last week i excerpted some of the Fresh Air interview with Sister Pat Farrell, president of the LCWR. because i try to be fair to all sides i thought it would be a good idea to also excerpt some of the interview Terry Gross did with Bishop Leonard Blair who conducted the doctrinal assessment and then censured LCWR.
i have to be honest about my bias, i love nuns and i always chafe at men claiming the privilege to tell women what to do just because they’re men. i strongly disagree with Bishop Blair but i thought it would still be interesting to show what he thinks in juxtaposition to the words of Sister Farrell.
on the LCWR remaining silent on issues such as abortion and euthanasia:
[T]he church has been so strong in defending that right to life, you know, it seems that one would expect the Leadership Conference of Women Religious to stand up and be counted in upholding this right, and working for its defense. And the reality is that there’s nothing really said by the Leadership Conference on this issue…to kind of relativize or say, well, you know, the right to life of an unborn child is a preoccupation with fetuses, or it’s relative in its importance – I can’t agree with that. And I don’t think that represents the church’s teaching, and the focus of our energies, in trying to deal with this great moral issue.
on dialog with the LCWR:
I think we have to give a nuance about dialogue because if by dialogue they mean that the doctrines of the church are negotiable, and that the bishops represent one position and the LCWR presents another position, and somehow we find a middle ground about basic church teaching on faith and morals, then no. That’s – I don’t think that’s the kind of dialogue that the Holy See would envision.
But if it’s a dialogue about how to have the LCWR really educate; and help the sisters to appreciate and accept church teaching, and to implement it in their discussions, and try to heal some of the questions, or concerns, they have about these issues; then that would be the dialogue.
on what obedience for women religious means:
No one can argue that we have to be obedient to God, and that we have to follow conscience. But on the other hand, it flies in the face of 2,000 years of the notion of religious life; that obedience means obedience to lawful superiors within the community, and it certainly means the obedience of faith to what the church believes and teaches.
on women’s ordination and the necessity of male-only priesthood:
[W]hen it comes to the priesthood, and I don’t know that on a program like this we’re able to explore the theology of it, because it is a theological one; it’s not political. It’s not sociological. It’s theological. About what the sacraments are and what it means for a man to stand at the altar and act in the very person of Christ as a priest.
I mean, St. Paul talks about Christ being the groom and the church being his bride. That symbolism, theologically, is very much a part of our understanding of the Mass and the priesthood. And that’s, I think, also why Christians who maintain their faith in a priesthood – namely, the Catholics and the Orthodox – do not have a female priest.
The church doesn’t say that the ordination of women is not possible because somehow women are unfit to carry out the functions of the priest, but because on the level of sacramental signs, it’s not the choice that our Lord made when it comes to those who act in his very person, as the church’s bridegroom…it’s not just an arbitrary decision of male oppression over women.
on the irony of a women’s group being judged and overseen by an exclusively male group over women’s issues and women’s sexuality:
I would say that in this situation this has become a necessity because they are not doing it on their initiative. If they were doing it on their own initiative as religious consecrated women with religious vows in the Catholic church, there would be no need for the bishops – or for the Holy See – I should say, to intervene in this matter.
As far as questions of human sexuality and women’s issues, I respectfully suggest that the profound questions about identity and sexuality cannot be the domain of women alone or men alone. This is about a common humanity. Questions about the meaning of sexuality and marriage and such are not exclusively the property of one sex or the other. And so certainly for the church, they’re part of a corpus of teaching that embraces the whole human person.
i have to say, the explanations Bishop Blair gave on were so familiar to me because they are basically the same ones mormon men use to justify gender inequality. and it is just so convenient to say that this is the way God wants it when the game has been rigged so that God only speaks through men,
it will be interesting to see how this plays out. i can only imagine what the leaders of my church would do if the Relief Society started calling for female ordination. but whatever happens, i stand with the nuns!