LCWR, the SSPX and the Vatican; Fun Times in Catholicland UPDATED

Busy days here at Patheos and I am only now getting to a bunch of emails from people asking me what I think about “this misogynist outrage from the Vatican” concerning the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. Others, possibly recalling a piece I wrote three years ago sound like they’re rubbing their hands together in anticipation; “I can’t wait to see what you have to say about this!” wrote one woman.

I wrote back, “what I think may surprise you.”

The possibility of the uberconservative-traditionalist Society of St. Pius X finding accord with Rome is interesting, but I’ve never opined about the SSPX before, and really don’t mean to start, now.

Besides, the story about women religious tussling with the bad old Vatican is the one that is going to get the most attention — it is grist for the “Catholic War on Women” narrative, and one that will find ready-takers in some who were far too smart to fall for that theme over contraception, a subject which was-and-is-still being tossed around by Democrats and mediafolk trying to keep the meme alive. I read somewhere on social media yesterday that, “the church thinks women are not as capable of striving for holiness or as valiant in witness as men”. Well, that’s one-part worldly-trained sentiment and two parts media-code. It’s a statement that belies the reverence and honor we show to Our Lady (a human woman named before the angels in our Litany of Saints) and to Mary Madelene, Catherine of Siena, and so many, many other women.

I’ve never bought the “church is an oppressor and hater of women” stuff. To me, the church has always seemed the sole institution (when societies were using women as chattel, under-educating them and limiting their potentialities) to give women free rein to run where the Spirit led them. Most of the time, the church said, “here is a nickle and a blessing! Go with Providence and educate! build monasteries and hospitals! Orphanages!” Sure there was a demand of obedience but that was hardly exclusive to women. Everyone had someone to answer to.

Things got dicey when the world went into an unprecedented revolution — one where almost every norm common to cultures for millennia was suddenly tossed away or oxymoronically “deconstructed” — just as the church was opening the windows for some fresh air. Issues and ideas got swirled up. Eventually, when things calmed, people looked around and said, “okay, this is working; it strengthens our teaching, but that’s not; we don’t miss this, but we kinda do miss that.” That brings a new round of action.

Women were told “be all you can be” by the church back when the world didn’t think they could be anything. Then the world said, “be all you can be,” but it seemed to preclude anything the church had to offer. Perhaps now we’re just beginning to see an inevitable adjustment, along with a layering and gathering of wisdom.

As completely expected, the 8-page doctrinal assessment delivered by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is being hailed by some as something heroic and by others as something heinous. Conversely, some find the LCWR’s response to be not enough (“it’s time to tear the church down!”) and others are just being needlessly rude about the “aging liberal brides of Christ”. I don’t have to link to these pieces; they’re easy enough to find.

People wondering what “side” I am on should know that I distrust any story that runs on the cheap and inefficient fuel of emotionalism; they generally become all about sound, fury and heat and once that happens, the realities become victims to the distortions of agenda. My thoughts are not in tune with either “side.”

I was taken, though, with Joanne McPortland’s heartfelt rant at God. A revert (and a dandy writer) her piece yesterday was a sincere searching, and a calling out for answers.

Like McPortland, (and like my friend Father James Martin who has promoting a kind of social media “we like US nuns” supportgroup) I know many “sisters in pantsuits with bad haircuts” who have lived out their lives of faith and service, and their vows, like a poured out libation; their gentleness and generosity of spirit would shame some of their most vociferous critics, should they actually meet up. Often they are besmirched, dismissed and ridiculed as “hippie nuns” (and worse) by people for whom the only good nun is a habited nun.

As I’ve made clear, I love to see nuns in habits; I count many habited sisters as dear friends, too, and believe there are plenty of sound reasons for a return to some sort of religious garb — not least being the silent witness they pronounce — but to overgeneralize and inveigh against any sisters because they’re not suiting one’s idea of what a nun “should be” is deeply unfair. These religious women are still, like their habited counterparts, consecrated “brides of Christ” and to my way of thinking, to disparage a bride of Christ — even if, in one’s opinion, she’s not the right bride for Jesus — is to tempt a rebuke I wouldn’t want.

That’s not to say unhabited (or habited) nuns are above critiquing. They’re certainly not, and even those who mightily support the LCWR will admit, when pressed, that some corrections are necessary and valid. But hateful ridicule and judgement, in my opinion, goes too far. I know that even when my husband and I are not quite in sync, he certainly wouldn’t stand for anyone disrespecting his bride!

