An Historic and Very Contemporary Reflection
I remember the event, like it was yesterday. On October 7, 1979, in the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Sister Theresa Kane, R.S.M., president of the LCWR, issued a formal plea to Pope John Paul II, during his apostolic visitation.
For me the most relevant part of her speech was this:
As I share this privileged moment with you, Your Holiness, I urge you to be mindful of the intense suffering and pain which is part of the life of many women in these United States. I call upon you to listen with compassion and to hear the call of women who comprise half of humankind.
As women we have heard the powerful messages of our Church addressing the dignity and reverence for all persons. As women we have pondered upon these words. Our contemplation leads us to state that the Church in its struggle to be faithful to its call for reverence and dignity for all persons must respond by providing the possibility of women as persons being included in all ministries of our Church.
I urge you, Your Holiness, to be open to and respond to the voices coming from the women of this country who are desirous of serving in and through the Church as fully participating members.
The Pope grumbled. Conservative Catholics were enraged. Later Sr. Teresa Kane reflected on the event in these words:
As president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, it was my privilege to extend greetings to the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, last October when he visited this country for the first time. I thought it appropriate to pledge our solidarity with the Pope as he called our attention to the serious responsibilities we have to our sisters and brothers who live in poverty and destitution. I also sensed the need of some women to articulate their growing concern about being included in all ministries within the church. Within my own heart there were only sentiments of profound fidelity, honesty, and sincerity to our God and to our Church. As a result of the greeting, a few congregations withdrew from the conference. Through that experience LCWR became more public; the membership gained new responsibilities. Reflection papers commissioned by the Conference will analyze “the voice of the faithful” as found in the thousands of letters received.
In the spring of 2012, the CDF issued a statement accusing LCWR of promoting “radical feminist themes” and “corporate dissent.” On April 30, 2014, the CDF’s Cardinal Gerhard Müller, accused U.S. nuns of not abiding to the harsh and unjust reform agenda imposed on them by the Vatican. In addition, the document personally attacked the well-known and greatly respected woman theologian Dr. Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ.
The Vatican mandate forced upon the nuns is a prime example of how fearful, chauvinistic, and manipulative church leaders can misuse and abuse their power to diminish the voice and witness of prophetic women.
It is time to act. http://www.nunjustice.org/