The Roman Catholic Church allows only men to be ordained as priests and women have traditionally been consigned to the shadows of its administration.
However, women’s groups, including the International Union of Superiors General , an umbrella group of Catholic nuns, have long called on the pope to appoint more females to senior jobs within the Vatican bureaucracy.
They cite figures showing that more than half of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics are women and that membership of female religious orders is about three times larger than male orders.
Death became taboo in American culture, labeled as “morbid,” something we fear rather than discuss. With the rise of coronavirus, Americans are now being confronted with those fears on a daily basis. Headlines enumerate death tolls and Twitter threads detail miserable battles against the virus. At a March 20 White House press conference, a reporter cited statistics showing millions of Americans are afraid. When asked what he would say to those scared Americans, President Donald Trump responded, “I say that you are a terrible reporter.
Thomas Reese writes, “A pandemic makes it impossible not to think about death.” At the same time that death is surging in collective American consciousness, preventative restrictions to stop the spread of the virus are widening the existing physical gap between the dying and their families. In Italy — where many Americans are looking to understand what is to come — people are reportedly dying in isolation without any family or friends around. Compounding the distance, Italy has also banned funerals, replacing them with graveside services for just a few people. Immediate family members are sometimes forced to miss the services, stuck in quarantine themselves. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that funerals limit the number of mourners physically present and livestream services to family and friends at home. Catholic dioceses around the country are enacting guidelines of their own to restrict funeral sizes. In Wisconsin, at Mary Flo Werner’s funeral, only her nine grandchildren and the priest were allowed inside their Catholic church to limit the gathering to ten, The New York Times reported March 25. Outside, in their cars, her four adult children watched the service on their phones. This amounts to what Hannig calls a “cruel irony.” The pandemic is “really going to impact the way that we’re able to find closure in the face of death, which is something that we already fear so much,” she said.
For Catholics, the inability to be near loved ones at the end of life or gather together for funerals will be especially hard. “We use our physical connections to the sacraments and to each other to buoy our faith,” said Darleen Pryds, associate professor of Christian spirituality and history at the Franciscan School of Theology in San Diego.
Michael Witczak, a professor of liturgical studies and sacramental theology at the Catholic University of America, told NCR via email that burying the dead is a traditional corporal work of mercy.
Pope Francis and the Catholic Church have doubled down on their opposition to nuclear weapons. Pope Francis decried the use and possession of nuclear weapons in trips to Nagasaki and Hiroshima in 2019, bringing attention to dangerous failures in nuclear disarmament and arms control prior to this year’s now-postponed nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty review conference and the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The Catholic Church uses its three I’s on nuclear disarmament issues as part of its “Resurrection Politics,” an effort to revive issues once considered moribund, and restore them to the international agenda. The church is working to change nuclear weapons policy and the normative framework by which nuclear weapons are judged, to strengthen the nuclear taboo at a time when it is undermined. As the world gets younger, more than half of the world’s people were born after the end of the Cold War. Pope Francis works to raise the voices of the hibakusha, Japan’s atomic bomb survivors, to teach about nuclear weapons to younger generations.
“The use of nuclear weapons is immoral, which is why it must be added to the catechism of the Catholic Church. Not only their use, but also possessing them: because an accident or the madness of some government leader, one person’s madness can destroy humanity.”
The current church position is a return to the traditional Catholic position since the advent of the atomic age, favoring nuclear disarmament.
As Archbishop Tomasi, Secretary of the Holy See’s Dicastery on Integral Human Development, said recently at Catholic University, “There is no illusion that the number of weapons will disappear as if by magic or after moral and legal condemnation. Therefore, the Holy See is equally engaged in a step-by-step dialogue with nuclear-armed states whose commitment remains crucial to the achievement of any serious and realistic discussion of nuclear arms control.”
How do religious actors affect international politics and nuclear disarmament? They bring the three I’s to global issues. Governments and scholars are most likely to address the first I, the vast networks of institutions that religious actors bring to bear on international politics. As the world’s largest and most geographically dispersed religion, Catholics have faith-based institutions around the world, including universities, parishes, schools, religious orders, learned societies, charities, hospitals, and Catholic peace organizations, such as the Catholic Peacebuilding Network. In addition to this vast array of civil society institutions, the Catholic Church has a state-based institutional lane, the world’s oldest diplomatic corps , and diplomatic relations with 183 states, as well as a diplomatic presence at intergovernmental organizations such as the United Nations. Mobilizing and coordinating these transnational networks is not easy or automatic. These institutions are not fixed. They move and change, but can mobilize creatively to build peace.
Many religious actors have worked tirelessly to rid the world of nuclear dangers and build peace, from the Friends Committee on National Legislation to the Soka Gakkai organization. Yet, religious demographics mean that the Catholic Church is the only religious actor to have some presence in all nine nuclear-armed states, as well as the non-nuclear-weapon states, and it has extensive civil society and governmental-level networks. The Catholic Church has the population size of China but dispersed, with communities in every part of the world. When effectively coordinated with the Holy See’s international diplomatic presence and civil society groups, this institutional structure can bring a “pincer movement” of persuasion and pressure, externally and internally.
