Recalcitrant LCWR Digs in Its Heels at Nashville Meeting

Fireworks this week,
as the Leadership Conference of Women Religious met in Nashville for their 2014 annual meeting.

The meeting marks the first time the women’s religious had met since Vatican officials imposed a requirement last April that the group pre-clear its speakers’ lists with Rome.

LCWR leadership had snubbed their noses at that request–instead presenting their highest award, the Outstanding Leadership Award, to Fordham University’s Sr. Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ, who is considered one of the architects of feminist theology.  Sister Johnson’s book Quest for the Living God has been called by the U.S. Bishops’ Conference “seriously inadequate as a presentation of the Catholic understanding of God.”

One might have hoped that the sisters, realizing that they’d irritated the Vatican with their seeming forgetfulness about the “pre-clearing speakers” thing, might have had a low-key conference.  Not so much!

The Tablet reported on the opening address by Sister Carol Zinn, LCWR president:

Sr Carol Zinn, president of the LCWR, urged sisters to “cry out” for justice, inclusivity and compassion in her presidential address on the first full day of the assembly.

“Perhaps we’re singing in muted tones the authentic and radical message of the Gospel and the vision of a Second Vatican Council church as the People of God, all the People of God, walking together,” she said. “Likely, we’re only whispering that Oneness from within and beyond the national world to the most meaningful and sacred relationships, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, economic status, or belief system.”

Umm…. what?  

The Tablet published this photo of the sisters leading a prayer service in multi-colored “vestments”:


Sister Johnson, in the weeks leading up to the conference, had deflected the criticism for her book–first claiming that the bishops clearly had not read the book or didn’t understand it or something.  (The USCCB issued a statement, reiterating its specific criticisms of the book’s theology.)  But Johnson made light of the disagreement in her speech this week, saying, “I think both of us are caught in a situation not of our own making.”

She reiterated the sisters’ demand for autonomy and change, insisting that religious congregations must evolve to meet the needs of a changing society and Church.  “Religious life,” she said, “is always a radical response to the Gospel in a particular historical and cultural context. It is always a response to where you are, making the Gospel present where we are. I want us to be clear about where we are.”

Sister Carol Zinn hinted that the LCWR may, by continuing to resist the Vatican’s directives for the organization, lose its canonical status–but that if that happens, they will push forward with their perceived ministry.  “When many of us started in religious life,” Sr. Carol said, “our congregations were serving in an institutional way,” running schools, hospitals and other large institutions. “That’s shifting. We’re not doing the shifting, God is.” Religious congregations might have to change how they live their charisms, she said. “It might not be consecrated life the way we’ve lived it.”

My colleague at the Catholic Portal on Patheos, Joanne McPortland, wrote a stirring reflection on St. Clare of Assisi, wondering what Clare might say if she were invited to address the LCWR.  Joanne noted that the saint was both insistent and humble, and offered a prayer for guidance in the “nun wars”:

As Clare died to her family, slipping out the secret stairway of death, so may we recognize that our journey only really begins when we die to self, to ego, to winning.

May we turn our eyes and hearts, as Clare did, to the Eucharist, the utterly transformative wedding feast of Christ, without which there is no religious life and no life for the religious.

My we be strict with ourselves, and easy with those we love and lead.

May our lives be the place of solace and asylum where despair turns to joy.

May we never be afraid to engage in sincere dialogue with those who differ with us.

May we recognize the walls of the cloisters in which life places us, often against our will, as enclosing the very heart of peace, found only in surrender.

Santa Chiara, prega per noi!

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  • AnneG

    I’m sorry to see this. I have a very hard time contributing to the collections for retired religious because of these people. I don’t think they understand what being a Christian means, much less what it means to be Catholic.

    • bc3b

      Previous to this generation of nuns, most either taught or worked in hospitals. The nuns who started in the late 1960s and 1970s decided to become freelance social workers, funded by the Church. Even many of the nuns who taught still moved to the left.

      I remember how excited the lay principal at my daughter’s high school was when the school’s last nun announced her retirement. The principal told me, “Our school will be much more Catholic without sister.” A sad commentary.

      The first thing the principal did after the nun left was dissolve the school’s Amnesty International chapter, which sister coordinated.

      • RuariJM

        Amnesty International campaigns on behalf of and seeks to raise awareness of political prisoners and abuse of process across the world.

        I understand the general point you are seeking to make but, personally, I don’t think that symbolically abandoning the unjustly imprisoned is a great way of demonstrating adherence to Catholic teaching!

        The LCWR leadership seems to understand that it has put itself outside the Church. I suspect that its time the Church formally recognised that. Abp Lefebvre was excommunicated for disobedience to direct instruction. Have this bunch not done the same?

        • nar

          Amnesty International also aggressively promotes abortion ….. there is no place for them in a Catholic School.

          • RuariJM

            Fair point.

  • fredx2

    What bothers me is the sisters fundamental dishonesty. They know exactly what they are doing, yet they pretend 1) That they are the real magisterium of the church, and that they are the definitive interpreters of Vatican II. 2) That the Holy Spirit is speaking to them and telling them that they should just ignore what the Church teaches, since God is speaking to the LCWR directly. Apparently they believe the Holy Spirit will only speak to the LCWR, and is at the same time refusing to speak to the Pope, cardinals and bishops. Talk about arrogance.

