David Gibson has a good feature on LCWR head Pat Farrell over at RNS today. What a life experience: an Iowa farm childhood, loss of a father at an early age, Texas, Chile, El Salvador.
I’ve had a dramatic life, I really have. But the drama of it is not what’s important. The best of what we do is not about high drama.
This speaks of a mature and seasoned approach ot ministry. It’s about the people we serve. Mr Gibson’s commentary, suggesting that the sisters are operating on one planet, bishops on another:
Indeed, behind the drama is a story of service to the poor, advocacy for the marginalized, and a radical spirituality that has profoundly shaped Farrell and many nuns like her – as well as shaped the identity of the LCWR. Viewed in this context, the standoff is not a political struggle or power play as much as a contrast of complementary roles and experiences in the church.
While church officials often want to protect and emphasize doctrinal orthodoxies, sisters like Farrell often operate from a pastoral experience of faith in action that emphasizes a prophetic voice on behalf of the people they live with.
My sense is that we’re speaking of inhabitants of Planet Orthodoxy and Planet Orthopraxis.
Neither approach is wrong, and to a degree each needs the other. But the Lord seemed to favor the Praxis Planet:
A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him. (Matthew 21:28b-32)
The core of the monotheistic religions is right actions, orthopraxis. Christian teachers and saints hammer away at it. The apostle Paul favored love over knowledge and preaching. Orthopraxis is more attractive for the purpose of evangelization. What non-believer has ever uttered, “Those Christians! See how they preach correct doctrine!”?
The bishops are in an unfair spot, to be sure. They are traditionally responsible for the teaching of correct doctrine. It’s just as biblical a principle as doing the right thing. And they come off looking very badly in comparison to women who shun drama, and are simply looking to follow their call.