Sisters in Crisis

A new edition of Ann Carey’s book gives an update on the crisis in women’s religious orders in the USA. This professionally researched and meticulous book will remain a historical resource for all those who wish to understand how in the space of forty years an army of faithful Catholic sisters ended up as new age, politically correct drones of the left.

Carey explores the problems in the religious orders before the Second Vatican Council and takes the readers step by step through the half baked, ill thought out “renewal” in the religious life that took place after the council. She chronicles the biased propaganda disguised as ‘surveys’, charts the disastrous results of group therapy sessions and the open rebellion of the sisters against first their own rules of life, then the authority of the church and then against the Christian faith itself so that some of them are now not only in favor of same sex marriage, abortion and champions of a range of left wing projects, but they moved “beyond Christ.”

So at the LCWR (Leadership Conference of Women Religious) Conference in 2007  Sister Laurie Brink observed that many of the religious orders are “no longer ecclesiastical”– having “grown beyond the bounds of institutional religion” these congregations have become “post Christian”. Not worried about this development, she goes on to say, “who’s to say the movement beyond Christ is not, in reality, a movement to the very heart of God?”

Ann Carey quotes extensively from the women religious themselves. She documents their papers, their speeches, press reports and includes personal witness, interviews and first hand memories. The result is devastating, and the consequences are obvious. The once thriving women’s religious orders who did so much excellent work in schools, parishes and hospitals are now practically non existent. When’s the last time you saw a nun and knew she was a nun?

Coincidentally, I also came across the prophecies of Mother Mariana de Jesus Torres–an Ecuadorean nun from the seventeenth century who predicted widespread rebellion and apostasy within the religious orders which would take place just after the middle of the twentieth century. She also predicted terrible, widespread corruption and immorality, specifically the corruption of children and the decadence of Catholic priests.

One of the things that struck me in reading Ann Carey’s book was the passive-aggressive nature of progressives. The truth is the liberal sisters were full of rage against the Catholic authorities. They were (and are) revolutionaries who are determined to overturn what they see as a misogynistic, hierarchical, oppressive regime. They truly see themselves as radical campaigners–freedom fighters who are standing with the poor and needy and oppressed for peace and justice. Well okay. That’s fine, but they wage their aggressive campaign with the lies of false victimhood, the blackmail of wounded feelings, the manipulation of methods and the sneaky techniques of sentimentality.

So on the one hand they are busy pumping out propaganda, manipulating elections, bullying the sisters who won’t go along with their radical agenda, engineering back room deals, playing cat and mouse with the Vatican, delaying judgement through endless “dialogue” and politicking for power–then when the patience of the authorities runs out they cry big crocodile tears–”What you are doing is sooo divisive! We are so hurt! We are wounded! We have deep concerns!” They put out their bottom lips in a little pout and turn on the tears for sympathy. Suddenly they are the wounded ones, the victims who are being persecuted by big Daddy.

We get this self righteous crap from progressives all the time. They manipulate, scheme, blackmail and indoctrinate and then when someone calls them on it they play the victim card with a big, sad look on their face, “How can you be soo hurtful to a person like me who is only trying to help???”

This is why Ann Carey’s book is such a treasure. It’s measured. It’s documented. It is not a polemic, but a solid historical study of the disaster in Catholic women’s orders in the USA. Furthermore, her study of the women’s orders is valid reflection of the condition of the whole Catholic Church in the USA. Just as there are now two conferences of superiors of women’s religious orders–one she calls ‘change oriented’ and the other ‘traditional’ so there are two Catholic churches in America–one that is actually in a state of constant, understated dissent from Catholic teaching and the other which lines up behind the magisterium, the Sacred Scriptures and the Holy Father.

Take your pick.


  • Abe Rosenzweig

    It strikes me as odd that you would endorse Carey’s book as “measured”, “documented”, and “not a polemic”, when you yourself led up to this evaluation by using language wholly reliant on the free-use of vituperative descriptors such as liars, manipulative, aggressive, sneaky, and self-righteous crap. If you think Carey’s approach is worthy, why do you instead rely upon insults and nasty caricature?

    • frdlongenecker

      Because her measured approach, solid research and documented quotations from the sisters themselves supports my visceral reaction.

      • Abe Rosenzweig

        Keep on telling yourself that, broseph.

      • jeff

        I agree Fr. The ultramontanist “keep it in the family” silence, whilst stoic and admirable, won’t change things. The more we talk about it, the harder it is to ignore wrongdoing.

        That’s why Gabriele Paolo is a hero of mine. I fully believe him when he said he leaked the Pope’s letters to help the Church. Stuff is getting cleaned up that would still be festering had those documents never seen the light of day.

  • Christian LeBlanc

    Ha! I bought the older version of this book a few years ago.

  • Christian LeBlanc
  • Unbeliever Prime

    Believe it or not, humanistic atheists such as myself also take issue with Progressive and/or New Age Christians like the ones you mention in this article.
    These liberal nuns seem to want to have their cake and eat it too.
    Promoting liberal causes (like equality for women) while still enjoying the patronage of and claiming membership in an ancient, patriarchal, and extremely hierarchical institution (the Catholic Church) that promotes the idea of a male god that prefers those most like him (men), especially when it comes to granting spiritual authority.
    These are contradictory positions, and trying to pretend otherwise is ultimately counterproductive.

    • Howard

      I think any objective observer must be bemused by the spectacle of someone claiming special recognition or authority while simultaneously attacking the only grounds for that recognition or authority. Other examples would include priests who undermine the authority of the Church, professors of theology who dismiss the existence of God, professors of philosophy who ridicule the very idea of reason, and politicians who pooh-pooh the Constitution.

