As the Catholic Church clamps down on Nuns and Girl Scouts (among others) while accenting its conservative credentials and becoming an arm of the Republican Party, there is increasing criticism. For example, Jamie Manson in the National Catholic Reporter (here) is moving from its place as a Church in the modern world to that of a sect. Unlike a Church, “A sect, ‘tends to demand more conformity in its members, is exclusive in its membership, distances itself from the concerns of the larger society, and also claims to be the bearer of religious truth.’ Sects are ‘exclusivist, inward looking, and in some tension with larger culture.’Examples of modern-day sects in our country would be the Amish or Hasidic Jews.”
He continues: “The hierarchy is so caught up in ideology, it has forgotten that there are complex, human stories behind issues like contraception, women's ordination and same-sex marriage. It is no wonder they are so afraid of women religious, who have built up a church of integrity and moral credibility by immersing themselves in the reality of human life and by courageously engaging a world filled with suffering, brokenness, unpredictability and paradox.
“Rather than allow the ministry of the church to grow and evolve with the human community, the hierarchy seems to be choosing the path of a religious splinter group. In doing so, they are willingly abandoning those who have endeavored for decades to remain faithful to the church, even through the disgrace of sex abuse and the gradual rescinding of the promises of Vatican II.”
Meanwhile E.J. Dionne here points to the fact that there are Bishops who are uncomfortable with the partisan character of the Catholic religious freedom battle which is accompanied by rhetoric and law suits against Obama. No doubt he is accurate; those Bishops exist. He expects them to make moves to enter public consciousness. But I think he is whistling in the dark. They are outnumbered. Conservative, partisan Bishops dominate the American Catholic scene. For progressive Catholics, it must be increasingly difficult to ignore the elephant in the room.