The LCWR, Reform and the Persistence of Memory – UPDATED

My plan was to end the night with a linking round-up of reactions, thoughts and analysis of how the story of the Vatican’s call for a reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious was falling out. And I may still do that — when do I ever shut up? But for tonight, I can’t think of a better read for anyone interested in this story, than Max Lindenman’s brilliant, heartfelt and almost lyrical piece that reads like the turn of a long, last loving look and a deep sigh into tomorrow:

So it’s been clear for many years that the LCRW and the Vatican were not, as they say, on the same page, and just as clear that the women religious knew the Vatican didn’t like it. But here’s something observers may have missed: some LCRW leaders not only foresaw the end of religious life as they knew it, but accepted its end philosophically.

Sister Laurie Brink, O.P. then LCRW president, titled her 2008 address to the conference “A Marginal Life: Pursuing Holiness in the 21st Century.” In her introduction, she acknowledges that women religious “have lost our prophetic place on the margins, having gravitated toward the middle of society and fallen off the edge of the Church.” In other words, sisters aren’t doing enough to help the disenfranschised, which is what they want to do. Nor are they praying the Liturgy of the Hours or adoring the Eucharist, as the Church wants them to do. On both counts, it’s a powerful self-indictment.
[...]
Whether we elect to acquiesce to others’ expectations wholeheartedly, reconcile ourselves to authority for the sake of the mission, or take our show on the road, we can also mourn to our hearts’ content the Church we wanted, or the Church we thought we had. There’s no time limit for mourning; look how long tradition-minded Catholics sat shiva for the Latin Mass. If we can manage, without actually living in the past, to hold memories close enough to re-visit, we can remind ourselves that whatever is, may be right for the moment, but it’s not all there ever was.

This is a gorgeous piece and I urge you to read it all, and pass it around, and realize that something is happening here. And not just with this story, but all around; you can almost feel it — all about us, socially, politically, religiously, it feels like notions that have been clung to with furious attachment are beginning to be loosed, and an opening is occurring. It’s just a small thing, so fragile it must be whispered over with care.

It reminds me a little of Psalm 102, which reads in part:

I have become like a pelican in the wilderness,
like an owl in desolate places.
I like awake and I moan
like some lonely bird on a roof.

But oh, how it ends, on such a note of triumph!

Long ago you founded the earth
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish but you will remain.
They will all wear out like a garment.
You will change them like clothes that are changed.
But you neither change, nor have an end.

A beautiful depiction of the constant-renewal of the world and all Creation in it, including you and me. We peer out a window and see in the sunrises all the seasonal changes: in the first-turning leaves, from green-to-gold, we realize that summertime has reached its absolute fullness, and — being wholly and fully summer, and incapable of being more of what it is — must finally begin the slow but inexorable move to winter. And there begins the process of reaching the next culmination, of a world become wholly and fully winter, until it can be no more winter, and must bud into splendid spring.

That’s what the world feels like to me right now, in all of these headlines around us, that a culmination has been reached, and something new is on the horizon. There is no need for the heartsickness of bitter grief over what was and is no more. See, I make all things new.

UPDATE: Read some background on what brought so much upheaval so quickly by Kathy Schiffer

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Mark Greta

    I think if the nuns lived off by themselves and therefore the open and ongoing decades long in your face dissent, one could have some sympathy for them. What I think the Church has FINALLY come to realize is that some are led away from Christ and His Church by their actions. My wife Greta use to try her best to work with employees in her company. But despite best efforts, some who think they should be CEO and are in constant dissent from the mission of the company lead to growing issues. They need to be brought in line so as to not hurt others or the overall mission which for the Church is to help all those in the Church find the narrow gate to heaven. It seemed to many that whenever you saw this group surface, it was to encourage others to lose confidence in the Pope and Magesterium. If successful, you will soon find that the doubts led some to lose faith and some to lose hope and also fostered anger within the church hurting its unity.

    We have a gift in the Church of a promised protection of a true north to follow in our lives that Christ has protected with infallibility on matters of faith and morals when declared as such by the Pope. Without this true north, you have 25,000 or more protesting Christian churches and many lost souls. I think it is very interesting to talk with those from other faiths who say one major factor was this infallible true north they can hang their hat on based on the promise of Christ. When the Pope says that the Church does not have in the past, now, or at any time in the future the ability to change male only priests because that is what Christ chose, and says it is non negotiable for that reason, it is over. When the Pope says marriage can only be between one man and one woman and it is not negotiable, it is over. Some not only do not accept that which is non negotiable teaching, but try to make teaching on which we can look to our own well formed conscience that starts with Church teaching, to form our own final viewpoint or belief as their equivalent to what has been stated non negotiable.

