Funny how no one ever talks about the nuns.
I suppose it makes sense. After all, Catholic nuns are so rarely embroiled in sex scandals. They are never caught pants down in the rectory with a 10-year-old altar boy, teaching him of the "mystical secretions" of the Lord. They never cost the church billions in litigious payouts for rape, abuse, millennia of pedophilic atrocity and shame. For that, you gotta look to the priests.
The nuns, they keep to themselves. They work quietly, faithfully in the background, the humble and resolute handmaidens to the patriarchy, performing their work without media glare, without need to draw obnoxious battle lines around every sexual or moral issue under the sun. Or so it would seem.
If we imagine them at all, we imagine them smacking schoolchildren's wrists with rulers. We imagine them as the Mother Theresa types, ministering to the sick and the infirm, changing the bloody bandages on the soldiers in WWII. We imagine them helping out the Von Trapps. We can see them today, piloting a beat-up Ford Escort around the Office Depot parking lot, picking up supplies for the convent, looking sweet and awkward and deeply out of place in the real world. Adorable!
But until recently, I had not the slightest clue as to what American nuns did all day. Delivering meals to the poor. Knitting giant crucifix cozies. Cleaning up after sloppy priests. Feeding hungry squirrels. Facebooking with angels. No idea.
Until now. Until I discovered that a great many American nuns, some 57,000 of them to be exact, have been actively and frequently pissing off the Vatican, nearly every single day, in all sorts of delightful ways, for years. Isn't that grand?
How are they doing it? Why, the very same way the tastier gender has always annoyed the sour patriarchy: by daring to think for themselves (just a little), by following their own code of conduct, by asking humble but firm questions of the orthodoxy, by pushing back eversoslightly against the dogma the Vatican likes to throw down like stale oatmeal made of concrete and death. Damn fine work, really. I wholly endorse it.
Have you heard? The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the umbrella group representing those 57k American nuns, they've been accused of having "serious doctrinal problems" and promoting nothing short of some "radical feminist themes" (!) which apparently consist of gently supporting Obamacare (free health care for the poor? Nuns are all over it), endorsing the idea of female priests, ministering to the underprivileged and being way too nice to gay people.
Horrible! You can see why the pope is furious. Some nuns are even accused of spending so much time working in local politics to help the needy, they leave themselves no room to bash gay marriage, wail about abortion, attack humanity for enjoying sex, or scold their own gender for having vaginas in the first place. I know! Those wenches.
So now, it's come to this: The men are taking over. The ever-unhappy pope reportedly assigned Seattle archbishop Peter Sartain to whip the LCWR back into shape, reform the entire organization and slap that "radical" feminist agenda right out of their presumptuous little habits. Because that's what the Vatican does.
Which is another way of saying: womenfolk getting uppity again? Females starting to think for themselves? Showing a modicum of spirit, fire, individuality? This will not do. This way anarchy lies. What's next, lesbianism? Birth control? Acknowledging the Virgin Mary was a nasty myth designed to suppress 10,000 years of hotly fertile, goddess-based pagan belief? Oh wait.
Time for some changes. Time for the angry manhammer of fear to come down. The Vatican has given the LCWR five years to shape up, and it put a man in charge of the process. Because, being mere women, they obviously cannot think, act or figure it out by themselves. And God simply does not abide uppity females. Just ask Eve.
Is it not sort of amazing? Is it not all flavors of classic and timeless in its barely veiled misogyny? It's like 1884 all over again. Or was that 1484? 484? When were the witch trials? When was Hypatia beaten to death for liking math? I get confused.
To be perfectly honest, I can sympathize with the Vatican. Women are dangerous things. Unnerving. They can mess with your head, overwhelm the body, make you feel all sticky and tingly inside, like you just ate a giant chocolate cake made of lighting and orchids and MDMA. They throw you for a loop and take you for a ride and confuse all reality, so much so you can't help but see something as inane as organized religion as completely idiotic and small. It's something about their smell.
No wonder the Vatican is nervous...
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Mark Morford is the author of The Daring Spectacle: Adventures in Deviant Journalism, a mega-collection of his finest columns for the San Francisco Chronicle and SFGate. He recently requested that you please join his Tantric yoga sex cult, discussed how to be outraged in America and begged you Oh my God please do not eat this. Join him on Facebook, or email him. Not to mention...