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On the cover of Harper's Magazine, "Francis and the Nuns" by Prof. Mary Gordon '71

An article by bestselling author and Barnard's Millicent C. McIntosh Professor in English and Writing Mary Gordon '71 appears on the cover of the August issue of Harper's Magazine. Her essay, "Francis and the Nuns: Is the new Vatican all talk?" explores the complex relationship between Pope Francis I and American Nuns. An overview from Harper's editor:

"I think I can say with certainty that Francis I is the first pope to have been named Time magazine’s Person of the Year and to have made the cover of Rolling Stone. He is celebrated by progressives both inside and outside the Catholic Church for his seemingly liberal views. Yet as Mary Gordon reports, one group has been disappointed in him so far: American nuns. Exemplified by Sister Simone Campbell and her lobbying group, Network, these women are at the forefront of social action in the United States. But their positions on the Affordable Care Act, abortion, and gay marriage have put them at odds with the Catholic hierarchy. In “Francis and the Nuns: Is the new Vatican all talk?” Gordon describes this ecclesiastical clash and criticizes the supposedly populist pontiff for supporting the wrong side."

An excerpt from Prof. Gordon's article:

"At least since the priesthood was first shaken by the sexual-abuse scandal two decades ago, and perhaps even before then, America’s nuns have been the de facto leaders of the country’s liberal Catholics, especially those more interested in social justice than in holding the Vatican’s line on sexual politics. Like Francis himself, these women have been reprimanded for failing to give sufficient attention to abortion, contraception, and gay marriage. Their choice to focus instead on the needs of the poor has been met with heavy-handed behavior both from Rome and from U.S. bishops. In recent years, two separate Vatican bureaucracies have launched investigations of American nuns. If the new pope were serious about shifting the Church’s attention, one sign might be his treatment of these women. They are a mainstay in inner-city schools and hospitals; they are an important presence in shelters for the homeless and for victims of domestic violence; they minister in prisons and in various venues that serve the mentally ill. They carry the heaviest loads. But a year and a half into his papacy, Pope Francis is looking an awful lot like his predecessors."

Read the full article.

Prof. Gordon is the author of four bestselling novels. She has also published a book of novellas, a collection of stories, and a book of essays.