Today's issue of the New York Times (Sunday 25 October 2009) includes an editorial column from Maureen Dowd in which she comments on the role of women religious in the Catholic Church. She smoothly starts with a personal account from her childhood in which nuns are portrayed as overbearing and mean spirited.
Once, in the first grade, I was late for class. I started crying in the schoolyard, terrified to go in and face the formidable Sister Hiltruda. Father Montgomery, who looked like a handsome young priest out of a 1930s movie, found me cowering and took my hand, leading me into the classroom. Sister Hiltruda looked ready to pop, but she couldn’t say a word to me, then or ever. There was no more unassailable patriarchy than the Catholic Church.Then she smoothly transitions into a full out slander job on the Church as a patriarchal institution , with particular bile offered for our current Pope.
In 2004, the cardinal who would become Pope Benedict XVI wrote a Vatican document urging women to be submissive partners, resisting any adversarial roles with men and cultivating “feminine values” like “listening, welcoming, humility, faithfulness, praise and waiting.” Nuns need to be even more sepia-toned for the über-conservative pope, who was christened “God’s Rottweiler” for his enforcement of orthodoxy. Once a conscripted member of the Hitler Youth, Benedict pardoned a schismatic bishop who claimed that there was no Nazi gas chamber.By using further explosive terms (as if being labeled a Nazi were not bad enough!) referring to the current investigation of religious life in America as an "inquisition", or the church as "enabling pedophilia" to denigrate and slander our faith, Ms. Dowd clearly throws down a challenge to any believing Catholic. As with many such attacks, we often think to ourselves that if such an attack were foisted upon any other group, religious or ethnic, it might be considered "hate speech". Yet such hatred expressed in the public square directed at the Catholic church is now acceptable by many. It is here that we must as Catholics engage in the defense of our church for it through media outlets such as the NY Times that the battle for the hearts and minds of our fellow citizens will be fought. In other words, it is here that the "rubber hits the road." It is here that we must take up the fight. This is just one opportunity when anyone who shares in the Catholic faith could and should use the comments threads that accompany this diatribe to make the argument for the faith. It is essential that everyday people respond to such attacks. It is not enough for priests and bishops to address these issues, for we fall victim to the cheap tactics of "poisoning the well" and other logical fallacies to dismiss their contributions. After all, they are agents of this "patriarchal institution" and thus our voices are often not accepted or even heard in this debate. I post below the link to this article and pray that many will respond through the medium of the internet to witness to the truths of our faith and our church. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/25/opinion/25dowd.html?hpw