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Apr 27 2012

The Priorities of the Catholic Church

You’ve probably heard by now about the decision by the Roman Catholic Church to take over the largest order of nuns in the United States, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, because it has dared to focus more on helping the poor and the powerless than on abortion and attacking gay people. Gary Wills points out that the Vatican is letting far more unsavory characters back in the good graces of the church while pushing the nuns out the door:

Last week, following an assessment by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican stripped the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, representing most American nuns, of its powers of self-government, maintaining that its members have made statements that “disagree with or challenge the bishops, who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals.” Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle has taken control of the Conference, writing new laws for it, supplanting its leadership, and banning “political” activity (which is what Rome calls social work). Women are not capable, in the Vatican’s mind, of governing others or even themselves. Is it any wonder so many nuns have left the orders or avoided joining them? Who wants to be bullied?

It is typical of the pope’s sense of priorities that, at the very time when he is quashing an independent spirit in the church’s women, he is negotiating a welcome back to priests who left the church in protest at the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. These men, with their own dissident bishop, Marcel Lefebvre, formed the Society of Saint Pius X—the Pius whose Secretariat of State had a monsignor (Umberto Benigni) who promoted the Protocols of the Elder of Zion. Pope Benedict has already lifted the excommunication of four bishops in the Society of Saint Pius X, including that of Richard Williamson, who is a holocaust denier. Now a return of the whole body is being negotiated.

Pope Benedict fits in very well with his predecessors in his position.

None of the anti-Semitic ties of the Pius X crew matter to Rome, since that crew holds to the hard line against women priests, gay marriage, and contraception. They have also retained the Latin Mass, which Rome has been inching back toward. All these things, you see, are the work solely of male hierarchs, distrustful of the People of God—who are the church, as defined by the Second Vatican Council. Those Lefebvre defiers of the Council are all the things the nuns are not, and all the things Rome wants to restore. The real Gospel must be quashed in the name of the pseudo-Gospel of papal monarchs. Poor Anne O’Connor—she thought caring for the poor was what Jesus wanted. She did not live to see that what Rome wants is all that matters.

The RCC has long been a church divided. While the leadership has focused more and more obsessively on denying equality to women and gay people, there are thousands and thousands of priests and nuns who have devoted their lives to feeding the poor, aiding the sick and downtrodden, hiding and protecting political dissidents from brutal dictators and fighting for human rights. A perfect example of that split was the Third Reich, when the church hierarchy got in bed with Hitler while many brave priests and nuns helped hide Jews from his underlings, some losing their lives because of it.

35 comments

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  1. 1
    Dr X

    A clarification: This is not an order of nuns. This is an association with members from many orders, so it’s a much larger group than the largest order. I heard that 80% of all American nuns belong to this association.

  2. 2
    Gregory in Seattle

    These are celibate women we are talking about: that makes them absolutely useless, as far as the Church is concerned.

    I can hardly wait for the next pope. If Malachy’s Prophesy of the Popes is correct, then Maladict is the next-to-last. And good riddance.

  3. 3
    busterggi

    Gee, just because an organization becomes a welcome home for former nazis…..

  4. 4
    reasonbeing

    I honestly think that the RCC like other religions in the West have felt their power and influence wane over the past several decades. In many ways our society is more secular. In some ways more religious. You could say that polarized is the appropriate word. There are still many people in the middle for sure, but like the U.S. political scene the poles have grown in power and influence (the Right being the example to seek there).

    As society becomes more secular Rome is, in my opinion playing one of its last cards–a plea to the extremists. It has worked well for the Protestant faith–look at how many evangelical churches have popped up around the country in the last 20 years. It almost seems as if the Pope is willing to sacrifice the “cafeteria Catholics” to strengthen the base…

  5. 5
    raven

    Cthulhu, the RCC has recently become so malevolent I sometimes wish I was a member just so I could leave and run out the door.

    In the last few years, 1/3 of the US membership has just left, an astonishing 22 million people.

    I suppose that leaves another 44 million members to alienate.

    The last two members will be Donohue and Douthat, both morons.

  6. 6
    Raging Bee

    Last week, following an assessment by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith…

    The Inquisition by any other name…

    …he is negotiating a welcome back to priests who left the church in protest at the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

    How do you say “No Bigot Left Behind” in Vulgate Latin?

  7. 7
    unbound

    Although I don’t agree with the Catholic church on this issue (or many issues really), the linked article is painting a bit of a different story than the report actually states (http://www.usccb.org/loader.cfm?csModule=security/getfile&pageid=55544).

    The report is damning the lack of adherence of the nuns to church doctrine, and, I don’t see in the actual document anything that even hints at claiming the nuns focused too much on social support and not enough on doctrine. It simply says that they are expected to tow the party line.

    How is that any different than any other large corporation? You can darn well bet that upper management is going to come down like a hammer if some mid-level management starts talking publicly about how wrong upper management is on various subjects. Perfectly fine within the organization, but it isn’t tolerated well when spoken publicly by secular corporations either.

