Nuns in the news? Stories of nuns being scolded and reprimanded? Shouldn't the nuns be doing the scolding and reprimanding?
When I was a kid, I wasn't Catholic so I had very little contact with women religious (or any religious for that matter). When I became Catholic the nuns that I knew were different from the ones my Cradle Catholic friends had known.
My Cradle Catholic friends were taught by nuns in full habit who didn't take any crap from their students, parents or priests for that matter. Most nuns had classrooms of 40-60 students and they never complained about it. It was expected that all students would behave and if you didn't, there was a ruler across your knuckles or a finger in your ear to escort you out of the classroom.
My Cradle Catholic friends tell these stories with a mix of humor and anger at the nuns. But all agree that they learned more in one year from a teaching nun than years of teaching from any lay person.
The nuns I have known rarely wore habits. Some still taught and others went from parish to parish to help out with various duties.
Two of the nuns that I knew stand out in particular. Vibrant and active in all activities in the parish they were a breath of fresh air. But my husband did notice something about them.
Whenever they did the readings for the liturgy, they always made sure to change any male pronouns to gender neutral. For example: Mankind was changed to humankind. I didn't catch it until my husband pointed it out to me. Whenever I would serve as Eucharistic Minister, one or the other nun would take the liturgy book aside and carefully go over the readings. I thought they were just practicing. But when I would follow the readings in the Missalette, I realized what they were doing.
Not as bold as the nun calling on the pope to include women "in all ministries of our church," including the priesthood, but it did seem like a small rebellion. No one that I know of ever spoke to them about the readings and when the two nuns left our parish, the readings were read as written.
There is a concern, according to an official investigation by the Vatican that there is a prevalence of certain radical feminist themes" and they have been taken to task for "occasional public statements" that disagree with the bishops, "who are the church's authentic teachers of faith and morals."
This is not a new "disagreement" between nuns and bishops. It's been going on a long time. Mary Schmich's article in the Chicago Tribune speaks of the quieter struggles of the sisters.
In Mother Angelica's biography by Raymond Arroyo, Mother had her own battles with the bishops ... and she did not back down.
Another nun I had known through our parish told me, "I knew what I signed up for." She had no desire to be a priest. She believed that if women were to be priests, Jesus would have named Mary Magdalene, Mary and her sister Martha and a host of other women followers instead of just the twelve male disciples.
If she had issues with the male hierarchy of the Catholic church, she never said so. She was fiercely Catholic and she loved Jesus with an unmatched zeal. When any of the Church's teachings came into question by anyone, she would calmly explain it with a dose of patience and love.
She was a wonderful example of what a woman religious could accomplish within the church. She had her personal failings, but I still think of her fondly. She often told me, "Don't think I have it easier because of my vocation. I struggle with the same things you do."
Since my own experience with nuns is limited, I think it best to leave you with positive thoughts about the nuns. Fr. James Martin's article is a warm and moving tribute to the sisters in his life. And whatever struggles they are experiencing, we should pray for them, as surely as they would pray for us.