Benedict, Nuns, Christians…and “freedom” to proclaim the Gospel

In his daily meditation for today (April 24, 2012), Franciscan Fr. Richar Rohr writes:

I am not denying that Jesus could and undoubtedly did physical healing. It still happens, and I have seen it, but the healings and exorcisms in Mark’s Gospel are primarily to make statements about power, abuse, relationships, class, addiction, money, the state of women and the poor, and the connections between soul and body—the exact same issues that we face today. [emphasis added]

Just as Jesus’ actions made statements about those parts of the world in need of healing, so have the actions of many of his followers. In the United States, religious women — sisters and nuns (there is a difference, by the way!) — for more than two centuries have been at the heart and forefront of two of the most important activities of any society:  Education and Healthcare.  Communities of religious women have founded hospitals and clinics and hospices; they have opened schools and colleges and universities. And while they have ministered to people across the social spectrum, they typically would be willing to serve where others would dare not tread.

Even Pope Benedict XVI has praised the historic role of women in building the Church in America.  Just yesterday, the pope noted that two women from this continent will be canonized later this year — Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha and Blessed Mother Marianne Cope.

While recalling the historic role of women in the Church in the United States, the pope notably did not praise the current role played by so many tens of thousands of women religious in the daily lives of hospitals, schools, parishes and communities across this land.  Instead, he gave voice to that growing canard that the bishops of the US have latched on to, i.e. the notion that the “freedom” of religion is somehow under attack.  In concluding his speech to some visiting Americans, Benedict stated:

In these days I ask your continued prayers for the needs of the universal Church and in particular for the freedom of Christians to proclaim the Gospel and bring its light to the urgent moral issues of our time.

I don’t know where the Pope gets his information, though given the Vatican’s recent actions regarding congregations of women religious in the US (see coverage in US Catholic for one perspective), I suspect it’s not from very good sources. Concerning religious freedom, however, I’ve yet to see any roadblocks put forth hindering the proclamation of the Gospel or the light it sheds on the “moral issues of our time.”  What the Pope fails to understand is that his voice and the voices of his brother bishops are not the only voices empowered to proclaim the Gospel. The voices of religious women and men, of priests and lay people, all the Baptized together have a right and responsibility to proclaim the Gospel in both word and — like Jesus in Mark’s Gospel — in action. At times, those voices will differ as we collectively discern “the signs of the times” and struggle to understand where and how God’s Spirit might be leading us here and now.

Benedict rightly notes that “Christians” (he didn’t limit this to the hierarchy!) have the freedom to proclaim the Gospel.  I pray that he and his brother bishops will listen to the voices of Christians doing just that, even when what they have to say might not be what Benedict wants to hear!

One thought on “Benedict, Nuns, Christians…and “freedom” to proclaim the Gospel

  1. Wow – you are a brave one! As a Canadian and Anglican priest – one can only notice that this is a terrible mess that US Roman Catholics are getting themselves into. What I really notice is that North American Christians are not familiar with the early history of Christianity eg. so many stating that Jesus himself “established” male priests or “started the Roman Catholic Church.” This is more frightening than the rigid Pope/Vatican – the wealthiest spiritual person/foreign country in the world with a massive and professional propoganda machine.

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