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Catholic Nuns: An Idea Whose Time Has Gone?

As American nuns publicly complain (again) about the evil patriarchal Church, a nasty question hangs in the air: Why don't they just leave?

by
Kathy Shaidle

Bio

June 21, 2012 - 7:00 am

I was “raised by nuns” from “nursery school” — that’s what we used to call daycare — to Grade 13 (a now defunct Canadian thing).

Because I was born in 1964, I watched Catholic sisters transform outwardly after the “reforms” of Vatican II.

The nuns who stirred giant pots of boiling noodles for our nursery school lunches wore wimples, veils, and heavy floor-length habits.

By the time I got to high school, they wore over-the-knee black skirts, white blouses, and black cardigans adorned with tiny gold cross pins.

When I got caught up in the Reagan-era no-nukes movement, I eagerly applied for a job at a progressive, “social justice” Catholic newspaper. My only real qualifications were that I’d read a lot of Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton, and could tell the Berrigan brothers apart. I got the job.

The staff was a mix of lay people and “women religious,” as I quickly learned they preferred being called. These nuns wore running shoes and unglamorous, casual (usually polyester) clothes. Only their severely cropped hair and lack of jewelery, perfume, nail polish or makeup distinguished them ever so slightly from the average woman.

Except for their ages. With one exception, they were all well into their 60s.

Otherwise, I soon realized that “nuns were just like everyone else.”

And although I was ashamed to admit it, I didn’t approve.

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