1 October 2009
The California Musical Theatre opened a new cabaret show a week ago. It's called "Late Night Catechism" and was created and performed by Chicago-born Maripat Donovan, who makes the perfect nun.
For those of us who were raised Catholic and especially those who attended Catholic schools, it's a very funny show. She had us all sitting up straight, answering with "Yes, Sister" and reciting long-forgotten questions from the Baltimore Catechism, word for word.
Ned's colleague Walter (whose last name I don't know) and his wife of 41 years were the stars of the show because Walter's wife correctly answered the question "What is a sacrament?" with the proper catechism answer "A sacrament is an outward sign, instituted by Christ to give grace." High fives all around. Amazing how it all comes back to you.
But for those with no Catholic experience, it can be deadly dull, as I found out from my colleague, who attended the show with us and who said the jokes went way over his head, confirmed by a Jewish man he spoke with at intermission who also wasn't getting it.
I enjoyed it more than I expected to, but gave it a luke warm review, mainly because of what seems to be a limited appeal to non-Catholics.
However, Donovan also uses this show as a fund-raiser. After all the laughs and the applause, she talks about how much money the show has raised for retired nuns. She brought out a fact I didn't know, that the Catholic church opted out of including nuns in the Social Security system and so when they retire, there is...nothing for them.
In my day, the day when I was going to be a nun myself, there were convents and nuns looked like "Sister" above. When my lifelong friend, Sister Anne, was dying of non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, she went to the retirement home for the Daughters of Charity in Indiana, which is where she was cared for and where she died. Now many nuns don't wear habits, live in apartments by themselves, work in the community and receive a salary. But at the end of their career, there is nothing to support them.
I also didn't realize that the median age for nuns in this country is 73 (according to Donovan).
We were discussing this at Richard's house yesterday and Char talked about a nun who worked in her office. She was in her mid-70s and had been a teacher at a Catholic school in San Francisco, but was let go from that job and just left to her own devices--no support whatsoever from the Catholic church for her lifetime of service, no source of income and the church just expected that her family would care for her. They didn't, so at an age when the rest of us were looking at retirement, she had to get a job to support herself. As Char explained it, at the time that Char retired, the nun had long since ceased to be able to handle the job for which she was originally hired, but the office didn't want to fire her, as they would any other person, because she had nowhere to go and no way to support herself.
This is an outrage!!! How the Catholic church treats women is a sin. When I think of all the support given to pedophile priests vs. the disdain with which women are treated, it makes me realize even more why I consider myself a "recovering Catholic."
Mercy Sister Theresa Kane recently criticized the church hierarchy re its continuing treatment of women in general and women religious in particular in an article in the National Catholic Reporter.
"I think the male hierarchy is truly impotent, incapable of equality, co-responsibility in adult behavior,” she said, not mincing any words. “In the church today, we are experiencing a dictatorial mindset and spiritual violence," she says.
“Why do we hope and why do we endure?” she asked. “I have one chance, one life, and therefore I have a responsibility to criticize. Our hope comes from solidarity between women religious and laywomen.”
“If we do not get angry, we won’t make change,” she said. And change can come, she noted. Years back, she recalled, women were required to cover their heads when in church — “even using tissue paper, if necessary.” After a while women simply stopped the practice and the requirement ended. She called it a “silent revolution.”
Lord, I remember the "tissue paper" days, when if you forgot to bring something with which to cover your head, you took a bobbie pin and a Kleenex tissue and pinned it to your head in order to enter a Catholic church.
I also remember the days when I served as an "altar girl" at our high school chapel. But as a mere female, I was not permitted to actually go ON the altar. I had to kneel outside the alter, on the other side of the communion railing.
Sooner or later the Catholic church has to recognize that women have their place in the religion. I won't be there to see it, of course, but this inequality of women in the Catholic church is just ridiculous. I hope change comes in time for the older nuns struggling to make ends meet after being ignored by the church they served so loyally for so many years.