These new interactions between the “liberal hippie nuns” and the ubertraditionalists and Rome, emotions aside, are simply means to an end – God’s end. He makes all things new, continually. Nothing can be made new while in stasis. Movement is required, and intention. When we worship a Being whose ways and thoughts are not ours, it’s easy to get emotional. But we know all things work for God’s glory, and we know that all things have their times and seasons toward that end. 40 years ago, it was the season for religious sisters reach out with new vibrancy, even as others said, “but I liked it the other way!” Now, their petals are waning and new growth is having its day, who knows for how long? And when what is new today fades, someone will wring the hands and stomp the foot and say, “but I liked them that way!”

To an extent I am glad for these busy waters. They tell me the church is full of life, and not safe-but-dead. The Barque of Peter has always traveled rough waters and her skippers will shift right, then left, correct and over-correct as we sail her toward Eternity.

I think the key — the thing that makes everything difficult, and is at the heart of both the LCWR and SSPX stories — is obedience. Even Jesus had trouble with it, one night. All of the saints, and even mystics from other traditions, tell us it brings perfect freedom and peace, but it’s such a balls of a thing to knuckle down to. And yet, Jesus’ own example tells us it guarantees glory. I think of him telling Peter, “one day you will go where you would rather not go…”

Peter went. Martyrdom sucked. Glory followed.

Both of these groups had issues with obedience, and not only to the church, but to their own first understandings and promises. Generally speaking, they let their evolving second and third and forth understandings take precedence over the first. A certain amount of turmoil has followed. It will continue, even if both groups fall into line with Rome or never do, because there will always be within their next move the doubts and wonderings they admitted with their first movements away from obedience and toward “self-actualizing.”

It’s kind of like Eden. Moving away from their first understanding into “growth and self-actualization” Adam and Eve moved away, also, from obedience and ever since then, we’ve been roiled, questioning, unsettled. I think both of these situations are microcosms of our giant macrocosmic dis-ease since Eden, and (I know this is unpopular to say, but here goes) the answer Jesus demonstrated — the healing and corrective “way” — was a return to obedience.

Eden keeps happening, all over again, in all of our lives; none of us have avoided doing what both groups have – moving away from our first understandings, the first things, because we’re sure our latest thought is the most perfect.

With that in mind, I just look at the lively waters and sing, “roll, river, roll!”

UPDATE: Julie Davis at Happy Catholic takes a look at Joanne McPortland’s blog posts and writes a heartfelt and instructive one of her own

Meanwhile Thomas McDonald gives an illustrative taste of how far some have moved, from not just Catholicism but the Christian Creed

More Reactions:
Omar F. A. Gutierrez urges a sober take on all this
. I agree.
Rocco Palmo: always great analysis
Get Religion: Vatican to Sisters: Enough moving beyond Jesus Strong media analysis, and a correction to Sister Simone.
Happy Catholic: Her daughter takes issue With NPR and (also) Sister Simone
David Gibson also with great analysis
God and the Machine: pointedly noting that the LCWR leadership is not representative of its whole membership
Kathryn Lopez: Talking to and about a whole different sisterhood

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Max Lindenman

    I, for one, love sisters in pantsuits with bad haircuts. I’ve met plenty, and every one has reminded me of a cheek-pinching aunt. Granted, I seem to have a way of bringing that out in people, but in these sisters’ case, I’d put it down to a faithul expression of their charism for hospitality.

    Like Joanne, I’m a little shell-shocked. I’d blog on this, but frankly, I can’t think of anything to say that wouldn’t sound paranoid or rant-like. The Internet abounds with those already; the last thing it needs is another.

    Will be praying for perspective.

    [Max, do what I do -- ask Jesus to stand between you and the thing you're reading! :-) Also, read some of the stuff I've linked to (and the document itself if you haven't) -- there is a lot of good analysis. The NY Times piece by Goodstein, I'm reading now. It's good! -admin]

  • Andrew

    Not sure how “ubertraditionalists” is intended to be received. I’m reading it as a negative. I don’t go to a SSPX parish. But I am grateful to the society for its devotion to tradition and doctrine. And liturgical dance and altar sock-puppets have sharply declined as SSPX numbers have increased – I think there’s a correlation.

    Go to an SSPX mass and you’ll see many young families with lots of kids (they actually obey the teaching of the Church). The Latin Mass folks will be a very big part of our Catholic future. They have earned our respect and they deserve a warm welcome back.

    [I have ZERO opinion on the SSPX gang. It's not negative. But they are ubertraditionalists, right? :-) -admin]

  • Joanne K McPortland

    You get what you pray for, I find, and between yesterday and today I got answers aplenty, many of them in your voice, cher Anchoress. (I’m glad you shared that wisdom with the whole line of folks outside your anchorhold.) I was just told you linked to my post, at the moment I was posting my response to myself, which is up at my blog. It’s more honest and humble than I expect from myself, which is why I think there’s some God in it somewhere, along with Petrarch and Tennyson and Dick Clark. Anyway, as always you remind me (pound into me :) ) that this is not Eden and Nothing Is That Simple But God. Thank you!

