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Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Misleading the Faithful

I noticed this article today in Busted Halo about a "young" nun who is a member of a traditional order who thinks that The Vagina Monologues are a great thing. Her article is titled, "Rembering V-Day: A young nun defends The Vagina Monologues." The byline states, "She is a member of a community of Catholic sisters who are known for their more traditional living of religious life." In addition, her article starts off by mentioning a gift she received from a college professor: "We had met in an undergraduate psychology class a few years earlier—she, the professor, I, the student."

All these passages seem designed to make you think that this nun is a young women who recently finished college and entered a traditional order. As a result, she would seem an excellent spokesman to criticize "unfeeling, hidebound conservative Catholics." The problem, however, is that this description hardly seems accurate.

First, while the nun is repeatedly referred to as "young," she happens to mention that she has been a professed nun for almost twenty years. Since it seems unlikely she started her postulancy before she was eighteen, with that and her novitiate before she was professed, that puts her pretty close to forty years old. While I wouldn't call that old, she is probably older than her "un-churched, thirty-something, feminist college professor." Backing up this point, her byline also mentions that "[s]he has served in various forms of ministry in several cities in the United States and has carried out extensive research in the area [of women's studies]." Such wide experience hardly seems likely in someone who is young and was taking undergraduate classes only a few years earlier. Moreover, her wide travel seems unusual for a nun in a "traditional" order that lives "in community." Even the mendicant orders traditionally established convents for nuns rather than having them travel like the friars.

More importantly, however, "Sister Mary Eve's" language belies her claim to adherence to the traditional teachings of the Church. Leaving aside her long complaint about what constitutes a virgin birth, she describes The Vagina Monologues as being about, among other things, "topics that the institutional Church has a problem with such as masturbation, and lesbian sex." Now, perhaps I am wrong, but I thought the "institutional Church" had a problem with such things because they are immoral. That she feels it is necessary to distinguish on such topics between what the "institutional Church has a problem with" and what she believes or what she believes to be true is particularly telling. It helps to bring out what is so troubling about this article and about Busted Halo's promotion of it: This nun is not traditional and this nun is not young. She is, at best, middle-aged and her comments clearly indicate that she steers left of center. I hope the rest of the articles at Busted Halo do not indicate the same level of duplicity, nor the implicit attempts to undermine the faith.