The recent Vatican report on the Leadership Council of Women Religious (LCWR), an umbrella organization representing roughly eighty percent of American sisters, has elicited a fierce reaction in the media from Catholics and non-Catholics alike.Read the rest of The Vatican and the “war on women religious”.
Sarah Shortall is a Ph.D. candidate in the History Department at Harvard University. Her research interests lie in the field of modern European intellectual history, with a particular focus on France under the Third Republic, Catholic theology, and avant-garde literature.
Posts by Sarah Shortall:
In my previous post, I discussed the ambivalent legacy of the Catholic Church in Québec in light of the recent canonization of the province’s first homegrown saint. I suggested that the post-sixties rise of Québécois nationalism emerged largely at the expense of this Catholic identity, which many blamed for Québec’s longtime passivity in the face of English-Canadian domination, even as the Church also played a key historical role in the survival of French-Canadian culture. In this post, I would like to suggest the ways in which this complex politico-religious legacy has shaped current debates over the “reasonable accommodation” of immigrants in Québec.Read the rest of Of saints, separatism, and secularization (part 2).
Three weeks ago, in a province with the lowest rate of Church attendance in Canada, 50,000 people attended Mass to honour the canonization of Québec’s first homegrown saint. Born into poverty in 1845 and orphaned at the age of 12, largely illiterate and chronically sickly, “Brother André” has been acclaimed as the archetypical hero of a Québec that seems largely unrecognizable today. [...]Read the rest of Of saints, separatism, and secularization (part 1).
As against Grace Davie’s vision of European secularization as a form of “believing without belonging,” here we see the genesis of a theological justification for an extreme form of “belonging without believing.” It’s one that I think forces us to rethink how we define membership to a religious tradition, by pointing to the possibility that individual will may not be the primary determinant of religious inclusion or exclusion, any more than a hand can repudiate the body to which it belongs. But it is equally worth considering what kind of ideological work such organic metaphors of embodiment perform in authorizing these kinds of inclusivist models, as well as their ambivalent political implications.Read the rest of Belonging without believing.
What could Obama’s take on Iranian democracy, early-modern theodicy, and twentieth-century leftist thought have in common? Despite these wide variations in subject-matter, it seems to me that recent posts by Justin Reynolds, Alex Hernandez, and James Robertson nevertheless gesture towards a similar problematic. All three point to the profound tension which marks the relationship between human action in historical time, and the transcendent telos of the Christian salvation narrative. They point, in other words, to the thorny question of how much agency humans possess in the achievement of their own salvation.Read the rest of Who’s afraid of Pelagius?.
What fascinates me about [the] language of purity and contamination is the extent to which it is mobilized in the service of both religious and secularist narratives. This is particularly true in the case of France’s republican culture of laïcité, as the recent controversy over the Islamic headscarf—repeatedly figured as a scandalous threat to the purity of the secular public sphere—amply attests. . . . What is interesting is that both the religious and the laïque appeal to a discourse on purity and contamination and rely upon a similar narrative structure, invoking the rhetoric of purity to describe both an originary moment that has since been lost, and an eschatological ideal to be fulfilled at some point in the future.Read the rest of Impure thoughts.
When it comes to the Catholic Church these days, news headlines offer few opportunities for levity. I’m referring, of course, to the thorny problem of sex abuse in the Church. As a student of Catholicism, I’m evidently disturbed by the Church’s handling of the scandal, but I’m also deeply troubled by the tendency among those outside the Church to treat this as a specifically “Catholic problem,” as if it were the logical conclusion of clerical celibacy or some element of Catholic dogma.Read the rest of Sex, scandal, and the secular.