It takes quite a lot for a story on the basic fundamentals of religion to grab me the way this one has. 50 years in the making, we jump back to 1962, where Pope John XXIII establishes the Second Vatican Council, also knows as Vatican II, creating a new course of action and opening a dialogue on the definition of Catholicism in the modern world.
Vatican II was the 21st Ecumenical Council and garnered among many things these 4 general ideas:
- to more fully define the nature of the Church and the role of the bishop;
- to renew the Church;
- to restore unity among all Christians, including seeking pardon for Catholic contributions to separation;
- and to start a dialogue with the contemporary world.
It was the fourth bullet point that began a long string of changes as to the definition and structure of a Nun. The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, while founded in 1956, over the years has grown with women’s issues, pushing staunchly to remove traditionally worn habits (pictured below), and allow the distinction of “Nun” to include field work.
In as early as 1979, Sister Theresa Kane R.S.M., president of Women Religious, issued a plea during Pope John Paul II‘s visit to the United States for:
“providing the possibility of women as persons being included in all ministries of the church.”
In June of this year, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith headed by Cardinal William Levada expressed public disapproval of Sister Margaret Farley and her book, Just Love, which emphasized a toleration of homosexuality, feminism, and masturbation contrary to the Catholic teachings.
Most recently, Catholics who have a more traditional approach to Sisterhood, have begun a strong open discussion of their disapproval for the increasingly lax boundaries of the LCWR. Colleen Carroll Campbell, author of My Sisters the Saints stated:
“The call to be engaged with the world was not a call to throw the baby out with the bath water, doctrinally speaking or in any other way.”
Many of the more conservative sisters feel that the tradition and process of living in the convent, away from society, is important to the dedication one takes when they enter a life with the church. Sister Mary Jordan Hoover spoke on her experience:
“I wasn’t attracted to living a religious lifestyle that looked just like the way I was living as a chaste laywoman teaching at a public school.”
Moreover, The Vatican and the LCWR have hit a breaking point when it comes to the platform of the religion itself. Many of the opinions and attitudes of the Bishops, which by rank carry the current teachings of Catholicism, are not agreed upon with many Sisters. The arguments have pushed the Vatican to order a reorganization of the “radically feminist themes” and “doctrinal problems” they feel are prevalent.
Where there seems to lie a strong complication in this issue is whether or not there is wiggle room when it comes to the infrastructure of religion. Does assimilating to modern perspective diminish the values of the Catholic Church or help strength it’s ability to guide it’s congregation successfully?
NATION: Do you feel that religion is able to be relevant and useful in modern society without revision to its traditional system of beliefs?