    These nuns got in the face of the Pope on visits to protest non negotiable teaching. If they cannot find a way to obey, then there are probably at least a thousand other christian churchs that match their beliefs. Rather than leave, they chose to stay and to stir up dissent and lead others from God and His Church. They needed to be fired a very long time ago and in this area, the Church has not done its job of helping all souls to find the narrow path. There are two paths to eternal life. One goes to heaven.

  • Bender

    sisters aren’t doing enough to help the disenfranschised
    ________________

    I don’t know. The only women religious I have seen helping “the disenfranschised” are the more traditional non-LCRW sisters (for example, you can’t help but notice when Mother Teresa’s nuns are around). Maybe those in the LCRW are helping also, maybe they aren’t. Of course, if they are, who is going to know it if they are virtually indistinguishable from any worldly social worker? What with them going around igcognito, I don’t know that I’ve ever run into one.

    And if LCRW members were to do more to help the disenfranschised, then that would make them good Jews or good Protestants or good Muslims or good agnostics, etc., just as much as making them good Catholics. Non-Catholics and lay Catholics are called to help those in need too, there is nothing specific to Catholic religious life about such worldly activity. But women religious are called to other-wordly activity, other-wordly life.

    And, not to get really petty here (OK, so I’m about to get petty), but part of leaving the world is taking a new name for one’s new life. What kind of person takes “Laurie” as her name in religion? Who is St. Laurie? Is it short for Lawrence? Or did Sr. Laurie not bother to take another name, a name other than the name she was given in the world? Yes, it is petty to pick on her for her name, but a name means something. A name, especially in religion, is important; it is more than a mere arbitrarily designation, it signifies who and what the person is, just as the name of God signifies who and what He Is.

    To keep the name given to you in the world is to say that you have not left the world to enter religious life, that you intend to remain worldly. It is indicative of the whole problem that so many of these LCRW members have — they really do not want to be specically religious sisters, they want to be social workers, they want to be activists, they want to be indistiguishable from millions of others. Well, OK, if they then do some good charitable works, pat them on the back for being good people, but that does not make them good nuns.

    Wow, Bender, you admitted it yourself, but I must agree: that really IS petty. A nun’s vocation and depth of commitment is now to be judged on her name? I know a nun — habited, and preparing to make her first vows — who kept her name because her mother was so distraught about her life in then cloister that the nun and her superiors decided she should remain her birth name (with a Maria put before it) out of compassion for her mother. I know another sister who expected a new name (even wanted it) and was given her own name by the superior, who thought it suited her and gave her an excellent patron. Knowing nothing of a circumstance, you condemn a woman’s life work. I’m astonished. Five years ago, I don’t thnk you’d have written that. -admin]

  • Mandy P.

    “We have a gift in the Church of a promised protection of a true north to follow in our lives that Christ has protected with infallibility on matters of faith and morals when declared as such by the Pope. Without this true north, you have 25,000 or more protesting Christian churches and many lost souls. I think it is very interesting to talk with those from other faiths who say one major factor was this infallible true north they can hang their hat on based on the promise of Christ.”

    This is me completely, Mark. Coming into the Chuhrch from Protestantland brought such a huge sigh of relief for me! When I was a Protestant, there was always much turmoil in my soul as to what I was actually supposed to be doing and supposed to believe. Because they’re all different, and not just between denominations but between every single congregation the beliefs and practices can very greatly. And it’s so confusing because for every person or group that is obviously abusing or cherry-picking the Scriptures to justify their ideas, there are just as many that make a lot of sense, and most of those contradict each other. So it’s really difficult to go it alone and try to figure out which interpretation of such-and-such is the right one and am I going to hell if I pick the wrong one, etc and so on.

    So, yes it has been a relief, a joy, and a comfort having that sure foundation of the Magisterium and Tradition to cling to. Its funny but my RCIA teachers both commented to me that part often reason they loved the work was that it was enriching to their own faiths to be able to see Catholicism through new eyes via the converts they teach. They both said that as cradle Catholics there were a lot of aspects of the faith that they didn’t think too much about or took for granted or thought of as oppressive and constricting. And when they get to see how the converts react to those things and hear the stories of other faiths or denominations they can see how freeing things like the Magisterium really are.

