Visitation III

Over the past few weeks I have had an inflamed eye. Ironically, this occurred about the time a piece was written here entitled Noli Me Tangere. The eyelid plays a major role in maintaining the integrity of the eye. Or I learned, excessive tearing would continue.

Immune-mediated diseases. Autoimmunity is the failure of an organism to recognize its own constituent parts as self, which allows an immune response against its own cells and tissues. Immunological tolerance occurs in three forms: central tolerance, peripheral tolerance and acquired tolerance. Genetic defects in these processes leads to autoimmunity. A low level of autoimmunity is thought to actually be beneficial. In the 20th Century in medicine it has become accepted that autoimmune responses are an integral part of vertebrate immune systems, normally prevented from causing disease by the phenomenon of immunological tolerance (the process by which the immune system does not attack an antigen).

This inflamed eye and the need to treat it. Or I would lose my vision. I had a twin sister with Rosacea. She tells me that half of all Rosacea suffer from blepharitis. The other half have twin brothers with blepharitis? I don’t know as I really do not talk to her about her Rosacea.

Autoimmunity. In systemic lupus there are autoantibodies to DNA. Nearly 75% of the more than 23.5 million Americans who suffer from autoimmune disease are women. Rheumatoid arthritis and thyrotoxicosis are associated with of loss of immunological tolerance, which is the ability of an individual to ignore ‘self’, while reacting to ‘non-self’. This breakage leads to the immune system’s mounting an effective and specific immune response against self determinants. The exact genesis of immunological tolerance is still elusive, but a person’s sex seems to have some role in the development of autoimmunity. The reasons for the sex role in autoimmunity are unclear. It has been suggested that the slight exchange of cells between mothers and their children during pregnancy may induce autoimmunity. Apart from inherent genetic susceptibility, several animal models suggest a role for sex steroids.

The tensions within the church have only grown greater since the days of The Symbionese Liberation Army, since the day in October 1979 when Sister Theresa Kane offered a greeting to John Paul II upon his first papal visit to the United States. According to the S.L.A. manifesto, the name ‘Symbionese’ was taken from the word ‘symbiosis’ and defined as “a body of dissimilar bodies and organisms living in deep and loving harmony and partnership in the best interest of all within the body.” Seven principles of the SLA were Unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. The Symbionese Liberation Army, seeking to increase its membership, found no would-be revolutionaries (or anyone else) in the Bay Area who wanted to have anything to do with them and moved, kidnapping Patty Hearst along the way.

That greeting offered to John Paul II:

“In the name of the women religious gathered in this Shrine dedicated to Mary, I greet you, Your Holiness Pope John Paul II. It is an honor, a privilege and an awesome responsibility to express in a few moments the sentiments of women present at this shrine dedicated to Mary the Patroness of the United States and the Mother of all humankind. It is appropriate that a woman’s voice be heard in this shrine and I call upon Mary to direct what is in my heart and on my lips during these moments of greeting.

“I welcome you sincerely; I extend greetings of profound respect, esteem and affection from women religious throughout this country. With the sentiments experienced by Elizabeth when visited by Mary, our hearts too leap with joy as we welcome you — you who have been called the,- Pope of the people. As I welcome you today, I am mindful of the countless number of women religious who have dedicated their lives to the church in this country in the past. The lives of many valiant women who were the catalysts of growth for the United States Church continue to serve as heroines of inspiration to us as we too struggle to be women of courage and hope during these times.

“Women religious in the United States entered into the renewal efforts in an obedient response to the call of Vatican II. We have experienced both joy and suffering in our efforts. As a result of such renewal women religious approach the next decade with a renewed identity and a deep sense of our responsibilities to, with and in the church.

“Your Holiness, the women of this country have been inspired by your spirit of courage. We thank you for exemplifying such courage in speaking to us so directly about our responsibilities to the poor and oppressed throughout the world. We who live in the United States, one of the wealthiest nations of the earth, need to become ever more conscious of the suffering that is present among so many of our brothers and sisters, recognizing that systemic injustices are serious moral and social issues that need to be confronted courageously. We pledge ourselves in solidarity with you in your efforts to respond to the cry of the poor.

