The Kathleen Turner line, "I don't have to think, I'm Catholic" from the new go-straight-to-DVD film, The Perfect Family, may work better the way I wrote it: "I don't have to think with the Church, I'm Catholic" - better add "nun" to that as well. Especially as it concerns more radical Catholic women religious like Sister Brigid McDonald, CSJ - one of the famous McDonald sisters shown above in that circle, back in the habit days.
The Four Sisters For Peace have been at it for years, some might say agitating for peace and justice, while others applaud them more as fearless activists for social change - both in and out of the Church. I suppose they must be considered 'feminist nuns', especially now in view of one of the sisters criticism of 'Vatican intervention' in the LCWR. Secular press reports the move as a political intervention, nevertheless it is clearly first and foremost a pastoral as well as doctrinal correction/intervention. Regardless, the Holy See is well within its authority to step in - and perhaps long overdue. Brigid McDonald doesn't like that, and says as much:
MinnPost: What are you hearing in your community about the decision?
Sister Brigid McDonald: Well, some are shocked that he would go that far, you know, to start using his power. To me, it is a misuse of power, a misuse of authority where he can step into religious communities and dictate how they should speak about these issues.
MP: When you say “he,” you are talking about Benedict?
SBM: Yes. I still call him Ratzinger. That fits him better. But that is just a personal bias.
I think they are overstepping their jurisdiction to expect that nuns are going to think as they tell us to think. To me those issues are not spiritual issues; many of them are political issues and some, of course, are social justice issues. I think that our personal spiritual life, it is another matter and that is our private belief.
I can't even begin to imagine what he could say or do that would change religious women's beliefs. I don't know how he plans to change that. That is of concern. That could be scary — what will he do to change our beliefs. You know, that scares me. - "Abuse of Power" - MinnPost
One of Sr. McDonald's real fears for herself and other religious may best be expressed in this statement:
"They want us back in the habits and being obedient. You don't belong out here with social workers." - Brigid McDonald
One has to remember there is a long history there - not just with the McDonalds, or the Sisters of St. Joseph, or the other sisters who had been in the forefront of the Civil Rights battles of the 1960's. These women religious did good back then, they labored in good faith, for that they are deserving of respect. They marched for peace and justice, although some never stopped marching: Out of the classrooms, out of the habit, and now some might say, out of the Church.
Locally at least, and probably nationally, the bishops might have intervened early on and prevented this. However, the bishops gave them a long leash and often supported and praised their activism - even as it led to the disintegration of communal religious life. Therefore, humanly speaking, one may at least understand the sisters anger over what they perceive as threats to their mission in the Church. We must be honest however, and recognize some of their activities have gone against Church teaching, and therefore warrant correction.
Correction can be painful. Pray for these women not to lose faith.