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Connie Schultz
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Many Catholic Women Refuse the Notion of Never

Comment

Some of the strongest women I know are Catholics who disagree with their church but refuse to give up on it.

There are the nuns, of course, including Sister Simone Campbell. I met her and her merry bus of truth tellers last year after they rolled into Cleveland during their four-day, nine-state tour to educate Americans about the real Paul Ryan plan.

The Republican congressman may have held his own in the vice presidential debate with Joe Biden, but he was no match for Campbell. Her fact-laden fight for those living in poverty left Ryan's sham of a plan in ruins.

Many Catholic women — nuns and laywomen — are activists in their communities, which is how I've met so many of them over the years. Any reporter or columnist who covers vulnerable populations knows to seek out Catholic charities serving those neighborhoods. Talk to the women who keep them running and you'll soon understand more than you even knew to ask about the people they serve and the political leaders who've failed them.

The Catholic women I know best are dear friends who've shared my politics for decades. My friends Maura and Sue come immediately to mind. Both were born and raised in Buffalo, N.Y., and then moved away to build grown-up lives somewhere else. They never knew each other until they met several years ago through me, their non-Catholic friend in Cleveland. Within minutes, they were talking about the Catholic parish of their childhoods. Like many lifelong Protestants, I envied their immediate bond born of a shared religion.

Women such as Maura and Sue are the face of the Roman Catholic Church's future. They bow their heads in earnest prayer, contribute time and money to their parishes, and ask themselves regularly what Jesus would do.

They also believe in empowering other women. When it comes to what is possible in the Catholic Church, they refuse to accept the notion of never.

I've met countless Catholic women like Maura and Sue. They reject the argument that women never will be ordained. They do not believe the only way to change the church is for women to leave it in droves. They are determined to change the church from within. They celebrate success in its smallest increments.

Such Catholic women are virtually fearless.

They also are capable of healing the world.

Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, who is Catholic, understands this and has written an inspired piece about who should be the next pope.

He is hoping for a nun.

He can explain:

"The cardinals who will gather to elect a new pope know that one of the church's central and most wrenching problems is the sex abuse scandal," he writes. "An all-male hierarchy adopted policies to cover up the abuse and seemed far too inclined to put protecting the church's image ahead of protecting children.

"Throughout history, it's not uncommon for women to be brought in to put right what men have put wrong. A female pope would automatically be distanced from this past and could have a degree of credibility that a male member of the hierarchy simply could not."

I am, again, reminded of Sister Simone Campbell and what happened when she took her show on the road.

Campbell is not only a nun but an attorney and the executive director of NETWORK, a national lobbying group of sisters who fight for economic and social justice. After the Vatican targeted their group as a "suspect organization," they reflected and regrouped. They figured that if they were getting all this attention, they may as well put the publicity to good use. So they launched a protest against Ryan's budget plan, arguing that it would further hurt those Americans already suffering.

The media — and a number of national talk show hosts — fell in love. Everywhere the nuns went, standing-room-only crowds greeted them like rock stars. In Cleveland, more than 400 in the audience — most of them gray-haired women — rose to their feet in thunderous applause when Simone entered the room.

She was energetic.

She was funny.

She was the smartest person in any room.

In the eyes of so many, she was also a glimpse into what the Catholic Church could be — make that will be — one fine day.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and an essayist for Parade magazine. She is the author of two books, including "...and His Lovely Wife," which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. To find out more about Connie Schultz (con.schultz@yahoo.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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Comments