    It has descended to the point where they are just silly. They claim “We are just exploring new ideas”. Well, that may be, but many of those “new ideas” are contrary to the Catholic faith. In addition, the address by Sister Schreck to the LCWR also listed the things that the sisters were concerned about – drones, global warming, LGBT issues, etc etc. It was just a laundry list of leftist activist political issues.

    These nuns have flown the coup, and I suppose it is time to let them drift away into the nothingness they so eagerly pursue.

    Revoke the LCWR’s canonical status. They are an embarrassment to all thinking people everywhere.

    They can’t even communicate in plain English. ““Perhaps we’re singing in muted tones the authentic and radical message of the Gospel and the vision of a Second Vatican Council church as the People of God, all the People of God, walking together,” she said. “Likely, we’re only whispering that Oneness from within and beyond the national world to the most meaningful and sacred relationships, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, economic status, or belief system.”

    Jibber jabber. Pure fluff. No meat, just airy generalities.

  • Maggie Sullivan

    These Sisters have gone way off the tracks because no Bishop will truly discipline or correct them.

    • IRVCath

      Problem is that unless in a parish school or ministry, a bishop has no jurisdiction over them as religious. Their superiors, usually in Rome, do, as does, of course, the relevant Vatican congregations, and the Holy Father. Basically, Council of Trent ties their hands. In many cases, the bishops have the same authority over them as you and I – nada. The appropriate channels for discontent are their provincials, at first instance.

      • Sister S

        You are correct. I am quite pleased with Sister Sharon Holland, however. She is not a nun on the bus, is a moderate, who is liked by the Vatican, and understands religious life and canon law.

        Hopefully, she can talk some sense into them.

      • TerryC

        Exactly correct, but leaving out nuance. For example the bishop has the authority, in his own diocese, to prevent someone, laity or religious from claiming to be a mouthpiece for the Catholic Church. In other words a bishop can prevent a member of the laity from using the word “Catholic” in the name of their business or organization.

        He can also prevent a group of religious from setting up shop in his diocese. True they can do so anyway, but the bishop has the authority to take canonical action against them as individuals for doing so. He can also take canonical action against someone doing business with them, not so much economic business, but ecclesiasial business, for example he can prohibit them from speaking at any parish, and also prohibit any parish from advertising or supporting any program they are involved in. The bishop can even start a specific canonical action against them, either through the relevant congregations or by going to the specific superiors.
        Individual bishops have done so in the past and could do so now if they so wished.

        • IRVCath

          Right, but it’s rarely a group entire that is responsible, as opposed to the individual religious.

  • DavidLakeview

    I stand behind the Sisters 100%. Archbishop Sartain was present for every major address. You people are in no position to judge these women.

    • Pat

      You can always judge people by their actions and words. I’ve looked into the LCWR’s website and it is riddled with disobedient actions towards the Magisterium and catechism of the Catholic Church. Pride has and will be the biggest sin any of us commit at any given time.

    • savvy

      Less than 3% of women religious are superiors in the LCWR. That being said, I am quite pleased with the election of Sister Sharon Holland. She is not a nun on the bus, but a moderate, liked by all sides, and can talk some sense into them.

      Hopefully, they will listen. If they lose their canonical status, they lose the religious orders too, since they are independent.

    • Jack Kaczmarczyk

      I suggest you look down and see where you are standing, if it’s rock or sand.

    • Byebyeboomers

      Then put your money where your mouth is, David. I give substantial donations to groups like the Nashville Dominicans who will be doing the Lord’s work long after these dissident groups fade away.

    • Phil Steinacker

      Sartain was present as you say, and these arrogant sisters didn’t hesitate to disobey and defy in his presence. That takes stones, and they didn’t hesitate.

      More than likely you are referencing Matthew 7:1 (Judge not, that you be not judged), the most abused form of proof-texting around.

      All scripture verses are modified by other verses, and this one is no exception.

      Check out John 7:24, which says: “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”

      Therefore, we most ARE in a position to judge both the statements and actions by the LCWR, who continue to defy Church teaching while drifting further into socialist and sexual heresy. What we are not in a position to do is judge them into Hell or read the motives in their hearts.

      You might try re-acquainting yourself with authentic Catholicism.

      • Todd Flowerday

        Heck, everybody is in a position to judge. Having free will gives us that. The real questions are: is such judgment true; is such judgment prudent?

      • martin bain

        Both you and Kathy Shiffer have over-stated the case. The LCWR did not flout the Mandate by failing to withdraw their settled plans for the August meeting. Cardinal Müller made it clear in his remarks to the LCWR delegation on 30 April that those arrangements could stand, but (in his words) “following the August Assembly, it will be the expectation of the Holy See that Archbishop Sartain have an active role in the discussion about invited speakers and honorees”

        • Sister S

          Yes, this true. I do trust that Sister Sharon Holland is going to step in here.

    • Therese

      I work with one group. I speak from direct knowledge. I am not judging the women’s hearts and motivations. I am judging the actions with the disastrous results.

