Diary

by
29 November 2013

By the Revd Sister Rosemary CHN

ISTOCK

Embarrassing habit

WHEN I see nuns on the screen, I often feel embarrassed, and wonder whether others in the audience have spotted that I am in a habit.

One such occasion came recently when I watched Philomena. This film tells the story of a mother searching for the son who was taken away from her in the 1950s, while she was held in a convent in Ireland. The beginning of her story is horribly familiar from The Magdalene Sisters, but this film shows the results almost until the present day.

A wonderful performance from Dame Judi Dench brings this traumatised woman to life, and shows her single-minded innocence brought into sharp collision with the cynical world of sensational journalism. The journalists are bad enough, but the real villains of the piece are the nuns - not only in their initial ill-treatment, but in their determination to cover up the truth and preserve the institution at all costs.

My community, like many others, used to work with "fallen women", in Victorian times and later. Not long before I entered, we were still providing residential care for young mothers and their babies, and for girls in trouble.

"Did we ever behave, or think, like that?" I ask myself in horror. Certainly not in recent times, if I can judge from the reminiscences of Sisters who were involved in this work, and the return visits paid by some of the "old girls". But in the early days? Were we punitive and condemnatory? I can only hope that we had a clearer perception of Christian values than that.


Hopes dashed

RECENTLY, there was an announcement from the Vatican that Pope Francis had ordered a widespread consultation of the faithful in preparation for next year's meeting of the Synod of Bishops to consider marriage and family life.

"At last!" we thought. "They have realised that this group of elderly celibate male clerics needs to profit from the wisdom of those who have learned from the daily lived experience of marriage and family, and have had to cope with its challenges." It seemed too good to be true.

It was too good to be true. The consultation document, now published, in the hope that ordinary Roman Catholics will respond to it, is framed in such complicated and technical language that only people already familiar with theological writing will be able to make any sense of it.

Even worse, it does not seek to learn from those who reply, but to discover whether they know and understand the current teaching of the Church on this subject. The assumption of those who framed the questionnaire is that this teaching cannot be changed, but must be accepted as it stands.


Consult, listen, learn

THE Church of England is awaiting the publication of the report of the Pilling group on same-sex relationships, commissioned by the House of Bishops. The group has heard evidence from people with a wide range of views, including some who are in such relationships. The group's deliberations are, of course, confidential, but this has not prevented widespread speculation about what the report is likely to contain.

There are some who hope that it will be on the lines of the Roman Catholic marriage consultation: in other words that, whatever evidence the group has heard, the result will be a reiteration of previous Church of England statements on the subject. Others, though, hope that the voice of experience may carry the weight it deserves.

I am more than ever glad to belong to a Church that expects its members - at all levels - to think for themselves.

 

Time to think

IN A recent diary column, I wrote about being ill, and the sense of "indignant incredulity" with which I suffered it (16 August).

I ought not to have been so con-fident that this state of affairs was now over. The Royal Derby is a wonderful hospital, but this year I have become better acquainted with it than I would have wished.

A few weeks ago, after a routine mammogram, I was recalled for further investigation ("Nothing to worry about - in most cases, it's a false alarm"), leading to a diagnosis of breast cancer, admirably prompt surgery, and, finally, a reassuring "all clear".

This sequence of events has, in Poirot's words, "given me furiously to think". I have had to recognise how much we are all at the mercy of accidents and unforeseen events. I have had cause to be very thankful for the skill of medical professionals, and the precious provisions of the NHS; and I would urge all women of the appropriate age to learn from my experience, and respond promptly to that three-yearly summons.

I am deeply grateful for all the love that has surrounded me, and most of all for the Love that surrounds us all, whether we are aware of it or not.

The Revd Sister Rosemary CHN is a nun at the Convent of the Holy Name in Derby.

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