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The sisters: two views


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After the April announcement that the Vatican was taking the Leadership Conference of Women Religious into a form of ecclesiastical receivership, appointing Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain to oversee the LCWR until its statutes and program are reformed, Tom Fox, a major figure at the National Catholic Reporter for decades, had this to say:

"Some of our bishops are acting like bullies, abusing the authority of their offices in the name of enforcing orthodoxy.

"Dealing with U.S. women religious, these bishops' actions appear governed more by a desire to enforce obedience than to develop fidelity in our sisters...

"What the bully bishops claim to be matters of orthodoxy are really matters of pastoral style. They are the results of an unwillingness among our bishops to enter into sincere and mutually respectful dialogue with the women. None of the issues at hand has anything to do with the Creed. They stem from the actions of a small group of misdirected and fearful men determined to take 'catholic' out of 'Catholic' while judging, silencing and demeaning those who stand in their way...''

Shortly after a correspondent sent me the link to this rather intemperate comment, another interlocutor passed along an interview with the late Walker Percy, one of American Catholicism's greatest 20th century literary talents. Percy was asked what would have most surprised another major Catholic literary figure, Flannery O'Connor, about the post-conciliar Church she did not live to see:

"I think probably the disunity, the near-sundering of the American Church. I think she would be horrified, and probably most of all by the nuns, by what happened to the Georgia nuns, to the Louisiana nuns, and I guess to most of the others. They completely fell apart. They were seduced, not by feminism--which the pope approves of, in the sense of the right of women not to be discriminated against--but by radical feminism. Many of the nuns I know were completely seduced by it, to the point of rebelling against any sort of discipline. They began to mix up the magisterium with macho masculinism, as if the pope were Hemingway. I think that would horrify O'Connor more than anything."

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