  • anonymous

    I used to belong to a community in the LCWR. At that time, they were a very vital teaching order with hundreds of sisters. Now they are less than 50. One of them told me the community is dying. Seems if this is the direction God wants these LCWR member communities to go, they would not be dying.

  • demathis

    Have thought about picketing future meetings with a sign stating Reprobates.Their conscience is seared as stated in Romans 1. They worship themselves instead of their Redeemer.

  • profling

    No wonder they’re unhappy whiners. They need to put their habits back on and get back to teaching kids and serving the sick.

    • IRVCath

      But many of them are not obligated to wear habits by rule or constitution. In fact this is rarely so.

    • bc3b

      It’s easy to spot an LCWR nun by the scowl on her face and the 1970s pantsuit she’s wearing. They truly are a group of women that time has passed by.

      • Todd Flowerday

        Is that really true? The sisters I know lead joyful lives of service. Most 70’s pantsuits wore out in the 80’s. Seems like the bitterness is all directed to them, not coming from them. At some point, it seems better to just focus on one’s own life and leave other people alone: advice both the curia and the Temple Police might follow.

        • Sister S

          Most nuns lead joyful lives of service. This is a very vocal minority that is crazy.

          The moderates need to distance themselves from them.

          • Todd Flowerday

            Why distance? Why not sharing and dialogue? What purpose is served by refusing to associate with people? That is a political tactic, not a Christian one.

          • kathyschiffer

            I didn’t address Sister Nancy Schreck at all in my report. Ann Carey has reported on her troubling address, though (linked here). Todd, really, don’t you see ANYTHING of concern in the direction they take?

          • Todd Flowerday

            Ann Carey is well-known as an anti-LCWR commentator. If I were to judge Nancy Schreck, I would want to read her whole address, not someone else’s parsing of it. This is a basic approach of pastoral ministry, or relationships in general: one doesn’t allow a third party to distort one’s perceptions and exchanges.
            I have to presume you have read Quest for the Living God, the USCCB criticism, and Prof Johnson’s response. Respectively, I found them dense but orthodox, confused, and patient.
            Let’s face it: faithful Catholics can have two different takes on what amounts to a family squabble. If there’s theology in this, it’s buried pretty darn deep.

          • RuariJM

            Sharing and dialogue has been tried, Todd, as has direct instruction, from Pope Benedict and Pope Francis.

            They aren’t interested. They are paddling their own canoe, on a course that has taken them away from the Magisterium. That’s their choice. If one respects the choices they have made – which they demand – the consequences are inevitable and obvious: excommunication. Which, as Pope Francis has said, can enable the space for calm reflection.

          • Sister S

            There is a lot of misconception on what the LCWR actually is. It’s not a religious order. It’s a union for superiors.

          • RuariJM

            I think most of us are aware of that, savvy.

            However, it has acted as a focus – or locus? – for particular tendencies that are not Catholic; indeed, are counter-Catholic and verging on Anti. The structure and organisation of the LCWR has given it a kind of authority. It is presented by the members as homogenous and it’s pronouncements nd actions are painted with a ruinous imprimatur.

          • Sister S

            Yes, I agree, that they have gone of a tangent.

          • Sister S

            There are internal factions, even among the superiors in the LCWR, so they cannot claim to be a homogenous group and claim to speak for all nuns.

          • Sister S

            It’s because the more radical elements are in open hostility to the teachings of the church and the Holy See.

            The media seems to be confused about whether this is all nuns or a tiny group.

            I am not sure what they want is dialogue.

            But, I do wish the rest the best in trying to do so.

            Nobody is beyond redemption.

      • bzelbub

        Seems to me the whole pantsuit denigration is usually code for someone being perceived as “Hillary” like. Perhaps you would like all women to be cloistered knowing both their place and silent to your ears.

  • jeanvaljean24601

    From my generation, apologies.
    By the photos I have seen of these sisters, they are all about my age, give or take, the Sixties Folksingers. Back then, “authenticity”, “rebellion”, and “sincerity” trumped common sense, loyalty, or historical accuracy. These sisters plainly suffer from it.
    As I understand it, like all us old Boomers, they are dying out, but rather than going gentle into that good night, they rage (and grow more shrill) against the close of day.

    • bzelbub

      Why is it you feel in order to denigrate the sisters or similarly aged boomer women you feel necessary to use the phrase “and grow more shrill”? It is no different if older mens voices would be likened to the dusty cawing of crows.

      • Baron Kaza

        Perhaps the truth hurts… the boomer generation can’t leave fast enough for me

    • Baron Kaza

      Yeah you guys and gals have A LOT to answer I don’t think there has been a more destructive generation in modern times…

  • Therese

    I see a whole lot of ego ruling these communities. The very fact that they have almost no new vocations speaks to the failure of their theology. they are too arrogant to see that.

    • Jake in Pittsburth

      Vocations tell the tale. The orders, societies, and congregations which are flourishing are being rejuvenated by young sisters, monks, and priests who are, almost uniformly, inspired by St. JPII and B16. They are orthodox in their theology, loyal to the magisterium, and obedient to the hierarchy. The wacky elements of the LCWR? Not so much. Vocations tell the tale.