  • Pingback: First Reaction from the LCWR UPDATED

  • Ryan J Hilliard

    My hope and prayer is that these women will repent and be converted, however too many of them are so far gone, truly believing they are prophets, as they have declared themselves for years at LCWR annual conferences. Like the Pharisees, they have created their own legal fictions like, “responsible dissent,” to assuage their consciences.

    However, I can’t fully blame the sisters. They were encouraged by many bishops and priests over the last 45 years to continue down this path. And rather than disciplined or taken to task, they were elevated to important positions within diocesan offices, hospitals, universities, seminaries and so forth. I find it hard to believe the heads of the LCWR are “shocked” at this news, but perhaps they truly are, after decades of being rewarded for disobedience.

    Nonetheless, it will be an interesting showdown. Who will be left standing when this is all said and done?

    -Ryan J Hilliard

  • Allison

    Appreciate what Andrew wrote. While my family also does not go to an SSPX parish, we are grateful that God provided a way for the TLM/EF to be kept alive until this time.

    “What earlier generations held as sacred, REMAINS SACRED AND GREAT FOR US too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.” -Pope Benedict XVI.

    The thoughts on what’s-old-is-new-again and disobedience and Eden are appreciated as well. Much to engage the mind here.

  • Alicia

    Your opinion on the SSPX is as misbegotten as is your characterization. “Ubertraditionalists” is a silly way to label them; those who self-identify as SSPX (or FSSP, for that matter) have preserved what Catholicism was before Vatican II. They are not the latecomers to Catholicism or simply a quirky group with no legitimate claims. If the SSPX and the Holy See do indeed sign an agreement, I wonder how you will regard them then or the possible changes they will bring to the Church at large.

    [My opinion on SSPX is not misbegotten, just disinterested although -- as I said to another commenter -- there is no desire to offend in this piece. If there is an desire to FIND offense in the piece, I can't help that. As to how I will regard them or the possible changes they will bring to the church? Can't predict it, but unless the change is vast and dramatic, I expect they'll continue not to blip my radar very much, sorry -admin]

  • Joanne K McPortland

    The SSPX will not bring changes to the Church at large, even if they are eventually reconciled. At most they will be allowed an ordinariate. They are not the same as the Priestfly Fraternity of St Peter, which is fully in communion with Rome and which has been entrusted with celebrating the Extraordinary Form (not the Tridentine liturgy) in many dioceses

  • Tzard

    The announcement was only about the conference, not individual orders or even individual nuns (save the work of the leaders themselves). Very measured language should not be taken unmeasuredly.

    Virtues, or lack thereof are only a side issue, and not addressed by the documents at all. It’s all behavior. The word obedience is only mentioned once, in a large background quote by JPII.

    Correction of anything can’t happen unless you state where things are wrong. If people take that personally – that’s an individual issue that can be dealt with through prayer and meditation (and not unique to this issue)

    Am I reading this wrong?

  • Captain_Dg

    Elizabeth has written a gentle, middle way. But I think it is too gentle when it comes to the worst of the LCWR.

  • Pingback: Because On this Ship, I Don’t Have to Decide Everything

  • Thinkling

    Interesting Eden comparison.

    I thought the Gutierrez piece excellent as well…very charitable and cautious, to set against many who are foaming at the mouth, either with glee or dispair.

    But I am surprised you liked the Gibson piece. It was full of subtle framing code words that betrayed it as not analysis at all. Having also seen the GetReligion piece, I know they would have torn it to shreds.

  • fiestamom

    I enjoyed Fr. Gutierrez piece. I too, wonder what took so long? Somewhere along the way, the “hippie nuns” left the Catholic Church and joined the religion of Social Justice. I pray that they allow the Holy Spirit to lead them back to Christ’s church. And continue to help the poor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, all for love of Jesus.

