Dear Cardinal Levada,
I write you today as a lay woman feminist theologian, yes, we do exist. I call to mind the various texts of VITA CONSECRATA because it states ideas counter to Congregatio Pro Doctrina Fidei Doctrinal Assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious that refute what the current document states and, therefore, I would l think nullifies it, completely, thus demonstrating to the Vatican and the Congreation to the Doctrine of the Faith that there is no case to bear against the LCWR because it is following VITA CONSECRATA obediently to the letter.
Let me cite a few examples for you in case you have forgotten: (I quote)
“Like the Apostles, they too have left everything behind in order to be with Christ and to put themselves, as he did, at the service of God and their brothers and sisters. In this way, through the many charisms of spiritual and apostolic life bestowed on them by the Holy Spirit, they have helped to make the mystery and mission of the Church shine forth, and in doing so have contributed to the renewal of society.
3. Its universal presence and the evangelical nature of its witness are clear evidence — if any were needed — that the consecrated life is not something isolated and marginal, but a reality which affects the whole Church. The Bishops at the Synod frequently reaffirmed this: "de re nostra agitur", "this is something which concerns us all".The present difficulties which a number of Institutes are encountering in some parts of the world must not lead to a questioning of the fact that the profession of the evangelical counsels is an integral part of the Church's life and a much needed incentive towards ever greater fidelity to the Gospel. The consecrated life may experience further changes in its historical forms, but there will be no change in the substance of a choice which finds expression in a radical gift of self for love of the Lord Jesus and, in him, of every member of the human family.
5. How can we not recall with gratitude to the Spirit the many different forms of consecrated life which he has raised up throughout history and which still exist in the Church today? They can be compared to a plant with many branches which sinks its roots into the Gospel and brings forth abundant fruit in every season of the Church's life. What an extraordinary richness! I myself, at the conclusion of the Synod, felt the need to stress this permanent element in the history of the Church: the host of founders and foundresses, of holy men and women who chose Christ by radically following the Gospel and by serving their brothers and sisters, especially the poor and the outcast.”[i]
Yes, Vita Consecrata says exactly what the nuns are already doing. They are not isolated, but you are. They are contributing to the renewal of society, you are not. Consecreted life may experience changes in its historical forms by allowing optional celibacy, married and women priests, bishops, cardinals, etc. History has proven that already. Every nun I know ‘radically’ gives of herself in love everyday to every member of the human family that she touches. Do you? Nuns deal with the poor and the outcast/homosexuals—your letter states they should not—this is contrary to the message of Christ. Your letter to them is plainly WRONG! How can you speak against the homosexual priests that are your brothers? What hypocrisy is this? Is this a model for us to follow? Hardly!
Our mothers, sisters, daughters, girls, women, ladies, lesbians, whores, prostitutes, maids, grandmothers, aunts are all women, all of them!! Are you going to leave some of them out in the cold? Are you going to disenfranchise some of them because their divine natures do not conform to the dictums of the Vatican? Where does your hypocrisy lie? By what privilege do you declare that these religious women are not following Church doctrine? By which God, by which Christ do you all have the audacity to say this in front of our Creator? Where is your sense of God, of Christ in this mess that you have created now?
How dare you call the work of our sisters into question. From the ivory tower of the Vatican, the work of the streets, of the sick, of the poor is worlds away for you all, but it is not worlds away from those sisters who labor in the hospitals, in the orphanages, in the schools so you all do not have to!!! Where is your sense of Christ and the ethics that drive these women in the Spirit to follow their service to all, without question of anything other than a need for that service? How dare you take away their freedom, and attempt to silence them and dictate and abuse them by telling them who and what they ought to be and should be doing!!!
The 57,000 women religious are doing what they are called to do as the foundresses, serving us in radical calling of the Gospel message.
It is all of you at the Vatican who are WRONG, yes, WRONG. You cannot dictate where the Spirit is or will lead someone because only God has that right, you DO NOT and it is about time you were told what you may no longer do because by not telling you is to be complicit in your abuse of the entire Church! Where is your compassion and love?
We, as Church, will not stand by and let our sisters be abused any longer. You are not the Church, we who sit in the pews every Sunday are that Church, the real Church, not the empty hierarchy of frightened men holed up in the Michelangelo/ Bernini/ Brunelleschi travertine structures of an ivory tower that Christ would have been ashamed of. All you are doing is attempting to protect a ‘lifestyle’ that you all do not want to lose. Well, you are already losing it. Thirty million Catholics in the USA alone have left and I would imagine after this peccadillo even more will leave the ranks!!
A dose of real life, of cleaning and of cooking and of washing which is what ‘woman’s work’ is, would help perhaps to bring you to the realization of what and who women are in a life lived that is quotidian and pragmatic, instead of out of touch and phantasmagoric.
I pray that Christ open your hearts to his real teaching and that you reach out of your blindness and see and reach out of your deafness and finally hear the message of women who have been screaming in silence for way too long and who now, because they have found their voices will rage against the dying of the light before it goes out! They will not and cannot in following their consciences remain quiet. This is the message from the other half of humanity, the other half of God's priestly people and the other half of Imago Dei.
Yours in Christ's peace,Janice Poss
PS. Let’s review an article from 2010 that cites a PBS newshour with Margaret Warner interviewing you on April 27, 2010:
Responding to a visiting Margaret Warner's questions about the clergy sex abuse scandal, Levada at one point said: "I think the causes we will see go back to changes in society that the church and priests were not prepared for, particularly changes involving how to be a celibate person in a time of the sexual revolution." Would you say the same thing about feminism? Are you unprepared to deal with women? Evidently!
Angela Bonavoglia writes:
In other words, by forbidding priests who choose to be sexual in mature ways that include commitment, responsibility and respect, and by protecting them from the costs of their sexual exploits, the church has effectively condoned a clerical sexual free-for-all. That heterosexual and homosexual behavior may thrive in the Catholic priesthood does not reflect anything inherent about homosexuality or heterosexuality but is rather an indictment of the hypocrisy and duplicity of an elite, closed, all-male system, that condones, indeed, demands, lying about the reality of one's sexual life at all costs.
So Levada is right. The challenge of compulsory celibacy in a sexually charged world has been a major contributor to the Church's clergy sex abuse scandal. Compulsory celibacy cloaked in a mantel of sexual superiority is very dangerous.
No compulsory celibacy means no hypocrisy, less duplicity, and, hopefully, safer congregants and safer kids. A much healthier, happier, more honest and accountable Church, at that!
[i] POST-SYNODAL APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION,VITA CONSECRATA OF THE HOLY FATHER JOHN PAUL II TO THE BISHOPS AND CLERGY RELIGIOUS ORDERS AND CONGREGATIONS SOCIETIES OF APOSTOLIC LIFE SECULAR INSTITUTES AND ALL THE FAITHFUL ON THE CONSECRATED LIFE AND ITS MISSION IN THE CHURCH AND IN THE WORLD, 1996