Not too long ago, the world barely noticed nuns, and then only in some anonymous or stereotypical way. Now there is hardly an instance when the world does not notice them. The irony is palpable. When we looked like "nuns," we weren't seen. Now that we look simply like ourselves, everybody sees everything we do. Clearly, witness is at least as powerful as uniforms. And nuns have given clear witness to contemplation, equality, and justice these last years.
The problem with that kind of thinking, however, is that people who consider themselves full adults begin to act as if they are.
However, there are consequences to witness like that.
Next week, for instance, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious will face decisions that will move the question of the agency of women in a man's church either forward or back. Strange as it may seem in the 21st century, the issue is whether or not women are capable of hearing diverse speakers and still remain faithful Catholics. The issue is whether or not women religious may discuss various points of view on major issues and still remain faithful Catholics. The issue is whether or not women religious can manage their own organizations and still be faithful Catholics. The Vatican's answer to those questions is no. For the last 45 years, however, LCWR's answer to those same questions has been a clear and persistent yes.