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January 11, 2007


Thanks Sara, certainly a "stimulating" post

I learn something new every day, and this tidbit was unusual, to say the least

I don't really understand what "the de Namur body language" is, but I get the idea that Nancy Pelosi is from a group of Christians who actually attempt to emulate Jesus, by helping the poor

this would be a BIG contrast to the "Talabangelical christians who give lip service to Jesus as a cover for their homophobia and hatred

I generally don't trust Catholics, due to their opposition to a woman's right to choose an abortion over being forced to raise an unwanted child

I'm glad to learn that there are actually people in this world who believe in Jesus' message, instead of just mouthing the words of belief to achieve some "other worldly" benidiction or forgiveness

maybe you should kill that mouse more often


I went to a Sacred Heart high school -while not a catholic I have an understanding of the catholic feminist culture of elite nuns and schools. The other thing to consider is Vatican II, which rocked the catholic establishment in the '60's, empowered activism and liberation theology, and had many nuns questioning their mission and vatican authority. This wave influenced everyone touched by it. The pope almost OK'd abortion and there was alot of lay power-taking in the church.

O/T-- but godaddy.com is saying the "www.thenexthurrah.com" domain name expired on 1/6/07. Is anyone thinking of renewing this domain? Not that it's all that hard to remember to type thenexthurrah.blogspot.com, but it would be nice to still have the .com domain.

Actually, it's worse than that, as the "parked" page is all ads for CONSERVATIVES! For example, human events, Ann Coulter, Dinesh D'Souza. That's gotta be fixed!

I don't really understand what "the de Namur body language" is

My thoughts exactly. Sara, please enlighten us- examples? Posture? Gestures? Positioning in a room?

Can we expect her to reflexively punch W below the belt if he attempts to rub her shoulders? And then stomp on his face with the secret Catholic poison knife in her Earth shoes?

I was raised Catholic, but not in Catholic schools...

For Roman Catholics, Pope John the 23rd was an exceedingly Xtian oasis of otherwise mostly really subXtian, anti-modernity popes in the 20th Century. Per Carolyn in Baltimore, it was John 23rd and Vatican II that allowed Catholic Feminists to flourish along side Liberation Theologians (aka German Political Theology) and the ecumenical movement that tried to build bridges between Xtians. Elizabeth Schuessler Fiorenza, Ph.D., Rosemary Ruether., Ph.D., are names of two outstanding Feminist (choice) Roman Catholic theologians, but there are others. Pedro Arrupe, S.J. wrote an awful lot about social justice and the "preferential option for the poor." I believe emptywheel's Mom worked for the Jesuits and imho the influence is evident. John Paul II paid Arrupe back by suspending him as Jesuit General and installing himself as head of the Jesuits in the 80's. Current pontif, former Cardinal Ratzinger (Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith aka Orthodoxy police) , has done everything possible to execute an intellectual genocide against all these scholars. (In the 60's he wrote some great stuff on Baptism, but soon after saw that the power shift in Rome was back to the anti-moderns and of course he followed.) The Roman Catholic Church has never had a "priest shortage," they have systematically refused to ordain qualified candidates who were the "wrong" gender or who wanted to marry. This goes counter to Xtian history as celibacy was never "mandatory" for ministers until the 11th Century. Why RC Bishops prefer to ordain men who often have a history of sex with minor boys and nothing to distinguish them as ministers beyond a willingness to lie about their committment to celibacy, is a testimony to the worst in humanity. The departure of many RC's from the ministry, to be married, has left what many call the "church mice" in charge. They ignore the social meanings of the Gospel to instead focus exclusively on rubrics and topics such as whether married couples ought to engage in sex after the woman is no longer fertile. IIRC, Casti Connubi (1930) was the first papal encyclical to raise this issue. As bad as these are, imho, they don't begin to rival the virulent anti-semitism of Pius XII, who made Hitler's Final Solution so much easier.