      • Todd Flowerday

        It’s well known that women join cloistered orders and apostolic communities in the same numbers these days. Vocations tell us both forms of life have appeal.

        • Sister S


          The CSMWR does not have cloistered orders. Cloistered orders are not part of both groups. The CSMWR is Apostolic and Semi-Contemplative, but not cloistered.

          • Todd Flowerday

            The point is that both groups attract about the same number of postulants. And CSMWR communities hemorrhage somewhat more–understandable because of the younger age they will accept. I also know many LCWR sisters who are contemplatives. There seem to be many persistent falsehoods about LCWR afoot these days: clothing, theology to name a few. Why does the bile churn so much for conservative Catholics? If they dislike the LCWR so, why do they care?

          • Sister S

            When my sisters first moved to this diocese, a group of LCWR nuns, were excited about our mission and new vision. But, the moment they found out that we do not support their views on abortion, women’s ordination or new age wacko theology. They got even.

            Things got so bad, that we had to leave the diocese and go independent. We are appealing our case to the Vatican, so we can get a status in the church.

            A lot of conservative Catholics have come across these things, and are tired of this crowd go on and on about how they are the sorry victims, being persecuted for feeding the poor, etc.

            The vast majority of nuns do these things, but are not rank crazy.

            Sister Sharon Holland is a moderate, and I hope she can fix things in the LCWR.

          • Todd Flowerday

            Still, it seems rather disingenuous to criticize a group then pile on because they explain themselves. Still scratching my head over the abortion issue. I never met a pro-abortion woman religious. I’m sure a few exist. Probably more priests who would encourage a woman to abort their child.
            I think some conservative Catholics go looking for trouble. And if one looks hard enough for something, eventually one can convince oneself.

          • kathyschiffer

            You’ve apparently not heard of Nuns for Choice, or Sr. Donna Quinn, an LCWR nun who serves as a patient escort at an abortion clinic. Or this nun:

          • Todd Flowerday

            I have heard of that one sister. I’ve also read of two or three priests who attempted to coerce a lover into having an abortion. It is not logical to posit the errors of an individual onto a whole group.

            Far more bishops, for example, have covered up sexual crimes. And yet, I have yet to encounter a commentator suggesting we excommunicate all of them, or dismantle their synods or the curia. Even I’m not advocating that.

            Is Donna Quinn a member of a religious order, or is she a representative who sits on LCWR?

          • Sister S


            Nobody is talking about ALL nuns. The LCWR is a union for superiors. It’s not a religious order.

          • Todd Flowerday

            Exactly. So why are we talking about Donna Quinn or Nuns for Choice?

          • Sister S

            Because you are in denial that they are radical elements in the LCWR, who want to move beyond Jesus.

          • Todd Flowerday

            I think you can keep repeating the mantra “You’re in denial.” But it doesn’t advance your point. It only attempts to tear me down. I read the address you allude to, and “moving beyond Jesus” not only has a single context, but it was not endorsed by the LCWR as a whole. There’s nothing wrong with listening to alternate viewpoints. Even reading them. They present no danger to you or to me.

          • Sister S

            I never said, it was endorsed by the LCWR as a whole. I have read the speech and I think it was pointless and misleads sisters.

            This is not about different viewpoints, it’s about living religious life according to the teachings of the church, since they are not independent of each other.

            Have you read documents on religious life?

          • Todd Flowerday

            How can we speak for others, that a speech was misleading? Only the people who were misled are qualified to give witness to that. The attendees were old enough to speak or themselves.

            It is also possible, as you have accused me, for people to be intentionally dense about it. Of not applying CCC 2478 and making the presumption of good faith and intent. Many LCWR critics seem prepared, if not eager, to assume the worst, rendering insult as they do so.

            And yes, not only have I read Perfectae Caritatis, but featured it on my web site, Catholic Sensibility, over 7 years ago.

          • Sister S

            I apologize for insulting you. I just do not see how religious life can be lived outside the church or outside the constitutions of a particular community.

            This is what some people want.

          • Todd Flowerday

            I don’t think LCWR claims to speak for anyone other than themselves. In fact it is the commenters here who seem to insist they wear certain dress, live apart, and stay out of the way. And prelates who suggest not to write some books, and not to listen to certain speakers. That seems nosy, at best.

            Clearly, non-Christians can live religious lives within the bounds of their particular traditions. I also know consecrated persons who live alone, but in association with larger groups. Most all sisters I know work for a living in parishes and, by necessity, live alone or in groups of two or three. That strikes me as not too different from most parish priests.

            Why is the lifestyle of women remarked upon and criticized more than that of men?

            And as for religious life, I consider to have been living one for the past three decades. I have a family for almost the last two of those. But I didn’t find I needed ordination or religious vows to live a proper calling.

          • Sister S

            “I also know consecrated persons who live alone, but in association with larger groups.”

            These are secular institutes or consecrated virgins in the church, not religious, Their way of live is proper to them, canonically.

            “Why is the lifestyle of women remarked upon and criticized more than that of men?”

            Monks would be under the same fire here if they were doing these things.

            Religious life is different in both governance and theology from the priesthood.

            Community life is central to religious. Among other things.

