I’m so #TeamNun. No matter how strict they were when I was in elementary school, one thing was always clear: they cared about us. Also, they cared about their student’s families: They’d let my parents pay tuition late when times were rough, as they often were. And they taught me EXCELLENT grammar and writing, and a most important forgotten art: penmanship!
Over the weekend, Pope Francis reportedly became the first pontiff to meet with a transgendered person, meaning he’s much more open to gender inclusivity than any Catholic leader before him. But what of women in the church?
This Here and Now interview (on WBUR) of Sister Joan Chittister proves women religious aren’t just your kid’s disciplinarian anymore. Of course, most of us knew this already. But it’s good to see the discussion out there. Radical feminists? I think not. #TeamNun is in a class by themselves.
I’ve teased out some of my favorite parts, but you can listen to the whole AUDIO interview here.
Sister Joan Chittister: I would not deny that in every dimension of the church there is a great respect for the sisters. Since Vatican II, sisters have grown up too, just like women everywhere, and they basically highly educated and very committed people. When they began to function with confidence as full adults, that threatened an old church. The image of women religious by churchmen themselves was the eternal silent servant. Now you have a body of intelligent educated adult women and you’re facing a new climate in the church with a Pope who is apparently not afraid of difficult topics.
I mean, they have a word for it that’s embarrassing; they call it radical feminism, which means they don’t even know what radical feminism is. What they mean is that a thinking, articulate woman with an agenda and intends to pursue it for the sake of women everywhere, as well as the families and the children we serve.
HOST: Women cannot be priests still in the Catholic Church. Why is that door still closed?
Sister Joan Chittister: This anti-female attitude—they don’t want to call it that—‘We respect you, we love you, look at how we put you on a pedestal,’ meaning, as long as you’re on a pedestal, you yourself can’t move anywhere. This is very, very ingrained in churches in general, and in the Catholic Church, especially. This pope has said feminism is about allowing every member of the human race to become a fully functioning human adult. He has talked about the fact that until we really look at the feminist issue, he says, quote, ‘We have to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman. Only by making this step, will it be possible to better reflect on their function within the church.’
Now, I think we could just start with the profound theology of the human, and we wouldn’t necessarily be starting on the same foot we always have, as in women are different as men, women are not as fully human as men.. there’s no sense in that. This Pope, however, has opened the door to the question. If ti’s still a question for men, we’ll help them answer it, but it has to be addressed.
You have to remember, too, that as much as we don’t want to admit it, the church has also taught racism, anti-semitism, and slavery, just as well as they teach sexism yet today. If this Pope, with what I see as a powerful and graced openness to the questions in our society, really pursues this question, we will all have a new consciousness of what it is to be human, to be female as well as male, and to be a church that’s really a church.
HOST: What hope do you have of that?
Sister Joan Chittister: I’m not even sure it’s hope anymore because we’re on the wrong side of history. Every single thing that we have dealt with this way has fallen. And this will fall, too, because it is so wrong. It’s theologically untenable, it’s psychologically ridiculous, and scientifically bizarre and bankrupt.