    We (atheists) should always be careful about accepting articles at face value just because they say the types of things we think are true. We end up looking foolish when we support these types of things. There are plenty of things that the church is bad about, but this isn’t one of the key things we should be pushing.

  8. 8
    d cwilson

    You can’t trust those nuns. They have those icky girly parts, which is where the serpent in the garden lives. And they’re not even using them to make babies, which is the only thing gawd approves them for.

  9. 9
    Reginald Selkirk

    … because it has dared to focus more on helping the poor and the powerless than on abortion and attacking gay people.

    After all, Jesus spent most of the Gospels ranting on about abortion and gay people. Right?

  10. 10
    justawriter

    You know, after watching this pope slowly strangle every single initiative of John the 23rd, it strikes me that against all odds skeptics might be wrong about one of the classic woo prophecies. I think Ratzi is truly trying to fulfill the prophecy of St Malachi and ensure that his successor is last pope of the Roman Catholic Church (of course it will mean that the rotted husk of the Vatican hierarchy finally collapsed in on itself instead of the second coming of whatisname, the nice Jewish kid, but hey, it’s close enough for me).

  11. 11
    noastronomer

    As I’ve said elsewhere if I were a double agent secretly bent on infiltrating the RCC and destroying it from the inside I honestly don’t think I could do a better job than Ratzi is doing right now.

    He may well be the next to last pope. Heck, if he weren’t so old he could be the last pope.

    Mike.

  12. 12
    Modusoperandi

    Reginald Selkirk “After all, Jesus spent most of the Gospels ranting on about abortion and gay people. Right?”
    What? You don’t remember the story of Him going to the Planned Parenthood and tipping over the contraception tables (‘And Jesus went into the Planned of Parenthood, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the waiting area, and overthrew the dispensers of the Pills, and the seats of them that sold condoms. And said unto them, “It is written, this house shall be called the house of abstinence-only; but ye have made it a den of whores!”‘)

  13. 13
    Modusoperandi

    Wups. I read what you said, then posted about the other thing they’re against.

  14. 14
    baal

    Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith a.k.a. the Inquisition. Previously headed by the guy formal known as Ratzinger. He always was a member of the purity police.

  15. 15
    Raging Bee

    …I don’t see in the actual document anything that even hints at claiming the nuns focused too much on social support and not enough on doctrine. It simply says that they are expected to tow the party line.

    The party line being, focus less on social support, and more on bashing liberals, atheists, gays, etc., blaming “neo-Paganism” for everything the Church did wrong, and destroying all opposition to Church power. So…a distinction without a difference.

    How is that any different than any other large corporation?

    It isn’t — that’s the fucking problem! They’re a church that acts like just another self-serving profit-making corporation.

  16. 16
    Ingdigo Jump

    Cross posted from Pharyngula

    Partner is friends with the Chaplin at their almamater. Called to talk about the wedding. He just got word that the Vatican is sacking him. He’s not “Orthodox” enough to hold his chaplaincy. They want someone who will preach rather than help people apparently. The guy is probably going to have to put his father in a home now due to being forced to move away from him and not being able to care for him anymore.

    The Catholic Church is a heartless perversion. They don’t give a shit about either the people or their own minions.

    They’re cracking down on many levels.

  17. 17
    Stevarious, Public Health Problem

    “These are celibate women we are talking about: that makes them absolutely useless, as far as the Church is concerned.”

    Well, MOSTLY useless. But it seems that their usefulness is directly related to that celibacy, so…

  18. 18
    Area Man

    As I’ve said elsewhere if I were a double agent secretly bent on infiltrating the RCC and destroying it from the inside I honestly don’t think I could do a better job than Ratzi is doing right now.

    Yep. With every new story, whether it’s going after those who blew the whistle on the priest abuse scandals, declaring war on the Obama administration over contraception, and now going after their own nuns for being insufficiently anti-gay, I keep thinking that they’re trying to destroy themselves. This is what happens when you’re a insulated group of celibate old men. “Out of touch” is far too mild a term. Pretty soon, the only Catholics left will be the hierarchy, and then can spend their limited days telling each other what to do and electing each other Pope.

  19. 19
    d cwilson

    “Out of touch” is far too mild a term.

    And it’s been getting worse for the past 20-30 years. Fewer men want to be priests and with the contraception ban being the single most ignored rule of the church, they can no longer count on Catholics having large families and then pressuring the second or third son to enter the priesthood.

    The ones that do become priests are increasingly among those who are the most fanatical believers in the church’s doctrine. The kind of men who willingly choose a life of celibacy these days tend to not have a healthy attitude toward women. Moderate and liberal priests are literally dying out and only the most reactionary get elevated to the level of bishop or higher these days.

    This is one of the reasons Ratzi feels comfortable welcoming back Holocaust deniers and others JP II wouldn’t be caught within 100 feet of. It’s amazing that Ratzi has actually made his predescessor look reasonable.