            “I have a family for almost the last two of those. But I didn’t find I needed ordination or religious vows to live a proper calling.”

            Good for you. We all have our own unique vocations. You have a calling to marriage.

            Nobody is attacking your calling.

          • Todd Flowerday

            It seems the point is living a religious life, regardless of the circumstances in which one finds oneself. I had a friend who retired last year. She worked in my parish for 15 years. She lived alone. She had 2-3 women religious friends in town from other communities: a university professor, and someone caring for an elderly mother. She visited her motherhouse regularly. Her life was ordered the way it needed to be, and by the people who were her superiors. They trusted her.
            What I don’t get: why people feel the need to be nosy about how women live.
            Monks, by the way, are totally different. They live in cloisters. LCWR orders do not.
            Sometimes prudence suggests we mind our own business. We can harbor thoughts, suspicions, and even insults. Why speak and write them openly? We have no business other than to observe CCC 2478.

          • kathyschiffer

            I think you’re missing the point, Todd. Religious women may live lovely lifestyles; but they’re teaching our children. I worked at a Catholic university where the fruit of their dissident labors was more than evident in student abortions, endorsement of wicca for relaxation, pro-abortion speakers, sex in the dorms, and grave loss of Catholic identity. I’m afraid not everyone agrees with your sunny conclusions. Here, Catholic Culture’s call for a revocation of status:

          • Todd Flowerday

            Not missing your point at all. I just don’t agree with it. I take issue with both your diagnosis and prescription.

            Is LCWR responsible for what happened on your campus? Was it a particular religious community? Was it individual persons? LCWR has emphasized it is not a body interested in policing its member communities. They do not wish to be an arm of the CDF or the local bishop. That is a prudential judgment, not a matter of faith and morals.

            “Sunny conclusions” is a caricature not germane to the discussion. I wouldn’t say religious communities have no problems. The issue is how to best address those challenges. That I might feel confident or otherwise they will be addressed by the sisters themselves is beside the point. It is the responsibility of community leaders. Not me. Not the blogosphere. Not even bishops.

            I also observe the fruits of the police force mentality. Your own comment boxes are full of insults, falsehoods, gossip, and such: a clear violation of the Catechism. And even if you all were right, you all come across as very wrong.

          • Sister S

            “LCWR has emphasized it is not a body interested in policing its member communities. ”

            But, they still do, esp, if one’s superior is on the leadership team.

            “They do not wish to be an arm of the CDF or the local bishop.”

            LCWR is a canonical entity under the Holy See. This is the status they picked themselves. Hence, they do answer to them.

            The August assembly was pre-planned, and was told to go ahead.

            After the August Assembly, the Vatican’s reform mandate starts to kick in.

            This is where Sister Sharon Holland is going to play a key role in mediating between both sides.

            As for nasty comments, you find this on the Reporter too, cheering the LCWR on to fight the Vatican.

            This is equally divisive and calls for war.

          • Todd Flowerday

            The notion of escalating into a war over a family squabble is just silly.
            I do note another moral judgment: nasty comments on another site justify nasty comments here. Nothing like a bar set really low.
            I think it’s past time for me to retire from this discussion, savvy. It seems insufficient to locate common ground on privacy, hermits, and when an apology is in order. This thing escalates without any promise. Good Catholics disagree, yet one side here alludes to violence. Last word is yours, savvy.

          • Sister S

            Not all monks live in cloisters. There are contemplatives, who are not cloistered, such as the Monastic communities of Jerusalem, that I know.

            In Eastern Orthodoxy, both nuns and monks are strictly monastics. This is not the case in Catholicism.

            I see nothing wrong with diversity in how religious life is lived, according to what works in a particular community.

            The issue here is not what type of community, one needs to have, but the claim that we are past the need for them and have to totally re-invent religious life.

            This is where I disagree.

          • Todd Flowerday

            Not being a vowed religious, I can’t say whether or not there is a need for re-invention in particular circumstances. I note that over the past four centuries, many founders emerged to form new communities. So clearly, people or the Holy Spirit–hopefully both–see the need to change and shift.

            I’m comfortable leaving the discernment with religious. Less at ease with interference from the curia, the bishops, or the blogosphere.

          • Sister S

            “I’m comfortable leaving the discernment with religious.”

            There are religious who supported the Apostolic visitation for several reasons. They never supported a lot of changes made by their superiors, on community living, mission etc.

            Those who spoke up against them were given a hard time. Many left at this time.

            The ones who stayed were too intimidated to speak up or just ignored.

            I am glad that something is being done, even it might be too late.

          • Sister S

            I do agree that we need to be charitable in our comments towards others, on both sides.

          • Sister S

            I could not live religious life alone and do not think it’s wise to do so. There is nobody to hold you accountable. It makes it harder to follow the Evangelical counsels.

          • Todd Flowerday

            I totally understand that. Christian spiritual tradition has been very cautious about the eremitic charism. I think most diocesan priests these days are cheated. They are trained as semi-monastics, they are sent to serve communities, yet they live what is, in essence, the life of a hermit–only with the temptations of the world: food, sex, drink, drugs, etc..

