I should probably start this article off by saying I used to be Catholic. I was baptized as an infant, had my first communion and was confirmed in high school. I attended catechism every Wednesday of my childhood and church every Sunday. You might also note the past tense part of this disclaimer. I am no longer a Catholic, I had a falling out with the church about 6 years ago and though I’ll still attend mass with my mother every once in a while, it has otherwise been a clean break.
We had a slow separation, the church and I, and for one very serious reason- the Catholic Church is out of touch with the world we are living in. It is a system where women still take a back seat to men in every way, where science is rejected, where sex scandals can simply be covered up and never acknowledged, where homosexuals are admonished at best, hated at worst. The Catholic Church and I simply see the world differently.
But finally, a group within the Church is starting to see the same inconsistencies that I saw and they’re starting to take action. As someone who also worked in a Catholic high school, it’s not at all the group I would’ve expected. But yes, it’s the 55,000 American nuns, a group of women that the Vatican is labeling as “feminists.”
And all I can say is, it’s about time.
One specific group that is being targeted is found in Michigan and heads a social justice group called NETWORK. This particular group is being scrutinized by the church not for their theological issues, but for their politics. NETWORK supported President Obama’s healthcare reform, including the provision that required employers to provide insurance that covers oral contraceptives for their employees without a copay. And when the church fought this on the grounds of religious freedom, the compromise was to require the insurance companies to bear the cost of the OCP instead of the church directly. The nuns at NETWORK supported this decision and the church did not.
And now these nuns are under a magnifying glass. Do they themselves use the contraceptives? No. They haven’t broken their vows, they haven’t taught anything that goes against the church’s teachings by supporting this decision. They aren’t telling women to use the pill. They supported a political move that went against the church. A political move that Catholic women throughout the country support, because we live in a world that is starkly different than the one the Vatican lives in.
These nuns live in a world where the black and white decrees of the church don’t make sense. Where we can’t, won’t and shouldn’t condemn our friends for being homosexuals. Where whether someone else gets and abortion isn’t anyone’s business but the person getting it. Where taking a birth control pill either for a medical reason or even for birth control doesn’t make me a slut, it just means that I’m trying to be a responsible adult.
And for the record, the OCP is no more birth control than the “natural family planning” that the Church supports. Both methods allow men and women to have sex without the intention of having children. Just because one option utilizes a pharmaceutical agent doesn’t mean it’s any more birth control than the other. It’s hypocrisies like that, that have driven 1 in 10 Americans to leave the Catholic Church.
There is concern about the future of American nuns, especially in light of the Vatican investigation. Whether they will be quieted and their “progressive” ideals silenced, or whether they’ll leave the Catholic Church completely. It is my opinion that if the Vatican wants to remain relevant to the people, they should be embracing these women instead of investigating and punishing them. These women are trying to pull an old dinosaur of a religion into the current era. They are trying to make it meaningful to people again, to make it relevant in today’s society. They are exactly what the church needs if it wants to survive in the modern era.
I only hope that the work of these nuns, both their community service work to shelter and feed the homeless, to educate children and provide comfort and care to the sick and their more controversial work to bring religion to the 21st century isn’t hindered by a group of old men in Italy. There is so much the Catholic Church can learn from these women if only they would listen to the world around them for a change.
Katie is a 28 year old Southern Californian, married to a doctor, racking up as much student debt as possible as a full-time graduate student in a health science. Her hobbies include abusing parentheses, baking complicated desserts that almost universally involve frosting and loving her two cats more than is socially acceptable. She’s currently balancing her first child and graduating from graduate school. So planning and timing are also things she excels at. You can read more from Katie on her blog, Overflowing Brain.
image source BadgerCatholic