With their leaders saying that they stand at a historic crossroads, more than 900 Roman Catholic nuns have gathered here for a four-day meeting to decide how to respond to a biting Vatican assessment that cast them as disobedient dissenters and ordered three American bishops to overhaul the nuns’ organization, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.
The nuns’ meeting on Wednesday in a vast hotel ballroom here exemplified the melding of traditional Catholicism and modern innovations that has so perturbed the Vatican. They sat in silence for a long stretch, sang songs about truth and mystery accompanied by a guitar and a choir, and heard a keynote address by a futurist who was escorted to the podium by seven liturgical dancers waving diaphanous scarves of pink and tangerine.
I’m sorry. Wait. Wait. Wait. Ahhh. That’s better. The diaphony gets me every time. Onward:
“Crisis precedes transformation,” the futurist, Barbara Marx Hubbard, told the nuns. “You are the best seedbed that I know for evolving the church and the world in the 21st century. Now, that may be a surprise to the world. But, you see, new things always happen from unexpected places.”
The nuns, most dressed informally in pants or skirts, gave a standing ovation to Ms. Hubbard, a beatific presence with a mantle of white hair who quoted Jesus, Buckminster Fuller, the Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and the current pope, Benedict XVI.
But if the nuns submit to the Vatican’s plan to overhaul their organization, it is doubtful that their meetings will feature a keynote speaker like Ms. Hubbard, who grew up a nonreligious Jew in a Scarsdale, N.Y., mansion (her father founded the Marx toy company) and is now acclaimed by New Age luminaries like Deepak Chopra for helping to lead what she calls the “conscious evolution” movement.
Benedict is a nice man. If Pio Nono were still in command, I think we all know what he would do.
By the way, an Natl Catholic Register reporter at the event had this to pass on:
In the first open session, the featured speaker, futurist Barbara Marx Hubbard, was led through the assembly hall at the Millennium Hotel by several sisters who were waving orange scarves draped over their arms.
Once on the stage, the sisters moved in a circle around Hubbard as they raised and lowered the scarves and the assembly was asked to extend their hands in blessing while singing, “Spirit of vision, Spirit of life! Spirit of courage, be with her now! Wisdom and Truth be on her lips!”
Release the hounds? I take that back. Instead, Release Father Rutler!