          • Sister S

            LCWR does not have a monopoly over religious life. Why is it okay for them to claim to speak for all women religious or dictate how religious life should be led?

          • Sister S

            You are just in denial.

          • Todd Flowerday

            Hardly. I’m just disagreeing with you.

          • Sister S

            You are not an insider to this. My superior was in the LCWR. Some groups refuse to read church documents on religious life, because they think they are above them.

            Now, with Sister Sharon Holland, they might have to, because she wrote some of them.

            I just pray and hope she is going to succeed, in turning things around.

          • Todd Flowerday

            I may not be an insider. I just have a different perspective than you. I read Prof Johnson’s book. Have you? I read the USCCB report. Did you? It was imprudent for this matter to be brought to the public eye by the CDF and bishops. This is a private dispute, and for some members of the curia, streaked with personal issues, not theological.

            What happens within LCWR is a matter for the superiors.

          • Sister S

            I have read the CDF report. This is not just about Sr. Johnson.

            It’s the media that made this public, not the CDF or the Bishops, since some nuns went to the media about how they were being persecuted.

            Secular priests who do not understand religious life, have also been spreading misconceptions, about poor women being persecuted by Bishops.

            I agree it should stay a private dispute.

          • Todd Flowerday

            We are in agreement on one important point. I also would agree than many priests do not understand religious life, and they are not only the clergy who disagree with our viewpoints.

          • Sister S

            A lot of lay Catholics also do not understand religious life.

          • Rick Connor

            Bile churns quite well over at Pray Tell for bishops, conservative and moderate Catholics. All of us Catholics seem to be pretty good with bile–we don’t have to try too hard! Pot–met the kettle

  • I gave them the benefit of the doubt. I assumed they were just pushing for a particular direction. This is beyond that. This is clearly separation from Catholicism. Perhaps it’s high time they were formally let go.

    • Sister S

      I am quite pleased with Sister Sharon Holland, however. She is not a nun on the bus, is a moderate, who is liked by the Vatican, and understands religious life and canon law.

      Hopefully, she can talk some sense into them.

      • Oh I don’t know the various personalities, and it strikes me now that perhaps there are factions within the LCWR that are not as radical as those identified in this post. Perhaps we need to offer individuals some sort of basis for staying Catholic while letting the radical elements break off.

        • Sister S

          Less than three percent of women religious are superiors in the LCWR. This means most do not attend these conferences.

          If the magisterium of nuns lose their canonical status, they also lose member communities, since they have their own constitutions.

          • So what’s the answer? Individual ex-communications?

          • Sister S

            I am not sure at this point. I know nobody on board is on par with Sr. Holland’s credentials.

          • TerryC

            There is however another canonical conference in the United States to which the member communities can go, provided they are willing to accept Vatican oversight and be Catholic.

          • Sister S

            The CMSWR is quite picky about who they let in. The days where anybody who wanted to try could sign up are gone. A person must demonstrate clear signs of a vocation, calling to a particular charism/mission.

            No helicopter parents making decisions.

          • Sister S

            Yes, the CMSWR needs to reach out to them. I do know LCWR sisters who would make the move, if it was decided on as a group.

  • Yankeegator

    Maybe we should just ignore these heretical sisters? They are dwindling fast and many go before The Just Judge soon and will answer to Him… The orthodox sisters and nuns are growing and vibrant… Once The Spoiled baby boom generation is gone, this will right itself…

  • niknac

    Most people do not speak up about what they believe, much less act on what they believe and this includes most priests. It is not true of women’s religious. I applaud and admire them.

    Who are these bishops anyway? Effete old men, appointed and empowered by another old man that they themselves appoint.

    I do not hold up the nuns to be venerated. They have their shortcomings, as do we all but they get up each morning and live their lives, for better or worse, not exhorting others who they think inferior how to live theirs.

    • Dennis

      You must also admire Westboro Baptist Church when they protest at soldiers’ funerals, claiming that God had the soldier die because of the acceptance of homosexuality. After all, they speak up about what they believe and act on it. Same for those Muslims that are beheading children, as well as genocidal maniacs.

      “Who are these bishops anyway?” Let’s see… How about successors of the APOSTLES!

      As for inferiority, the LCWR’s theology IS inferior in that it deviates from Truth. They mislead, unknowingly aiding Satan in his mission to cause disunity. As for their “not exhorting,” the sisters do exactly that in trying to change Church teaching.

    • Sister S

      This crowd does not speak for ALL women religious.

    • Hegesippus

      What they believe, as is clear form many of their statements and actions, is increasingly not Christian.

      By caricaturing the established hierarchy of the Church, you do not fix that fundamental problem.

  • Todd Flowerday

    Reports from this meeting were inspirational. Cardinal Müller made an error in ramping up the temperature without checking his sources more carefully. Prof Johnson was far more gentle in her takedown than one reads in the commentariat here. Educated people are not going to take insults sitting down. If anything, the women religious have taken the high road in this matter, showing far more courtesy and prudence.

    I can’t see this ending well for bishops and the CDF if they press it. Women religious can gather to conference any time they wish–they don’t need the LCWR banner. And bishops have far more serious concerns to address in terms of their own credibility as leaders and moral persons.

