Stamp Your Feet!

I’ve been following with some bemusement the interchanges between Cardinal Mueller, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). For readers unaware of the developments, I’ll present them here in abbreviated form:

CDF: “Sisters, do you believe and affirm that Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of the Father, begotten and not made, the second Person of the Holy Trinity?”

LCWR: “Why are you asking us that question? What gives you the authority to ask it?”

CDF: “Again, Sisters, do you believe and affirm that Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of the Father, incarnate by the Holy Ghost in the womb of the Virgin Mary?”

LCWR: “You have no right to pick on us simply because we’re women. You arrogant misogynists!  We believe that hierarchical structures must be dismantled!”

CDF: “Sisters, you seem to argue that you are ‘beyond Jesus.’ Do you in fact believe that man may be saved in the name of Jesus alone? That Christ alone reveals the Father to man, and man to himself?”

LCWR: “Why are you using sexist language? We are offended by your pronouns.”

CDF: “Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of the Father?”

LCWR: “We have advanced degrees in theology. We have received awards from our friends – we mean, from prestigious theological societies. Why are you suggesting that we are incompetent? Is it because we’re women?”

CDF: “Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of the Father, yes or no?”

LCWR: “Where were you when bishops were hiding pedophiles? Why are you picking on us all of a sudden? Is it to distract people from your incompetence?”

CDF: “Sisters, the question is fundamental. At every Mass we affirm that Christ is the eternal Son of the Father, the second Person of the Holy Trinity, the sole savior of man – of the human race. Do you believe this or not?”

LCWR: “We don’t like your attitude! Why are you shouting? What is this really all about?”

CDF: “All right, let’s move to something else. Do you affirm the Church’s teachings regarding marriage, sexual relations, the family, and the sanctity of human life, from conception to natural death?”

LCWR: “Why are you ignoring the work we do with the poor?”

CDF: “Work with the poor is not at issue. Do you affirm the Church’s teachings?”

LCWR: “Too many people forget that the Church has many teachings regarding the poor!”

CDF: “Those are not in question. Do you affirm the Church’s prohibitions against contraception, abortion, sodomy, and divorce?”

LCWR: “Why do you assume that we speak with one voice?”

CDF: “We assume no such thing. We want to know whether you affirm the Church’s teachings.”

LCWR: “The Church needs women in positions of leadership.”

CDF: “As to that, the question is whether you or other women should be leading this organization. Do you affirm the Church’s teachings?”

LCWR: “Which teachings?”

       Overseeing the collapse of Catholic parish life

CDF: “Do you affirm the Church’s teachings on the broad range of sexual issues?”

LCWR: “We are distressed that women’s voices have not been heard!”

CDF: “Do you affirm the teachings?”

LCWR: “Stop shouting!  We don’t like your aggression!”

CDF: “Do you affirm the teaching authority of the Church?  Are you Catholic?”

LCWR: “Of course we’re Catholic! We attend Mass.”

CDF: “That is not the question. Let us ask again. Protestants do not believe in the teaching authority of the Church. That is what makes them Protestant. Do you believe in the teaching authority of the Church?”

LCWR: “We believe that even laymen share in the teaching authority.”

CDF: “Please attend. Do you believe that, when the Church has declared a thing to be evil, such as abortion, or sodomy, the faithful must learn to think with the mind of the Church? Do you believe that the Church is our Mother and Teacher?”

LCWR: “We believe in dialogue, and you don’t. The good Pope John believed in dialogue.”

CDF: “The good Pope John called the Church our Mother and Teacher. Do you believe that?”

LCWR: “Mothers don’t impose hide-bound rules and legalistic definitions.”

CDF: “Do you believe in the teaching authority of Holy Mother, the Church?”

LCWR: “We cannot have a conversation with someone who continually accuses us.” sniffle, “berates us,” sniffle, “looks down upon us,” two sniffles, “believes that he is right simply because he is male,” snort, toss of the head, “is not as qualified as we are to discuss difficult points of theology,” purse of the lips, “and is obviously not in accord with the Church that is to come.”

CDF: “I take that to mean no.”

LCWR: “Don’t you dare put words in our mouths!”

I have a dream. I have a dream that the orders of religious women in America will think of competence, if not of faithfulness, and show the door to women who have overseen the collapse of the glory of Catholic parish life in this country.

When you begin as the general manager of the Yankees, and in three decades your club finds itself overmatched against a good Little League team, it’s time to step down and give the job to somebody else. As it happens, there are orders of sisters that are stocked with novices, and enthusiasm, and love of Christ and His Church. Let their leaders, who are women and religious, lead this conference, and move from strength to strength.

The LCWR has it dead wrong. We want them out, because we want more women religious, more faithful, more influential in schools and hospitals and colleges, and more effective in converting a very silly, sad, and vicious world to Christ.

Anthony Esolen is a lecturer, translator, and writer. Among his books are Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture, and Nostalgia: Going Home in a Homeless World, and most recently The Hundredfold: Songs for the Lord. He is Distinguished Professor at Thales College. Be sure to visit his new website, Word and Song.