The hierarchy of the Catholic Church is a paternalistic and misogynistic medieval institution that believes it is infallible and all-powerful. It exists in the alternate universe of the fabulously wealthy and self-deluded that has little to do with the real world that the rest of us live in. The hierarchy shows no understanding of or empathy for the lives and struggles of real people.
There is, however, a segment of the Catholic Church that stands with common people and that spends every day on the front line struggling right along with them. That would be Catholic nuns. These women, with their devotion to being living examples of the gospel of Jesus, have earned the admiration even of people like myself who view the Catholic Church as an anachronism.
It would stand to reason then that these same nuns would not be in the good graces of the hierarchy of a church which views women, in general, with a jaundiced eye, the instigators of sin in the world. In recent years, American nuns especially have been repeatedly investigated and rebuked for their insufficient espousal of the official church doctrine on contraception and abortion. Apparently, the poor nuns have been too busy actually working in the real world of women's health concerns to spend time on what are essentially phony and very politicized issues. So now they have been sternly rebuked by the Pope and he has instructed the bishops of the church to essentially take over and dismantle the organization to which 80% of American nuns belong. Because, you see, the Pope and the bishops have such a wonderful track record of interpreting and living the principles propounded by Jesus. (See history of pederasty, pedophilia, abuse of power by priests, bishops, and, yes, popes.)
The Church's total tone-deafness and obliviousness to the real work that the nuns do and the fact that they are just about the only Catholics who haven't been tainted by recent scandals have raised cries of outrage from many both inside and outside of Catholicworld. Over the weekend, both Maureen Dowd and Nicholas Kristof used their columns to defend nuns and to excoriate the Church hierarchy, and they are only two of many.
A church that refuses to acknowledge the equality of the sexes, that insists that its priests cannot marry and that those priests can never, ever be female, a church that will not accept the value that contraception can bring to an over-populated and underfed world, a church which continues to cover up its history of abuse of children and to protect the abusers, a church which accepts the protection of government but refuses to help pay the bills is not an institution that deserves our respect. It is, I believe, a dying institution, though no doubt its final demise will be long in coming. I do hope, though, that the best elements of this otherwise out-of-touch medieval anachronism will survive. I hope that we will always have nuns who embody the philosophy of Jesus and bring comfort to a hurting world.