The prophetcic meets the instituional when the Vatican takes on the nuns.
This is an old church story.The institution grows stale, moribund, starts doing things, business as usual, starts acting like a bloodless corporation, almost like WALMART. It gets hung up in the Age of Belief the period when the church ceased being a dynamic spirit-led institution and fell under the sway of the civil service of Constantinian Christianity. It aped the order and organization of the Empire and slowly began losing the spirit. It happens to all organizations, hence the need for the prophetic—Francis and Clare, Luther and the Beguines etc.
At Vatican ll and realizing its imperfectibility the church defined itself as “a pilgrim people”, not a “societas perfecta”. It badly needed an aggiornamento; it declared itself “semper reormanda” always in need of reformation.
This was a threat to the Curia. Change is always threatening to those in power. The Curia gagged when John XXlll called the Council.
Meanwhile the nuns carried on, got educated and began to understand their own marginalization in the church. It made them even more sensitive to others on the margin. As the most creative left the priesthood, the nuns carried on in prophetic ministries. Of course they were feminists, apparently a no-no in Rome. Now they are under siege by the men of Rome.
The most prophetic nun in America, Benedictine Joan Chittister had this to say about the Vatican’s demand for the LCWR to revise itself.
“When you set out to reform a people, a group, who have done nothing wrong, you have to have an intention, a motivation that is not only not morally based, but actually immoral,” she said.
“Because you are attempting to control people for one thing and one thing only — and that is for thinking, for being willing to discuss the issues of the age … If we stop thinking, if we stop demanding the divine right to think, and to see that as a Catholic gift, then we are betraying the church no matter what the powers of the church see as an inconvenient truth in their own times.”
In attempting to take such control of people’s thinking, she said, “You make a mockery of the search for God, of the whole notion of keeping eyes on the signs of the times and of providing the people with the best possible spiritual guidance and presence you can give.
“When I was a child in this town, I was taught that it was a sin to go into a Protestant church.
In my lifetime, the church, to its eternal credit, admitted that it was wrong. The scandal and the sin is that it took 400 years to do that.”
Chittister said women religious have been trying since Vatican II “to help the church avoid that kind of darkness and control … they have been a gift to the church in their leadership and their love and their continuing fidelity.
“When you set out to reform that kind of witness, remember when it’s over who doomed the church to another 400 years of darkness. It won’t be the people of the church who did it.”