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Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Sisters just say No

There's an interesting post at America magazine's blog today by Fr. James Martin SJ - NCR: Women Religious Decide "Not to Comply" - in which he quotes a story at National Catholic Reporter on the response of the religious sisters to the Vatican investigation of their orders. Here's a little of the post ....

[...] In response to the Apostolic Visitation, many women's religious orders are, according to NCR, not complying with requests to answer the Vatican questionnaire, and instead are sending in their constitutions (that is, their foundational--and church-approved--"rule") to the Apostolic Visitator, as an alternative response and, also a form of protest. (I had also heard this reported independently from several people familiar with the visitation. One described it to me as "nonviolent protest," something echoed in a statement below.) If this is true, it would constitute an historic protest of Vatican authority on the part of women religious in this country ....

Fr. Martin has been posting about the visitation since it was first announced, and after reading his book, My Life With the Saints, I'm not surprised by his interest in and sympathy with the sisters' situation - he's worked with religious women often in the past.

What's disheartening is the conservative response to the US women religious standing up for themselves and for what they believe is right. The title of a past First Things article sums it up well - Paranoia, Pride, and Prejudice.

My own feeling is that the sister have a lot of courage and a healthy view of their calling. Here's a link to a past article by Sandra M. Schneiders, I.H.M., a professor of New Testament and spirituality at the Jesuit School of Theology, the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, California ........ Evangelical Equality: Religious Consecration, Mission, and Witness. It in are maybe some clues to the feelings of the sisters about the visitation. Here's just a bit of it ......


Evangelical Equality: Religious Consecration, Mission, and Witness
by Sandra M. Schneiders

Jesus as Model

Jesus himself modeled what he taught. He was born into a subject race, the son of a poor artisan in a remote village. He was biologically barred from the priesthood because he was not of the tribe of Levi. He was uneducated, and thus, unqualified for the role of scribe, pharisee, or rabbi. Most significant perhaps, is the fact that Jesus did not take the only road open to him for attaining some measure of power in his society. By not marrying and founding a family, he renounced the considerable authority which he could have exercised as the head of a household in a patriarchal society.

He was baptized among sinners and associated himself with them -- both by sharing table fellowship with them and by his own breaking of the Law in obedience to his conscience.(10) He chose to associate publicly with every type of person deemed unclean (cf. Mk. 1:40-42); with heretics (Jn. 4:7-26) and pagans (Jn. 4:46-53); with women (Lk. 10:38-42) and children (Lk. 18:15-17) and slaves (Lk. 7:1-10). He made Samaritans (Lk. 10:29-37), publicans (Lk. 18:9-14), prostitutes (Lk. 7:36-50), and pagans (Lk. 7:9) the heroes of his stories and the beneficiaries of his miracles. In short, he carried to its ultimate limits the work begun by God in sending the only Son to become one of us. Jesus chose to be the equal, the friend, of the most lowly members of the human family.

But Jesus neither counseled nor modeled abjection. While respecting both the Law and the leaders of his people, he reserved to himself the right to follow his own conscience even when it conflicted with Torah or tradition (Mk. 3:1-5; 2:18-28). When provoked by the righteous to condemn the sinner, he enraged and shamed the self-appointed judges by his defense of the guilty (cf. Lk. 7:36-50). When falsely accused by the religious leaders, he demanded that they either substantiate their claims or withdraw them (Jn. 18:19-23). When Pilate flaunted his authority over Jesus, Jesus replied that Pilate had only the power God gave him (Jn. 19:10-11), that is, power to kill the body but impotence over the spirit. Betrayed by the hierarchy of his own religious community and executed by the power of the state, Jesus died victorious. Claiming that no one took his life from him, he laid it down of his own accord for those he loved (Jn. 10:18). Throughout his life and teaching Jesus urged his disciples to claim for themselves that same freedom in the face of law, that same dignity under oppression, that same fearlessness in the face of power (cf. Lk. 12:4-5). The refusal to dominate others must be further complemented by the refusal to be dominated .......



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