative phase that the church is going through under its current leadership. But the Catholic Church has had a difficult time of late recruiting people to serve as priests and nuns. With displays like this, I can’t help but believe that the pool of people willing to make the significant sacrifice that is required to serve the Church and their higher ideals will only dwindle further – and that is too bad.

My Aunt was a nun who inspires me to this day with stories about her community organizing in low income neighborhoods. And my grandmother did the “holy wash,” cleaning all the church linens for more than 40 years. Both of these strong women significantly helped shape who I am today.

And I know the positive aspects of organized religion and the Catholic Church. My husband and I went to the required pre-marital counseling to enable us to be married in the Catholic Church and it was one of the most meaningful experiences of my life.

But the Catholic Church should play a central role in helping the poor and in comforting the down-trodden. And that is what nuns have been doing, without fanfare or glory, for generations.

I hope the Catholic Church rethinks their reprimand and begins to listen to the stories of these inspiring women. They should try to understand the nuns’ concerns with the current direction of the Church. The very future of the Church could depend on this.

These women are heroes and I have no doubt they will survive and thrive after this recent setback from Rome; I have less confidence in the Church’s ability to do the same.

What do you think? I am sure that plenty of people will have differing perspectives on this issue and I welcome those. Do you think that the Catholic Church will be able to recover from the scandals that have plagued it in recent years? Do you think that the Church will be forced to be more inclusive in the future to survive? Do you have an inspiring story about how nuns have touched your lives? What do you see as the future of the Catholic Church and of organized religion?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks so much for reading!


Filed under Religion, Women

15 responses to “What is the Catholic Church Thinking? Nuns on the Run…

  1. Very well thought out. I think you may be right. In fact, I think that organized religion as we have known it is on its last legs. People don’t want to belong to a church that demands sacrifices; they want to belong to a church that tells them how terrific they are. Traditional churches, especially the Catholic Church, are losing members by the droves. In England, abandoned churches are being turned into flats — or public houses! There has been much abuse on the part of organized rteligion. But it has been a stabalizing influence in the West for centuries. It is sad. But there it is.

    • Thank you for your comment!! You have a good point about people wanting churches that don’t make them feel like they always need to be making scarifices or asking for forgiveness. But I do see a lot of value in some sort of guided experience to help people reflect on deeper issues. I don’t know if that has to be through organized religion, but I hope that we can find more spaces for that kind of activity as participation in organized religion declines. Thanks again so much for the comment! I am a newbie blogger, so each comment makes my day! 🙂 BTW – I am really enjoying reading your thoughtful commentary on your blog as well. Thanks again!

    • I think the Catholic Church wants to maintain its relovance. However there is a better way of doing it. I believe that churches are a good thing for society as a whole, but the bishops have to move beyond the 16th century.

      • Thanks so much for reading and for your comment. I couldn’t agree with you more. I wonder how long they will continue down this current path. It does not seem to be working for them. Thanks again for your comment!

  2. Let me preface my answers to your questions at the end of your post, by saying that I do agree that organized religion serves a purpose for those honestly seeking an ethical and moral way to live their lives, and affect the lives of others. There seems to be a need for some humans to seek outside of their own thoughts, the wisdom that may lie dormant within them so the sense of community might provide answers for questions that may actually be unknowable. I also believe that some of us are “wired” for religion and God, and some of us, simply are not.
    Your questions remind me of the Borgia family, and especially Rodrigo Borgia, who later became Pope Alexander Vl. The corruption, manipulation and power hungry members of the clergy haven’t changed one iota, and the church has survived and flourished.
    So, that being said, yes, I do believe the church will recover and evolve, as it always has. There will always be people who follow with blind faith.
    I don’t know if the church will be forced to be more inclusive, it may happen, but surely, it won’t be a first option! I think the church will look for other means to control people, it’s riches and maintain the power structure that is in place.
    Personally, I have no story of a nun who touched my life, though I wish I could say that I did have, as the love and caring of a generous of heart woman, nun or not, would surely have been a gift to me, and I would have accepted any kindness presented.
    As to the future of the Catholic church, I give it no thought at all, think little of it, except to feel ashamed of the human beings who stand so strongly behind the bad deeds of the members of their hierarchy. The dogma, written by men stands strong, and women and children are of little or no consequence to the Vatican.

    • Thank you for your thoughful comment. I tthink that you are certainly right that the church will likely find a way to survive this current challenge, like it always does, but it seems they will continue to go down before they go back up. This week, I read that they are criticizing the girl scouts! Where does it stop?!? Thanks so much for reading and for your comment. I am looking forward to reading more of your work!

      • Thank you, I appreciate that, and finally, I doubt that it’ll ever stop, at any point, because the “church” can go so low it may reach into the depths of hell… (which I doubt the existence of, so this makes my comment, tongue-in-cheek)
        My pleasure. I hope you continue to write and enjoy it, as I do!

  3. Totally agree! As a lapsed Catholic I feel that the nuns’ good works are the only thing saving that faith in the court of public opinion. What is the church thinking? Between the sex abuse cases, their attitude towards women and gays, their opposition to birth control even in aids stricken countries, and now stifling the nuns…no wonder many former Catholics went looking for a new home! Good post.

    • Thanks so much! I couldn’t agree more. It looks like thtis week, they are targeting the girl scouts! I can’t imagine this is going to help with their recruitment problem.

  4. Rob Sayre

    People seek love and community more than truth. This is my life experience. I’m not Catholic (by the way, I grew up in Boulder), but my wife was. The sensibilities toward rituals is something I’ve learned from her. We attended a first communion for the daughter of a fiend of ours. It was really beautiful and so many people attended. I was impressed. Still, I have been mystified how the sexual scandals have played out. Firing a few Bishops and Cardinals early on could have made a huge difference. I don’t understand why anyone would not want to harness the full potential of the women, the nuns who serve so well and so admirably. I am sure the Catholic Church will survive and evolve. It has its own pace and timing, even if I don’t really understand it.

  5. Thanks so much for joining in! We live in South Boulder and love it! Where do you live now? They say the curse of Niwot brings everyone back eventually…I really hear your point about the rituals. My grandmother’s funeral was so special, in part because of those rituals. That is part of what I think is so sad. I can see the good that the church could do if they would stop picking on women and girls. So many of the teachings are about being kind to others and helping the poor. But lately, they have even been criticizing the girl scouts! I am sure you are right that the church will go on, but I certainly think that they have lost a generation or two with these shenanigans. Thanks again for your comment!

  6. Pingback: Nuns on the Bus: Roman Catholic Nuns Hit the Road to Highlight Community Work of their Sisters | newsofthetimes

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