  • Clare Krishan

    Just an FYI – hubby cued me in there was some Catholic news on the transom I might be interested in, so my first resort is always Google and I was glad to find a (what I thought would be sympathetic) Patheos link listed amongst the big nationals. Washington Post, LA, NY Times etc…

    but it wasn’t any of the Catholic portal pages, rather this was what my click led me to:

    Do you as editor have anyway of influencing what Patheos pages are collated as news sources by Google? Would be good if you could find out why a Patheos’ pagan site was listed and not a Cathoilc site…

    [We have no control over that. Although I have noticed, increasingly, that one sometimes really has to LOOK for a more centrist or right-of-center view on on Google, in this case, it's very possible that the pagan writer simply posted earlier than I did -- I had a super-busy day and did not post until late in the afternoon, so it could be nothing more than simple timing. -admin]

  • Mark Greta

    In talking with four Dominican Nuns, they were surprised that the repsonse was so well laid out on what this group had represented in dissent for so long. These nuns work hard every day to educate the kids on what the Church teaches, the virtues needed in life to life up to those teaching, and the saints which model each of the virtues.

    I think it is interesting to think of those nuns laboring each day to battle the world philosophies that these nuns seem to accept as their right to do the least they can do to stay out of hot water with Church leadership, to do whatever feels good that day, and to support a secular godless centralized government solution for everything. For well over a decade these nuns have been on the front line and been called Nazi’s by feminist because they support NFP and are solidly pro life and anti gay unions or marriage while these dissenting pant suits babes have been the lefts darlings. But of course their reaction was to dedicate this evenings rosary to those lost souls and actually showing their love for them in this trying hour for them.

  • Ann

    These nuns are NOT BRIDES of CHRIST! I was verbally chastened and almost hit in the face years ago by a nun when I suggested that she was a bride of Christ. Absolutely Not! She belongs to a Religious Order that gave up the habit more than 40 years ago. Many abandoned the Catholic schools (not enough money) and went into more lucrative jobs. No visible sign of Consecrated Religious besides a plain wooden cross that resembles more an “X” than anything else. One of the oldest of their Order said while we were on a retreat with some of them, that they are really more like a sorority than a religious order now. Most of them are well-educated and wonderful women who help the poor, the homeless, particularly women. But they have not had any vocations in many years. Their Order will be gone in another 10-15 years. A real shame.

  • Christine

    I understand and accept your larger point that those who are officially consecrated as spouses of Christ are worthy of respect no matter what they look like. However, the rejection of the habit is no mere style choice or exercise of poor judgment, and the worldiness and vanity that it facilitates in some sisters is unfortunate but not as important (to me) as the disobedience and distance it signifies from the Church. It is another visible sign of separation from the Church, which strongly recommends the habit (Vita Consecrata), and the traditions of the foundress. It is also important to consider how the habit aids in the living of the vow of chastity; Mother Teresa called the habit a great protection for her sisters.

    [You should read my link. I'm pretty clear that I do like habits. - admin]

  • Pingback: The Anchoress…

  • Tim Freeman

    I enjoyed the even handed assessment by Elizabeth; I check your page everyday to see what you write and for the video links…love them. On the LCWR item…I heard the NPR interview and was perplexed by Sister Simone’s response; she was truly not answering the interviewers questions. I also read the 8 page document, thanks for the link, and as I suspected this was not a knee jerk decision, but one developed over time. As with past issues where the world judges the Catholic church and it’s leaders as wanting, it’s all about obedience. Unfortunately I didn’t learn until recently, I’m 57, that I can either rail against God or accept his discipline, which is not onerous, and let him be God. When I do the latter, my life becomes much simpler…who’da thunk! I hope the LCWR takes this opportunity to correct their course and see that they need not give up their identity in order to continue their ministry…it’s seems they go where angels fear to tread!…Shalom

  • Christopher Hunt

    Everyone on every side is talking as if the CDF is coming down on the whole of women religious leadership. This is a false representation. The LCWR are simply one “leadership group” that has been wayward for decades. There is also The Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR), which are very much in line with those teachings taught in the Ecumenical Councils and other infallible documents which Catholics cannot dissent against and remain truly in the Fold. The CMSWR represents religious women all over the United States. They represent over 100 communities and the CMSWR goals are stated as:
    1-to establish collaboration among major superiors who desire it,
    2-to serve as a channel of communication among major superiors,
    3-to provide a forum for participation, dialogue, and education on the patrimony of the Church’s teaching on religious life,
    4-to promote unity among major superiors, thus testifying to their union with the Magisterium and their love for Christ’s Vicar on earth, and,
    5-to coordinate active cooperation with the USCCB.

    The only reason that it is “shocking” that the CDF has come down on LCWR is due to so very many years of open dissent not being dealt with. The first people to drop the ball were the local bishops, who refused to reign in dissent from those Catholic teachings which are a part of the Deposit of Faith. If the local bishops were doing their respective jobs, it would have never turned into an issue. After much more time passing without these issues being dealt with, they became deep seated. The CDF should have stepped in quite a bit earlier. So, I would say that the CDF also dropped the ball.