12 Comments | Post Comment
Give them four or five hundred years. They'll come around.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Paul M. Petkovsek
Thu Feb 21, 2013 1:33 AM
The program of social justice involves claims for government provision of goods, paid for through the efforts of others. The term actually refers to an intention to use force to acquire one's desires. Not to earn desirable goods by rational thought and action, production and voluntary exchange, but to go in there and forcibly take goods from those who can supply them. This idea was presented by Carl Marx when he proposed the path to communism in the words 'from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.'
Comment: #2
Posted by: David Henricks
Thu Feb 21, 2013 11:11 AM
Re: David Henricks
Acts 11:29 "So the disciples determined that, according to ability, each should send relief to the brothers who lived in Judea" -- (from the New American Bible, published by the USCCB) -- Just a little before Marx and not forced or from the government. I am a member of my Catholic Parish's Social Justice Committee. Our work, as well as the work by the local St. Vincent de Paul Society, is all made possible through voluntary contributions of goods, labor and funds.
Not sure how your comments pertain to the Catholic Church and its works.
And by the way -- I am one of those women (not yet gray haired) who thinks Sister Simone rocks!
Comment: #3
Posted by: Mary Friesen
Fri Feb 22, 2013 7:37 AM
Re: David Henricks
By the way, what Marx said was that those whose labors produce the wealth are the ones who should own it.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Ellie Bee
Fri Feb 22, 2013 7:43 AM
Connie,
I agree whole heartedly. My parish in Bay Village wants to take down our current church and build a new one at the cost of 7 million dollars ( think what can be done with that amount of moola) Their premise is that because we will have so few priests we need to seat 1000 people and have only one mass. Well, I do not want to sit with 1000 people, smaller is better AND a bigger church will not create priests. It took courage, but I stood before the architects and stated my opinion. Afterward 3 women came up and said "you are right" one said "do you feel better now?" my answer: this is not about me but my church. Thank you, Flo
Comment: #5
Posted by: Flo McNichols
Fri Feb 22, 2013 10:41 AM
Connie,
I've heard you speak several times and I gotta say "You are energetic. You are funny. You are the smartest person in a lot of rooms!" I'm a grey-haired, cradle-Catholic who isn't waiting for the change. I joined a Catholic faith group who welcomes married priests, women priests, women presiders (lay women who preside at Mass and preach), gays, and all who feel unwelcome or frustrated in finding community in their own parish church. I've never prayed with more spiritually blessed and socially conscious people in my life.
Comment: #6
Posted by: Peggy Hanna
Fri Feb 22, 2013 12:47 PM
Re: Mary Friesen Taken within the context, Christians rallied around each other, voluntarily, helping Christians. The sole purpose of Christ's advent on Earth was to atone for the sins of all man-kind and provide a passage to heaven for all those who believed on His name. Nowhere, in The Bible, do I see forcing everyone to participate in giving to others as a message from Jesus Christ. We are to be in the world but not of the world.
Comment: #7
Posted by: David Henricks
Fri Feb 22, 2013 3:49 PM
@David Forced, perhaps not. But Jesus did direct us to do just that....if you want to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 19:21
Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
Luke 14:12-14
Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.
Luke 18:22-24
Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.
And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.
And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!
Comment: #8
Posted by: Daniela Halliburton
Fri Feb 22, 2013 6:17 PM
An entertaining essay that has everything to do with wishful thinking, and nothing to do with Catholic reality.
Comment: #9
Posted by: Dave Carlin
Fri Feb 22, 2013 6:27 PM
Luke 3:10-11
And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then?
He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.
Matthew 25:34-46
Luke 12:33
Luke 10:30-37
Is this enough examples??
Comment: #10
Posted by: Daniela Halliburton
Fri Feb 22, 2013 6:49 PM
Re: Daniela Halliburton Humanitarian efforts are commendable. However, Jesus never said go to your government and have them take taxes from everyone in order to provide for the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. It is a personal decision to provide for them.
Comment: #11
Posted by: David Henricks
Sun Feb 24, 2013 2:38 AM
Jesus never told us to form government to build roads, water systems, military, education, fire or police protection either, but we've generally agreed as a society that there are things that contribute to the general welfare, one of which is caring for the poor, elderly, and sick. If charity as a "personal decision" solved problems, there would be no poor, elderly, and sick. Are you saying that you live by Jesus instructions...you've sold all you have and given it to the poor? And if it weren't for those awful taxes you could give more?
Jesus told us to pay our taxes: Matthew 22:15-22, Mark 12:13-17, Luke 20:19-26
Comment: #12
Posted by: Daniela Halliburton
Sun Feb 24, 2013 10:27 AM
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