|Freida Kahlo and Sor Juana Source|
Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz was one of the great minds of seventeenth century Americas. She lived in Mexico. She was an illegitimate child. She grew up to become a famous author, thinker, and wit. For this, the Church condemned her. She gave away her vast library, signed self-incriminating letters as "I, the worst of all women," and devoted herself to more womanly work, nursing the sick. She promptly contracting the plague from them and within two years of renouncing her intellectual life, she died.
Sor Juana died in 1695. She was not the first or the last woman to die at least partly because she was smart, and her intelligence violated the Church's sense of what is decent behavior for women.
Mother Theodore Guerin, now a saint, founded an order of nuns in Indiana in 1840. Kathleen Sprows Cummings writes, "Guerin had her own problems with Bishop Hailandière, who insisted that he was entitled to complete control over the Sisters of Providence. The bishop’s repeated challenges to Guerin’s authority over community matters culminated in 1847, when he locked Guerin in his house until she acceded to his demands. A day later, he removed her as superior, released her from religious vows, and threatened her and any sisters who followed her with excommunication."
Father James Martin writes, "Mother Mary McKillop, the foundress of the Australian-based Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart, was, in 1871, officially excommunicated by her local bishop, on the grounds that she 'she had incited the sisters to disobedience and defiance.' That same church leader, Bishop Sheil, had earlier invited her to work in Adelaide, where she and her sisters would eventually set up schools, a women's shelter and an orphanage, among their many works. But McKillop's independent spirit was a threat to Bishop Sheil, who had her booted out of the church."
Me? Some years back, after completing my PhD and publishing a prize-winning book that addresses, inter alia, the association of Nazism with Catholicism, I sent my resume to a series of local priests. I offered to speak, to lead discussions, to contribute to the life of the parish, on a purely voluntarily basis.
I received memorably snarky rejections from two priests, and disinterest from others.
Today's randomly drawn tarot card is the Queen of Swords. She is an intellectual, independent, witty woman.
And the Catholic Church has a hard time with her. Still.