    Now, the dissent is rooted deeply in the US Catholic Church. There is plenty of blame to go around, but finger pointing will do no good. It is time for correction. Unfortunately, it was let go for so long that those dissenters FEEL they have a “right” to do and say what they are doing and saying. They do not have a right to do what they are doing, or to say what they are saying. They are abandoning Jesus Christ, and His Bride, the Holy Catholic Church when they do so.

    So, let’s pray for these women, and for our Church. There is going to be some ugly backlash due to this development. We are going through some growing pains right now.

  • kevin

    The war on men is what really concerns me. When will it end?

  • ppeter

    We must remember that ‘judgment must begin in the household of God,’ and it has begun there, in the sense that ‘traditional’ (in the broad sense) communities have been smacked down for disobedience too. In fact, I belong to a ‘new community’ (remember that thing that used to be the cure-all for what ails the Church, according to some?) that has been called back to obedience and simple good sense in recent times. And our religious family is not the only one; I could name several others in similar situations without thinking too hard. The fallout from all this is ongoing.
    The problem isn’t habit or no-habit, I agree wholeheartedly. It’s the crucifyingly hard and messy obedience of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. And it’s not any easier or less naturally repugnant to the traditionally-minded than to anyone else, in my experience.

  • thedan

    I don’t think they are ubertraditional and that does have a pejorative ring to it. It would be like saying the LCWR is anti-tradition. Putting the LCWR and the SSPX on the same plain as being disobedient doesn’t make sense. This is a point that always bothers me. The SSPX adheres to every dogma of the Faith, unlike the LCWR. One group dissents from defined Church teaching on many points, including obedience to the Magisterium. Archbishop Lefevbre disobeys the pope once and consecrates bishops in desperation because he sincerely believes the Faith is being destroyed, which judging by the crazy amounts of disobedience in groups such as the LCWR and among Catholics in general, it seems his concern was more than warranted. But to equate one desperate act of disobedience that put the group at odds with the Magisterium from then on with a sustained and strategic disobedience not only in one instance to the pope but to defined teachings seems pretty weak. I think the SSPX has already been influential in the Church. Its critiques of Vatican II are carrying more and more weight.

    [Well, I'm not going to keep defending my use of the word "ubertraditional" since it fits, and if you insist on believing that it's meant as a pejorative, be my guest, but disobedience is disobedience. I think there is a conceit to thinking that one disobedience is less-justified than another. It all stems from the same place; it is all connected to Eden -admin]

  • Bill

    The mystical Body of Christ, the Church, espouses love. One might rethink those positions taken by those who say they best represent the Church yet support a selfishness in behaviors involving disordered sexual epression and the nuanced and occasionally-acceptable termination of the unborn, for the sake of “being kind”. These issues are foundational to the heart and all of life. But of course, the Body of Christ does remain on the Cross, mystically, until the end of time; doesn’t He.

  • Louis Tofari

    So… I guess the Blessed Virgin Mary – conceived without Original Sin and who bore in her womb the One Whom the universe could not contain – was repressed because she knew her calling was to be true to her God-given femininity? Liberal feminism rejects the nature that God endowed women with – and also reject that the Church has always upheld the true dignity of women – precisely because of their beautiful feminine nature and in honor of the Mother of God.

  • Paul

    I used to pay more attention the SSPX controversy and the fall of many of the major orders but they don’t hit my radar much anymore either I decided to take a stance of prayer for them when th mood strike and leave it to God as suggested in todays first reading from Acts 5: A Pharisee in the Sanhedrin named Gamaliel,
    a teacher of the law, respected by all the people,
    stood up, ordered the Apostles to be put outside for a short time,
    and said to the Sanhedrin, “Fellow children of Israel,
    be careful what you are about to do to these men.
    Some time ago, Theudas appeared, claiming to be someone important,
    and about four hundred men joined him, but he was killed,
    and all those who were loyal to him
    were disbanded and came to nothing.
    After him came Judas the Galilean at the time of the census.
    He also drew people after him,
    but he too perished and all who were loyal to him were scattered.
    So now I tell you,
    have nothing to do with these men, and let them go.
    For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin,
    it will destroy itself.
    But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them;
    you may even find yourselves fighting against God.”

  • Frances Daly

    “I read somewhere on social media yesterday that, “the church thinks women are not as capable of striving for holiness or as valiant in witness as men”. Where did you read that?
    No one mentions the ‘consecrated brides’ who are in secret relationships, who like to have hotel holidays a few times a year and who have run away from the truth by seeking false consolations in occult, new age and Reiki practices. Try correcting them and see the rage of feminists gone far wrong. The Vatican report is long overdue and very welcome by the faithful. It will be a test for those who profess to follow the Lord, to see if they actually will.