    • kathyschiffer

      You “can’t see this ending well for bishops”? What, is that a threat, Todd?

      I’ve seen some stronger quotes–DIRECT quotes–from the good sisters since I first published this piece. Sorry; I and I think most of my readers can see what you cannot: They are not speaking with the mind of the Church.

      • Todd Flowerday

        A threat? What on earth are you talking about? I don’t see how the bishops will convince the LCWR to toe the line. Many of us think the investigation itself was unfair and unfounded.

        Most all sisters I know prefer to act with the hands of the Church rather than just talk the talk. Many lay people are very bitter about the bishops as a whole. It may be unfair in individual cases, but the bishops lack a very much needed credibility.

        Look also at your commentariat here: supporters of the bishops want to see some punishment extracted here. That’s certainly not going to happen. Many are even gleeful about their misconception about who is attracting postulants and who is not.

        None of this is good for the Church. But the sisters have a clear option: fold the LCWR and continue to meet and confer without any communication with the CDF. Who’s going to stop them? And who’s going to be simmering over that? Very bad for the Church all around.

        • Phil Steinacker

          Todd, no one of us thinks the LCWR will “toe the line.” They have demonstrated their arrogant pride is stronger than any shreds of humility which may have at one time been part of their vocations.

          Folding the LCWR is exactly what we wish to see. When they form an outlaw group, the more clearly their deviation from Church teaching and authority will be discernible.

          These sisters are not good for the Church. Exposing them and their feminist and socialist “theology” is already painful but necessary. The day will come when a bishop or pope with stones will cut them loose from the Church.

          • Todd Flowerday

            I’ve read a lot of sentiment on this post about deviation. But hardly any single example. The membership of the LCWR is solidly within the body of the Church, just as you and I are.

          • Sister S

            Yes, there are many good sisters in the LCWR, who are moderate, like Sister Sharon Holland. The moderates need to speak up.

          • Todd Flowerday

            Why is it any of our business to tell them what they need?

          • Sister S

            Because a lot of sisters traded in their apostolates for political activism, resulting in loss of vocations, mission and community life.

            Catholic schools and hospitals are fighting to stay Catholic. If religious orders were in charge of them, this would not be the case.

          • Todd Flowerday

            I don’t see that trade at all.

          • Sister S

            Sr, Carol Zinn does.

          • Rick Connor

            Todd, you’re critical at pray tell (sometimes it’s constructive) of the bishops, the older form of the Mass and the new translation of the liturgy, “Why is it any of YOUR business to tell” the bishops how to lead a diocese? You would reply that as part of the Church you have a right to make your opinion known and that the bishops, as shepherds, have an obligation to listen to the people they. Do the super educated, theological sophisticated sisters have a similar obligation to listen to us uneducated, mean spirited Catholics?

          • Todd Flowerday

            Hi Rick. None of this has anything to do with a bishop administering a diocese. Bishops certainly don’t listen to me. LCWR sisters don’t read conservatives on their web pages. When I comment on PrayTell, I commiserate with other believers. What seems to be happening here is just raising the temperature: sarcasm, limp attempts at humor, and persistent falsehoods.
            The difference is that I can criticize a bishop’s actions and then get a life for the other 10,075 minutes of the week.

          • Sister S

            There are some religious communities that have moved beyond Jesus. Their pray books no longer mention him, because the’s the son of God. A male term, they do not like This is not a falsehood, it’s a fact.

            You are in denial.

          • Sister S

            Jesus said, “Unless you become like a little child, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.”

            A lot of sophisticated theology is nonsense.

          • RuariJM

            Well put, Rick. I particularly liked the last line!

    • Sister S

      Less than 3% of women religious are superiors in the LCWR. They do not speak for all nuns.

      And, yes women religious do not need the LCWR banner. If they lose their canonical status, their congregations can vote out the LCWR, and just stick to their own constitutions. Another union for superiors can be created.

      Unless, in a parish ministry Bishops have zero authority over religious. Religious are not priests. So blaming the Bishops for everything is futile. It demonstrates a lack of understanding of religious life.

  • cestusdei

    They are mired in dissent and will die out.

  • bc3b

    I read that the average age of an LCWR member is 73 and their orders are getting virtually no new members. In 10 years the problem will take care of itself.

  • Mark_Trail

    Communists ridiculed the religious, these religious sisters got offended and then changed into a caricature of the religious life, whereupon they are now ridiculed by the faithful. This is just run-of-the-mill Saul Alinsky stuff.

    “An organizer working in and for an open society is in an ideological dilemma to begin with, he does not have a fixed truth — truth to him is relative and changing;everything to him is relative and changing…. To the extent that he is free from the shackles of dogma, he can respond to the realities of the widely different situations….” pp.10-11

    “The means-and-ends moralists, constantly obsessed with the ethics of the means used by the Have-Nots against the Haves, should search themselves as to their real political position. In fact, they are passive — but real — allies of the Haves…. The most unethical of all means is the non-use of any means… The standards of judgment must be rooted in the whys and wherefores of life as it is lived, the world as it is, not our wished-for fantasy of the world as it should be….” pp.25-26

    “The organizer knows that the real action is in the reaction of the opposition. To realistically appraise and anticipate the probable reactions of the enemy, he must be able to identify with them, too, in his imagination, and foresee their reactions to his actions….

