President of LCWR on "Fresh Air"
Eric Bugyis July 21, 2012 - 7:21am
This past Tuesday, NPR's Terry Gross interviewed Sister Pat Farrell, the president of the LCWR, on "Fresh Air." Farrell offered a controlled and careful response to the CDF's recent criticisms, but she also did not cower or compromisewhen it came to issues about which the LCWR and many others in the Church have been advocating for dialogue. For that reason, I think the interview was also courageous and definitely worth checking out.A few key excerpts after the jump:
On dialogue within the Church:
The question is, 'Can you be Catholic and have a questioning mind?' That's what we're asking. ... I think one of our deepest hopes is that we can make headway in helping to create a safe and respectful environment where church leaders along with rank-and-file members can raise questions openly and search for truth freely concerning the very complex and swiftly changing issues of our day. But the climate is not there. And this mandate coming from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, putting us in a position of being under the control of certain bishops, is not a dialogue. If anything, it appears to be shutting down dialogue.
On "radical feminist themes":
Sincerely, what I hear in the phrasing ... is fear a fear of women's positions in the church. Now, that's just my interpretation. I have no idea what was in the mind of the Congregation when they wrote that. But women theologians around the world have been seriously looking at the question: How have the Church's interpretations of how we talk about God, interpret Scripture, organize life in the Church how have they been tainted by a culture that minimizes the value and the place of women?
I think the criticism of what we're not talking about seems to me to be unfair, because [Women] Religious have clearly given our lives to supporting life, to supporting the dignity of human persons. Our works are very much pro-life. We would question, however, any policy that is more pro-fetus than actually pro-life. If the rights of the unborn trump all of the rights of all of those who are already born, that is a distortion too.
On women's ordination:
There has, in fact, been an official opinion from the Church that that topic should not be discussed. When that declaration came out, the response of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious was to call for a nationwide time of prayer and fasting for all Women Religious, because our deep desire is that places of leadership for women in the Church be open. It remains a desire. Since then, the Leadership Conference has not spoken publicly about the ordination of women. Imposing a silence doesn't necessarily change people's thinking, but we are in a position to continue to be very concerned that the position of women in the Church be recognized.
On the limitations of an all-male leadership:
I think that the Church has been structured with all-male leadership, which has serious disadvantages, and the Church has been structured with a hierarchical, unquestioned structure that has little mechanism for accountability.That's so different from our reality within women's congregations, because for one thing, we elect all our own leaders, and we have experienced the leadership of strong women. Women have been leaders in our ministries. We're a very educated group of women within the Catholic Church. We have women who are CEOs of hospitals, of hospital systems, who are presidents of colleges, principals of schools. So as women religious, our lifetime experience has been of expecting strong leadership from women, and that's been our daily experience. So our experience of the leadership of women in the church is our daily bread. It's very different from that of the hierarchy.
About the Author
Eric Bugyis is currently working on a PhD in philosophy of religion at Yale University.