“As I share this privileged moment with you, Your Holiness, I urge you to be mindful of the intense suffering and pain which is part of the life of many women in these United States. I call upon you to listen with compassion and to hear the call of women who comprise half of humankind. As women we have heard the powerful messages of our Church addressing the dignity and reverence for all persons. As women we have pondered upon these words. Our contemplation leads us to state that the Church in its struggle to be faithful to its call for reverence and dignity for all persons must respond by providing the possibility of women as persons being included in all ministries of our Church. I urge you, Your Holiness, to be open to and respond to the voices coming from the women of this country who are desirous of serving in and through the Church as fully participating members.

“Finally, I assure you, Pope John Paul, of the prayers, support and fidelity of the women religious in this country as you continue to challenge us to be women of holiness for the sake of the Kingdom. With these few words from the joyous, hope-filled prayer, the Magnificat, we call upon Mary to be your continued , source of inspiration, courage and hope: ‘May your whole being proclaim and magnify the Lord; may your spirit always rejoice in God your Savior; the Lord who is mighty has done great things for you; Holy is God’s Name.’”

In 1991, author Donna Steichen published her own first-hand experiences with groups of “progressive” Catholic sisters in the United States, including Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR ), in the exposé study of US women’s religious orders titled “Ungodly Rage: The Hidden Face of Catholic Feminism.” The book is said to document the movement that began in women’s religious orders in the 1960s which focused on their systemic revolt against the authority of the Church, a Symbionese Liberation Army as it were of the Roman Catholic Church. Donna Steichen became active in a more conservative alternative to the leadership conference.

In February 2009 William Cardinal Levada sent a letter to the officers of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) and the officers of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM), and a meeting held with him in Rome to address issues of theological orthodoxy, in the search for the pathogenesis of this autoimmune disease. This was after the LCWR had been asked to promote “Ordinatio sacerdotalis,” a 1994 Apostolic Letter which represented Church teaching on the sacramental priesthood; to promote Homosexualitatis Problema, the Catholic position written by then-Cardinal Ratzinger in 1986 on homosexuality; and to promote “Dominus Jesus,” the 2000 document which holds the Catholic Church as the chief path to salvation. “Ordinatio sacerdotalis,” included the church’s current position that ordination of women is impossible.

A keynote speech in 2007 delivered to the LCWR by Laurie Brink, O.P., contained the quote, “Jesus is not the only son of God. …Salvation is not limited to Christians,” which calls the question of why she was still working in the Roman Catholic Church and why she was allowed to deliver the keynote address to the LCWR. Thus the involvement of William Cardinal Levada to address issues of theological orthodoxy.

That keynote speech in 2007 delivered to the LCWR by Sister Laurie Brink, a Sinsinawa Dominican, entitled “A Marginal Life: Pursuing Holiness in the 21st Century,” had commented on the possible future of women religious as well as the decline of many religious orders, addressing the four directions religious were being pushed. Her theme was that lay ecclesial ministers were and are feeling disenfranchised, Catholic theologians were being denied academic freedom, and religious and lay women felt scrutinized simply because of their biology. Her speech was a call of liberation.

“What is at stake is the very heart of the Church itself. But the cardinals and bishops may be so busy putting out brush fires that they fail to see the coming conflageration, at least as concerns the American church.” Her entire speech can be read @

A bishop’s responsibility is to safeguard the unity of the Catholic Church, besides protecting the souls of the faithful.

This political issue of the woman’s role in the church, which most legislative politics seemed to have forgotten, was about listening. All politics, including church politics, was all about recognition and attention. A group disenfranchised from leadership on basis of gender wanted a greater voice. In this political discussion, there was a call of liberation from the old world. So far, in the comprehensive study into the quality of institutes of women religious in the United States by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, God was not a participant.

American Catholics: Who we are. Where we were going. Among the protestants within, there was the “No one knows we are out here working” feeling. Amidst the dysfunction. The part of the old boys’ network that just had never listened. To the women. There was a lot of antagonism toward the home office in regions around the world, in all organizations. From the powerless. From the women who had once educated the greater populace of Catholics. That was the dysfunction. Yet these women still were working, within a new reformation movement. Hoping to be heard. Praying for reconciliation.

