Although her blog article provides no link to the document in question, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith recently released a document titled Doctrinal Assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).
It's worth noting right from the title, that the matter is one of doctrinal consistency among those who lead in the name of the Church. At no point does Quinn's article address the doctrinal position of the women religious in question.
At the onset, the CDF document reads:
The Holy See acknowledges with gratitude the great contribution of women Religious to the Church in the United States as seen particularly in the many schools, hospitals, and institutions of support for the poor which have been founded and staffed by Religious over the years. Pope John Paul II expressed this gratitude well in his meeting with Religious from the United States in San Francisco on September 17, 1987...And it goes on to quote the Pope and recount the great value of women religious in the history of the Church.
With regard to doctrinal problems, the document cites a vocal sister who encouraged the faithful into "'moving beyond the Church' or even beyond Jesus."
Ironically, the beginning of Quinn's blog offers what she thinks Jesus Christ would think about a doctrinal assessment of religious women: "Jesus would be rolling over in his grave..." She offers no defense or analysis of the notion that a religious sister may have encouraged the faithful to go "beyond Jesus." If that's true, then Jesus obviously wouldn't be rolling over in His would-be grave because of the Bishops' assessment, but because of dissenting religious sisters.
Quinn went on to cite two words from the context of the CDF document and write in her blog post: "Vatican bishops issued a report condemning nuns...for 'radical feminism'." But this statement fails to describe the matter at hand. The CDF's larger context on the issue of "radical feminism" is entirely a doctrinal matter:
The Cardinal noted a prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith in some of the programs and presentations sponsored by the LCWR, including theological interpretations that risk distorting faith in Jesus and his loving Father who sent his Son for the salvation of the world. Moreover, some commentaries on “patriarchy” distort the way in which Jesus has structured sacramental life in the Church; others even undermine the revealed doctrines of the Holy Trinity, the divinity of Christ, and the inspiration of Sacred Scripture.
Quinn neither presents this context, nor addresses its assertions, and nor, as I mentioned, does she link to the document for a reader to assess. She merely presses forward with the idea that the bishops are attacking nuns simply for being "women," to the point of "war," according to Quinn's own headline.
More than once, Quinn belittles and makes caricature of the bishops' concerns. She writes:
What were the crimes of these devout ladies? Well, they supported the White House over health care reform, lining up against the bishops. Big mistake.
Again, this statement is incomplete, not to mention Quinn's personal conjecture. The primary reason the bishops stood against the so-called "health care" reform plan was because it advanced the occasion of abortion, contraception, and sterilization. These matters have been considered intrinsic evils in the Church even before the United States existed. Furthermore, as part of the "health care" plan, the department of Health and Human Services attempted to force Catholic and other institutions and individuals morally opposed to such things to personally pay for such things. After much public outcry, the Obama Administration claimed to compromise on the mandate, but instead masked or shifted the payment of activities to other potentially religious institutions and citizens morally opposed to those activities.
In this article, Quinn demonstrates no awareness as to why the bishops have been opposed to the plan. There is no such analysis whatsoever of Catholic teaching. This undermines her entire thesis that the Church is just out to make "war on women."
In a twist of irony, Quinn defends the federal health care plan while condemning its critics as waging war on women. However, as documented in an earlier post, the HHS readily admits on its own website that contraceptives covered by the health care plan are known to increase the risk of cancer in women. You see the grotesque perversity of Quinn's position. The bishops, who are against using drugs that increase cancer in women, are the ones Quinn says are waging "war on women."
At one point, she states, "How can one follow leaders who would condemn nuns for their charity...?" Quinn's statement is at worst, a fork-tongued lie, and at best, an accidental typo on her keyboard. As I quoted earlier, the CDF document begins with praise for the charitable work from the sisters. It is a completely false assertion that the LCWR is being "condemned" for "charity." The document specifically states that is one of the reasons the sisters are to be praised. Quinn's statement does not make sense. And, like the rest of the article, avoids confronting whether the bishops are right to investigate doctrinal abuses.
At another point, she makes the very anti-male comment: "That those in charge of the Catholic Church are all celibate men already eliminates the possibility of justice." Thus, according to Quinn, if you are a male who is not sexually active, you will treat women unjustly. The self-evidently nonsensical assertion merits no in depth analysis. One could argue that it's even shameful the Washington Post willed to publish such a sentiment uncritically. At least she admits that the bishops are "in charge."
Finally, Quinn plays the "sex abuse" card against the Church's handling of sexual abuse accusations flourishing in the last ten years or so. The gist of her argument on that matter is if some bishops failed to properly police sex abuse in the Church, the nuns should be left alone even by bishops who are innocent of such things. You won't find a shortage of bishops who will admit that some of their peers, perhaps favoring public relations over sexual crime prevention, failed to act prudently. But there is also no shortage of committees and investigations into Church sexual abuse, although that might be the impression one gets after reading Quinn's article which all but says the Church excuses sex abuse by men because they are men and attacks nuns because they are women.
It is possible Quinn is unaware that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops initiated in 2002 the Mixed Commission which established such policies as the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons, the Office of Child and Youth Protection, etc...
These and other commissions established in the U.S. and around the world seem to be preventing abuse from leaking into the Church. The most recent audit of abuse shows that accusations are down while almost half of the accusations in 2011 were made against priests who are already deceased.
But the point is, Quinn sorely misrepresents the bishops' motives when she insinuates the Church does little or nothing about sex abuse but attacks nuns for doing works of "charity." It renders her article silly and embarrassing.
It reminds me of page 1 of C.S. Lewis' book The Screwtape Letters, a famous work postulating the strategies of a master devil and his apprentice. Screwtape, the master, tells the apprentice how to get his human subject not to think of doctrines "as primarily 'true' or 'false', but as 'academic' or 'practical, 'outworn' or 'contemporary', 'conventional' or 'ruthless'. Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church." Quinn's strategy likewise uses jargon, not argument. She simply substitutes "war on women," or that the nuns are just doing works of "charity," etc. instead of ever confronting the crux of the LCWR assessment.
If the LCWR is defying and advancing anti-Church doctrines, the bishops have every right and obligation to curb such doctrinal abuse, even if some of their predecessors have acted imprudently in the past.
- Women who are opposed to views like Quinn's can be read at womenspeakforthemselves.com.
- Upcoming TV Show on EWTN: Coming to a TV Near You: 'The Catholic View for Women'.
- Read the Catholic Womanhood section at catholicnewsagency.com.
- Important background information about the CDF-LCWR situation by Carl E. Olson.
- Catholic League president Bill Donahue cites some other stats that debunk Quinn's premise.