Saturday, July 24, 2010

Church inquisition a warning to nuns

Church inquisition a warning to nuns

July 24, 2010

BY CAROL MARIN Sun-Times Columnist
I spent an afternoon with six nuns. They are all women of a certain age who look like your grandmother. White hair. Sensible shoes.

These sisters have served the church faithfully for decades. They have advanced academic degrees. And experience running complex things like hospitals and schools.

They are furious.

Not a ranting, raving kind of fury. But a quieter, deeper anger born of betrayal and disrespect.

And it's directed quite specifically. Not at priests in general, because these nuns honor and respect many of the priests they know. They are outraged at specific priests who have betrayed the cloth. And at the curia in Rome which, in its insulation and tone-deafness, has time and again failed to respond in a timely, open and transparent manner to the worst of all abuses -- the violation of young people under their protection.

The sisters and I met over the Fourth of July weekend. The Vatican had not yet issued its mind-boggling declaration of "grave sins" that stuck the attempted ordination of women on the same list as pedophilia. That outrage was yet to come.

Instead, the sisters and I talked about the continuing Vatican investigation of nuns. It is a two-pronged probe in which religious orders of women in America are being questioned about their lifestyles, their faithfulness to church orthodoxy and about their concerns for the future of the church.

One nun told me that one of the sisters in her order responded recently to her Vatican-sent questioner by saying that among her serious concerns were the continued revelations about priestly pedophilia. No sooner had she given that answer than she realized from the look on her inquisitor's face that she'd just flunked the test.

The interrogation of American nuns, as you may know, will not result in a published report. The Vatican will conclude its chilling probe but will keep its conclusions to itself. A stern way of warning sisters they'd better straighten up and fly right, that someone above them is watching. No, not God. But the boys in Rome who are displeased with their independence and outspokenness. That no doubt includes Cardinal Bernard Law, the obstructor of justice from Boston about whom I have written often. Law lives a fabulous life in Rome, flies first class and remains a member of the College of Cardinals despite his massive role in the church's cover-up of pedophilia in the United States.

Law has never been prosecuted, defrocked or excommunicated. The church saves its speedy justice for its women. Like Sister Margaret McBride, an administrator at St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix, who in May realized the only way to save the life of a pregnant 26-year-old mother of four was to abort her fetus. Otherwise, both mother and baby would die.

Bishop Thomas J. Olmstead quickly excommunicated her. His decision has horrified many Catholic clergy and lay people alike.

On the heels of that shocking injustice dispensed to a sister dedicated to saving lives came the church's July document explaining "more grave sins."

It was supposed to demonstrate just how seriously the church is now dealing with relentless, daily revelations of sex abuse across Europe.

And to express the church's determination to deal expeditiously with offenders.

But by tossing in the attempted ordination of women, it looked for all the world as though the Vatican was equating the two.

Not so, assured Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington.

Wuerl "was left to attempt to convince the skeptics in the United States that the Church loves and values women," according to the National Catholic Reporter.

Sure it does.

As long as they know their place.

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