Thanks Ken for your comments. I hope you're wrong about conservatives in the Catholic Church eventually squelching the dissenting voices of American nuns, but I worry though that you might be right. I worry that this may be part of another one of those periodic attempts by conservative Catholics to rid the church of modern thinking. In the beginning of the twentieth century, Pope Pius X had instigated an antimodernist campaign that severely curtailed Catholic intellectuals and theologians for several years, and I think the current Pope Benedict XVI may be doing the same thing.
You're also right about the wisdom of the Founding Fathers in creating a secular state. Rerum Novarum is a wonderful social document, but it has the one flaw of assuming that civil authority should follow church authority in terms of morals and community standards. Later papal encyclicals, like Pope John XXII's Mater et Magistra, had a more proper respect of the civil government's authority and saw the church as a prod for social justice and not the sole authority to impose it. I think that is the difference between Martin Luther King Jr. and Jerry Falwell. King led protests and civil disobedience campaigns to prod the government to give equal rights to African Americans. King was motivated by his religious values as a Christian, but he fought and lobbied for civil rights outside of the system. The Christians fighting for civil rights in the 1960s were fighting for American values of freedom and equality that were inclusive and were shared by religious and nonreligious people alike. Falwell's Moral Majority of the 1980s were more of an exclusive movement, that tried to impose a more fundamentalist Christian viewpoint through the government that wasn't shared by many religious and nonreligious people. It excluded gays and lesbians, it restricted the rights of women, it tried to limit certain scientific viewpoints like evolution from being taught.
Since I'm writing this, I thought I'd add to the preceding blog more Christian women fighting for social justice and women's rights that I discovered:
The Evangelical & Ecumenical Women’s Caucus (also known as the Christian Feminism Today, or EEWC-CFT) is a Christian feminist organization founded in 1973 who believe that the Bible supports the equality of the sexes in the Christian Church. EEWC welcomes members of any gender, race, ethnicity, color, creed, marital status, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, age, political party, parental status, economic class, or disability. Their facebook page is here
A vimeo video on a Waneta Dawn discussion of domestic abuse in the church for the Seneca Falls 2 Evangelical Women's Rights Convention, July 24, 2010
A youtube video of Shirley Taylor and Jocelyn Andersen criticizing the Danver Statement, which told Christians to live in rigid sex roles for men and women, in a discussion at the Seneca Falls 2 Evangelical Women's Rights Convention
A youtube video of Jocelyn Andersen talking about the history of Christian history of supporting women's rights in the Seneca Falls 2 Evangelical Women's Rights Convention
Christians for Biblical Equality is a nonprofit Christian organization who believe that the Bible, properly interpreted, teaches the fundamental equality of men and women based on the teachings of Scriptures such as Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”. Their facebook page is here
A vimeo video of Christians for Biblical Equality president Dr. Mimi Haddad speaks on "Wisdom from the Early Evangelicals" at Fuller Theological Seminary on January 26, 2012
A youtube video of Christian women sharing their journey in believing in gender equality
A youtube video of Rev. Dr. Katie Hays--pastor and speaker at the 2012 Conference "A New Creation. A New Tradition. Reclaiming the Biblical Tradition of Man and Woman, One in Christ" in Houston, TX--endorsing Christians for Biblical Equality
Baptist Women For Equality is a group of Baptists who support gender equality in the Baptist Church.
A youtube video of Shirley Taylor criticizing the Counsel on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood statement that "Women are equal, but different."
Unitarian Universalist Women's Federation UUWF was formed in 1963 through consolidation of the Association of Universalist Women and the Alliance of Unitarian Women. It aims for justice for women and promotes their spiritual growth. Their facebook page is here