An Irritable Post by an Irritable Nun

The hot weather is getting to me. I have laid aside, for the time being, a long and carefully argued post about RB 31 and the role of the cellarer and decided instead to have a little fun with some of my King Charles’ heads. In no particular order, therefore:

The Vatican Bank
Well, perhaps we now know why Pope Francis wasn’t at that concert! There has been more than a whiff of sulphur around the Institute of Religious Works (IOR), as the Bank is known, for many years. We must continue to hope for a thoroughgoing investigation and reform. However, those inclined to gloat should remember (a) that British banks are not exactly models of propriety, alas, and (b) ask themselves which other banks donated $70 million to charity in 2012. For reasons that are probably only too clear to you, if not to me, I have not yet received the call to go and sort them out. I shall therefore join the thousands of others acting as armchair experts and bore you in due course with my theories and opinions on what should be done.

Abuse Scandals
A major U.N. child rights protection body has asked the Vatican to disclose all it knows about abuse cases involving Catholic clergy (see BBC report here). Readers of this blog will know that I have absolutely no problem with that โ€” the more transparency the better โ€” though I must admit I am not overly impressed by U.N. officials’ own standards of behaviour in many spheres, but that is by the by. I am distinctlyย  unimpressed by the BBC’s analysis piece by John McManus on the same page, however, where he refers to abuse by ‘Catholic priests, nuns and brothers’ (note the omission of monks). As a cloistered nun, I’d be genuinely interested to know how many, if any, cases of abuse by nuns (as distinct from religious sisters) have been recorded. We are obliged to pay an annual Safeguarding fee to the Catholic Trust for England and Wales, but as we don’t have contact with children or vulnerable adults, I would imagine our risk assessment is fairly low. Which is why I object to the good name of nuns being treated so cavalierly by the BBC. If the BBC doesn’t know the difference between nuns and sisters, this little post may help them. The lazy, hazy days of summer are no excuse for lazy, hazy writing, are they?

Ecumenical Good Manners
Readers know that I don’t usually comment on the affairs of other Churches and never allow false statements about them to pass, even in jest. I think that’s quite important. I am a Catholic by conviction and am ready to give an account of what I believe and why. That doesn’t stop me valuing my friends in other traditions or respecting their points of view, even if I disagree with them. Respect is not the same thing as agreement, though some assume it is. It has much more to do with a readiness to hear the other out, weigh his or her words and respond kindly and gently, though with complete honesty. Nothing is to be gained by trading jibes, still less by perpetuating exploded myths about ‘what they believe’. Genuine dialogue, based on careful reading and prayer and leavened with a little humility, is another matter. In this age of the internet, where everyone has an opinion and opinions can be spread across the globe in a matter of minutes, I think we all have a duty to think before we blog, tweet or FB on religious questions. Our point-scoring can bring Christianity into disrepute, which is a very negative kind of achievement, isn’t it? Ultimately, it isn’t just a matter of ecumenical good manners but of truth itself. So, if you ever catch me falling below the standards I set myself, please alert me โ€” but gently, if you can.

I think that’s enough ‘heads’ for one day. I have beans to pod. Very Desert Father-ish.


17 thoughts on “An Irritable Post by an Irritable Nun”

  1. Sometimes, just sometimes we seem to get a space to allow us to say it as it is. Thank you Dame Catherine for doing just that.

    The Vatican Bank isn’t something that I know much about, but just the word Bank is enough to raise hackles among some. As in all things, there seems to be a minority of bad apples among the many good. They get the audience while the good news goes ignored. Something about human nature perhaps?

    Abuse scandals apply across all of the Churches. The Anglicans are no different, recent events have heard the Arch Bishop(s) and General Synod apologising for past abuse, acknowledging that labeling a whole church as abusive is mistaken. Again, something about human nature?

    As for Ecumenical stuff. I pray for unity between churches – how that might come about I can’t imagine, given the differences. But Arch Bishop Justin remarked at the Methodist Conference today that he believes that “God isn’t to bothered about denominations” which puts it all into perspective.

      • Thank you Sister. I actually believe that being here has a calming effect on me, so perhaps the Benediction peace flows out from the blog and your responses.

        And I come here to learn about how much of my Catholic education as a child is actually really meaningful, even though I made a conscious effort to ignore or deny it for many years.

  2. I don’t like the word denomination. It draws a line in the sand between Christ followers. A very satanish thing to do. Though we are not the same denomination, we are sisters in Christ. Thank you for the wisdom and humor you share in your blog. I look forward to reading the fb posts and the blog.

  3. I followed your link to the post on the difference between nuns and sisters, not having read it before.

    I feel quite confused!

    All of my compulsory education took place at convent schools but I never knew that the sisters were not actually nuns per se. We certainly referred to them as nuns and I don’t recall this ever being corrected.

    I feel a little world-turned-upside-down.

    Mind you, I felt the same way when I came across a piece explaining the difference between convents and monasteries – I had always thought convents were where nuns (or sisters) lived and monasteries were where monks (or brothers) lived.

    How did I make it through all those years of education at religious institutions without knowing these things?

    Am perplexed.

    • Lots of people make the same mistake, Golder, but there are times when the distinction matters. As I said, I really would like to know how many cases of abuse by nuns there have been. Even one would be too many, but the hostility directed at us makes me sometimes want to be able to reply with an accurate statistic. Since the publication of the BBC report yesterday, we have received three more accusatory emails and I daresay there will be others (perhaps on Twitter) today.

  4. I’m sorry that the heat is debilitating. I was telling a friend about my grumpy horse and he commented that “The Grumpy Horse” is as good a pub name as “The Truculent Nun”, coined by cartoonist Bill Tidy. Sadly, this truculent ex-nun got nowhere with persuading the grumpy horse to allow her teeth to be filed. Here’s hoping we all feel better tomorrow!

      • Are there rules against pubs for sisters? (Hoping I’ve got the term correct here – I mean those that do go out!) Can you send someone to visit on your behalf? Or maybe you need to start on that traditional monastic pursuits of brewing-your-own?


  5. I share your frustration with the hot weather, no fun when there is work to be done. Many will also share frustration with banks, ecumenical progress and sensationalist coverage of scandals involving Catholic instityutions. I must admit even though a lifelong Catholic I have difficulty with the difference between nun/sister despite you explaining it before. The terms just seem to have become interchangeable (if this raises the temperature any higher I am sorry) for most people. I will re-read the March blog and try to commit the matter to memory.

    • Don’t exert yourself, Joseph, but see my reply to Golder above. Canon law makes some important distinctions which, practically speaking, mean nothing to outsiders but which have a great effect on the lives of those whom it regulates. My point, however, was about the charge of abuse by nuns which is constantly being repeated by the media without any examination of its foundation in fact.

      • As a matter of courtesy I ought to focus on the distinction (I read your output daily so it seems churlish to ignore the details that affect you) plus I continue to be shocked at the hostility you endure based on in accurate information and prejudice of the worst sort. Even if some nuns (rather than sisters) were guilty it does not justify venom aimed at all nuns. Apart from the unfair prejudice and inaccurate writing this causes, the distinction matters to Catholics as we should value the different gifts which sisters and nuns bring to our lives. My primary school headteacher was a wonderfully inspiring Sister, our parish is blessed by and shares in prayer with a Carmelite community…

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