In an article by Sister Christine Vladimirof (who has previously refused a request coming from the Vatican) says: [Via Diogenes of Off teh Record]
She said that in addition to the "areas of energy and vision" that she sees among religious orders today, there are areas of struggle and concern. Among those is the decline in numbers of religious and the aging of religious communities.
But, she said, it is not only the religious communities, but the entire population in the U.S. that is aging.
She is on to a partial truth here. Both the general population and religious communities are aging and they both have the same underlying cause, though she doesn’t make the leap to point it out. The graying to our culture is due to abortion, contraception, and a materialistic attitude that is not open to life. With such small families now is it any wonder that there are less people available for vocations to the priesthood or religious life. How many parents will encourage a vocation for a child when they might only have one or two? SInce the Erie Benedictines and especially some of its members are openly supportive of abortion it is no surprise that they do not make the connection between their own beliefs and the decline of their order.
Now I am no expert on Dominican history, but the following statement doesn’t ring true to me.
"During the Reformation, the Dominicans were founded to preach and to help defend the faith. In this third millennium, maybe we have to re-found our institutions."
St. Dominic was preaching a couple hundred years before the Reformation and worked tirelessly to defeat the Albigensian heresy. If he was alive today he would probably start preaching in some Dominican and Benedictine con vents..
The institutional church is a human construct, she said, "fallible, provisional and in need of constant renewal."
"The structures and policies are always behind where the spirit is moving us," she said.
While it is certainly true that the Church is always in need of renewal (just as individually we are) I believe Jesus would be surprised that he founded a human construct.
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.
When Sr.Christine speaks of a “decline in numbers of religious and the aging of religious communities,” she may be speaking only for the communities associated with the LCWR:Leadership Conference of Women Religious http://www.lcwr.org, of which she is currently the president.
I understand that in 1992 CMSWR:Conference of Major Superiors of Women Religious http://www.cmswr.org, was canonically approved. The members of CMSWR tend to be younger, wear habits, educate children etc. I do not believe that Sr. Christine speaks for this group.
I would be interesting to compare the amounts of the grants for retired religious allocated for each group. When we give to the bishop’s collection for retired religious are we indeed supporting dissidence?
I think — though I may be wrong — that we are supporting poor old people, leaving the judgment of their moral to Another.
The poor old people are the good nuns from Erie, Pa. who taught me in elementary and high school. Yes, they deserve much better than they have today. The Sr. Christines are simply not taking care of their own. Peace, Loretta
Jeff, I think you might be laboring under a false presumption or two. In the midst of them, you are correct that family encouragement of vocations has dropped significantly. But unlike in 1920, the one or two children need not take over the family farm or business to maintain the parents in retirement.
Secondly, Sr Christine makes the distinction between the institution and the full reality of the Church. You seem to assume the institutional hierarchy and the Church Jesus founded are exactly identical. They are not. The assessment would be what Jesus would think of the curia, the cardinals, the Vatican Bank, episcopal mansions, and other modern trappings of the institution.
Even in the 1920 the paradigm of needing children for a family farm had already shifted. The shift now is that parents think that all children must go to university and be professionally successful. A loss of a child to religious life is seen as a threat to the view of things. Larger families teach the opposite of selfishness and a more direct reliance on God’s providence. Shutting off the tap of children has unsurprisingly cut off religious vocations. For example just how many saints were the first or second born? With the modern attitude there certainly would be no St. Terese, much less a St. Catherine of Sienna.
You should agree that the Pope at least is an institution set up by Christ. She has directly defied the Pope multiple times via his writings or directly by refusing to keep a nun in her convent from participating in a womens ordination conference.
Jeff, as I said, I agree with you that parents think religious life is an unattractive choice for their children. My experience is that it is due more to negative impressions of religious life and clergy than (necessarily) positive impressions of various career options.
I’m not sure I would equate public disagreement with the pope with a rejection of the institution of the papacy. Certainly, the papacy has undergone human social evolution in the past millennia. I think we can easily fall into the realm of support and faithfulness and be critical at the same time.
Wait a minute, are we probirth or prolife? Anyone who saw Sr. Joan on NOW with Bill Moyers knows what the Erie Benedictine believes.
Sadly, we Catholics have limited ourselves to the probirth position ignoring the needs of post birth children. Do we fight for access to heath care and education once these babies have been born? No.
It’s ironic that we are discussing prolife causes at a time when we celebrate the birth of Christ. Do not remember one of the first acts done by the Holy Family? They became refugees fleeing a land out of fear. Do we, as a Catholic Community, welcome the refugees as much as we fight for the probirth cause? Do we seek to give the word ‘prolife’ meaning for babies once they are living? Where is the fight for heath care and education to sustain these newborns.
Let’s be clear about our choice of words.
Vince – you are completely wrong in saying pro-lifers don’t support and nourish life after birth.
A very real example is that our parish has an active Mother and Child Ministries. My wid and I support a child in Rwanda. The Catholic healthcare system provides care for millions. Catholic schools provide good education for poorer kids who aren’t Catholic through reduced tuition – these examples are carried out by millions of us.
