Grasping at Straws?

For many of those directly involved in women's religious life, the choice of Fr. Joseph Tobin is good news. Assuming the testimonials to his being well disposed toward Catholic women is well founded, that enthusiasm is understandable.

It's a ray of hope, though likely a very thin ray.

From the periphery, it seems likely to be a shrewd political move intended to soften criticism of the investigations and deflect attention away from the ingrained sexism and animosity toward Vatican II renewal that Fr. Tobin, with all the good will in the world, won't have the standing to influence. Perhaps he will lobby Cardinal Rode to tone down some of his pronouncements at the end of the investigations, but the cardinal has the final word and belongs to that inner circle that still thinks too many American sisters have forsaken "real" religious life.

So I hope the good Fr. Tobin can be more than a sop to the critics and can spearhead major reform, but don't expect him to be even if his heart and theology are in the right place. And I trust that the many sisters who are so deserving of bundles of hope have the wisdom and discernment to see the appointment of Fr. Tobin for what it is, a step forward if a limited one.

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