At a time of increasing political polarization, domestically and internationally, the Catholic Church has much-needed institutional capacities that can be used to build bridges among nuclear-weapon and non-nuclear-weapon states, civil society and governments, science and religion, conservatives and progressives, and older and younger generations.
For example, Rose Gottemoeller, former deputy secretary general of NATO, and others praised the Catholic Church’s advocacy, particularly in reaching critical Republican swing senators, to ratify the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in December 2010.
Today, Catholics are engaged with Russia in Track 2 diplomacy on an extension of New START.
For example, Pope John XXIII’s prepared the encyclical “Peace on Earth,” which guided the modern Catholic Church’s work on peace and justice, and Pope Francis circulated the encyclical “Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home ,” stressing a positive peace among peoples, God, and the planet and future generations, integral human development.
Catholic ideas and imagination have always rested on the concept of a positive, just peace based on right relationships rather than a negative peace based on violence and threat of violence. The tradition of a just war tells us that positive peace is the goal and tells us how to limit war, protecting civilians and the environment from indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks. The tradition of a just peace builds on that, offering moral and practical guidance on how to build a positive peace by expanding participation, strengthening right relationships, restoring persons and economies to build social cohesion, expanding reconciliation through truth telling and acknowledgement about the conflict, and other means to heal the wounds of war, in order to create a peace that is sustainable over time and the planet. Catholic theology and practice on a just peace has been expanding in recent decades, drawing from peacebuilding work of Jesus and building on the lessons the church has learned in peacebuilding around the world, from Northern Ireland to the Philippines. The church’s work on nuclear disarmament is animated by this vocation to build a more just and sustainable peace.
Together, these three I’s are worth more than the sum of their parts, combined in transnational networks for nuclear disarmament. These networks can work at the individual and community levels and at the elite level to persuade policymakers. As the nuclear taboo erodes, this breadth is important, reaching into the military.
For example, Catholic countries have long led the campaign for nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation. The first nuclear-weapon-free zone, the 1967 Treaty of Tlatelolco, was created by Catholic-majority countries in Latin America. Catholic countries then led the creation of the NPT, using the language of their first nuclear-weapon-free zone as the core language of the NPT.
That work continues. The Holy See has played a helpful role in creating the TPNW, supporting the humanitarian impact conferences in Mexico and Austria . The Holy See was the first to sign and ratify the treaty. Pope Francis’ urgent statements about the immorality of nuclear weapons, as well as the influence of the Catholic Church in supporting the TPNW, will likely help the TPNW reach the 50 states-parties needed for its entry into force. A majority of the 35 countries that already have ratified the treaty are Catholic-majority countries. Another 12 of the countries who have signed the treaty but not yet ratified are Catholic-majority countries, such as Ireland, and four more countries have Catholic pluralities, such as Guatemala. It is quite possible that Catholic activism on nuclear weapons may help to bring the TPNW into force.
The coalition includes doctors, scientists, scholars, health care providers, the Catholic Church and other religious actors, nongovernmental organizations concerned with victims, and often retired military and government officials.
The Catholic Church and religious actors practice solidarity with the poor and vulnerable, raising the moral questions and our obligations to protect life and help the vulnerable.
Although many in the arms control community take issue with the TPNW and voice concerns that it may undermine existing arms control and nonproliferation treaties, the Catholic Church does not see these as choices but as complementary and mutually reinforcing. Extending New START would bring immediate material protections from nuclear weapons today, and the entry into force of the TPNW will help shift the normative landscape regarding nuclear weapons in the future. The church works to build a pincer movement, of external and internal pressures to advance nuclear disarmament and reduce the dangers of nuclear weapons.
The policy call to action by the Catholic Church for nuclear disarmament and arms control are in many ways the same song, but heard in a different key of greater urgency to the issues.
The deterioration of the nuclear taboo and the international arms control framework, the rise of new and less stable threats, and the return of the nuclear arms race gives greater urgency. 11 The Catholic Church has long called for integral disarmament, seeing deep connections with development and environmental protection. The Catholic Church advocates for extending New START, strengthening the NPT, bringing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty into force, deep nuclear disarmament, banning nuclear weapons, safeguarding nuclear materials, the humanitarian arms control agenda, reducing the reliance and expenditures on nuclear weapons, action on climate change and environmental protection, and strengthening international law and institutions in order to advance structures of cooperation. The Catholic Church has also warned against policies that “normalize” nuclear weapons or use, such as nuclear brinkmanship, policies that envision nuclear use or seek to make nuclear weapons more usable, nuclear weapons modernization programs, and policies that protect weapons but not people.
Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, Remarks at the Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, January 30, 2020.
Catholics make up the largest religious denomination in the U.S. military, and many chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and of President Donald Trump’s key military and senior advisors are or have been Catholic, such as Generals John Kelly and Jim Mattis.
Nina Tanenwald likewise argues we are witnessing an undermining of the nuclear taboo.