    It’s really all a matter of perspective.

  • Bender

    Yes, I and we know nothing of the circumstances of her taking (or keeping) that name, but that is due to the name itself — the name itself should provide some circumstances itself. A name, like one’s manner of dress, says something to the world. What does “Sr. Laurie” say to the world? What does insisting on wearing lay clothing say to the world? At best they say, “????”; at best, they say nothing to the world, while at worst they indicate keeping a hold of the world, rather than detaching from it.

    her superiors decided she should remain her birth name (with a Maria put before it)

    In other words, her superiors understood that it would say the wrong thing for her to keep just her birth name, that some extra was needed, e.g. “Maria.”

    another sister who expected a new name (even wanted it) and was given her own name by the superior, who thought it suited her and gave her an excellent patron

    An excellet patron. From that one must conclude that the birth name was already a saint’s name. There is nothing wrong with that — one of my dearest saints essentially took her birth name as her name in religion, “Marie Bernard (Soubirous).” But, again, who is St. Laurie? If it is derivative of Laurence (or Lawrence), I apologize.

    Maybe she does good work. But that makes her a good person. She may as well be a good Jew or a good Protestant. It does not necessarily make her a good nun.

    The Church is in desperate need of good nuns, of good sisters, of good women religious who are openly and patently and outwardly and instantly recognizable as brides of Christ, rather than hiding any relationship they might have with Him under worldly dress and worldly monikers. The Church is in desperate need of good nuns qua nuns, and not merely good people who just so happen to be nuns.

  • ThomasD

    “So it’s been clear for many years that the LCRW and the Vatican were not, as they say, on the same page, and just as clear that the women religious knew the Vatican didn’t like it.”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/american-nuns-stunned-by-vatican-accusation-of-radical-feminism-crackdown/2012/04/20/gIQAi4gkWT_story.html

    Stunned by being so inapt, or by being so blunt?

  • Melody

    Max’s post was indeed beautiful. And thank you for the quote from Psalm 102 and your reflections on it, that is also beautiful.
    Just a comment on the name thing mentioned by Bender. Our names weren’t given to us by “the world”. They were given to us by our parents, and then in Baptism. Whether a religious takes another name, I don’t really care, it’s up to whatever the custom of their order is. But our Christian names aren’t chopped liver. (And Our Lady of Loretto is often the patroness of girls named Lori or Laurie).

  • Mark Greta

    Mandy P, your comments are ones I have heard hundreds of times by those coming to us from the protesting churchs where there was no one who had the final say and certainly not one so clearly tied in Scipture to the promises of Christ. I find so many Catholics who in their deisre to do their will and to support evil, want to argue against this most wonderful gift by Christ to the flock He wants to see in paradise with Him. They cannot seem to understand the basics that say first understand what the Church teaches with magestrial significance and learn to accept it fully and to obey it with complete trust in God. In all other areas, where this tag is not given to the teaching, listen and pray and allow that teaching to flow into your heart, soul, and mind and in prayer determine your position with a special focus on which path this decision will in your heart, soul, and mind place you in our journey to eternity. There are two paths, one leads to heaven. If all of you says this places you on the path to heaven, even if it will cause suffering in this world, you should gladly take that path. 90% of the time, the Church, even when not speaking on a topic it has called non negotiable, they will be right and have you on the right path. But as seen through history, in these non negotiable areas a Pope, Cardinal, Bishop, or priest can be in error. If we do everything in our power to try and get it right as to supporting the teaching or not, even when they are in error and we follow, I trust in Christ love to put something in my view to help me back on the right path if I follow humility and admit my error. It has not failed me as I grow closer to my 80th year on this world. My wonderful wife Greta could knock the pride and self esteem blocking my path to God out from under me with a look or a word. I miss her now that God has called her home, but after all these years together, her words are never far from me and we chat often each day.

    My prayer each day is for those who are on the wrong path and blocked with pride that does not allow them to see such pure evil as the Democratic Party of death and its track record of being on the wrong side of every major moral issue for 200 years will be given sight before our America is lost to pure evil that will flow when we have rejected God as a nation. 54 million butchere babies does not seem to be enough to tell Catholics that they cannot support the partner of the abortion mills and his party but have to elect the Republican candidate and then to spend each day making sure that they follow through and work to end the evils in this great land. I know that Greta is storming heaven in every manner to bring about the end of this holocaust to which she dedicated much of her life and a huge part of her fortune. I now Mother Theresa who called this the culutre of death is working with Christ to end the holocaust. Now if we can just get Catholics to be Catholic and to say no to the party of death, we will begin to see America turn the corner toward being again one nation under God.