  20. 20
    subbie

    Morally bankrupt organization does something that’s morally bankrupt.

    In other news, tomorrow the sun will rise in the east.

  21. 21
    Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

    justawriter, #10:

    whatisname, the nice Jewish kid

    Oh I like.

  22. 22
    slc1

    Hay, the Raping Children Church is just following Prof. Heddle’s advice, get rid of the wimps and the weenies.

  23. 23
    geocatherder

    I grew up Catholic, and it was the nuns who helped me establish my social values; they were into Neil deGrasse Tyson’s philosophy of lessening the suffering of others before Neil was around. While there will always be tales of Sister Slaps-You-With-A-Stick, the truth is that most of these women were/are working with inner-city people, really making a difference in their lives. And that rat, Benny-the-Hex, has the unmitigated gall to punish them for it! I wish there were a hell he could rot in, at least for a few thousand years.

  24. 24
    Marcus Ranum

    insulated group of celibate old men.

    Have you seen pictures of Ratzos’ boy toy? He’s as celibate as I am. Not very.

  25. 25
    Marcus Ranum

    Why are those clowns still a non-profit?

  26. 26
    Marcus Ranum

    Catholic, and it was the nuns who helped me establish my social values; they were into Neil deGrasse Tyson’s philosophy of lessening the suffering of others before Neil was around.

    That was Epicurus’ – and it was from “before jesus was around” FYI.

  27. 27
    Ichthyic

    There are plenty of things that the church is bad about, but this isn’t one of the key things we should be pushing.

    actually, you’re entirely incorrect.

    The key thing that IS wrong with the CC, and ALL organized theistic religions, is that they are entirely authoritarian in nature, dogma, and practice.

    In fact, this is the key thing that needs to be attacked with these organizations.

    so, no, while you might want to focus on a specific case of abuse of power, it’s the fact that the authoritarian structure of these organizations ENABLES the abuse of power to begin with that is the damn problem!

  28. 28
    Ichthyic

    The ones that do become priests are increasingly among those who are the most fanatical believers in the church’s doctrine.

    Right Wing Authoritarian organization being populated primarily by Right Wing Authoritarians.

    Whodathunkit?

  29. 29
    lpetrich

    Dunno about Vulgate Latin, but from my Classical-Latin dictionary, I come up with:

    Nullus osor relictus

    osor = hater

  30. 30
    pipenta

    The RCC doesn’t want to be left behind as the 1% rises. As things change in the United States, the only mobility is downward mobility. The distribution of wealth becomes more and more unbalanced. The church has been watching the neocons and the fundies and the pushback against women and they are emboldened by the successes of their brethren in oppressive creepiness.

    RCC leaders are making their move, making it big. Slam down the moderates and the reformers. What does the church have to lose? They can’t look any worse than they do. They have taken a page out of Rove’s playbook. Go on the offensive! It distracts from the endless child abuse scandals. If they play their cards right, they can have a place in this new world order. Plutocracy? Theocracy? Do they care, as long as they are on top?

    Rome and their lackeys here smell opportunity. They used to rule the world, used to loot, control, torture, invade, whatever, at will. Our idea of the bad old days is their idea of the good old days. Of course people who try to work within the church for social justice are going to be censored. It misses the point of just what the church is and always has been about. Justice? Are you kidding me?

    The Vatican wants the “good” times to roll again. They want it so bad.

  31. 31
    mcmillan

    Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle has taken control of the Conference, writing new laws for it, supplanting its leadership, and banning “political” activity

    In case anyone wasn’t sure what kind of “political” activity Sartain seems to have a problem with, this is the same archbishop who asked parish priests to circulate petitions to repeal the Washington gay marriage law. Though it seems there’s been some resistance to that

  32. 32
    whheydt

    I saw an article on this (MSNBC? CBS?) quoting one of the nuns as saying that the bishop being put in charge had no clue what he was in for. Sounded kind of like a passive resistance effort is likely to occur.

    It’s also interesting to contemplate the fact that *women* hold a lot of the local parish administrative posts and many Catholic school teachers are nuns.

    The bishops may, indeed, be in for a wild ride…

    –W. H. Heydt

  33. 33
    Reginald Selkirk

    A faith-based lesson for Paul Ryan

    In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody this month, Ryan, the author of the House Republican budget endorsed by Mitt Romney, said his program was crafted “using my Catholic faith” as inspiration. But the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was not about to bless that claim.
    A week after Ryan’s boast, the bishops sent letters to Congress saying that the Ryan budget, passed by the House, “fails to meet” the moral criteria of the Church, namely its view that any budget should help “the least of these” as the Christian Bible requires: the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the jobless…

    Maybe it’s a trap.

  34. 34
    The Lorax

    Who was it that said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians”, or something to that effect? I think it applies…

  35. 35
    noastronomer

    That would be Gandhi. Who also thought that Western Civilization would be a good idea.

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