The Catholic Crackup: Network under threat/corrected and updated
Posted by Charles II on April 27, 2012
The Vatican has reprimanded the largest group of Catholic nuns [this isn’t quite correct;
they are a group of nuns, laity, and non-Catholicsthe LCWR includes both nuns and sisters] in the United States, saying they have focused too heavily on issues of social justice, while failing to speak out enough on “issues of crucial importance,” such as abortion and same-sex marriage. In a report issued last week, church leaders accused the nuns of promoting “radical feminist” ideas and challenging key teachings on homosexuality and male-only priesthood. An archbishop and two bishops — all of them male — have been appointed to oversee the nuns. “To me, it’s quite puzzling that our work with the poor, which Jesus told us to do in the Gospels, would be the source of such criticism,” says Sister Simone Campbell, head of the Catholic social justice group NETWORK, which was harshly criticized in last week’s report.
We’re joined from Washington, D.C., by Sister Simone Campbell, head of the Catholic social justice group NETWORK, which was also heavily criticized in last week’s report.
The report highlights the point that the Church is unable to find enough priests (a factor in why they covered up the abuse scandal), yet they will not ordain women. Women, of course, would have been more likely to speak out in the face of the abuse scandal, so the scandal might have proved to be less damaging to the Church.
The group Network, which includes Catholic nuns but also laity and non-Catholics, is being chastised for doing too much of one good deed, namely serving the poor. This is a clear affront to a notion central to the Church, i.e. that conscience should rule us. If one believes that a good deed being performed by someone else is maybe not quite such a good deed as they think, one should be free to leave them to do it, while one pursues the good deeds that one thinks really are good deeds. If one is coerced to do good deeds, then they aren’t good deeds and the result cannot be good.
Campbell also points out something so blindingly obvious that the Catholic hierarchy is unable to see it: if one wants to reduce abortions (which essentially all people want), then one must not block people from using the most obvious means of accomplishing that: contraception.
My guess is that the Vatican’s pronouncement has a lot more to do with the election than with contraception. Network posts such as Ryan is Catholic, His Budget is Not, and Senator Rubio’s Not-so-just Alternative to the DREAM Act, not to mention Join Us As We Prepare For Election 2012! must drive the Vatican wild. One should note that Network, unlike ALEC, is properly registered as a lobbying group.
Update: Brother John made some important points in comments. First, the post is about Network, a lobbying group. The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) and Network were both criticized, and apparently for similar reasons. The Vatican has direct authority over LCWR, but not over Network. I have conflated the two (there seems to be overlap in membership between the two, so I am not certain exactly how different they are. Clearly they interact.). However, the post was about Network, not LCWR.
Brother John also pointed out that Catholic leadership has come out against the Ryan budget. I have questioned the sincerity of that, pointing out that last year, the Ryan budget received support from high levels. Quoting Jonathan Cohn of TNR from May 2011:
It seems sacrilegious to suggest the leader of the America’s Catholic Bishops has made a deal with the devil. But his latest political gesture makes me wonder if he is in negotiations.
Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York and president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops, sent a letter on Wednesday to House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan.
The letter, if it didn’t explicitly endorse the Ryan budget, did not criticize the massive cuts to the poor, elderly, and ill that the Ryan budget would have mandated. So, the Bishops are very late to this party. I, for one, believe that they are playing politics. I suspect they are trying to take some of the odor off themselves for having gotten involved in the contraception wars.
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