Apr 152013

I was wondering when the media honeymoon with Pope Francis would be over.

Pope Francis reaffirms crackdown on U.S. nuns

The L.A. Times uses a picture of smiling nuns/sisters wearing habits with the caption. “Nuns greet Pope Francis as he arrives in St. Peter’s Square for his inauguration Mass at the Vatican last month. The pope has reaffirmed a crackdown by his predecessor, Benedict XVI, on American nuns.”

Well I guess one man’s “reform” is another man’s “crackdown,”

Vatican City, 15 April 2013 (VIS) – “Today, the Superiors of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith met with the Presidency of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) of the United States of America. Archbishop James Peter Sartain, archbishop of Seattle, Washington, USA, and the Holy See’s Delegate for the Doctrinal Assessment of the LCWR, also participated in the meeting,” informs a communique from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

“As this was his first opportunity to meet with the Presidency of the LCWR, the Prefect of the Congregation, Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Muller, expressed his gratitude for the great contribution of women Religious to the Church in the United States as seen particularly in the many schools, hospitals, and institutions of support for the poor which have been founded and staffed by Religious over the years.”

“The Prefect then highlighted the teaching of the Second Vatican Council regarding the important mission of Religious to promote a vision of ecclesial communion founded on faith in Jesus Christ and the teachings of the Church as faithfully taught through the ages under the guidance of the Magisterium. He also emphasized that a Conference of Major Superiors, such as the LCWR, exists in order to promote common efforts among its member Institutes as well as cooperation with the local Conference of Bishops and with individual Bishops. For this reason, such Conferences are constituted by and remain under the direction of the Holy See.”

“Finally, Archbishop Muller informed the Presidency that he had recently discussed the Doctrinal Assessment with Pope Francis, who reaffirmed the findings of the Assessment and the program of reform for this Conference of Major Superiors.” (source)

The LCWR apologists are of course out in force trying to spin this.

Sister Simone Campbell says “The censure (of the LCWR) has always been about politics.” When you see everything via a political lens instead of the eyes of faith then of course this is how you frame it.

What has always annoyed me about the LCWR apologists is how disingenuous they are. First off they tried to redirect any criticism of the LCWR as an attack on all religious and even an attack on religious in the past. They totally got the media to buy into this lie and they cooperated with that lie by repeating it. They made it so that to critique any problematic aspect of the LCWR was to disrespect any good American religious have ever done. The fact that they never acknowledge just one problematic action regarding the LCWR makes me not trust a word they say. When a group comes under a doctrinal assessment and the group decides to have a Barbara Marx Hubbard as the keynote speaker there are serious problems. That a group of Catholic religious would sit and listen to the just-plain-whacky meanderings that refer to Jesus as a “post-human universal person” and the same person previously said that she channeled “Christ.” The LCWR apologists at America Magazine and elsewhere had nothing to say about Barbara Marx Hubbard and her Pelagian consciousness evolution.

No the LCWR apologists pretend to be the great defenders of Catholic religious life in the United States while having nothing to say about it’s decline in numbers. We constantly get stories regarding the problems with priestly religious vocations mainly as a drumbeat for women’s ordination and married priests. Yet there seems to be no concern that the very religious orders they champion are dying out.

Fr. James Martin SJ, a prominent LCWR apologist had this bit of spin regarding that fact.

“One of the most striking findings regarding new entrants is that almost equal numbers of women have been attracted to institutes in both conferences of women religious in the U.S. in recent years. As of 2009, L.C.W.R. institutes reported 73 candidates/postulants, 117 novices and 317 sisters in temporary vows/commitment. C.M.S.W.R. institutes reported 73 candidates/postulants, 158 novices and 304 sisters in temporary vows/commitment. (There are 150 nuns in formation in U.S. monasteries.)”

Wow you would think that the two institutes are roughly equal. Funny that he did not mention the 4-to–1 ratio of LCWR to CMSWR respondents and that the LCWR is a much larger group. Joanne McPortland did a good job of calling out the phoniness of this comparison. Besides what was the last new foundation any of these orders made?

