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Schubart: Mission To Rome

05/09/12 7:55AM By Bill Schubart
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(Host) The Catholic Church has been looking into the activities of certain American nuns who devote their service to the alleviation of poverty and the promotion of social justice. Hinesburg writer and commentator Bill Schubart was raised Catholic so he's been imagining what it might be like if the nuns began an initiative of their own.

(Schubart) Recently, a delegation of American nuns composed of leaders from a variety of religious orders left on a mission to Rome to explore and better understand reports of religious and spiritual profligacy among their church's male hierarchy.
 
"The mission is not investigative, but exploratory," stressed Sister Elizabeth of the Benedictine order. She cited reports of male clerics tinkering with canon law, restricting how and by whom the Mass is celebrated, arguing whether the Pope's shoes should be red or white, specifying what happens in the bedroom, and re-assessing the Vatican's priceless art collection. The nuns worry that their Vatican brethren may have distracted themselves from Jesus' directives regarding the poor, respect for women and the care and teaching of children. She also cited the nuns' concern about the American bishops' stated opposition to President Obama's effort to provide healthcare for 45 million uninsured Americans.
 
According to Sister Irene of the Ursuline Order, the nuns have decided to reopen a dialogue with their male brethren about the meaning of Jesus' brief time on earth and how His own parables might better inform their behavior.

"It is not uncommon for male religious authorities in various faiths to repurpose their deity's or prophet's message for their own purpose," she says, "As sisters, we try to live simply by Jesus' teachings, which tell us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, care for the sick, comfort the afflicted, ransom the captive, teach the children, counsel the doubtful, bear wrongs patiently, forgive transgressions, and bury the dead... This puts us in the difficult spot of having to choose between Christ's teachings or the doctrinaire mandates of our apparently busy confreres."
 
So many clerics have been led away in handcuffs recently, either for sexual abuse of children or elaborate efforts to hide such sins from public or prosecutorial scrutiny, that it's tempting to wonder why the Vatican should decide to investigate the activities of nuns, especially now.

But whatever the motivation, it reflects an internal schism within the church regarding "liberation theology" as practiced in South and Central America. It has been roundly condemned by the Vatican, which tends to favor more expedient collaboration with wealth and power, though this strategy did little to enhance Pope Pius XII's reputation for papal infallibility during the Holocaust; nor does it enhance the reputation of Mexican priests and bishops accepting and justifying large Church donations from the same drug lords who distribute heroin-laced candy to Mexican children.

Sister Delano of the Dominicans sums up their initiative this way: "Christ teaches us to ‘counsel the doubtful' and this is the spirit in which our mission to Rome is conducted... We seek only to reunite men and women of faith in doing the ‘works' that our Lord called us to do. I guess we miss the good old days when ornately dressed men of the church sat around arguing over how many angels could dance on the head of a pin."
 

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