Monday, April 20, 2009

Toledo Bishop to Head Nun Inquisition

Just when women might have begun to think that the Catholic Church may be on the right track regarding its historical misogynistic policies, that door of optimism slammed shut last week. The Blade reports: "The Vatican has picked Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo to lead a doctrinal investigation into the nation's largest organization of nuns."

Yes, another Inquisition here in the year 2009. When will the church ever learn? Apparently never. The long-standing tradition of a hierarchy of men is apparently too difficult to alter. The good-old boys' club reigns supreme in the halls of the Vatican.

Bishop Leonard Blair is a very conservative bishop who, in his first act as bishop,  removed every woman serving in high office in his diocese and replaced them with men. No doubt that is precisely why The Blade article states: "Some Vatican observers said the selection of the bishop, 60, shows he is highly regarded in Rome."  Additionally, the bishop has mandated uniform rituals throughout the diocese including the order that priests must wear their Roman collars when in public.

"In the eyes of many Vatican officials, he is a promising church leader who has demonstrated competence in other affairs," said Rick Gaillardetz, professor of Catholic studies at the University of Toledo.

Competence apparently equals tough rules and regulations and a hearkening back to the old ways, the pre-Vatican II era. One wonders if quite soon the Catholic nuns will be forced to get back into their medieval clothing.

Bishop Blair will lead a doctrinal investigation of the nuns: the inquiry will look at adherence to Catholic doctrine by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an organization of 1500 nuns across America. Doctrinal investigation. That is a code for witch hunt. The male hierarchy of the church want the nuns to be silent on the most troublesome areas of concern: promoting the ordination of women and "the problem of homosexuality."

That 'problem' of homosexuality' of course does not refer to the nuns but rather to the priests. It is curious that the bishop of the Toledo Diocese was selected as Toledo is/was a major epicenter for child abuse by priests. The film, Twist of Faith, detailed the sex abuse scandal of several Toledo priests in a Catholic high school in Toledo in the 1980's.

Most interesting is the fact that this new Inquisition of the nuns is actually an attempt to shut them up, to silence them from speaking out on the priest abuse scandals. What has irritated the Vatican and prompted this Inquisition is the fact that nuns have 'spoken out' about these problems during nun conferences. The Blade reports, "Some of the speakers may say things that the Vatican doesn't like. Now, every speaker is not going to have the endorsement or imprimatur of the LCWR. They are simply putting on a conference that has a lot of different people with a lot of different views making presentations. What it sounds like is that the Vatican wants these folks censored," Father Reese said.

Thomas Reese of the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University said the appointment "shows obviously that the Vatican has great confidence in him by putting him in charge of this very delicate investigation."

In other words, Fr. Reese knows that Bishop Blair will 'take care' of these nuns and the 'problem' that they have created for the all-male Catholic hierarchy. No doubt, Fr. Reese should be watching his back.

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