Alexander Griswold is a research assistant at the Institute on Religion and Democracy. Alexander graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a degree in political science and a minor in philosophy. @HashtagGriswold
I’ve written in the past about the U.S. media’s often illiterate reporting on religious matters, especially when it comes to Catholicism and their insatiable love of renegade priests and nuns. It’s always nice then to get a reminder that the European media are not immune to these (if you’ll excuse the pun) habits. Most recently, this reminder comes in the form of a flattering BBC radio profile of radical nun Sister Teresa Forcades.
Sister Teresa Forcades, the BBC gushed, is a Harvard-educated “unique political leader” and “a star.” Sister Forcades has recently emerged as one of the most outspoken personalities of the Spanish left. She claimed she first entered the political scene because she was worried about the sense of malaise in Spain during the economic downturn. “All this dissatisfaction has the danger to turn into soreness, or anger, or even right-wing politics.” Appearing frequently on Spanish talk shows, Sister Forcades dresses her leftism in Catholic clothing to present a message attractive in a country with a strong Catholic history. For 26 minutes, the BBC featured glowing interviews of Sister Forcades and her supporters, while the point-of-view of orthodox Catholics was downplayed and ignored.
Sister Forcades has a history of butting heads with the Catholic Church, which she has labeled as a “misogynist and patriarchal” organization. In 2009, the Vatican demanded she explain her public support for legal abortion and legal access to Plan B. Sister Forcades was forced to declare a clarifying statement stating her allegiance to the Magisterium (presumably muttering “eppur si muove” as she did). Unfortunately, her alleged allegiance to Church teaching seems not to have stuck; one of the planks in her new ten-point manifesto is “a woman’s right to choose an abortion”.
BBC reporter Matt Wells, to his credit, specifically notes that Sister Forcades’ political teachings are often in violation of Catholic teaching. But the way he phrases his question on the subject is atrocious. “Isn’t there a fine line, in a way, between trying to combine the best of your religion and your political beliefs? Ultimately, you are still part of the Church, you are a nun in the Catholic Church. And the Church has a lot of moral absolutes that are, to a lot of people, not acceptable.” Translation: how do you reconcile your benevolent, praiseworthy social liberalism with those obnoxious, passé Catholic concerns about life and marriage?
The BBC report never goes into specific details about what Sister Forcades is actually promoting, except that it is left-wing. Given that the bulk of the report focuses on the movement for an independent Catalonia, you’d be forgiven for thinking that that was the central issue. But a look at her ten-point manifesto clearly shows that Forcades’ beliefs go beyond nationalism and far, far beyond the usual left-leaning Catholic:
- A government takeover of all banks and measures to curb financial speculation
- An end to all job cuts, fairer wages and pensions, shorter working hours and payments to parents who stay at home
- Genuine “participatory democracy” and steps to curb political corruption
- Decent housing for all, and an end to all foreclosures
- A reversal of public spending cuts, and renationalization of all public services
- An individual’s right to control their own body, including a woman’s right to decide over abortion
- “Green” economic policies and the nationalization of energy companies
- Citizenship rights for all, an end to xenophobia and repeal of all immigration laws
- Placing public media under democratic control, including the internet
- International “solidarity”, leaving NATO, and the abolition of armed forces in a future free Catalonia
The report featured only two quotes critical of Sister Forcades, both from a Professor José Reniu. Professor Reniu’s criticism is that Sister Forcades is part of an oppressive faith, so she can’t really speak for the oppressed. Combining his two quotes, the BBC segment features 54 seconds of criticism in a 26 and a half minute report, with no criticism from someone within the Church. Apparently finding a Catholic clergyman who doesn’t believe in permissive abortion laws proved too difficult. Or perhaps, finding anyone who doesn’t believe that Catalonia should become a socialist utopia with no military, no citizenship requirement, and a ten-hour workweek.
Take a Catholic woman who clashes with the Vatican, throw in an independence movement, and it’s pretty much guaranteed we’ll soon see glowing profiles of Sister Forcades on this side of pond. It’s likely she’ll receive the same one-sided praise the media has given American nun Sister Simone Campbell and the women “priests” they like to dredge up every three months or so. Concerns that she and others are ignoring or twisting key tenets of the Catholic faith will be ignored in deference to their liberal political ideology. When that time comes, it will once again fall upon faithful American Catholics to set the record straight.Google+