    “The organizers searching with a free and open mind void of certainty, hating dogma, finds laughter not just a way to maintain his sanity but also a key to understanding life.”pp.74-75

    “…the organizer is constantly creating new out of the old. He knows that all new ideas arise from conflict; [See Dialectic Process] that every time man as had a new idea it has been a challenge to the sacred ideas of the past and the present and inevitably a conflict has raged.” p.79

    “One of the factors that changes what you can and can’t communicate is relationships. There are sensitive areas that one does not touch until there is a strong personal relationship based on common involvements. Otherwise the other party turns off and literally does not hear….

    “Conversely, if you have a good relationship, he is very receptive…. For example, I have always believed that birth control and abortion are personal rights to be exercised by the individual. If, in my early days when I organized… neighborhood in Chicago, which was 95 per cent Roman Catholic, I had tried to communicate this, even through the experience of the residents, whose economic plight was aggravated by large families, that would have been the end of my relationship with the community. That instant I would have been stamped as an enemy of the church and all communication would have ceased.

    “Some years later, after establishing solid relationships, I was free to talk about anything…. By then the argument was no longer limited to such questions as, ‘How much longer do you think the Catholic Church can hang on to this archaic notion and still survive?’ …the subject and nature of the discussion would have been unthinkable without that solid relationship.” pp.93-94

    “Change comes from power, and power comes from organization.” p.113

    “The first step in community organization is community disorganization. The disruption of the present organization is the first step toward community organization. Present arrangements must be disorganized if they are to be displace by new patterns…. All change means disorganization of the old and organization of the new.” p.116

    4. “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules. You can kill them with this, for they can no more obey their own rules than the Christian church can live up to Christianity.”

    5. “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. It is almost impossible to counteract ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition, which then reacts to your advantage.”

    6. “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.”

    ~Saul Alinsky, “Rules for Radicals”~

  • I_M_Forman

    They clearly ignored the church. Excommunicate the leadership. Yank Papal sanction. Tell them that whatever they are doing can be called anything but Catholic. If they work at Catholic Institutions then out; if they draw a paycheck from a Catholic payroll then it stops. If they live in a nice convent in the countryside then so long. It is unfair to Catholics who struggle to follow Jesus’ Church. If they thought they didn’t feel at home before then let them know what that phrase means. I don’t mean to be uncharitable, but I am insulted by their idea of a post Jesus Christianity that revolves around the Gospel as Social Work. The Gospel is about the Salvation of Souls. Reaching out to the poor is just a part of the Gospel. There are the Sacraments, the Rosary and due obedience to Apostolic succession. Some truths are Eternal, this nonsense that they are oppressed by men is just their excuse to jockey themselves as a rival magisterium. Be fair to other Catholics that actually obey the church and send them packing. They thumbed their noses at Holy Mother Church.

    • Todd Flowerday

      “The Gospel is about the Salvation of Souls.”
      Actually the Church’s mission is about proclaiming the Gospel. Saving souls is the task of God. Not the Church. People don’t save souls. To suggest they do is pelagianism.
      Do you recommend the same treatment for bishops who have harmed the faith by sheltering sex predators in their clergy?

      • kathyschiffer

        Todd, not fair. It’s easy to deflect all legitimate criticism with cries of “sex abuse among clergy!” That has nothing to do with the points I.M. made. If you want to talk about clergy, there’s plenty of that conversation going on elsewhere on my blog; but keep to the point.

        I have worked closely with many sisters. At one organization, I was uncomfortable with their erecting a “peace pole” and having “services” there–all while Jesus was fully present in the Eucharist twenty feet away, on the other side of the chapel wall. But then, for them adoration was old-fashioned.

        I have known sisters who taught Reiki, who campaigned for pro-abortion candidates, who brought in offensive speakers and rejected orthodox speakers, and much more…. Those were individuals, to be sure; but the prevalence of dissent points to inadequate or hostile formation in those orders.

        • Todd Flowerday

          To speak of excommunication is inappropriate and imprudent. Fairness has already gone out of the equation on this sub-thread.

          As for particular bad experiences you have had, it’s possible such things were also driving others involved in the investigation. It’s difficult to justify a witch hunt based on
          matters not supported by LCWR. It seems your beef was with the order running your college, or more likely, individuals with whom you were in conflict.

          I don’t agree about inadequate formation, not in the sense you or I have anything to say about it. What I tell my daughter: natural consequences to your imprudent actions.

          PS: Not everybody thinks orthodoxy makes for a quality speaker.

          • I_M_Forman

            The Head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith thinks orthodoxy makes for a quality speaker. Furthermore excommunication is in order for those that teach against the Church teachings. This is not like it the first time they ever heard that their speakers were questionable to say the least. This time they were told that if they want to have the LCWR to consider themselves in line with Catholic teaching then they have to make sure that their speakers are not heretical.

  • Baron Kaza

    This pathetic group of clipped haired harridans are allowed to continue unabated but the Sisters and Friars of the Immaculate are crushed with an Iron Fist, everything is upside down