Past medical history was important to make a diagnosis. A good doctor listened for a good medical history of a problem. Change. Always having to deal with change. I could not ignore the blepharitis problem without repercussions. The reconciliation with age of the body. Blepharitis tends to recur and stubbornly resist treatment. It is inconvenient and unattractive but usually does not damage the cornea or result in loss of vision.

At a party I attended in January in Omaha, a friend asked me what I thought of Pope John Paul II. He made reference to his “Theology of the Body.”

Autoimmune. Treatments for autoimmune disease have traditionally been immunosuppressive, anti-inflammatories, or palliative treatment, reducing the severity of the disease. Steroidal or NSAID treatment limits inflammatory symptoms of many diseases. Non-immunological therapies include hormone replacement.

Sister Sandra Schneiders, a member of the Sisters Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary who teaches at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, California, stated most women’s religious orders have found an entirely new way of living their vocations since Vatican II. Sister Schneiders writes: “So, let’s be what we are. Religious who are not cloistered and ministers who are not ordained.”

There has been a lot of dysfunction in this church since October 1979. Sister Laurie’s theme that lay ecclesial ministers were and are feeling disenfranchised did not apply just to women religious. It applied to all women. There was threat of schism with 50% of the church. This was the biggest challenge facing the Church of Rome. The ones who lived amongst us. However, in the stating the cause, Sister Laurie’s creed that Jesus is not the only son of God flies in the face of the Nicene Creed. (Even though the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments was in the midst of changing he opening line of the Nicene Creed from “We believe” to “I believe.”)

Dealing with women. Men dealing with women in the 21st Century. The ones with voting rights. It was hard. Look at the statistics on divorce. It was not with just the diminishing number of nuns. It involved the women living with a little more control over their cycles. Yeah, those sinners. Our moms. Our wives with modern conveniences. The ones who used birth control. And these autoimmune sisters. Educated woman. As likely better educated than the men.

Since October 1979, mostly it was about the failure by the doctors of the church to listen. There was a certain irony watching all these people with professed belief in prayer who seemed to have forgotten the words of Psalm 46. The words of Psalm 46 seemed to be instruction of the other half of prayer. To just shut up and listen. On the second retreat I ever made, in a 3 day struggle, I learned the importance of, the second half of, what prayer really was. No one really had told me. About the importance of just listening. At some point God did answer.

It seemed a time for the sisters to remind the powers of the mission statement, what it was that this American Catholic identity had always been about. This Apostolic Visitation, the study of their lives with national and international attention, offered an opportunity to explain the substance of religious life. It seemed a good time for a reminder what you learned in literary criticism class in college. The adage was, if any of this stuff means anything, then of course you should offer criticism. Even in theology. Even where most doctors of the church were often at an age when they experienced the physical affects of hearing loss.

In the vertebrate immune systems, there were those 3 forms of immunological tolerance: central tolerance, peripheral tolerance, and acquired tolerance. In the 20th Century in medicine it has become accepted that a low level of autoimmunity is actually beneficial, and autoimmune responses are an integral part of vertebrate immune systems. Defects in these processes leads to autoimmunity. Autoimmunity is the failure of an organism to recognize its own constituent parts as self.

In other news, Italian newspapers reported in late May that the beatification of Pope John Paul II may be delayed as the Vatican seeks more documentation regarding his almost 27 years as pope. About his Theology of the Body. With encouragement to his countrymen, John Paul II, who died in 2005, with the peaceful challenge to the communist regime from a protestant in Rome, is credited by many with hastening the Soviet demise.

The process of immunological tolerance by which the immune system does not attack an antigen. Making reference to “Theology of the Body,” a friend asked at a party in Omaha, what I thought of Pope John Paul II. I think he meant his leadership within the church body. I think he meant about a doctor of the church who always was having to deal with change. For me, John Paul seemed to have a hearing problem. And he seemed to have a spiritual autoimmune disorder, failing to recognize the Church’s own constituent parts as self. But the most alarming part of this venerable man was in his relationships when, according to a piece in the Atlantic Monthly a few months after he died, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger never came around to see him in the last 3 months of his life. There seemed always an underlying conflict between Germany and Poland.



1 comment so far

  1. paperlessworld on

    hashtag # Luigi Capozzi

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