The Courage of the Nuns

Well, the bishops have their vestments in a twist again, as if they hadn’t created enough problems for themselves, swearing the victims of their colleagues’ sexual predations to secrecy. In spite of the bill’s hair-raising passage, they opposed it, health care access for God’s poor, imagining that somehow, somewhere, some poor child might terminate an unwanted pregnancy and that some benighted do-gooder would help her by finding a way to get some of your tax dollars to pay for it even though the health care bill explicitly forbids tax monies to be used for abortions.

These soldiers of Christ, far too many of whom have for centuries turned a blind eye to the sexual predation of children in the faith, now oppose the very comforts that Christ spent his brief time on earth providing to the poor and suffering. One might think that an appropriate penance for some of the bishops’ own bad behavior in covering up the sins of their own would be good works for those with less.

Thank God the nuns get it. In direct opposition to the bishops, they came out in favor of the U.S. health care bill. It is they, after all, who not only care for the poor, but get their spiritual sustenance from helping others in need: raising orphan children, helping young men and women in trouble find their way back into society, teaching, nursing and caring for the ill or infirm, tending to the dying, feeding and caring for the poor, in short doing God’s work. They also run hospitals and clinics, living among and ministering to the refuse of a health care system, a system that works well enough for those of us with means and the bishops and cardinals.

Throughout the volatile history of the Catholic Church, nuns from many religious communities have suffered the edicts, politics and even retribution of the church’s male hierarchy. To add insult to injury, the Vatican is sending an investigative emissary from Rome to America to gather data on these rebellious nuns. Seems they may have drifted too far from the teachings of their all-male church hierarchy in Rome and too close to Christ’s own work and teaching on Earth. The sad thought that the church feels it must investigate the shrinking communities of nuns only adds pathos to the church’s deteriorating position among its own faithful.

Maybe it is time to re-examine gender issues within the church. In fact, the world’s great religions that generally exclude women from their hierarchies seem to expend an inordinate amount of time trying to keep them in their place rather than focusing on them as part of a community of faith and works.

It took great courage for American Catholic nuns to follow the teachings of Christ rather than the authority of the bishops, to follow their own conscience and support a long-overdue bill that would expand the poor’s access to our health care system. The bill has finally passed, allowing us to begin catching up with the rest of the world. The nuns, who often pick up the pieces of our broken health care system, will at least have weighed in on the side of their faith.

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