Father Knows Best

The pastor of Blessed Trinity parish at W. 140th St. and Puritas Ave. certainly held the attention of his flock a few days ago with his epistle in the weekly church bulletin. My initial reaction is


Father Doug Koesel, the pastor, deserves a standing ovation and a chorus of “Bravos.” That took courage to boldly and publicly take such a position on one of the most controversial issues in the Catholic Church. This is just one of the issues, of course. I don’t know if we’re teetering on the edge of revolution here, but Fr. Koesel just fired a warning shot. Here’s the pastor’s message.


From the Desk of Fr. Doug

What the Nuns’ Story is Really About
Many of you have asked me to comment on the recent
investigation into the US nuns. Here goes. In short, the Vatican
has asked for an investigation into the life of religious
women in the United States. There is a concern about orthodoxy,
feminism and pastoral practice. The problem with the
Vatican approach is that it places the nuns squarely on the
side of Jesus and the Vatican on the side of tired old men,
making a last gasp to save a crumbling kingdom lost long
ago for a variety of reasons.

One might say that this investigation is the direct result
of the John Paul II papacy. He was suspicious of the power
given to the laity after the Second Vatican Council. He disliked
the American Catholic Church. Throughout his papacy
he strove to wrest collegial power from episcopal conferences
and return it to Rome.

One of the results of the council was that the nuns became
more educated, more integrated in the life of the people
and more justice-oriented than the bishops and pope.
They are doctors, lawyers, university professors, lobbyists,
social workers, authors, theologians, etc. Their appeal was
that they always went back to what Jesus said and did. Their
value lay in the fact that their theology and their practice
were integrated into the real world.

The Vatican sounded like the Pharisees of the New Testament;—
legalistic, paternalistic and orthodox— while “the
good sisters” were the ones who were feeding the hungry,
clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, educating
the immigrant, and so on. Nuns also learned that Catholics
are intuitively smart about their faith. They prefer dialogue
over diatribe, freedom of thought over mind control,
biblical study over fundamentalism, development of doctrine
over isolated mandates.

Far from being radical feminists or supporters of far-out
ideas, religious women realized that the philosophical underpinnings
of Catholic teaching are no longer valid. Women
are not subservient to men, the natural law is much
broader than once thought, the OT is not as important as the
NT, love is more powerful than fear. They realized that you
can have a conversation with someone on your campus who
thinks differently than the church without compromising
what the church teaches. (For example, I could invite Newt
Gingrich here to speak. You’d all still know what the
church teaches about divorce in spite of him) Women religious
have learned to live without fear (Srs. Dorothy Kazel,
Maura Clark, Ita Ford) and with love (Mother Teresa). And
the number of popes and bishops and cardinals following in
their footsteps, Jesus’ footsteps, is_____?

This is what annoys American Catholics. The Vatican is
hypocritical and duplicitous. Their belief is always that
someone else needs to clean up their act; the divorced, the
gays, the media, the US nuns, the Americans who were
using the wrong words to pray, the seminaries, etc. It never
occurs to the powers that be that the source of the problem
is the structure itself. We can say that now with certainty
as regards the sex abuse crisis. It was largely the structure
of the church itself, the way men were trained and isolated,
made loyal to the system at all costs and not to the person,
that gave us the scandalous cover-up.

US nuns work side by side with the person on the street.
They are involved in their everyday lives. Most cardinals
spent less than five years in a parish, were never pastors,
are frequently career diplomats.

Religious women in the US refuse to be controlled by
abusive authority that seeks to control out of fear. They
realize that Jesus taught no doctrines, but that the church,
over time, developed what Jesus taught in a systematic
way. Nuns have always tried to work within the system.
This time their prophetic voices may take them out of the
system. They may take a lot of Catholics and a lot of their
hospitals, schools, colleges, orphanages, prison ministries,
convents, women’s shelters, food pantries and, of course,
the good will they have earned over the centuries with

This investigation is not about wayward US nuns. It is
the last gasp for control by a dying breed, wrapped in its
own self-importance. It is a struggle for the very nature of
the church; who we are, how we pray, where we live, who
belongs, why we believe. The early church endured a similar
struggle. The old order died. The Holy Spirit won. Happy
Pentecost Sunday!

Back to me, now. Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.

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