10May “The Vatican v American Nuns” — Richard Rohr OFM

We must be honest and admit that there are only two remaining large systems in the world that are totally patriarchal in their style and in their leadership: Communist states and the Roman Catholic Church. Ours never looked quite as bad since we at least used the language of Jesus, the symbols of communion, humility, and service, and we men even dress in rather feminine robes. The Communist states make no display of humility themselves or respect for the feminine side of anything.

But the real bottom lines in the Roman Church are becoming more and more apparent to thinking and spiritual people in the last decade or so. Despite the very clear reforms of the II Vatican Council in the 1960’s , the Roman patriarchy, a closed system that allows no prophetic critique, and their branch appointed officers (bishops) are step by step rolling back both the spirit and the letter of the Vatican II reforms–while pretending and saying they are not. (Remember, if you can reject this Council, then you have the basis for rejecting the other 20 Councils of the Church too! The Pope and bishops had better be very careful!)

Deceit and supposed magnanimity are at the heart of all patriarchies, or otherwise their subjects would see what they are actually doing. North Koreans also believe their “Great Father” is protecting them, as did many Filipinos under Marcos, and Russians under their Czars and Czarinas.

No group accepted the reforms and tried to renew itself following the Council like the American Sisters. Yes, they made their mistakes, and also enjoyed certain matriarchal benefits over the laity. Nevertheless, this cruel, humiliating, and intimidatiing attempt by the Roman Curia (“the place that cares for”) to punish and control the American sisters is being seen for what it is, and what it is not: It is male patriarchal control, hurt feelings because they are not that much in control any more, and it is certainly NOT anything like Jesus or the Gospel. Patriarchal systems normally engineer their own demise by such gross misuse of power.

We all need to sincerely pray–and speak much needed Gospel to very worldly power.

14 Responses

  1. John London

    The more I read, the more I see, the more disturbed and worried I get. Fr Rohr sums up so lucidly many of the feelings and concerns I have increasingly been experiencing. Is it too late to hope for enlightenment for the Church? I pray not.

  2. Nick Young

    Wonderful words as ever from Richard Rohr.

  3. Gerard Flynn

    It is likely the brave men of the Vatican believe that the Sisters weakened by age and the heat of the noonday sun are easier targets now than they were a decade ago.
    It’s time to show our support for our sisters.
    Prophetic words from Richard. Many thanks, brother!

  4. Mary Gallagher

    Thank you, Richard Rohr, for speaking out in such strong words. This is an issue that must be addressed for what it is… There are many groups coming out with prayer vigils, marches, etc. in support of the sisters.
    Thank you!

  5. Soline Humbert

    In connection with this topic The GOD SLOT on RTE Radio 1, next Friday evening 18th May at 10PM, will feature an extended interview with Benedictine sister JOAN CHITTISTER, a past president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).
    Sr Joan Chittister was one of the main speakers at the first international conference on women’s ordination (WOW) in Dublin in 2001, for which she was threatened with dismissal from her order by the Vatican. Her prioress, Sr Christine Vladimiroff, was instructed by the Vatican to prohibit her from attending the Conference. She declined to do so, because:
    “there is a fundamental difference in the understanding of obedience in the monastic tradition and that which is being used by the Vatican to exert power and control and prompt a false sense of inity inspired by fear. Benedictine authority and obedience are achieved through dialogue between a community member and her prioress in a spirit of co-responsibility. The role of prioress is to be a guide in the seeking of God. While lived in community, it is the individual member who does the seeking……I cannot be used by the Vatican to deliver an order of silencing. I did not see her participation in this conference as ‘a source of scandal to the faithful’,as the Vatican alleges. I think the faithful can be scandalised when honest attempts to discuss questions of import to the churchare forbidden….Sr Joan addressed the Dublin conference with the blessing of the Benedictines Sisters of Erie.”

  6. Richard

    A good coach knows when you have a weak defence, the best thing to do is attack. Let the offense attack the weak spots of the opponents. Do we know anyone with a weak defence for their actions?

