Monday, April 30, 2012

Beltaine Eve: Please support Women Religious (like Bridget)

We stand on the eve of Beltaine, today the 30th of April, and I am writing to ask for support for the most recent Catholic Church attack on religious sisters here in the United States. The Holy Father recently asked for a doctrinal investigation of US nuns, and found that though "there has been a great deal of work on . . . promoting issues on social justice and harmony," there hasn't been enough work on .... "right to life from conception. . ." and supporting "the church's view of Biblical Family life and human sexuality." (Doctrinal Assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious).

Let's put that into English and what you get is: nuns are doing too much social justice work with the poor, and not enough work on the church's stand on abortion and homosexuality. In other words, American nuns are helping real people and not just threatening American families that don't conform to the Church Hierarchy's vision of patriarchal, nuclear families.

 Damn them nuns. They are always off doing work the Bishops don't like.

This is hardly the first time a church has questioned what women are doing.

Back in 1990 the Methodist Church flipped out when a Women's Week at a Dallas Methodist church included prayers to Sophia and use of the language Mother God. Go back to the 19th century and you have men in religious denominations telling women to go off and pray together alone, or worrying about what women did when they prayed together without men.

Go back even farther, and look at the history of the Beguines, 13th and 14th century "nuns", who rejected traditional orders, worked with the poor, coined their own money and had huge followings. The Beguines were expected to work, either in teaching or caring for the sick, to support themselves. They were mystics, and lived not in religious orders but in communes. Pope after Pope condemned them throughout the 13th century, though some groups held on until the Protestant Reformation.

Women, women, women, we just really are a problem for the churches of the world.

Yet the recent attack on Catholic nuns is just one more attack on all women in religion - whether it is pagan women, Jewish women, Hindu women or Buddhist and Muslim women. We are suspect because we take care of the poor, because we don't follow hierarchical goals of restricting families, because we support various forms of reproductive rights.

 No I am not saying we as women all agree. Heavens, no. However, we agree more than we often realize, and I say that as a woman on the border of religions who has pro-life and pro-choice friends in three of the world's major religions. I have fundamentalist tea-party friends and cloistered friends and Orthodox friends and friends with hijabs. And every single one of my friends works with children, speaks out for women's economic and social equality, for women's rights to explore God and deity and the holy without men on high limiting us in anyway.

 I know lots of Catholic nuns. I know nuns who teach, who care for the ill, who fight for justice all over the world, often standing up to guns and authorities. Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times points out that nuns were the first feminists. (Read his awesome editorial here.)

And let's remember, Saint Bridget, the saint I puja and follow, was a nun. A nun who welcomed all to her door. has a marvelous petition to support the nuns in America. Sign it here. And get out there and speak out for the nuns of our country, for the women who are doing the work that I would argue the church should be doing. American nuns are our sisters.

 Here on Beltaine Eve, let's stand with them, with Bridget, with women of all religions who are changing the world.