- Published on Sunday, 22 April 2012 07:16
- Written by John Draper
- Hits: 5445
The Catholic Church has always been autocratic - what the Pope and his bishops say, is the law. It was not long ago that excommunicating a Catholic meant destroying their life and not long before that, heretics (unbelievers) were burned at the stake. Conservative Pope Ratzinger probably wishes he was back when he could really exert some power but he still likes cracking the metaphorical whip. Some priests in Austria and Ireland are questioning some of his edicts - notably celibacy and married priests - which are not allowed. Don't you know that the Roman Church is not a democracy? It's ruled by a dictator who decrees what you must believe and what you must teach. Catholics may not even question beliefs publicly - especially if they are elite like priests or nuns. The latest group to upset Ratzinger is the American LCWR. That's the Leadership Conference of Women Religious which is an umbrella group representing 80% of nuns in the U.S.
The LCWR had the temerity to think that they were allowed to have opinions and discuss them openly! Not only that, being women, they thought they could ask for equality of women! The gall! How dare they question the authority of the male pope and his enclave of all-male bishops and cardinals. The pope recently accused them of "serious doctrinal problems" and "unacceptable positions" on a range of issues. Apparently they thought the Church was too harsh on homosexuality and wanted women to be able to become priests. Not only were they criticized for having an opinion - sometimes expressed obliquely - but for failing to speak up about issues such as abortion and euthanasia. The LCWR also likes Obama's Healthcare system which the bishops have criticized for paying for abortions and contraception when medically warranted.
Apart from the verbal/written condemnation, the Pope has also appointed a male archbishop (Peter Sartain of Seattle) to oversee the association and ensure it toes the line. Sartain will provide "review, guidance and approval, where necessary of the work of the LCWR" and reform its statutes in agreement with the Vatican. His task will be "to ensure that the scope of the LCWR's mission is fulfilled in accordance with Church teachings and discipline." Sartain has been in the headlines in recent months for his campaign in support of the U.S. state of Washington's referendum against same-sex marriage. (National Post; Washington Post)
It's understandable that Catholics in the U.S. would be in the forefront of moves to a Church where everyone is equal - the U.S. is both very religious and strong on freedom of individuals.
So far, the LCWR are expressing surprise that they should be accused of anything contrary to the Church's teaching. (Here is their current response) No doubt some will be more upset than that.
One group inside LCWR (NETWORK) has already spoken out. The organization's head said the group was not consulted during the inquiry. She said that its focus on poverty, immigration and health care stems from its founding mission. "I think we scare them," Sr. Simone Campbell, a lawyer who serves as the executive director of the lobby said of the church's male hierarchy. "It's painfully obvious that the leadership of the church is not used to having educated women form thoughtful opinions and engage in dialogue," Campbell said. (Washington Post)
Here is a PBS News video on the subject.
As usual, PBS presents both sides of the story although both women interviewed are devout Catholics so won't be really critical.
However, the big disagreement is whether the teaching of the Catholic Church changes - it does but the Pope does not concede that. His criticism of the Austrian priests was that dissent is not allowed in discussion and does not help. Sorry, he does not understand freedom.