Catholic Church,Women Laity-Challenge the First Amendment

June 14, 2012.  The First Amendment guarantees free speech.  How is it that this topic of highly educated women (who are rebutting the in what their roles should be as nuns) is front and center on the NPR Show” today?  Could it be that the USA’s is being held above a church’s dogma? And they want to talk about it publicly?  It is their right to talk about it publicly—in America.

This is a dispute between the Church and its women laity, 80% of whom belong to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) in the U.S.  The Vatican wants American nuns to challenge the right to an abortion American women have as well as the growing acceptance of homosexuality by approval of gay marriage–both of which it views as anti-Catholic teaching.  It considers LCWR as straying from “authentic teaching”.

The discussion concerning the role of women in the Sisters of Loretto, and in all orders of sisters, is between , who is the host of “Interfaith Voices” heard on NPR, and a member of the LCWR; , a Fellow in Catholic Studies, Ethics and Public Policy Center; and John Allen, Senior Correspondent of the National Catholic Reporter and author of Conclave and All the Pope’s Men, most recently covered the pedophile issue.  Fiedler spoke about the LCWR:  it was set up as the umbrella group of selected women leaders (nuns) to lead in many ways—how to keep religious life, for one.  In April, the LCWR was rebuked for its “radical feminism” by Rome’s male leaders.

Fiedler commented that the role of the nuns has changed and evolved over the centuries.  With Vatican II they were urged to come out of the cloisters and continue social reforms, working with the poor for example.  She continued the discussion about her involvement in Network: “Nuns on a Bus”.  The group is challenging with his budget which would cut funds for the poor.  She said that “he is a Catholic”, and said no more about him.

Fiedler sees her challenge from Vatican II to be involved in social justice.  White seemed to be accusing her of ignoring the basic Catholic Church teachings of following in Mary’s footsteps—the first honored woman—mother of Jesus.  She rebutted by recounting Jesus’ life in that he never mentioned homosexuality or abortion, but instead spoke about taking care of the poor.  She held her intelligent cool, in my opinion.  White sounded pompous to me at times—as a father from olden days might be chastising his daughter.  Or as the Pope saying to her: Sit down and be quiet.  Women are to be seen and not heard.

A female caller challenged Fiedler with this, paraphrased somewhat: “These women sound more like Unitarians. If they do not like the rules of the [Catholic] church, they can leave.”  In answering, Fiedler’s voice became higher and more emotion-filled when she said: “I believe in my church and its traditions.  I like my church.”  She wanted the caller to know that she is a believer in the Holy Trinity, but she didn’t see speaking out in protest of abortion and gay marriage as answering the call she made to her God.

In response to a second female caller who said she would not raise her two daughters as Catholics, the subject of many ex-Catholics in the U.S. was noted, and Fiedler said, “Ex-Catholics are the second largest [religious] group in the United States.”

She further indicated that women in America are more involved in every aspect of life, including their churches, and have voices in them.  And I say, however, not in the Catholic Church are their social, political or ecumenical opinions valued or encouraged unless they will agree with all the men who run their church.

Fiedler is guaranteed her right to free speech in the USA…and so are you and me.  We are not a theocracy.  Congratulations to Fiedler and the LCWR for speaking out.  Happy Flag Day!!!

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