|Pope versus nuns - part 1?|
The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), representing 56,000 nuns in the US was founded in 1956 at the request of the Vatican's Congregation for the Religious. Originally named "Conference of Major Superiors of Women", it has been frequented by daring controversies, the most notorious by Sister Theresa Kane in 1979 when she issued a plea to Pope John Paul II for the ordination of women during his visit to the US.
In the latest battles with the Vatican, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) or the churches' "sacred congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition" arm initiated a doctrinal assessment of the LCWR due to alleged failure of doctrine at the annual assemblies. In Apr 2012, the CDF appointed Archbishop Peter Sartain to put the Conference in order.
The decision to muzzle the outspoken Conference probably came as a result of her support for Obama's Health Care where the Catholic Bishops opposes contraception and abortion. It was not so much their work for the poor or their silence of same sex relationships but their flaming feminist inclinations of these die hard nuns that got the hierachal church and their male patriachs upset.
The specific evidences of the claim of heresy by the Catholic Inquisitors were as follows:-
1) Not Christ centered - "....The Cardinal offered as an example specific passages of Sr. Laurie Brink’s address about some Religious “moving beyond the Church” or even beyond Jesus."
2) Ordination of women and ministry to gays - "...protesting the Holy See’s actions regarding the question of women’s ordination and of a correct pastoral approach to ministry to homosexual persons, e.g. letters about New Ways Ministry’s conferences."
3) Radical Feminism - "... some commentaries on “patriarchy” distort the way in which Jesus has structured sacramental life in the Church; others even undermine the revealed doctrines of the Holy Trinity, the divinity of Christ, and the inspiration of Sacred Scripture."
It is a reminder of the Episcopal Church in the US and the attempts by the Church of England and the Anglican South to restrain their Liberal tendencies including denial of Christ death and resurrection by Bishop Spong. The Catholics are grapling with a liberal runaway conference of nuns who in a way threatens the entire church structure hence its power and control.
There is a unique simplicity of the Gospel Message being a direct relationship between the common man and God without intermediaries, and by faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. That means, the church and its massive hierarchy and structures were not required and people would not be controlled tightly in a structured framework. A religious framework was created to keep people in their proper place, so that the church would have absolute control and power. At the top was no longer Jesus. Mary was now the co-redeemer. Next, was the Pope, or Pontifus Maximus, the bridgehead between man and God, the same title used by the Roman Emperors whom were considered human gods. A human notion of inherited power was instituted where by the authority was handed from Jesus, to Peter, and then to the long line of Popes.
Therefore the individual relationship with God is taken away from the very top. We now pray to Mary who will intercede for us (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 973), via the Pope who has the authority as if he was god on earth. What the Pope said must be right, since he is infallible and a god. The entire religious framework was to prevent people going directly to God, to be empowered by faith to have a relationship with God. The next layer of authority is the Priests. As much power lies in the Pope and the Priests, in order to ensure full allegiance to the church, they are not allowed to marry. Hence, the power and wealth could not be handed down to the descendents but remained in the church to perpetuate its power. That was the main problem of the Roman Emperors where their children always fight for power many times weakening the empire.
The next layer is man with the link between the next layer – the priest – being through confession. Therefore, instead of a relationship with God resulting in communion and fellowship where we share our failures, we have to go through the priests. The man could not read the bible, as it was the priests who will read and rightly interpret it. The last layer is woman and the link to man is through marriage. Therefore, in a relationship, the man always have the rights and leadership role. The notion of woman priests is an absolute “no” as they are not supposed to rule over the man.
So how does Gays undermine the Catholic Church? The system is a “perfect” religious framework and has worked very well for the last 1500 years. However, Gays have the small potential to wreck this and the catholic church is concerned, always paranoid at the small possibility. For marriage is what links the man to the woman. If gays are allowed to marry, then who is the man and who is the woman? . The structure would be undermined. In reality with the very small number of gays, this would never be an issue except for a paranoid church and this paranoia helped them to remain in power for 1500 years, longer than any dynasty on earth. Gay marriages and Women Rights are in the same basket for the Catholic Church, not to be opened lest control is lost. The Gay Marriages and Women Priests have the potential to impact this system.
The Catholic Church has a big challenge in their hands - their congregations are generally liberal but the hierachal church is required to be orthodox to maintain power and control and ultimately survival. At the end, we are worshipping the church instead of Jesus Christ. The ancient inquisitors can't go out to torture and kill as in the past to maintain control and will have to find new means.
The Catholic Church is at least a billion strong (about 50,000 of S'pore largest mega churches) and so their inclinations impact much of Christianity in the public square. Will the nuns be allowed to continue to be salt and light standing up for the marginalised and the poor or are they too radical for the hierachal church.
They will have to decide to either follow Jesus or the Church Hierachal. Its a difficult choice when your whole being and life is structured by the church.