with unidentified fan
Joan Chittister, Benedictine nun breezed into town April 1 and 2 to be part of a colloquium engineered by the Niagara sage, John Quinn. About 500 people were there and no one from the chancery where Sr. Joan is still persona non grata.Saw no active priests either.The prophet always frightens.
Closing in on 80, this author of about 30 books (who’s counting) has lived a full Catholic life always attempting to move the yardsticks forward, particularly on the perennial neuralgic question of the role of women in the church. Her refusal to accept Vatican bullying in 2001 when she defied headquarters and attended a womwen’s Ordination conference was a key moment melting the frozen pontificates of JP ll and ratzinger. The whole commun ity basically said, we don’t do top down Kremlin obedience in a 1500 year old order. The whole Erie, Pa. group collectively discerned that the Vatican dictum was a bridge too far and Joanie went.The Vatican realized that it better not go mano a mano with a group of women which had more credibility than it did.
Anyway it was breuatifujl to see the grey haired nuns turn out in massive numbers to salute their feminist champion. All the orders were there and it was quite a moving scene to watch the wonderful women bask in the glow of the nun-prophet.
She did not disappoint:
In diocese after diocese parishes are being merged, closed, turned into sacramental way stations, being served by retired priests or married male deacons, both of which are designed to keep the church male, whether it is ministering or not. The number of priests is declining: the number of Catholics is increasing; the number of lay ministers being certified is rising in every academic system despite the fact that their services are being restricted, rejected or made redundant in parish after parish than ever before.
And here in Pennsylvania there’s a five year old girl who, when her parents answered her question about the absence of women priests in their parish with the flat explanation that “We don’t have girl-priests in our church, darling,” the little girl thought for a minute and then responded quite simply but sharply, “Then why do we go there?!”
Clearly, the church is changing even while it reasserts its changelessness. But static resistance is a far cry from the dynamism of the early church in which Prisca, and Lydia, and Thecla, and Phoebe and hundreds of women like them, opened house churches, walked as disciples of Paul, “constrained him,” the scripture says, to serve a given region, instructed people in the faith and ministered to the fledgling Christian communities with no apology, no argument, no tricky theological shell games about whether they were ministering ‘in persona Christi’ or ‘in nomine Christi’.