The riches of Catholic Christianity — Christianity Richly! — are all positive. So you will seldom find a post here engaging in polemics. But the current controversy over the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) deserves mention.
Much of the national press has made this out to be a battle between courageous women and a besieged Vatican trying to stave off modernity. This is a misrepresentation. What the Vatican has been seeking to do is restore Christian unity with the LCWR, on the basis of shared beliefs. John 17 makes it clear Christian unity is one of the riches Christ intends for us to share. But there cannot be unity where there is no common faith.
What follows is the text of a letter I wrote to the New York Times. Perhaps it will shed some light on the controversy. In addition, I encourage you to click this link and listen to the June 17 homily by Fr. Jay Scott Newman on the topic. As I’m writing this post, the June 17 homily has not yet been added to the list, but should be soon.
Dear Ms. [Maureen] Dowd:
Seldom has a piece in the New York Times shown such manifest ignorance of its subject than “Is Pleasure a Sin?” which rotated on to page one of the online edition today [Saturday, June 16, 2012. Dowd’s article was originally published June 5].
First, with respect to the nuns, every Catholic Christian convert knows that on entering the Church, s/he will be asked to promise: “I believe all that the Catholic Church teaches and proclaims to be revealed by God.” It is perfectly all right to disagree. Such disagreement will be resolved later, in a higher court. But it is not acceptable to claim to be part of the Church and defy its teachings. The misguided days of so-called “faithful dissent,” stemming from misunderstanding of Vatican II, are past.
Second, the Catholic Church takes sex more seriously, in a positive way, than our society. As a result of 189 addresses made over a five year period by Pope John Paul II, the Church today teaches a theology of the body that elevates the beauty and blessings of physical intimacy. It also stresses the importance of personhood. For example, it declares the problem with pornography is not that it shows too much (the prudish reaction you attribute to the Church), but that it shows too little. Porn fails to show whole persons. Rather, it reduces persons — most often women, about whom you profess to care — to objects of pleasure used by others. The opposite of love is not hate. It is to use someone; to reduce them to an object.
One can only marvel that the opprobrium once reserved for indiscriminate sex is now more commonly aimed at indiscriminate consumption of food. See Mary Eberstadt’s hilarious — were the topic not so serious — exposé, “Is Food the New Sex: A Curious Reversal in Moralizing.”
Finally, your unhappiness with the Church often returns to the “moldy subservience” of women. It would seem you are unaware of the New Testament record of women as companions of Christ; of the presence of Mary and other women with the disciples in the upper room after Christ’s ascension; of the extraordinary regard in which Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Ávila, and Thérèse of Lisieux are held as Doctores Ecclesiae, “Doctors of the Church,” marked by eminent learning and a high degree of sanctity; and most of all, of the loving veneration of The Blessed Virgin Mary, whose status in the eyes of the Church is unequalled, except for its faithful worship of God.
So this letter is as much addressed to your editors, as to you. One expects more of the Times. May we hope for more knowledge of the subject in the future, even in an opinion piece.
With thanks, and genuine regard for the grand institution, The New York Times.