Women’s Rights Activists, Atheists, Protest Pope Crackdown on Nuns

Written by Luke Thomas. Posted in Human Interest, News, Religion

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Published on April 28, 2012 with 2 Comments

Protesters rally outside St. Mary's Cathedral in San Francisco against the Catholic Church's crackdown on nuns and women's reproduction rights.

Protesters held a rally outside St. Mary's Cathedral in San Francisco today to protest the Catholic Church's crackdown on nuns and women's rights. Photos by Luke Thomas.

By Luke Thomas

April 28, 2012

Livid over the Catholic Church’s crackdown on nuns and women’s rights, activist groups held national coordinated rallies today to send a clear message to Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican:

Back off. This is 2012, not 1968.

The kerfuffle centers over Benedict signing off last week on a crackdown of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), the organization that represents 57,000 nuns in the United States, accusing LCRW of not doing enough to speak out against gay marriage, contraception, abortion and women’s ordination – doctrinal issues the Catholic Church orthodoxy refuses to compromise on.

The LCWR is under investigation by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith – the Vatican agency charged with overseeing orthodoxy, which Benedict, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, led for more than 20 years – for its endorsement support of President Obama’s health care reforms which includes a mandate that provides insurance coverage for birth control.

Those who attended a rally held outside St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco this morning, comprising atheists and women’s rights activists, accused the Vatican of hypocrisy saying Catholic bishops disgraced the Church when they attempted to cover up the widely reported molestations of children by priests.

“I believe that the Catholic Church is sending a message to women that they do not have the right to have any control over their bodies when it comes to reproduction,” said Ruth Robertson, a women’s rights activist.  “I believe also they have subjugated the nuns and the recent activities of the nuns who have tried to speak up against what the pope recently said and that is that the Catholic Church should not spend as much time in worrying about the matters of reproductive rights as much as other issues that it is going through, and I say that there has been so many instances of cover ups in the church regarding its own sexual misgivings and misdeeds that it is absolutely egregious that they would feel that they could say to a women what controls she should, or should not have, over her body.”

“It is blatant hypocrisy,” Robertson added.

The rally, which attracted about two-dozen protesters who held signs up to passers by and motorists traveling along the busy Geary Street thoroughfare, was sponsored by Atheists Advocates of San Francisco, San Francisco Atheists and East Bay Atheists.

Larry Hicok, the California State Director for American Atheists who was raised in a conservative Presbyterian religious setting, said, “The Catholic Church has really been putting women in their place lately.  It’s been fighting women on all their reproductive rights and all of the rights they have gotten over the years – it’s trying to push the calendar back.”

California State Director for American Atheists Larry Hicok.

California State Director for American Atheists Larry Hicok.

“I think it’s very important to point out that most of the arguments against gays and against women come from the church – they come from religion, whatever church it might be – and also a lot of the churches, like the Catholics and Mormons, spend huge amounts of money pressuring to push back the calendar.”

Hicok cited Proposition 8, a California ballot measure passed in 2008 that aimed to eliminate the rights of same-sex couples to marry but was upheld as unconstitutional in February, as an example of religious groups – including the Catholic Church and the Church of Latter Day Saints – using vast financial resources to impose its doctrines on citizens.

““My message is primarily to liberal religionists and people who are liberal religionists in disguise in whatever church they may be in, that they should break with the church; that these major organized religions are extremely negative influences in our country and the world – I think they’re going to destroy the world,” Hicok said.

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Luke Thomas

Luke Thomas is a former software developer and computer consultant who proudly hails from London, England. In 2001, Thomas took a yearlong sabbatical to travel and develop a photographic portfolio. Upon his return to the US, Thomas studied photojournalism to pursue a career in journalism. In 2004, Thomas worked for several neighborhood newspapers in San Francisco before accepting a partnership agreement with the SanFranciscoSentinel.com, a news website formerly covering local, state and national politics. In September 2006, Thomas launched FogCityJournal.com. The BBC, CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News, New York Times, Der Spiegel, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Magazine, 7x7, San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco Bay Guardian and the San Francisco Weekly, among other publications and news outlets, have published his work. Thomas is a member of the Freelance Unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild, TNG-CWA Local 39521 and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.

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  1. Thanks so much to Luke for this story. At our high point we had 33 people, and I think everyone had a great time. There is something very satisfying about having so many people honk and wave in support of you. And it feels great to do something to affect change, rather than just sitting back and complaining about how bad things are getting.

  2. It’s sad and scary that we’re still protesting this sort of thing in 2012.