Institutional Incompetence

Andrew Hamilton has an Australian and a historical perspective on the CDF-LCWR situation. History first, with the tale of Mary Ward, who wanted to adopt the Jesuit rule and, with other women, teach and perform pastoral duties–outside of a convent. Needless to say Rome and the Jesuits were unimpressed:

Her congregation was suppressed and she was jailed for a time.

The papal bull that suppressed the congregation was direct. It described the women as ‘workers who rashly betake themselves to the field of the Lord, scatter what has been sown, root up what has been planted, introduce cockle and spread false weeds through it…’

‘Free from the laws of enclosure they wander about at will, and under the guise of promoting the salvation of souls have been accustomed to attempt and employ themselves at many other works which are most unsuitable to their weak sex and character, to female modesty, and particularly to maidenly reserve — works which men of eminence in the science of sacred letters, of experience of affairs of innocence of life undertake with much difficulty.’

It concludes, ‘we totally and completely suppress and extinguish them, subject them to perpetual abolition and remove them entirely from the Holy Church of God… And we wish and command all Christian faithful to consider them and think of them as suppressed, extinct, rooted out, destroyed and abolished’.

In those days they made contempt into an art form. Mary Ward’s sisters continue today.

Of course they do.

Lots of timetables in print in the mainstream Catholic media, like here, but keep in mind the fumblebuttery in Rome:

The executive (committee) of the sisters were in Rome to meet the Congregation of the Faith to discuss the serious issues raised in this report, only to be told the appointment of the Archbishop had already been communicated to the American Bishops. They were assured the appointment would be kept under wraps until they could inform their member congregations. But it was immediately published on the Bishops Conference website.

I think we can take heart in this. The suppression of Mary Ward was just plain evil. The good news is that the CDF and much of the rest of the curia is full of rank incompetence. Too dumb to be evil? Could be.

I think I’ve found a good project for this web site to celebrate religious freedom fortnight. It should be fairly easy to come up with a fortnight of oppressed women, many of whom are either saints or on the way–unlike practically every curial bureaucrat in history. Really: how many saints have been made from the halls of the Vatican? Peter’s chair, certainly. Does the curia even have a patron saint?

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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2 Responses to Institutional Incompetence

  1. John Donaghy says:

    Here’s the beginning of a forthnight of oppressed women, within the church:

    Mary Ward;;
    the to-be -sainted Mary Mc Killop of Australia is another;
    Cornelia Connelly, foundress of the Sisters of the Holy Child, is possibly another;
    the Beguines;
    St. Mother Theodore Guerrin, foundress of the Sisters of Providence of St. Mary of the Woods;
    St. Joan of Arc;
    St. Hildegaard of Bingen;
    Blessed Anne-Marie Javouhey, founder of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny;
    Sor Juan Maria de la Cruz.

    Short, pointed biographies of these nine women can be found in Robert Ellsberg’s BLESSED AMONG ALL WOMEN – a book I highly recommend.

    There are other stories, including a cardinal who refused a national conference of women religious permission to publicly share their careful and nuanced statement on a coup. It, however, had leaked out.

  2. John Donaghy says:

    You might add Teresa of Avila – I think she was investigated by the Inquisition for her mysticism and her Jewish ancestry!That gives you ten women! (Ellsberg lists one Beguine who was executed.)

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