The Collective Wisdom of Nuns

For the next four days, I will be thinking about the 900 Catholic nuns gathered in St. Louis to discuss how they will respond to the Vatican’s “assessment” that suggests the nuns are not doing the “right” kind of Catholic work.

In a New York Times article about this monumental gathering, it quotes Barbara Marx Hubbard who told the nuns:

“Crisis precedes transformation . . . You are the best seedbed that I know for evolving the church and the world in the 21st century. Now, that may be a surprise to the world. But, you see, new things always happen from unexpected places.” 

This statement captures a beautiful understanding of how we should consider crisis — as an opportunity for growth.

If you remember, the Vatican scolded the nuns for not speaking out enough on issues of abortion, birth control and same-sex marriage . . . and instead, doing too much social justice work for the poor and underrepresented in our society.

Whenever I think about these powerful men in white robes who have very little direct contact with the people, I am reminded of the Sanhedrin — the high court of religious Jewish men who condemned Jesus to death. The nuns are on the ground, directly working with those in need. The all-male Vatican looks down at the nuns from on high, judging the work performed by religious women who enact and embody the word of God and the teachings of Jesus.

The Vatican’s bully move has nothing to do with heavenly matters; rather, it is the desperate attempt to regain control over a crumbling patriarchy marred by the heartbreaking truths behind priest abuse.

So, my heart beats a bit faster when I think about the 900 religious women gathering right now. I’m scared and excited by the possibilities. And, I wonder if it is too much to hope (and maybe too much to ask) that these women who have already dedicated their lives to our faith can generate enough power to resist the patriarchal hierarchy of the Church. But, for the next few days, I will be sending prayers of strength and wisdom, urging them to: Stay strong, Sisters. Stay strong.


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