The Catholic Left has tried to make their policies appear to be Catholic dogma and for all too many people, they have succeeded, as this review of a new movie indicates, from Catholic World Report.
“When the Vatican reprimands U.S. nuns, citing their ‘radical feminism,’ three fearless nuns risk their place in the Church to follow another higher calling: social justice.”
This bold declaration is the promotion for a documentary film entitled Radical Grace that is being widely disseminated free of charge on World Channel’s America Reframed website through June 12.
Fact challenged, progressive supported
Radical Grace falls squarely into the documentary genre of propaganda, and can be summarized in this way: The out-of-touch male Catholic hierarchy is oppressive and cares only about rule-keeping and maintaining authority, while sisters are following the real Gospel message by working for “social justice.”
This message is driven home by the film’s symbol of a woman’s raised fist clutching a rosary on which the crucifix has been replaced by the symbols for male and female. And then there is this endorsement by Susan Sarandon, the film’s executive producer:
This film comes at a major crossroads in the Catholic Church, and the nuns are everything that’s right with the institution. They stand with the marginalized, and won’t be bullied by a hierarchy that still doesn’t treat them as equals. I was raised Catholic — and while I couldn’t stay in a Church that sidelines women and the LGBT community, spirituality is still an important part of my life. I feel a deep connection to the women featured in Radical Grace and this film will hopefully build a movement towards a more inclusive and just Church, and world.
Judging from the few reviews of Radical Grace available on the Internet, this propaganda is being swallowed by people unfamiliar with the Catholic Church. In the words of one reviewer:
As a viewer you may be ready to go through the screen at these bad men in black robes who are bothering these nice ladies, but the sisters lead by example and keep pushing on with their own message of hope and inspiration.
The film, however, is full of inaccuracies presented as facts. These distortions seem at times to be the result of shoddy, shallow research on the topic, with the primary source appearing to be sensationalized television news clips, such as the one proclaiming a “holy war” between sisters and the Vatican, or the false charge that the Vatican accused sisters of being “radical feminists.”
At other times it seems that misinformation was purposely employed as a tool to advance the film’s self-admitted agenda posted on the Radical Grace website:
Collaborating with feminist and faith-based social justice organizations, we will leverage the film to support reform within religious institutions to end gender discrimination of women and girls in the U.S. and around the world and bridge divides to build a stronger progressive and feminist movement.
Those “feminist and faith-based social justice organizations” are laid out nicely on the Radical Grace website’s list of the film’s partners and donors. That list includes radical “reform” groups such as Call to Action, Women’s Ordination Conference and National Organization of Women. Another partner is the pro-abortion Center for American Progress that was founded in 2003 by John Podesta, the longtime ally of Bill and Hillary Clinton, as a think tank to promote a “progressive” agenda and to “change the country.”
These groups and many of the films’ other promoters have been working for years to pressure the Catholic Church to dilute its teachings on human sexuality and the sanctity of human life, marriage and the family, in order to bring the church’s moral doctrine into conformity with evolving practices in the secular culture.
The promotion for Radical Grace on the Reframed website declares that Catholic sisters’ “collective achievements demonstrate how the Catholic Church is changing from within, while propelling reform well beyond the convent walls.” And what better way to change the Church from within than to present a sympathetic portrayal of religious sisters who rebel against the teachings and authority of the Catholic Church under the guise of social justice?
Heavy on sensationalism, light on facts
How was this leftist political agenda woven into the film? Well, it isn’t exactly a smooth presentation.
The glue that is supposed to hold the whole thing together is a “censure” of U.S. sisters by the Vatican, which the film alleges occurred in the first few years of this decade. That glue does not stick, however, for there was no censure of U.S. sisters by the Vatican.
The film conflates and misrepresents two separate Vatican initiatives. The first was a 2009-2012 apostolic visitation to examine the quality of life of about 59,000 sisters in the 300-plus apostolic orders of women in the U.S. This visitation was authorized by the Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, which oversees religious orders.
The 59,000 U.S. sisters never were placed “under the supervision of conservative bishops” in 2012, as Radical Grace contends. In fact, teams of U.S. women religious themselves carried out the apostolic visitation of women’s orders and made a final report to the Vatican on their findings.
In 2014, the Vatican announced it had completed evaluation of the visitation report and praised U.S. sisters for their dedication and ministry, but also noted areas of “concerns” that would be followed up with individual orders. When Radical Grace shows footage of this announcement, the topic of problems or concerns is edited out, implying complete vindication for the sisters.