Former Ursuline sister Carole Ganim writes here about the present face off between the progressive sisters of the LCWR and the Vatican.It’s the predictable rant about dictatorial patriarchy, rich fat cat priests in the hierarchy bossing women about etc etc. etc.
Carole admires the LCWR sisters for their “faithful steadfastness” in the face of cruel oppression, but in her opinion the sisters should pull out.
Will LCWR capitulate? What will they do? I cannot imagine that they will give in, but what are their choices? I see four options:
1. Give in and become religious women according to the Vatican model.
2. Remain and fight/work for the future within the Church and religious life as LCWR and others see it.
3. Disband LCWR and form a non-canonical conference of religious women.
4. Leave all organizations and structures within the Roman Catholic Church and follow the Spirit.
Those of us who are former nuns chose to leave rather than live in a misogynist culture. We were out of order, but we took the best of what we were into the world and have made the world a better place. We also provided a model for our sisters who might today be tired of the struggle and the continued lack of respect for their integrity and personhood within the church. There are fewer than approximately 50,000 nuns in the United States today, with a median age of over 70. In 1965, there were 179,000 nuns. It is clear that religious life as we knew it and as it is even today is over. The LCWR should choose option four above and lead the sisters toward independence, justice and freedom to follow the Spirit.
I couldn’t agree more. Let the nuns who don’t want to be Catholic pull out. Let them launch out on their journeys of faith and see where the road leads them. This may sound cynical and even nasty, but I don’t mean it that way at all.
It seems to me that the sisters do have something to offer the world, and they would be free and empowered to offer whatever they have to offer without being chained to the Catholic Church. What they are offering is clearly not Catholicism, so if they want to offer New Age religion, self help courses and whatever else they thing is valuable and useful–including their work with the poor and marginalized, then they should cut loose and get on with that work. Walk away from it all like Carole did and be happy. This would actually enable them to get on with the work they feel they are called to and pursue their own spiritual destiny.
I doubt if they will of course, because there is property and money involved. They would have to walk away from their huge properties and assets. They would have to walk away from the expansive convents set in rolling countryside. They would have to walk away from their comfortable college jobs, their secure positions in diocesan posts,their cushy little assignments in secluded country retreat houses all well financed with retirement plans in place with the independent and securely invested funds they are sitting on.
If they walked away and led truly liberated lives, setting out in faith and being the courageous pioneers they claim to be, if they set out following where they really felt the Spirit was leading them in service to the poor, exploring their spiritualities and whatever they might have to live on the edge and take some risks and that would be tough.
Full marks to Carole Ganim for taking such an honest step in her own life. She’s right to encourage her sisters to do the same.