I must begin with an agreement. In last week’s issue of The Merciad, Caitlin Handerhan, in her Vatican deems nuns’ group out of line article, says that she has “always viewed (her) faith as something to explore, learn, and think critically about.” I could not agree more.
This insightful, and in modern context profound utterance is noble. I am upset that her interpretation of the recent events regarding the Vatican and Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) has led her to believe that it is this notion of faith as dialectic and exploratory that is being called into question. It is at this point that I must disagree.
While terms like “radical feminist” shortly followed by “crackdown” in news headlines paint a Gestapo-style image of the Vatican kicking in doors to seize the dissenters, I struggle to see the Vatican’s agenda as anything like this.
The risk that the Vatican takes by not imposing some kind of supervisory role upon the LCWR is that there is an inherent risk that this organization will be perceived as presenting the opinions of the Catholic Church.
It seems to me, as a casual news reader, that the disagreement between the Vatican and the LCWR is two-fold: the first is the LCWR connection to the group network that actively endorses Obama’s health care plan, and the second is an open disagreement with the Church on teachings regarding women in priesthood and other accusations of the Church as being misogynistic.
The first prong, regarding endorsing Obama’s health care program, is serving as the starting point for a good bit of controversy in modern America.
The Catholic Church has taken a firm stand on its lack of support for this health care plan. This stand, contrary to popular belief, is not a standard morality debate (as compared to the gay-marriage debate).
The Catholic Church disputes the requirement laid out in the health care plan to force Catholic employers to provide contraceptive measures in the form of health care to their employees. This demand seems ironically like the separation of church and state, except that it is the opposite direction.
The Catholic Church takes issue with the government demanding that contraception be counted as health care.
With the Catholic Church’s staunch stance on contraception, the institution has a responsibility to ensure that anyone who is supporting a health care movement like this is not speaking on behalf of the Church.
The second part is too lengthy to get into but is in itself more a theological debate than a social/political policy debate. I believe that Handerhan misrepresents what is occurring between the Vatican and LCWR right now.
The Catholic Church has a particular image and ideology to protect, and when somebody engages in teaching on behalf of the Church, this will inevitably reflect back to the Church.
I agree with Handerhan that debate and discourse must be free and open.
But, I also believe that there is a time when one moves past discourse and begins speaking on behalf of a particular organization with the air of authority.
It is at that time that the organization or institution has a responsibility to defend its name.
Thank you for the insightful article and for shedding light on an important event that most people are probably ignoring.