Again – you are absolutely wrong.
I think Vince’s post is not totally wrong, nor is it totally accurate. Certainly Seamless Garment Catholics cannot be accused of the neglect of children born. Even the “radical” anti-abortion bishops have shown support for social services provided by the government to assist families in poverty.
It’s probably safe to say that some people are anti-abortion, and they care little for social services to infants once born. Some people, even Catholics, would oppose abortion, but also oppose Republican efforts to trim back society’s safety nets.
I think Vince is somewhere between “absolutely wrong” and being right.
Todd: I oppose the government usurping the Church’s responsibility for charity and the acquiescence of Church members in allowing the government to play that role. We are a less charitable (and Christian) society for letting the goverment be the safety net.
Sister Christine was talking in the article about living a gospel led life and serving the poor. There is no doubt that the numbers of Religious Sisters have declined in the most recent decade. Most Religious Sisters provide services for the community that benefit the children, the homeless, victims of domestic abuse and those who are underserved by our society’s basic resources. Our resources financially come for the most part from the income of our Sisters and our Benedictine communities are self supporting. The small stipend that some communities may or may not recieve annually from the fund for Religious Retired is in most cases at best less than what is spent on a retired Sister for two weeks or one month out of 12 months of care. Your disagreement with the position of the Erie Sisters should not have a connection with attacking the small assistance that the old and weak of their community receive. It is Christian to give to those in need. I would not require a starving person to tell me their moral beliefs before giving them a loaf of bread. You bring up issues to discuss, but please don’t kick the faithful old Sisters verbally because you did not agree with a statement by one of their Sisters. Also please realize that because one Sister says something that does not mean we all believe the same thing.
No where in my post did I attack them for any good works they have done. Also you said
“Also please realize that because one Sister says something that does not mean we all believe the same thing.”
I have been following this order for some time and the reason that Sister Christine is still voted in as the prioress is because the whole community agrees with here. When the Vatican asked her to prevent one of her sisters from going to a women’s ordination conference she raised a vote in the convent about it. Only one sister (who has since) left voted to obey the Vatican. The convent as a whole also used money to buy ad space in he NYT to ask the Church to soften it’s stand on abortion.
I find your comment a non-sequitor with what I actually posted. I connected the decline in religious life to their exact same support of abortion and contraception. No where did I condemn any good works they might do. But as a Catholic organization beside helping the poor they should not at the same time promote the execution of the poorest of the poor and the Innocent – the child in the womb.
There is also another related connection. They only religious orders actually growing in the U.S. are ones faithful to the Church. The decline is most seen in diocese and convents that have departed to some extent from the faith. You can easily look at what diocese are actually increasing seminarians and building new seminaries and directly relating that the the orthodoxy of their Bishop. Progressive religious orders are a disease that eventually cures itself, though I pray that they change and return rather then die out.
It is a matter of record that in 2003 the Erie Benedictines received $57,273.21 from the bishops’ National Retirement Office. You may be paying too much for you elder care. Peace, Loretta
I think it is rather strange that the Erie Benedictine nuns take hope in a quote by Margaret Mead “Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. In fact, that is all that ever has” (http://www.eriebenedictines.org/erieosb/www.html).
Mead was a an early proponent of birth control, an advocate of the repeal of anti-abortion laws, and a supporter of the right to die – directly opposite of Church teachings on these grave moral matters. Couldn’t they find hope in someone who supports Church teachings?
Interesting track on this thread. First I disagree with this comment: “We are a less charitable (and Christian) society for letting the goverment be the safety net.”
I would say the opposite is true. And just because the government provides a safety net, that doesn’t mean churches have no direct responsibility. It’s not like the Republicans and the churches are falling all over themselves eradicating poverty in the US. Seems to me there’s plenty of work to be done. And ultimately, it is the voting public who decides the degree of government assistance.
Jeff’s comment, “the reason that Sister Christine is still voted in as the prioress is because the whole community agrees with here,” is something he cannot possibly know. She may well be the best leader. Members might well agree with her views. But the comment is out of line.
“When the Vatican asked her to prevent one of her sisters from going to a women’s ordination conference she raised a vote in the convent about it.”
This is an old story and has, at best, tenuous relevance to the post. The difference of opinion was over the governance of members of a religious order: does authority reside in the community and with the prioress, or with the Vatican?
“They only religious orders actually growing in the U.S. are ones faithful to the Church.”
This is actually untrue. Some orders who follow schismatic bishops also are growing. What would be very interesting is to assess if lay women and men who might be candidates for priesthood or religious life are living lives of holiness in the world? Is such a witness “worse” than having full convents and seminaries?
Jeff…I personally do not believe that anyone should promote abortion. I also believe that as Catholics we need to be unified and supportive of the Vatican. I am concerned that dividing our Church into “those who are faithful to the Church” vs “progressive” might do more harm than healing… grace and peace
Why hasn’t anyone on this thread called the Erie Benedictines what they truly are? Heretics!