FWIW, CS Lewis had a pithy little book, MERE XTIANITY, many years ago which tried to explain the fundamental beliefs that all Xtians hold. Aside from the sexist language, IIRC, it has stood the test of time very well.

Wrt what separates Roman Catholics from other Xtians, non theological issues such as "culture" play an enormous role. Theologically, the differences imho start with the completely ahistorical and indefensible loyalty to the Bishop of Rome. Then, is Jesus "transubstantially" or "consubstantially" present in the Eucharist? RC's say "transubstantial," reformed say "consubstantial." Arcane doesn't begin to describe what those two renderings of "symbolic" mean. IMHO, a more modern study of what Xtians share can be found in the writing of the Jesus Seminar . They place Jesus within the larger Jewish, Greek, and Roman traditions in which he lived. This enables them to isolate his rather unique understanding of the benevolent, but fair nature of God.

As one of Nancy's constituents, this strikes me as a sound observation. In San Francisco, 30 years ago, the elite was Catholic, Irish and Italian, and came from and out of Catholic sensibilities (mixed Vatican II and pre-John 23 antediluvian). The mayor, George Moscone, assasinated along with Harvey Milk in 1979, was one of these. We're a more mixed bag today, not surprisingly.

A friend who organizes among immigrant workers reports that the de Namurs who still have a college near here are the very most helpful of the Catholic religious orders to her efforts to rally community support.

Interestingly, Dianne Feinstein went to Convent of the Sacred Heart in SF, IIRC. She was also educated by the nuns until she went to Stanford.

Nancy Pelosi is a multi-faceted person. She was the only girl of 5 children, and must have gotten a strong sense of identity from mother or the nuns or someone or all of them. Her husband (who chooses her clothes) is quite wealthy, and in San Francisco she moves easily in the top business circles and is a phenomenal fundraiser. The Chamber of Commerce Pres looked forward to working with her.

But she also deeply cares about a number of liberal causes, and here I think one does see the influence of Vatican II, liberal Catholicism and the early '60s ferment on the last of the Silent Generation. She is not about to be silenced by anyone and will be disregarded at their peril.

In the 1950s selecting sectarian education was a difficult choice for parent and child. In our times the grandest institutions of higher learning fairly well have dissolved the sexist barriers which characterized the 1950s and early 60s. A lot of this discussion to me appears tantamount to sensationalizing what was an obdurate form of repression which the generations passed along to each succeeding crop of progeny in those early times in our ever more secular society.

Historically there was a time when institutional sectarian entities preserved much of worth in both secular and ethical realms, though these are mutually misced in some views.

Let me evoke yet a different image to contrast the Namur vision. Consider a 1950s or 1960s woman graduate of a liberal arts college unburdened with the overlay of theistic cosmogany. The view of sectarian graduates as beheld from the perspective of grads from, say, Barnard, Radcliffe, Vassar, in those two decades, likely would clarify exactly what were the values young women sought then. There are parallels in the 1950s-1960s epochs among male only institutions. Those were times of change, yielding now to nearly indistinguishable ranges of composition of student population, intermixing sexes, people of various ethnicities.

Yet, like the upheavals in the early 20th century which indelibly impacted its creative people, the mid and late 20th century social evolution in western countries similarly stamped its youth with the telltale experiential vestages of times now fortunately long past.

Which is to say, I expect Nancy Pelosi to continue to be a politician and woman of the current times, as much as any Vassar graduate who later excelled in politics might.

Nancy is 66, so I would assume she finished college just before Vatican II. At that time virtually all the instructors at Trinity would have been de Namur nuns. Unlike many other orders that focused on teaching in Parish Schools in the lower grades, this order had a fairly long history of well educating the teaching members -- MA's and PhD's were pretty common even among those teaching at the lower levels. They were far better educated than the average Parish Priest -- more parallel with the Jesuit tradition. Thus internally and in the context of Girls and Womens schools, they had a status based on individual accomplishment.