    ["Where did you read that?" in a comments thread on FB in conversation. -admin]

  • elcid

    I think what we are seeing with the LCWR, SSPX, Anglicans is just the holy spirit cleaning house, I’m just of the belief that Vatican II caused so many problems and we are seeing some of the corrections…I pray many more to come.

  • Rob B.

    On a mostly unrelated matter, my favorite line in the piece was this:

    “Peter went. Martyrdom sucked. Glory followed.”

    Thanks for the reminder of how absolutely petty my problems are… :)

  • mrd

    The whole issue with the LCWR is almost irrelevant. The LCWR is dying of its own irrelevancy. As it has become just one more left wing group. It is now sort of an unusual stew of ersatz Christianity, with… Well I am not sure, paganism? goddess worship? Social work? left wing political agitprop…. A little of all of that, but it matters not. Even if some would characterize it more favorably, the data that tells us its dying does not depend on if you think the LCWR is a bunch of leftists heretics or the vanguard of the best theological thinking. In any event it is not attractive to very many women. As such it is manifestly dying. The Median age of the LCWR is about 74. The group it claims to represent is also rapidly shrinking. The number of women religious has been plumetting for decades, for example in 1969 , in the United States, there were about 180,000 women religious, now its about 59,000. A number of religious congregations did not have a single person take perpetual vows in 2011. Looking at the age of some congregations is also instructive, the Sisters of Mercy has only 4% of their members < 45 years of age. Even if the rate of decline in women religious was linear the Conference will virtually cease to exist in about another 15 years give or take. As it happens the age of the membership means the rate of decline is likely to accelerate, so it may not take 15 years for the LCWR to become extinct. So all the back and forth in the blogosphere is really…meaningless. demographics is destiny and the LCWR is going to vanish long before the Vatican can impact it one way or another. IT is possible there will be new groups of women religious that have very rapid growth and some organization like the LCWR emerges, however there is no evidence of anything like this occuring at present, so there is really no way to say what such a group might look like.
    It is also possible that we will be colonized by space aliens, theoretically possible that is, but not a smart bet.

  • aahill

    I’d never really looked much at LCWR until this all came out. I went to their website and read their “Call,” an extended (c. 560 words) declaration of purpose. Among those 560 words, the name “Jesus” never appears. Not once. Its bad enough that “Mary” and “Joseph” don’t appear either, but the words “Jesus” and “Christ” are not in their “Call.” Is it any wonder some think Catholics are not “Christian?” How did a vocation (call) to religious life evolve into something that doesn’t orient these dedicated virgins into intimacy with their Bridegroom?

  • Mandy P.

    Newer Catholic here. The one thing that struck me in reading about this and going back and reading through some of the transcripts of the LCWR conferences, is how long it took to get this correction and how far these ladies were allowed to slide away into something not-quite-Christian. Reading some of the more recent transcripts that Father Z linked to in the last few years just about made my hair curl. I know the Church tends to think in centuries instead of more immediately, but this was allowed to go on for so long that more recent conferences apparently had speakers suggesting they should move beyond Christ into something more akin to pantheism. That’s disturbing. I also appreciate that these sisters don’t represent *all* women religious, and thank God for that.

    I hope that doesn’t come off as too uncharitable because I don’t mean it to be. I guess it’s just shocking to me that this particular group of women were so far gone without correction. I mean, I realized there were some groups within the church that were significantly more liberal than what I prefer, but I didnt realize that some groups were quite this out-of-sync.

  • Jack

    While it’s beautiful to see sisters and nuns (there’s a canonical distinction) in habits, rest assured that the garb of holy poverty is expensive–the male Carmelite habit costs $225 to have made–and most women are NOT taught to sew from girlhood as they once were.

    And trust me on this one: “holy obedience” does NOT convey skills the obedientiary lacks to start with. That was the big mistake in religious life before V2.

  • Bruce

    Its about time. I’ve dealt personally with these pantsuit sisters, particularly when they are escorts at abortion clinics. They should have been put down decades ago. Whatever happens to them now is for their own good and ours.

    No apologies. No sympathy. The time for that ended two decades ago, and then some.

    Shut ‘em down!!!