See Nina Tanenwald, “The Legacy of the Nuclear Taboo in the Twenty-First Century,” in The Age of Hiroshima, ed. Michael D. Gordin and G. John Ikenberry , pp. 276–293. NATIONAL Democratic Congress has called on Livestock Minister Professor Nkandu Luo and her colleagues to apologize for castigating the pastoral letter issued by the Catholic Bishops.
“Given Lubinda, Jean Kapata, Nkandu Luo and others surely you go and start castigating a pastoral letter of your own church for the purpose of keeping political power? What a shame! The Catholic Church has been guiding its flock through pastoral letters and this has been done since time immemorial. I have never seen a reasonable Catholic who goes in an anthill, who goes for a press briefing to castigate a pastoral letter? If you have anything against what the Catholic bishops engage them privately what you did was an abomination to the Catholic faith. But please go and apologize to the bishops. You are drunk with money and God will punish you. Let me tell you PF, you play with Catholic bishops, you are in trouble,” Kambwili warned.
And how the resources are going to be shared because we are reliably informed that the one month period they have given, there is a plan to say if they go to Southern Province, they are going to announce that we don’t have enough material, give them only about 15 days to do the registration of voters and give the areas where PF is popular more days so that they can capture more people.”ROME—When 42-year-old Luisa Del Vecchio couldn’t take the debilitating pain caused by her endometriosis any longer, she was faced with a moral dilemma. As a staunch Catholic who teaches at a private Catholic school in Florence, she knew well that having a hysterectomy by choice over medical necessity would be a sin because it would cause permanent sterilization—in other words, irreversible birth control.
Del Vecchio, who has four children, has always believed in the Catholic Church’s indisputable teachings on birth control: Sex should only be between a man and a woman, and only under conditions that leave the woman “open to the possibility of conception.” That means elective hysterectomies on the basis of pain alone, not life-or-death situations, were a sin.
She searched in vain for a physician in a Catholic hospital in Florence who would perform what was a voluntary procedure that defied church teaching.
Del Vecchio felt it necessary to consult only devout Catholic doctors, but they all tried to talk her out of it.
Finally, she found a female Catholic doctor in Milan who agreed to perform the surgery and who assured her that God would forgive her—eventually.
Last week, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, the Vatican’s doctrine chief, confirmed in a letter that after studying several medical cases presented by Catholic doctors, it was no longer against church teaching to have a hysterectomy in most cases and that the procedure could be done in “extreme cases” that do not just hinge on life and death.
The new clarification, however, does not give carte blanche to Catholics.
According to strict Catholicism, a woman is never to use chemical or artificial birth control and to always be open to conception.
The only acceptable form of birth control for Catholics is natural family planning, where fertile women count their body temperatures to track ovulation so they can avoid sex during fertile periods.
Around 70,000 are performed every year, most in Catholic hospitals, and a recent study commissioned by Italy‘s health ministry showed that less than 18 percent are due to cancer, which would garner the church’s approval.
And it was 1993, when sex before marriage was still very much a taboo in the conservative country.
Keeping the baby would have meant living with stigma, even if the couple married after the birth, so she chose an illegal abortion — also a taboo.
I grew up attending Catholic school, a place featuring well-meaning, judgmental nuns.
Perhaps this moral-sensual dilemma is a unique condition of a Catholic-turned-UU, but I suspect others experience a similar tension.
Rather, the quality of being forbidden evokes another simple word: taboo.
A taboo refers to social and religious restrictions.
And the meteorologist on the late news didn’t violate a cultural taboo and offend most viewers by relishing the consequences of climate change.
But perhaps there is a place for taboos in UUism.
But if we have “respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part,” then maybe there is a sense in which expressing joy for the ephemeral fruits of global warming is morally problematical, even taboo, for those who profess an abiding concern for the natural world.
Taboo has applications beyond delighting in a balmy day in February. I’ll admit to a surge of satisfaction when I hear the spray plane passing over the flood-irrigated pastures outside of town, making it possible to dine on the back deck without being exsanguinated by bloodthirsty mosquitoes. I’ll confess to enjoying a cool patch of lush, green, newly mown grass on a summer day, knowing that the non-native turf relies on fertilizer and groundwater. I will divulge that on cold mornings, I linger in the steamy microclimate of my shower, an indulgence made possible by burning natural gas. And I’ll even admit to enjoying the Indy 500—an unconscionable celebration of the internal combustion engine, even if the cars run on ethanol, since we all know how much fossil fuel is burnt to produce the corn to make the ethanol .
Hypocritical? Probably. The nuns constantly reminded us that we were sinners, that falling short was an essential quality of being human. The point of confession was acknowledging our failings—and striving to do better. Perhaps guilt is a reliable moral compass, a deep, inarticulate feeling of a gap between what we’ve done and what we value, between who we’ve been and who we could be. Maybe UUs should find a place for what is so often taboo in our congregations—a justifiable, motivating, constructive sense of shame. If we fail to act, even individually and incrementally, to reduce our contribution to climate change, we ought to be ashamed.
The text of this article was generated by the Breaking The Silence system that collected 9 news articles posted on the web from January 2019 to September 2020 and clustered for the taboo subjects related to the catholic religion