by Leah Sottile
In my reporting for my story, Holy War on Women, I found that not only are nuns not radical feminists — as they've recently been called — but incredibly selfless, hardworking believers in a very powerful, all-loving God.
But they're a dying breed: a population shrinking everyday, a group whose work is constantly overlooked and who, now, are being told to be more loyal and more doting to the Vatican.And yet, despite all that, these women remain more faithful than ever.
For years, I've long been fascinated by the passion that drives the faithful and the God that presents itself in so many different ways to so many different people.
I used to think about God everyday. As a longtime product of Catholic schools, thinking and learning about religion was a large part of the classroom for me. As a kid, I was never instructed how to believe, but — as a friend recently put it — instead, taught how to think critically and understand the religious motivations that fueled the lives of so many around me, regardless if they were Catholic.
I didn't grow up Catholic, though: my parents were the types that smiled wide when my brother bought a Buddha statue for his bedroom, and who smiled just as wide when I told them I thought I might be Catholic. And, again, a few years later when I said I might not believe anything at all.
But those people who do adhere to a strict religious code — regardless of what religion they call themselves — have always fascinated me. That curiosity led me to start this story in 2009, when the local Catholic diocese was emerging from a massive sexual abuse scandal. I wondered: who has faith so strong, right now, to lead them to want to be a priest or nun in that institution? Who has faith that can shield them in the face of adversity?
I didn't finish that story for one reason or another — but that question arose again recently when American Catholic nuns were hand-slapped by the powers in the Vatican on claims of "radical feminism." I thought, again, who has faith so strong, so unshakable, that they can still call themselves believers when they're on trial with the very institution they represent?
These women do. And their story — and the long fight they have ahead of them — is truly fascinating.