  • Philip

    Wow! Elizabeth, this is an incredibly eloquent post. I think you summed up the situation quite well. After I read it, I sat back and simply thought: “yes”. Thank you! This is quite facebook-worthy =]

  • Max

    I’m grateful to both the SSPX, for maintaining traditional Catholic practices and theology, and the pantsuited sisters with bad haircuts, for their work with the poor, sick, and often forgotten. Now if we could just fuse the two, and add a measure of joy, then we’d be a Church full of happy warriors, a la Cardinal Dolan. No wait, that would be heaven indeed, we’ll have to wait for that ;-)

  • EJCM

    I am of two minds. For the record I attend the weekly TLM in my diocsese. When I read some of the nun’s offerings in the bulletin it makes me sad. Unfortunately a lot is new age type stuff, but it often appears to lead by a small cadre of nuns. On the other hand while helping at a local soup kitchen I get to see the nuns in action helping the poor. When I see sister taking some guy twice her size to task and getting results, I see an incredible gift.

  • Farkel44

    Some old men in Rome still think the church is a ladder to eternal life, and not the collective tool for the Earth society that we know Jesus wanted.

  • Ann

    I can’t help but see a comparison between the way the leadership of the LCWR is behaving and the way people who are considering divorce behave. I have watched the demise of so many marriages begin with spouses who talk about their spouse uncharitably to other people. They want their friends and neighbors to justify their divorce. So now, we watch the LCWR leadership try to gather the support and justification from the press, etc.. Once you treat your spouse so uncharitably before others how do you go back? I fear that like so many divorcee’s the LCWR will undoubtedly find the grass really isn’t greener on the other side. Can anyone really be so foolish as to think any human spouse or human cause can be better than Jesus. How terribly sad.

  • Spera

    All of the “pants suit” nuns I have met, have lived very humbly, and gave their lives and their talents to serve others and not rule others. They live the works of mercy. If any have missed the mark should they not receive mercy? Thank you Elizabeth for being a voice for fairness.

  • Pingback: Vatican Order Crack Down on US Nuns - Page 2 - Christian Forums

  • Paul Snatchko

    I would not be surprised if the sisters simply shut down LCWR rather than agree to the control of an apostolic delegate who would dictate their by-laws and conference programs.

    When you get down to it, LCWR does not need to exist as a formal organization. The leaders of these congregations could always get together informally and discuss issues of shared concern.

    Also, there is another umbrella group for the leaders of the women religious in the United States. It’s called the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (which is very faithful to the letter of the law in the Church). If an archbishop is going to control LCWR, there ceases to be a reason for two umbrella groups.

    FWIW, on the general topic of “the sisters who no longer wear habits,” I would just add that my own love of the Catholic Church was greatly strengthened by one of them. Sr. Thomasmari Gore, MSBT, was one of my Catholic campus ministers in the ’90s at NYU. She was a rock for so many of us. Among her many roles, she managed the NYU Catholic Center’s soup kitchen. I don’t think we could begin to count the number of apartments she found for almost-homeless international students. And, when my grandfather died in 1998, it was Sister who spotted me the cash for a plane ticket home to Pittsburgh for the funeral. Her example is one I try to follow every day of my life.

    [Paul, I agree with you. One of the dearest and most influential women of my life was a "nun without a habit". On the other hand, one of the loopiest (kind but loopy) was also one of them! I am disliking the emotionalism that is accompanying this and also the lazy framing that the MSM (unsurprisingly) and others (surprisingly) are using: "bad Vatican men against nice ladies; church that moved slow against bad priests moving fast against good women" -- this correction would be happening if this group (really, their leadership) were a bunch of men, and this is one reason why. And as to the church moving quickly against women, one could argue that the moved as slowly with the LCWR as they did with the bad priests. The sisters in leadership positions have been pushing the envelope -- even Creed-wise -- for decades.'s a correction. There will be others! :-) -admin]

  • dry valleys

    We are aware of things like this. Also Koran Armstrong was a nun at one stage.

  • Mary Richardson

    “habited” nuns and “pantsuit” nuns??? This is pure nonsense. The vatican’s move is about control and diversion from the abuses of priests and bishops. Shame on Rome.

    [As soon as people say "shame on..." anyone, I know they're on autopilot, and usually from the left of center. YOUR assertion about the Vatican is in fact "pure nonsense" and it's lazy thinking to boot. This is not about "mean men picking on nice old ladies" -- although that is surely the narrative (the LAZY and cheap narrative) that some would like to build. The need for correction of the LCWR leadership is not because of their gender, as tempting as that is to believe. It's about fidelity to the basic precepts of the Catholic church and the Christian Creed which they have dramatically moved away from. This is a necessary and overdue correction of the leadership (not the body) of the LCWR, and one that would be happening if this was a group of men, and the LCWR knows it. Certainly we're about to witness a profound and interesting battle. But it is a battle, frankly, that would be fought regardless of the sex of the "battlees!" Do try to be honest. As far as this being a "diversion" from the scandals -- that's not possible. The churches errors there will rightly follow them for decades, but doesn't mean she should then compound her errors by never correcting anyone again. Just as the church took too long to address the scandals, it took too long to address these errors. Everything is overdue and coming due. -admin]

  • Centurion 9.41

    You use terms like “Ubertraditionalists”, yet you answer your sycophant’s questions for opinion regarding Rome’s recent direction for LCWR with “obedience”?