  • David DeAtkine

    I am a recent convert from lifelong Protestantism, and I don’t have a lot to say about the religious crisis as noted above; I am struck by something you say at the very end of this blog post–

    “That’s what the world feels like to me right now, in all of these headlines around us, that a culmination has been reached, and something new is on the horizon. There is no need for the heartsickness of bitter grief over what was and is no more. See, I make all things new.”

    I do agree with you — I think Evil has had its day to an extent that it no longer bothers to hide or obfuscate itself. The Left openly, proudly declares its hatred for Christ, anyone who disagrees with them; and their hatred extends literally to even “wanted” human fetuses — which are now to be thought of as “parasites”. Traditional sexual relationships between men and women are by definition oppressive. The only healthy sex is anonymous and preferentially same sex.Anyone who disagrees should be killed.

    I think the vast, dim, often unthoughtful and unintrospective majority may finally be waking to the very real and sulphurous nastiness of the Evil in our society, and may be willing to reject it. Some would disagree but I believe the Tea Party movement in part reflects this; and the reaction to the hateful attack on Ann Romney (“never worked a day in her life”) — where the Democrats were hoping to gain sympathy for their cause and distaste for Mrs. Romney in fact generated the opposite.

    In short, we have reached the point where we collapse very soon — and the Muslim hordes overwhelm us as the waves overwhelmed Atlantis, or may God grant, the Holy Spirit moves in a great way.

    DDD

  • http://whiterosebrian.deviantart.com Brian A. Cook

    David, I object so such straw-men caricatures of liberals (and non-European immigrants). I have seen enough liberal websites to know that. Liberals are humans, not demons.

  • Bill Monteith

    Unfortunately, we have been reaping the harvest of the 60′s and 70′s for quite some time in all areas of our culture, priests, religious, and Catholic laypeople not excluded. Nuns don’t wear habits, priests are afraid to speak the truth about abortion and contraception from the pulpit for fear of losing half their parish. I am a traditional Catholic, but no more so than the Pope and the teaching authority of the Magistereum left behind by our Blessed Lord to his bride, the Church. What saddens me the most is that our faith here in the U.S has been so riddled with disobedience by renegade Bishops, priests, and religious that any casual observer may not be able to tell the difference between the Catholic Church and any other one hundred or so protestant denominations. Bravo to the Pope for clamping down. In the end, as a Catholic people, we made need to get smaller to get stronger.

  • Momma Kyle

    Again and again I see choices presented as “moving beyond Jesus” (yikes!!) and dying off with grace—what abound conversion of heart?
    These Sister have the ability (no matter what age) to walk with the Church.

  • Bill Foley

    I aplogize that my comment does not apply to the article in question, but I have come across a paragraph that is one of the most beautiful things that I have ever read, and I want to disseminate it over the Internet.

    Human Person and the Tabernacle

    Paragraph from page 344 of Volume 1 of The Mystical Evolution in the Development and Vitality of the Church by Father Juan Arintero, O.P.

    “One day, at the time of Communion, Blessed Mariana of Jesus, the Lily of Madrid, being unusually aware of her lowliness and unworthiness, said to her Lord: “My Lord, the tabernacle in which Thou art is much more clean and beautiful.” Christ answered her: “But it cannot love me.” “From this,” said the holy nun, I understood how much more Christ prefers to reside in our souls than in gold or silver or precious jewels which are inanimate creatures incapable of love.”

  • David DeAtkine

    Brian…what straw men? I give examples readily found on CNN or MSNBC everyday…..try reading the dailyKOS for one day — read this and the comments:

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/04/21/1085251/-This-week-in-the-War-on-Women-Believe-in-equality-You-re-just-like-Hitler

    and then tell me the Left isn’t totally in the back pocket of Evil. I am not saying all “liberals” are evil. But I do believe Evil has hijacked the liberal/left movement. As always, we must do what we can, and pray always, even for our enemies and those who wish ill upon us.

  • Melody

    I just read the link in your update, “what brought so much upheaval so quickly”. Pretty troubling; Coulson, Rogers, et.al. couldn’t have done much worse if they had actually set out to destroy religious life.