March 5, 2004
Excerpted from "Unveiled: The Hidden Lives of Nuns,"
by Sun-Times reporter Cheryl L. Reed
This entire story is so sad. It is yet another example of the loss of faith. Another example of pride giving way to disobedience. A complete rejection of humility and docility in conforming one's will to the will of God.
For starters, there was the matter of her benefactor, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. While in Rome in 1994, Margaret and her friend Sister Donna Quinn met privately with Bernardin, who was attending a conference that the sisters were protesting.
"He smiled and said, 'I just want you to know that I am for the ordination of women.' He never said that publicly, but now I want to make it known. Later in the conversation, he looked up at the top window and said: 'It won't happen in this administration. But it will happen.' "
Bernardin, she said, had called the shelter his "secret church." A frequent visitor, Bernardin would walk through the shelter with kids clinging to him. Mothers waited in long lines to have him bless their non-Catholic children. Every Christmas, Bernardin wrote checks to the shelter from his private account, she said. When he died, his last check, she said, was inside an envelope labeled: For my secret church.
Bernardin was one of the few church leaders Margaret adored.
"The pope," she said, "despite all his talks to the contrary, despises women."
. . .
Since 1965, the number of nuns in this country has declined from 180,000 to just 73,000 today. Dozens of orders have closed; others are merging to survive.
Despite the prevailing myth that nuns are financially supported by the Catholic Church, most women's religious orders are independent entities, sanctioned by the Church but not dependent on it. Historically, nun orders have financed themselves through institutional works, such as running schools or hospitals.
Today, the majority of nuns do not wear habits. Many live in apartments separate from their convents. Modern nuns are employed in a variety of occupations, including psychologists, professors, lawyers, massage therapists, social workers, political activists and prison chaplains. Their salaries are deposited directly into the order's coffers and they are issued a monthly stipend in order to cover personal expenses.
Catholic sisters have more freedom today in the way they dress, the jobs they choose and even how they practice their spirituality. Because they work less and less under the direct auspices of the Catholic Church, they are freer to express their beliefs and allowed to incorporate other religions into their practices, such as Buddhism, as long as those practices don't conflict with Catholic tenets.
During this season of Lent, we should remind ourselves of the tremendous sacrifice of our Lord for our sins and transgressions and pray, do penance, and fast in order to accept His call for us to take up our crosses and follow Him. We must reject the temptations to pride and conform our wills to His.