    • Tony

      Try getting done anything complicated and worthwhile without hierarchy. Try digging a ditch that will actually drain the field rather than swamp it, without an order of expertise and obedience. As for the “male” God, that’s a cheap shot, not worthy of somebody who wants to address the issues in a careful way. And what is wrong with thriving? For that is what being ancient implies — there’s something at least interesting in the fact that the Church is still here and the Roman Empire and a hundred other glorious regimes are not.

      • Unbeliever Prime

        The Chinese Empire existed for far longer than the Catholic Church has (so far). Moreover, China has existed as a state for far longer than any European institution (including the Roman Catholic Church).
        Does that mean that the People’s Republic of China is thriving?
        Furthermore Tony, pointing out that the Christian God is essentially male is simply a statement of fact.
        Consider Catholic doctrine on the Trinity:
        God the Father (masculine)
        God the Son (a biological human male)
        The Holy Ghost (usually considered masculine or gender neutral)
        That’s 2 to 3 masculine entities and no feminine ones (based on the Church’s own dogma).

        • Remindme

          There has not been “the Chinese Empire” that have existed throughout the history of that country. Over different periods and covering different regions there have been multiple kingdoms and empires, sometimes ruled by different ethnic groups (the Yuan Dynasty was Mongolians, the Ching/Qing Dynasty Manchurians, the the rest largely Han ethinicity) that often opposed, fought, and conquered one another. The current Chinese government is no successor of any of these kingdoms or empires any more than the current Italian government is the successor of the Roman Empire.
          As to God being male, the Church teaches that God is spirit and is beyond biological sex/gender. However, God chose to reveal himself (!) as masculine in relation to humans and the Trinity as the Father and the Son, etc.

          • Unbeliever Prime

            The same could be said of England or France due to all the different dynasties and governments that have ruled those nations.
            Yet few serious historians would claim that England stopped being England when the Tudors lost the throne. Or that France stopped being France when the monarchy was overthrown.
            As for the ‘male’ God…
            Catholicism itself teaches that Jesus was both fully divine and fully human, and He was a man (according to Catholic dogma).

  • Andrew Mark McAlpin

    I have nothing to add. Spot on! Wait, let me add one word that you did not use in this review: bully. The outcomes of the “great renewal”, in my opinion, were and are the work of bullies. I have talked to enough sisters who have been outcasts and ostracized for resisting the “change” that I can say without hesitation, this renewal was the work of bullies.

  • Gail Finke

    I reviewed this book as well and I agree with everything you said. What struck me was how quickly the things that we decry today happened — almost immediately. A thread on another blog recently discussed the dissension going on around the time of Vatican II, dissension that enabled some of the stranger things that happened after the council to, well, happen. I suppose a lot of people were waiting for their chance to make big changes. Here’s my review, if anyone cares to check it out:

  • jacobum

    “We get this self righteous crap from progressives all the time. They manipulate, scheme, blackmail and indoctrinate and then when someone calls them on it they play the victim card with a big, sad look on their face, “How can you be soo hurtful to a person like me who is only trying to help???””

    Fr D, An excellent, concise, summation of the last 50 years of self-destructive crapola in the Church. Let’s call them what they are…”Acolytes and Agents of Satan”

  • Slocum Moe

    A person may properly discern their own spiritual shortcomings and should endeavor to walk more in the footsteps of Christ. In leading a life of faith, love, hope and charity, as did our lord, others may come to admire such an individual, admire his Christianity and even strive to adopt and emulate a Christian life. This is the true spirit of the New Evangelation.

    It is very unlikely that anyone will react positively to criticism, delivered in a shrill, superior and paternalistic manner, by those known to have severe lifestyle and psycho sexual irregularities, Christian ethics and morality wise, themselves.

    If the Sisters have gone wrong, it will soon become apparent to everyone, including the sisters. The bishops, when faced with the need to exercise their teaching authority, should have the sense to realize when that authority has become degraded and that they have no one to blame for it but themselves

    The bishops, sadly, are left with the singular option of themselves leading lives of faith, love hope and charity as true Christians, chastity being definitely too much to ask of the boys at this time and hoping that the sisters will admire their example so much that they will follow suit. With both the bishops and the sisters then joyfully emulating our lord and savior, how could the World not be a better place?

    So much better than the two groups sullenly exchanging veiled insults and threats that make the rest of us lose our taste for both of them.

  • Jane

    Father, When I was in RCIA, there was a sister in a Dominican Order who was assigned to me as an advocate since I was needing some advice regarding Canon Law, etc. She was absolutely one of the most liberal women regarding same sex marriage as justice and telling me that the church really had a long way to go. Had I not been starved for the Eucharist and for all the other Sacraments, I probably would have turned around and stayed in my little Anglican church that I loved. I’m glad I came into the RC church, but she was real stumbling block. I am sorry that these sisters have been so deceived by our cultural feminism and have left their first love.

  • LongIslandMichael

    Thankfully these rebellious nuns are dinosaurs and are dying out. WIthin the next twenty years to thirty years they will be dead and gone and there is no one in there rebellious orders to take there place. They are slowly but surely becoming extinct and being replaced by faithful nuns whose orders are not afraid to stand for and remain faithful to the Truth of Christ and His Church. The seeds of renewal that were sown by Blessed JPII and were tended to by both Pope Benedict and now Pope Francis are growing. This new growth will not mature in my lifetime but with God’s continued love the plant will bear great fruit in future generations.

  • John

    Does this mean that the Catholic Church is headed for destruction? Will it diappear form the USA within 50 years?