    “With that in mind, I just look at the lively waters and sing, “roll, river, roll!”
    Sounds strangely like someone whistling past a graveyard, of obedience filled martyrs.

    Joanne’s, “heart felt rant” was filled with I’s. And I’ve noticed similar frequency of “I” in LCWR supporters and works.

    SSPX and their supporters on the other hand, virtually never say I. They constantly point back to clear teachings of the Magesterium that are attacked by the “spirits of Vatican II” that have become legion under all the “I”s.

    There are grave and evil dangers being fought by Rome. Souls are in great danger. Tremendous EVIL has been taking place. Hundred’s of millions of children have been killed.

    Look more closely at the river. The red tinge is not God gentle flow of minerals.


    [Sorry. Both stories are rooted with a move away from obedience -admin]

  • Pingback: Polity Bar Nun | The Back of the World

  • Bob Corrigan

    I was educated by the Sisters of St. Joseph when they all wore traditional habits. Now they wear normal street clothes with a small cross if you can see it. The order is dying. There are few under the age of 60. The Dominicans are growing and thriving with young women joining everyday, and they proudly wear their habit. Need I say more?

  • dawnmaria

    There is a group of sisters in Colorado that organizes masses during which the congregation is asked to go up to the altar and kiss the globe that has been set on the altar. I never went to any of these masses (that occurred in my parish), but my good friend did. She told one sister (who was her friend) that shs was sorry, she just could not go up and kiss the globe on the altar—it felt wrong to her. These masses were facilitated by a priest of the liberal persuasion. The sisters are members of an old older of midwestern nuns who pioneered healthcare in the West. How sad! See what we have come to? This kind of sacrilege must be stopped, even if it has been allowed to go on too long.

  • Mandy P.

    Read the link you posted in the comments about this year’s scheduled speaker and conference themes. Good gracious, Almighty! I literally cannot find a charitable word to describe that.

  • Centurion 9.41

    To “Admin”,

    re “[Sorry. Both stories are rooted with a move away from obedience -admin]”

    Yes, they are. Your “sorry” only confirms your blindness to understanding the authority from which obedience comes. I’ll stay with the Magesterium and the Dogma’s of the Faith, which is what “ubertraditionalists” do, over the homilies and social justice based thoughts of priests, Bishops, Cardinals and even Popes.

    I am not an SSPX member, but I do know that the oft mentioned “schism” and “excommunication” were not only not official, but are now very clearly being very slowly, theologically walked back.

    Do not make the mistake of judging the theological claims of the SSPX by the non-theological thoughts held by some SSPX leaders. The history of the Catholic Church has experienced periods where many, many Bishops followed a heretical path. So the theological concerns and issues raised by SSPX are not claiming something unthinkable. Nor if they are right does it mean the gates of hell hath prevailed against His Church.

    I have yet to find one official theological assertion of Archbishop Lefebvre to be contrary to the Faith as continuously taught by the Magisterium.

    I have found quite a few “spirits of Vatican II” to be very contrary to the Faith as continuously taught by the Magisterium.

    In fact, that fact is why comparing the SSPX to the LCWR is so enlightening, and dangerous. The very people who proclaim most strongly the “spirit” of Vatican II as a basis of deepening ecumenical ties and proclaiming the great good of non-Catholic Christian communities, attack the SSPX for merely trying to hold on to the Traditions and traditions of pre-Vatican II and for speaking directly to what they see as the issues with an indifferentism based eucumenicism. Odd, they ignore the non-Catholic’s differences, but attack the SSPX’s differences. They show love and brotherhood toward the non-Catholic religions, even the pagan ones, yet hatred toward so many SSPX. And quite frankly, as my mother used to say, I don’t care how the other children act; I care only about how YOU act.

    As to the matter of disobedience regarding SSPX making Bishops, those are matters of Cannon Law and of tradition. Not Faith, Morals or Tradition. You might want to keep those distinctions in mind. Especially given the current questions regarding the similarities and differences between LCWR and SSPX.

    Christ did not try to stop the disciples that walked away after He said “until you eat of the flesh”. And He said the foolish virgins, “Amen I say to you, I know you not.”

    Disobedience to tradition and Canon Law is far, far different than disobedience to The Faith and Tradition. Satan however, does not make such distinctions.

    I pray you come to see the difference.