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Why Orthodox Jews Should Follow the Fight Between the Vatican and the LCWR

It is foolish for orthodox Jews to ignore the recent spat between the Vatican and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. Their dispute rises from a recent ruling issued by the Vatican that calls for the reigning in of a group of U.S. nuns who have challenged some of the doctrines of the Catholic Church. Their approach is being called radically feminist and the Vatican is appointing a bishop to oversee the LCWR.

The radical feminism of the LCWR basically amounts to their challenging the Vatican on two issues. The first, the issue of female clergy. Women are still precluded from positions of authority in the Catholic Church. The LCWR has challenged this position in the hope that the Vatican would consider allowing women into the hierarchy of its leadership. The Vatican has not taken to this kindly. The second area that the radical feminists have defied their leadership is on the issue of contraception. The LCWR supports the American Healthcare Act’s requirement that employers provide birth control to employees. The Vatican opposes this greatly. You can see why they are upset.

Besides stirring controversy, the LCWR is a powerful charity and social service group. They provide help and support to many needy people. Their feminist positions are only a tiny speck of what they do.

Why is it foolish for orthodox Jews to ignore this story? Because the same exact issues are brewing and bubbling beneath the surface in orthodox Judaism.

On the far left of orthodox Judaism, women are asking for and being granted greater communal roles. In the center of orthodox Judaism, women are more involved in communal affairs than ever before. On the far right of orthodox Judaism, women are basically in the same position they were in 100 years ago. But the premises are being challenged. Some women want more. Some communities want more for and from their wives and daughters. The Vatican has held fast and strong to the prohibition against female clergy. The orthodox Jewish establishment has done the same. The next decade will be very interesting.

Meanwhile, birth control is also becoming more and more of an issue. Orthodox Judaism never held the same way as the Vatican with regard to contraception. But recently, the leadership aligned itself with fundamentalist Christians in the American Healthcare Act debate. The motives behind this are unclear. Either it was a political move or a slippery slope argument or it was a doctrinal decision that held contraception to be prohibited. We don’t know and it doesn’t really matter.

What does matter is the stories and rumblings that I hear from women and their husbands about their birth control issues. This will get a full post of its own eventually, but suffice to say that this is already a major issue for orthodox women and their husbands and its prominence will only increase over the next few years.

So while we don’t have a Vatican, nor do we have a LCWR, we do have some of the same challenges of modernity that the Catholic Church is facing. Historically we have been ahead of them in adapting. In recent years our power of adaptation has dwindled. These two issues will challenge us to adapt or circle the wagons. Let’s hope we make the right choice.

Link: NY Times

Further reading on this subject on this blog: Controlling Birth Control


11 Comments
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  • Anonymous


    The orthodox Jewish establishment has done the same.

    There is no such thing as an “orthodox Jewish establishment” …

    … instead there are a hundred of them!

    And each of the hundred will approach this issue in a different manner.

  • Ksil

    Briefly, what are these “rumblings” you are referring to? Is it becoming harded for families to obtain a heter to use birth control? Is this just anecdotal on your part? Or do you know of some sort of wider institutional chumra being implemented?

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      Actually, there is more leniency that ever before in some areas.

      What I am talking about is anecdotal. But as a rabbi I hear a lot of anecdotes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=509509604 Shlomo Pill

    I’m not sure that the Orthodox community aligned itself with the Church in the AMA contraception debate.  Seems to me they aligned themselves with the underlying claim that the government should not be able to direct the employment policies of religious institutions, or decide whether government-directed policies are within the permissible bounds of the institution’s religious doctrines.

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      That’s disingenuous because there are many laws that interfere with other religions and this law actually does NOT interfere with Canon Law. I’ve read Humanae Vitae.

      • http://profiles.google.com/holyhyrax Holy Hyrax

        That seems in my opinion to be disingenuous as well. So because government already interferes we should just have the door wide open for them and let them come in as they please? But then again, we had this conversation and we know where we stand. 

        • ksil

          what??!  talk about straw man….

          clearly these frummies, whoever they are, dont mind if govt is involved in certain areas….unless its this one….so let them say, we have a problem with this particula issue.  they lie when thue say its about govt

          • http://profiles.google.com/holyhyrax Holy Hyrax

            They lie? 

            That’s a pretty big claim. They are saying it is this particular issue. But where do they not mind gov’t interfering in things that they infringe on their beliefs?

  • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink
  • Daniel Wiesel

    Why do you say, “We don’t know and it doesn’t really matter” regarding the underlying motives? If it is simply a political alliance, alliances can change. If there is a concerted effort to institutionalize the Vatican’s position on birth control on Orthodox Jews, that is a bigger issue.

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      Because they are “wrong” either way.