The order's foundation right in the wake of the terror following the French Revolution is important. The order was founded in France, and quickly moved to Belgium to excape the anti-Clericalism of the French Revolution, but in a sense it was also a product of the Revolution. The Jesuit influenced analysis of the Revolution included the understanding that a middle class, a Bourgtoise, would emerge that would require the education of women -- both for successful family life, and for economic and social security -- thus the necessity for talented teaching orders dedicated to the education of women, both the poor (in the US, the immigrants) and the children born into the middle class who needed an education to retain that status. The Jesuit perspective on this was that education into the middle class would be a brake on the kind of terror that accompanied the French Revolution. It's in this context that the de Namur order was founded. Many of their academies and colleges much predate the Catholic Parochial School system, as that was only promoted after the civil war when states began to require public school attendence. In response to the supposition that the Public Schools were Protestant, the Bishops in the US required parishes to build schools. (1880's) The religious order academies frequently date from the 1830's or so -- I believe Trinity College dates from the 1870's, with its foundation supported by the Georgetown Jesuits. Students would have, in the first generations, been primarily the graduates of the religious order private academies, and it would only be in the early 20th century that the colleges would begin to serve the parochial school graduates.

My argument is that we need to see these institutions as an alternative source for Feminism, supportive of and alongside our more standard assumptions about the "burned over area" in Central New York as the locus for the Suffrage Movement foundations. The goals are different in some ways -- they always held up the interest in creating and maintaining an independent Women owned and managed institution, free from the control of men in the context of the RC structure that gives all leadership roles to men. And in creating these schools they successfully provided an arena where women could be scholars...Professionals.

So Pelosi really emerged from the last generation of this pre-Vatican II Culture. After Vatican II all the little rules about how to sit, stand, move things along politely but with leadership, were cast by the wayside as something of a new, and perhaps more homogonized culture was being created -- and as the modern Feminist Movement with different goals was being built in parallel. But I was just fascinated watching Pelosi in action on Swearing in Day move all those family groups through the picture taking process and recognized the stance, the body language and all the rest. It was just a realization that I know where that comes from...you don't study with the de Namur's for 16 years without conforming to the culture.

I think it has many implications for how Nancy Pelosi will lead the House over the next few years. Feminist yes, but out of a different branch of Feminism. If we understand it a little, perhaps some of the interactions with little bad boy George and some of the other "toughs" in Congress and the administration will make sense.

Sara - thank you for the post. Very interesting and stimulating.

Great! Yes, too old for Vatican II in school but as a lay person very much influenced later I'm sure.
Your latest comment made me remember how nuns can influence - they are pros at getting things done without begging or even seeming like they're asking. My mom was a part-time music teacher at my school - with full-time committment - she said you could never say no.
I don't know what the training is, but the highly educated and empowered nusn of SCJC and de Namur tradition didn't need rulers to get obediance and respect. I suspect Nancy learned alot of those techniques also in her long education......

I've been watching for comments the last 24 hours on this fascinating diary. I, too, am a pre-VII product of SND - Belmont, CA. And I remember a few things in particular - we were expected to go on to excel at college and change the world, and we were expected to do so as ladies. We had so many, many lectures on the proper way to sit(knees together, legs to the left), how to use one's hands, tone of voice, and ways of introducing people. I particularly remember as a freshman going to my first dance (a formal) at NDB, and being instructed on how to properly introduce my date to the sisters who sat in the parlor and received every couple on their way to the gym for the dance. "Sisters, this is my escort, John Smith." And the sisters would solemnly nod, the boy would murmur "How do you do, sisters", and we would breathe a sigh of relief as we walked into the dance. But that kind of prepares you for all kinds of shit later in life, I have come to understand...