The simple fact is that the leadership of the LCWR needs to be reformed and that mostly goes for the orders they represent. I realize that there are certainly members in these orders that are not happy with the LCWR or the direction religious life has taken. But the LCWR apologists are not helping since by spinning the actual problems they contribute to them. I would not be surprised to see the LCWR lose its canonically approved status rather than to cooperate with a reform. Still I have read enough history of the Church to see this as nothing new as there has always been an ebb and flow in religious orders and periods of laxity and reform.

No the pill of orthodoxy is very bitter when contrasted to the sweet itchings of the ear of heterodoxy. 2 Timothy 4:3

  2 Responses to “I say reform, you say crackdown”

  1. My local paper, Newsday, included this gem: “On Monday, the heads of the conference met with the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Gerhard Mueller, who is in charge of the crackdown.”

  2. I thought this might be helpful for folks attempting to explain to friends and neighbors what’s wrong with the LCWR and why the reform is so necessary.

    What does radical feminism in the Catholic Church and women’s religious orders look like? From the side of someone who may well be a supporter or at least sympathetic to this approach, there’s a classic overview from Thomas Rausch, SJ’s Catholicism in the Third Millennium:

    …Feminist spirituality is a relatively new field that has grown out of the struggle of women for equality in both society and Church. It is a particular expression of liberation theology. Like feminist theology (for it is often difficult to separate theology and spirituality) feminist spirituality covers a broad spectrum of positions and persons in the contemporary Catholic Church. Some feminist theologians have moved explicitly beyond the Christian tradition; their theological interests focus on the pre-Christian European worship of the Goddess, a nature religion also known as Wicca. Mary Daly is among those feminists who identify themselves as post-Christian. Others, such as Rosemary Radford Ruether and Elisabeth Schussler-Fiorenza, have challenged the tradition in a radical way from within. What is common to most feminist theologians is a concern to bring the often neglected experience of women into the theological enterprise.

    Feminist spirituality seeks to articulate a vision of the spiritual life that can embrace the experience of women, particularly their experience of oppression; it seeks to address their particular needs and help them reappropriate their own spiritual power. Consciousness raising is a first step toward a genuine feminist spiritual vision. Women who have so often been defined in terms of their sexual and reproductive functions insist that their value and personal possibilities cannot be deftermined by biology. This feminist spirituality offers women an alternative vision that includes a critique of those forces and movements that have oppressed women and alienated them from themselves. Patriarchy, the structuring of society and culture in terms of male interests and power, and hierarchy, organizing society and Church in terms of higher and lower status, are both rejected. Feminist spirituality emphasizes equality, inclusivity, and mutuality. It prefers the discussion to the lecture, the square to the circle.

    Feminist spirituality differs from much of traditional spirituality in its nondualistic approach to all of reality; it seeks to overcome the split between body and spirit, between spirituality and sexuality, transcendence and immanence, reason and feeling, the sacred and the secular, between this world and the next. It seeks to read the Gospel in such a way that women will be empowered; thus it is uncomfortable with the emphasis in classical theology on losing the self by putting others first, seeing here a reinforcement of the passivity and submission to which so many women have been conditioned by a patriarchal culture and Church. Displacing one’s own ego is fine if one’s temptation is to pride, but for many women the real task of a genuine conversion is to be more assertive, to affirm their own value, and come to a genuine love of self.

    Sandra M. Schneiders lists the following as major characteristics of feminist spirituality: First, it must be rooted in women’s experience. Thus there is generally an emphasis on a personal sharing of stories as a way of recovering what has been repressed and of raising consciousness. Second, it celebrates those aspects of bodiliness, such as menstruation and childbirth, that religion has been silent about. They are life-giving, not shameful. Third, it is concerned with nonhuman nature, with its sense of our organic relationship with the universe; its vision is ecologically sensitive. Fourth, it emphasizes rituals that are inclusive rather than hierarchical, joyful and participative rather than unemotional and dominative. Feminist spirituality is concerned for the renewal of Church ministry, liturgy, organization, and community. Finally, feminist spirituality sees an intrinsic relationship between personal growth and social justice. From the perspective of feminist spirituality, the personal is always political…–Thomas Rausch, Catholicism in the Third Millenium, 2nd Edition, (Michael Glazier Books, 2003), pg. 184-186.


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