Nuns gone wild...

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News came recently of the Vatican’s decision to crack down on nuns in the United States for their radical beliefs. This was not exactly a rush job, as Donna Steichen gathered sufficient evidence to demonstrate the catastrophic problem twenty years ago. In 1991 she wrote, Ungodly Rage: The Hidden Face of Catholic Feminism. It is an exposé of the radical feminist beliefs of women religious in the Catholic Church and the failure of U.S. bishops to deal with the problem and sometimes even to acknowledge it existed.

Mrs. Steichen is a wife and mother and a believing, orthodox Roman Catholic. She is a veteran of the pro-life movement and writes from a theological perspective that many of us would find appealing, save the normal differences between Catholics and Protestants.

The book was difficult for me to finish because it was repetitive; however, the repetition came out of necessity. She was trying to make the case that large sections of Roman Catholicism in the U.S. had overthrown the Catholic faith and were now adherents of a different, alien faith...

To do so, Steichen went to conference after conference, interviewed speaker after speaker, examined Catholic order after order and group after group.

This book is the write-up from the copious notes she took and we should be grateful. It could not have been easy to hear the heresies spewed forth by bitter women and to encounter the spiritual evil she met in these conferences, which were not so different from the activities of your local coven of witches or a new age coffee klatch. She deserves our thanks and prayers. She did the investigative work, made her case, and now, finally, the Vatican is taking note.

If you are time-pressed, you could probably read the first and seventh chapters and then just a portion of chapters two to six and you would still get the gist of her point.

What was her point? During the 70s and 80s, a group of Catholic women led significant parts of the U.S. church astray by teaching a radical feminism. Some names came up time and again: Rosemary Radford Ruether, Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, (Indiana University’s own) Mary Jo Weaver, Starhawk, Mary Daly and Marjory Tuite. Much of their teaching at conferences is through personal narratives, telling their own life stories to other women religious who attend.

The narratives often went something like this. “I grew up in a very conservative Catholic home. We went to mass every week. We said the rosary together. As I started to develop sexually, my parents told me that sex was only for marriage and that if I was really good, I’d become a nun and never have sex. So I did. I said, ‘no,’ to my body for twenty years. Now I am saying, ‘yes,’ to my body in all kinds of ways, good and bad. Slowly, I have come to see the need to connect spirituality and my sexuality.” Sometimes these women have left their orders. More often they have remained within them in order to work for lasting change.

These agents of change are attempting to reform the Catholic Church in the following ways, which are by no means comprehensive.

  • Patriarchy is horrid. Matriarchy is good.
  • The goddess dwells within all of us.
  • The earth is our mother. We must take care of her.
  • God the Father must be “exorcized” from the church.
  • The masculinity and exclusivity of Jesus must be abandoned.
  • Jesus is not God incarnate except in a way all of us can be.
  • The traditional doctrine of the atonement is divine child abuse.
  • The Bible is not the word of God.
  • The Bible does not contain the word of God.
  • The Bible is hopelessly patriarchal.
  • We must find and create new names for God.
  • Traditional God-language must go.
  • Theology is not discovering the truth about a God who is there.
  • Theology is inventing a deity with whom we can feel comfortable.
  • Eve was not wrong in what she did.
  • God was wrong for punishing her.
  • Pride is good. Humility is evil.
  • Abandon the sacraments. Invent new ones.
  • Prayer is not communing with a transcendent God.
  • Prayer means getting in touch with the god within us.
  • Abortion is not about life. It’s about controlling women and their sexuality.
  • We honor the goddess by honoring and (homo-erotically) loving our bodies.
  • Homosexuality is good.
  • Incest can be okay.

Much on this list will seem familiar to many of us since it is now the world in which we live. It is the stuff of bumper stickers and forms of the core of sermons and articles and translation projects from all kinds of churches, Catholic, Evangelical and mainline Protestant. Evangelical writer, Phil Yancey, tells us that a Christian is one who believes that Jesus is an incarnation of God. Emergents like Rob Bell and Steve Chalke concur that the penal substitutionary theory of the atonement is abusive and reflects poorly on God the Father. The patriarchal language has been removed from our Bible translations and pulpits. We regularly tolerate a refusal to address God as Father. Single women in our pews adopt children or conceive them artificially since fathers are unnecessary or dangerous. Speakers for InterVarsity promote homosexuality. Though there is still some hesitancy about pedophilia this hesitancy will be deconstructed.

The evangelical church is just like the Catholic hierarchy: Asleep in the light, infantile in discerning truth from error, nonchalant about the blasphemy of God’s name, accustomed to wickedness and preoccupied with personal peace and affluence. We need a clear note from the trumpet of God’s ministers. Fathers and brothers, “be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (1Corinthians 16:13).

David Wegener

David is an ordained Teaching Elder (Pastor) in the Central Indiana Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in America. Formerly serving in theological education in Africa with Mission to the World, he and his wife currently live in their hometown of Bloomington, IN.