And nobody believes me about the uniforms - we had 4, yes 4. A brown skirt, jacket, beanie, white blouse, brown and white saddle shoes and yellow sweater for every day, and a white serge skirt, blouse, sweater and this odd piece of tulle we purchased at the bookstore - it was about a 24"X36" piece of stiff tulle we were to wear as a veil when wearing our white "dress" uniform, which included white bucks. We had 2 PE uniforms (and we were expected to be competitive athletically, too), one of which was a black Esther Williams-style bathing suit with the tummy-thigh panel, in which we were expected to perform elaborate synchronized swimming routines; and a white knee length canvas dress with, yes really, huge bloomers to wear underneath. So Pelosi's care in dressing herself does not surprise me, nor does her competitiveness.

I have never experienced a more rigorous academic environment since then; and socially, it was much more rigorous than my life as an officer's wife in the US Army for 24 years. And I am one of the SND disappointments...

I went to 12 years of Catholic school in Oakland, CA, taught by the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary nuns. The high school is the only all girls high school left in the East Bay. My pennisula cousins went to Notre Dame in Belmont. The HNJM nuns hail from Canada and arrived in Oakland in the early 1900's. At my all girls high school you were ON THE TEAM, not a relegated cheer leader. Social Justice is taken VERY seriously even today.

Yes, Nancy does have the "Nun Mode" about her. It is commanding and no-nonsense in a way that only been married to Jesus can give you. I can easily slip into the Nun Mode when challenged.

I LOVE the way she speaks of Bush as if he is a naughty, naughty little boy. I bet he is feed up with her "attitude". But he can just stuff it. Nancy is not Laura. She is going about her business and everybody just better get out of the way or get with the program. I hope she can keep it up.

Did you know that she had 5 children in 6 years a 3 months?

You know, I didn't notice the leg position when Nancy and Steny went to see Bush in the Oval Office the day after the election, but on swearing in day after watching the management of all those family groups have their formal picture taken, I saw a piece of video re-run, and the leg and knee position hit me hard as confirmation of what I was mulling over. If I remember it all rightly, both the knees and eyes should be pointed at the one you are conversing with, so as to draw them into your heart. You can forget those lessons for years, but you never really forget them.

We didn't have nearly as many uniforms, but they were similar. Brown Skirts, white blouses, short jacket, brown sweater for cold days in the classroom, penny loafers or brown & white saddle shoes -- and yes, the beannie. And for special days a white dress, blue wool sweater and white shoes. We had a blue jumper thing for sports. (sadly no swimming pool.) And yes, we had the veils. (that was late 40's early 50's).

But what intrigued me most was Nancy's "possession" of these old cultural skills, and how it would work applying them to congress and her leadership role. There could not be a greater cultural contrast between what Nancy seems to have pulled out of the old SND bag, and the bully boy Gingrich and Hastert styles.

And I find I have come to rely on some of these same old cultural skills as I work at the local level in party politics. The thing is, these skills are "uniting" skills as opposed to dominating skills - one "dominates" by uniting, by dignifying all parties instead of objectifying them. The "terror" exists (I was more afraid of sisters than I have been of anyone else in my life), but the methodolgy for completing a task is much different. I think Bill Clinton operated similarly, but with much less discipline.

Find a new computer store, stat!

Most every new mouse sold by Logitech or Miscrosoft comes with a little dongle that adapts them to the non-USB jack required by older computers. Those guys at your store are teh losers.

Yes, but it is a neighborhood store, not a big box place, and it is just three short blocks away. Once in an emergency when things went la la in the midst of a 3 day blizzard, I actually roped the computer to my sled and let my Siberian Husky pull the thing (cushioned in a suitcase) down the hill and back home again. You have to support your neighborhood mouse vendors. They even let me stand inside with my dog and sled while they did whatever they needed to do to make it work right again.

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By chance I came across this blog and the post of January 11. Whatever Nancy Pelosi carries from her education at Trinity College, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur did not teach her for sixteen years. In Baltimore she had attended the Institute of Notre Dame, one of the original American foundations of the School Sisters of Notre Dame (Arme Schulschwestern von unserer lieben Frau). The two congregations have a connection in history but none to speak of in America.

Convent schools were always said to produce ladies, no matter which congregation taught them or what the girls' origins were!

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