A reader writes:

Craig A. Monson writes that "nuns in cloisters had 'had the vote' for a millennium or more, choosing which women might join them and electing sisters to fill convent offices." Seriously? Being able to vote for "Which women might join them and electing sisters to fill convent offices" is not the vote. It's not even slightly analogous to the actual franchise. Could they vote for who became the pope? Could they vote for what sorts of people where allowed to become priests or cardinals? Could they vote on who was beatified or on church dogma? Could they vote on anything of importance to the Catholic Church? No. In fact, they still can't. How could you give that idea any credit?

Another writes:

It seems somewhat unfair to come down so harshly against Benedict. It doesn't really seem consistent with the nuance that so generally characterizes your observations. 

The Church is far too slow to react to shifting realities much of the time, but the very reason for this - its firm commitment to what it believes to be a deeper, unchanging reality of human nature - is not in itself a thing to be laughed at.  We should understand the rarity of an institution that believes there is anything in this existence possessing constancy, and much of modernity's flailing attempt at maintaining a real ethic has to do with its contradicting notion that there is really no foundation to base it on.  We should certainly be critical of an institution like the RC Church, but to say that "in Benedict's church, the only ideas allowed are his," isn't fair. 

You'll find much searching and uncertainty in his own words, and you'll find a great diversity of opinion from top to bottom in the institution as a whole. "Benedict's Church" has time and again throughout the last century alone provided us with some of the most progressive voices.  Indeed, if you ask any of these nuns in Europe, or those in the States who have been criticized for deviating from established norms, if their deviance speaks for or against the Church, they will tell you "for" without a moment's hesitation.  This is called critical participation, and any worthwhile institution experiences it. 

Benedict has never taken cover behind infallibility, and there's a reason for it.  As he said himself, "The Pope is not an oracle; he is infallible in very rare situations, as the world well knows."

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