Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Leave them nuns alone, part 2

Today, while completing my daily ritual of scouring the Huffington Post, I came across two articles about nuns. I found this odd, since there are approximately six nuns left in existence, but that's neither here nor there. Here's what the first one said:

Garbed in her nun's habit and black wool tunic over a white shirt and skirt, Sister Mary Beth Lloyd did not appear to be dressed for exercise. But her running shoes hinted that "something big" was afoot.

Lloyd, 62, of the Religious Teachers Filippini order, launched a charity event with her longtime friend and former colleague, Lisa Smith Batchen, in a bid to raise $1 million for orphans by having the pair run and walk 50 miles in each of the 50 states, for a total of 2,500 miles, within 62 days.

Dubbed "Running Hope Through America," (, the event kicked off Monday in New Jersey, where Smith Batchen, 49, an "ultramarathoner" ran a loop in a local park all day long until achieving 50 miles.

The duo were set to resume the event Tuesday in New York's Central Park and continue Wednesday in Connecticut, and so on across the nation, until finishing after 62 days--a time frame chosen because 62 miles in ultramarathons equals 100 kilometers, a race standard.

There's that social justice bit that the Catholic Church is so proud of. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, Catholic nuns are, more than the Vatican, doing the work of Christ. Anyway, here's what the second one said:

A Roman Catholic bishop in Pennsylvania has barred local nuns from promoting their order in his diocese because they supported the health care bill Congress passed last month.

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden, Pa., "publicly repudiated" the U.S. bishops by supporting the bill, the Diocese of Greensburg said in a statement. Therefore, Bishop Lawrence Brandt has ordered diocesan newspapers, offices, and parishes not to promote the sisters' upcoming recruiting drive.

The Sisters of St. Joseph, who specialize in health care and social services, was one of nearly 60 Catholic women's congregations that signed a March 17 letter supporting a version of the health care bill that was denounced by the U.S. bishops.

After minor revisions and a promise from President Obama not to expand federal funding of abortion, that bill became law on March 23. . . .

Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, the Catholic social-justice lobby that organized the March 17 letter, said she is saddened by Brandt's actions.

The bishops and the nuns "share one faith and one commitment," Campbell said. "We have a difference of opinion on how that commitment is carried out in legislation. And the fact that we can't have a difference of opinion really saddens me."

I wish there was a way for me to translate the audible sigh I gave when I read this into writing. I've known for a long time that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is more a right-wing political organization than an expression of faith, but this action on the part of one of their members really upsets me, and here's why: the health care bill that passed congress did not give any federal funding to abortions. While it is woefully inadequate (in my humble, Canadian opinion), what it did do was increase health coverage for poor, and elderly people, as well as children. This, again, falls in line with the Catholic Church's mission of social justice, which, I assume, is why the nuns supported it. It does not, however, fall in line with modern American conservative politics, which is why, I assume, the Bishop Limbaugh didn't.

Matthew 4:23 says:

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.

Matthew 9:35 says:

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.

Matthew 10:8 says:

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.

Matthew 12:15 says:

Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. Many followed him, and he healed all their sick

Matthew 14:14 says:

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

I think you get the picture. There is no question in my mind that universal health care, unlike many issues in the Bible that can be unclear, falls in line with the teachings of Christ. To that end, I see no justifiable reason that a Catholic Bishop could ostracize a group of smart, awesome nuns for supporting legislation that brings the United States closer to that ideal, particularly when the legislation in question does NOT fall out of line with any direct Church teachings. Except, you know, that he's a republican.

So, Bishop Limbaugh, WTF would Jesus do?


Jessica Maybury said...

you're so smart! Damn you and your articulate posting!

Anonymous said...

There are actually lots of nuns still around, and many of them are even doing actual good work. Near where I live, there's what until the mid-1970s was a cloistered convent (meaning the nuns practically never went out and very few people were allowed in even to visit). Back then, the nuns talked amongst themselves and decided that what they wanted to do was interact with the world and share their property's aura of peace and contemplation rather than hoarding it.

So they converted their land and the buildings on it into an interfaith retreat center. Tibetan monks stay there whenever they're in this part of the U.S. People from all walks of life, all religious backgrounds, and all belief systems (including atheists, depending on the programs being offered at various times) go there, for an afternoon, a weekend or a whole week, to learn from a speaker or speakers leading a talk, workshop or retreat. People go there just to visit the art gallery (rotating permanent and temporary exhibitions) or the gift shop (featuring books, music and other items in line with and sometimes produced by the order or any of the many people who have presented a workshop or other contribution over the years) which operates on the honor system over 90% of the time, or to walk the outdoor labyrinth on their grounds.

The former convent turned nondenominational retreat center is called Wisdom House, for anyone who wants to check them out.

One of my stepfather's nieces, who's only just now nearing forty, took vows as a nun in her early 20s. She wanted to teach, and she's been doing exactly that in Catholic schools around the country for the better part of the last twenty years.

It's true you hardly ever see nuns in traditional habits anymore; the sisters at Wisdom House mostly dress in ordinary (if modest) casual clothes, even veiling their hair only rarely. But there are still lots of "plainclothes" nuns out there making a difference... they just fly under the radar because they don't match most people's image of what a nun should look like or be doing. ;)


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