  7. JeannieGuzman

    I think that all orders of nuns involved should shake up the Vatican by withdrawing their funds out of the IOR, the Vatican Bank! If there is a run on the bank by religious orders, the Vatican will need to release all funds or risk tarnishing her already, somewhat begrimed financial reputation with the European Banking System. A run on the Vatican bank would jerk some of Curia into attention. Maybe the nuns and other religious communities need to show a little, old-fashioned muscle!

  8. Declan Kelly

    Thank you Richard. I fear the ghost of Cardinal McIntyre of Los Angeles still looms large in the Church.

  9. JeannieGuzman

    Fr. Rohr: What the Church calls, “Apostles,” you have called, “Branch-appointed officers,” I have called “Over-paid Administrators” for years. In the Book of Revelation of St. John the Divine the Holy Spirit is talking to the Churches. In 2nd chapter he commends the Early Church at Ephesus: “I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:” Today’s Church could learn much from the Early Church at Ephesus, who didn’t have 20 centuries to be awed by lying “apostles,” and our “Princes of the Church!” The Early Church threw out the “apostles,” who were known to be “LIARS!” Why doesn’t this Laity do the same? The Laity gives the bishops power by continuing to be “Pray, Pay and Obey Catholics! Their power doesn’t come from God, who probably finds them even more disgusting than we do!

  10. Martin Murray

    “The Pope and bishops had better be very careful!” Not just for the reasons Fr Rohr mentions above. They may well find themselves on the wrong end of a little metaphorical leg smacking from the good women religious of America. A touch of motherly correction might indeed be timely and effective in restoring their perspective.

  11. Gearóíd R ÓDubhthaigh

    It has been my experience that attributing motives (such as punishment or deceit) can be most unhelpful in opening up avenues of dialogue. Let us distinguish ourselves by how we imitate Christ’s willingness to suffer injustice (or perceived injustice) rather than the world’s unwillingness to carry the sin of the other.

  12. Colleen E.

    Thank you Richard roar for speaking such wonderful words of wisdom on behalf of the American Women Religious. We are at a crucial time and Rome needs to refrain from dividing the church and invite women religious to dialogue about how we can rebuild the church. Our first step ought to be in caring for our many victims of sex abuse and reaching out to heal rather than continue the cycle of abuse. This target against women is a great distraction from the cover up that continues. Bishops, it is time to stand up and work together to get back to the Gospel values. You have the opportunity to lead us to healing or look the other way. Haven’t we done enough damage by sweeping things under the carpet? How can we minister to those whom we have hurt the most? That is where the healing begins. The time is now. Amen to all the comments posted and to Richard Rohr’s courageous message!

  13. Harry Whitney

    Richard is (as he always is) kind to Bishops and the Vatican. In truth, most priests deserve that kindness. But less so the hierarchy. And, that hierarcy is more guilty than of mere patriarchy, bad as that is. In my opinion, that hierarchy has squandered the patrimony of millions upon millions of Catholics, who, until recently, had been faithful with more or less internal assent to the Church. And, God knows, even the hierarchy is only more or less loyal to the Church. That same hierarchy has betrayed the fidelity of the Church; has, by their actions, denied the Sacraments. Something that has never happened with our Sisters.
    And finally, the only real motivation that is clear to me is the motivation of mammon–and we all know what happens when you attempt to serve both.
    I would say, “God help the hierarchy”, but, in truth, they are beyond help. So I simply say, “God help the Church”, especially those who have been denied.

  14. Helen Deines

    As a lay woman organizing one of the vigils in support of the women religious and–in truth–asking the Spirit’s guidance for the entire church, thank you all for the wisdom and balance I found on this page.

    I am disgusted by the bishops, but aware of all of our flaws. I remember Richard Rohr leading us all in singing Leonard Cohen’s ANTHEM, reflecting on the brokenness–and the mended spot in the pottery “where all the light comes in.”

    Their abuse of power in so many arena is frightening–how their fears must blind them to what is real in life. Once one starts lying, the truth is lost forever. Sorrowful, sorrowful.