September 20, 2013

Meet the Catholic Church’s Newest Radical Nun

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.

14 Responses to Meet the Catholic Church’s Newest Radical Nun

  1. David Fischler says:

    Stories like this just drive me crazy. Sr. Forcades is clearly an economic and political illiterate, as well as a good deal farther from Catholic orthodoxy than, say, Martin Luther or John Calvin. Why does the Church tolerate nuns like this? And why does anyone to the right of, say, the Workers World Party pay any attention to her?

  2. Bart Simmons says:

    Sister Forcades is a “progressive” in “habit”. She may wear the nun “costume” as part of her agenda….but in her heart she is no Catholic.

  3. Adrian Croft says:

    I read somewhere that the staff members of the National Council of Churches knew as much about economics and politics as a gathering of church secretaries would, but that doesn’t stop them from pontificating ad nauseam. I put this poor deluded nun in the same category, ditto for your average liberal clergyman. Seminaries ought to require students to study economics, preferably focusing on the guys like Hayek and Mises. A cold bath of reality would do professional Christians a world of good.

  4. Sr. Sarah says:

    I have to smile. Progressive nuns used to refuse to wear a habit, to refuse obedience to canon law in this matter.

  5. Fr. John W. Morris says:

    Nuns and Priests should stay out of secular political and economic matters. There is nothing more dangerous than claiming divine inspiration for your personal political and economic views. Clergy can and should speak on moral issues, but recognize that sincere Christians can differ on how to apply their Christian principles to secular matters like politics and economics. Confusing one’s personal political or economic views is dangerously close to fascism.

  6. robert says:

    I feel badly for this poor Woman. She very clearly suffers from some quite serious mental disorder and I applaud the Church for having the compassion to allow her to remain a ‘nun’ so as to insure her survival.
    I do hope however that those nearest her at some point persuade her to seek the help she needs to become a fully functional positive contributor to her community.

  7. jane says:

    God is within. Until humanity grasps this simple and basic concept of “where” God resides, we will live in the conflict created by believing in various religious Gods out there somewhere off planet and anonymous but mighty w judgment. We reach for the divine or evil within our own hearts, and seek to see God or the devil in our neighbor. We create gender, racial, sexual orientation, religious/cultural, and social/monetary superiorities and inferiorities that fuel ill will and mistreatment of ourselves and others. As long as we believe God is out there somewhere, we will ignore and dismiss God walking by. We create good or evil, heaven or hell on earth by choosing good or ill will toward ourselves and others. But, God is within.

  8. Lalo says:

    Teresa F. Is awesome. I admire her greatly. If you can understand Spanish, listen to her talk on vaccines. Brilliant.

    • lilli waite says:

      It’s sad that a nun is being admired because of her talk on vaccine. A religious, be it nun or a priest should be admired on his/her witness and talk about the Faith – the belief that God, by His authority has revealed it to be true. Jesus died for us – for our sins; the saints gave their life up to be martyrs for this, our Catholic Faith, and here is a supposed “catholic” nun promoting a woman’s right to decide over abortion? May God have mercy on her soul and those she is leading astray.

  9. Darryl says:

    This “nun” looks like a man.

  10. larry says:

    Sister Caitlin Jenner

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