|Sister Nora Nash OSF and Spiritual Advisor|
I have to admit that while historians are supposed to be able to discuss economics intelligibly, it has never been my strength—and contemporary global economics are far too complex for my understanding and analysis. But not Sister Nora Nash. She had a grasp on issues from C.E.O. compensation to the complexities of Tax-free industrial zones in developing nations where children, women, and men are held in virtual slavery producing everything from the screen on my computer on which I am writing this entry to the sneakers I am wearing.
Sister is one of the driving forces of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. The ICCR is a coalition of 275 faith-based institutional investors that advocates for corporate responsibility and files shareholder resolutions while leveraging corporate management on a variety of issues from human rights and corporate governance to global warming and consumer protection. While there are dozens of organizations pursuing socially responsible investing, ICCR is the one that is seen as having the most moral integrity and social credibility. Among the faith-based organizations comprising ICCR are the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Unitarian Universalist Association, Quakers, and dozens of Religious communities of Roman Catholic Sisters. Catholic dioceses and their bishops have been more reluctant to get on the moral bandwagon. ICCR has taken on issues with Coca-Cola, Pfizer, the Gap, and Wal-Mart.
Sister Nora is very much the heart and soul—and face—of ICCR. Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, once flew his helicopter to Nora’s convent in Aston PA to meet with her in an effort to defuse a conflict that would have embarrassed GE before its investors. No one wants an old nun to show up at a stock-holders’ meeting with her proxy vote and moral high-ground. Nora has taken on Nestlé over labor policies, McDonald’s over childhood obesity, several grocery chains about farm-worker exploitation, and Wells-Fargo over lending policies. She has exposed child labor in the chocolate industry and gone after big-oil on environmental issues.
Sister Nora, of course, does not wear a floor length robe tied with the white Franciscan cord—nor does she wear a wimple and veil. I have always liked nun-drag. I had a great aunt in Sister Nora’s community and I have great memories of the Sisters in their traditional garb bringing us milk and cookies when we would visit her. On the other hand, not only were those clothes uncomfortable, they were psychologically dis-empowering. One of the Franciscan priest-chaplains at Sister Nora’s convent explained: “When you dress everyone the same, 18 hours a day, seven days a week, every week of the year, a person loses his or her sense of individuality—and thus both creativity and personal power. It is different for us men (he was in his brown Franciscan robes), we put the habit on and take it off—and beneath it we wear what shirt and slacks we choose. And we don’t have to wear it all if we so choose. But for the women it was a means of control—whether consciously done so or not—and as long as the women were in their habits they stayed in their traditional roles of third-grade teachers or nurses or cooks or seamstresses. Now that they dress as they choose they are lawyers, journalists, physicians, social workers, potters, artists, or Nora Nash. They dress simply and economically—and you will notice that these sisters all wear a San-Damiano Cross around their necks or pinned to their jackets as a sign of their Consecration and their Franciscan Commitment.”
Now I see more clearly what is really behind this persecution of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. Too many Nora Nashes will bring down the house upon the bishops and their powerful friends. The women need to be put back, if not into their veils at least into their cookie-mold roles, and told to keep their eyes lowered and their mouths shut. Of course, maybe if we took bishops out of their uniforms and let them dress like men we might get some bishops who would take on the prophetic roles and speak the Truth in this world of lies. But then Pope Francis seems to be able to do that regardless of wearing his pope clothes so maybe at least in this situation it is not the clothes that make the man. In the meantime most of us are looking to the nuns, not the bishops, for moral guidance. You go girls!!!