WashPost's Lisa Miller Unglued: Vatican Wants Leftist Nuns to Be Seen as Scary Radical Islamists?

You don’t have to be Catholic to find the liberal media often sounds intentionally clueless when it writes about the Catholic Church publicly identifying for people both inside and outside the church what its teaching is.

When the church makes an announcement that perhaps someone who supports abortion, homosexuality, and masturbation isn’t really anywhere on the planet of Catholicism, liberal journalists have a fit. In Saturday’s Washington Post, (anti-)religion columnist Lisa Miller was so exercised she found someone to say the Vatican sees wayward nuns as comparable to Islamic terrorists (sort of like the Rosie O’Donnell character in An American Carol):

Lisa Isherwood is a real-life radical feminist theologian. She is editor of the journal Feminist Theology and a professor at Winchester University in England. She believes that the men at the Vatican are using the term “radical feminist” as a right-wing scare tactic, for it evokes other enemies far more dangerous than nuns. Their thinking, she says, goes like this: “We hear the word radical Islam, and everyone panics, so let’s chuck that at them.”

Just one paragraph in the latest Miller column identifies the sheer juvenility of her rhetorical mudslinging at the Catholic hierarchy:

The authors of these rebukes never define “feminism” or “radicalism.” In their hands, these words, which can carry legitimate intellectual meanings, appear to signify something like: “Yucky women who fail to heed our instructions and, anyway, don’t meet our standards of womanhood.” In other words, the sisters aren’t behaving as girls should.

That’s about as aggressive a misunderstanding a bratty columnist can muster. She also claimed that she believes top church officials have never met a radical feminist theologian – as if you need to meet one to know what they believe. But Miller’s adoring quotes from radical feminist theologians identify exactly where she – and by extension, the Washington Post “faith” and religion section crowd, stand. Miller goes nuclear with one Mary Daly:

She was driven to criticize her beloved church after she sat in on sessions of the Second Vatican Council in Rome and felt that women had no meaningful part in the proceedings. She was, she wrote later, appalled by “the contrast between the arrogant bearing and colorful attire of the ‘princes of the church,’ ” she wrote later, “and the humble, self-deprecating manner and somber clothing of the very few women....Watching the veiled nuns shuffle to the altar rail to receive Holy Communion from the hands of a priest was like observing a string of lowly ants at some bizarre picnic.”

In her breakthrough 1974 book, “Beyond God the Father,” Daly wrote, “If God is male, then the male is God. The divine patriarch castrates women as long as he is allowed to live on in the human imagination.” Now that’s a radical feminist for you.

You can almost see Miller in a rapturous glow as she quotes those words, but to faithful Catholics, Daly is simply perverse. To take the vision of humble nuns at the communion rail and see a line of pathetic ants in a bizarre ritual is to miss the point completely. Catholics would tell you there is nothing more dignifying of their humanity than to submit to the Eucharist and accept the body of Christ into their mouth. You’re not an ant on a cupcake. You’re participating in the mystical body of Christ.

But Miller doesn’t believe in any of that Vatican hogwash. To her, the nuns, if they’re worth their salt, took their vows of obedience to the church with the purpose of turning the whole enterprise on its patriarchal head. They’re supposed to be turning the ancient church into the Modern Feminist Temple of Lisa Miller and Mary Daly. If you're "beyond God the Father," then you're certainly "beyond" being a Catholic. If you can't speak the Sign of the Cross without vomiting, you should probably try something else.

You can believe the Catholic Church is a festering anthill of patriarchy. But you cannot believe that and at the same time, be described as a “beloved” supporter of it. Boston College certainly encouraged great misunderstanding by having Daly teach on its campus, at least in a way that would mislead people she was “inside” the “beloved” church. Miller left out that Daly was so radical she announced she would only teach women.

You certainly can’t believe a liberal newspaper like The Washington Post would tolerate someone inside its pages that would so aggressively believe The Washington Post is the focus of evil in the modern world. By featuring Miller on their Saturday religion page every week, the Post is announcing their endorsement of the Miller view that religion is a dangerously oppressive force – unless and until it stands for the Post’s version of “social justice.”

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis