US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Forget frustration and the "fortnight": I'm going on a road trip with the nuns

By Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Jim Martin's "A Prayer for Frustrated Catholics" is making the rounds today online, and it is indeed full of hope and wisdom for what many of us are finding to be a trying time in the U.S. Catholic church and in the church as a whole. From the Vatileaks scandal to the crackdown on the nuns, to the bishops' intemperate reactions to the HHS mandate, there's not a lot to be excited about--except Nuns on the Bus (rock on, NETWORK!).

At this same time, I am tired of these more or less soft forms of protest--prayers, stories about sisters--as if we are being forced to undergo this tribulation for some greater good, oppressed as we are by the Roman authorities who foist bad Mass translations on us and say mean and untruthful things about the sisters we admire. We are all grown ups, and perhaps it's time to be a little bit frank: Some of this nonsense is just plain wrong. God helps those who help themselves, so maybe it's time we speak up more forcefully, something like what the seven provinces of Franciscan men did when they rejected the Vatican action against U.S. sisters.

The fact is, our church's leadership is driving many otherwise committed Catholics away. I for one--and I speak only for myself--am embarrassed to have to hear about yet another woman who is being "corrected" by men across a distant ocean because she dares to raise questions in her academic work that we have all raised in our personal lives.

I'm angry that the religious women who have been the guiding stars in my spiritual life are being scolded for paying too much attention to the poor rather than certain prelates' political whipping posts. Your Excellencies, I think we all know where Jesus would be in this day and age, and it ain't yammering on Fox News or EWTN.

And I am disgusted that the moral voice of the Catholic hierarchy is becoming so much more political wind--as if we needed more that--instead of booming on behalf of the truly suffering of our country: the 20 million or so children living in poverty, the utterly abandoned people with mental illness, the tens of millions without access to a doctor, the chronically unemployed. 

I get the frustration; I share it, and I'll be praying right along with Jim and everyone else. But at some point holy obedience becomes unholy cooperation with one's own oppression, and with the oppression of those most in need. The bishops can have their ludicrous "fortnight of freedom"; I'm sticking with the nuns on the bus.