NPR’s really good piece on the LCWR Story

Every time I think I’ve had it with NPR, they surprise me — they pull me back from the ledge with something really good. This time, it’s a three-way interview on the LCWR story with Journalist John Allen, Christendom College’s Donna Bethell and Sister Simone Campbell of NETWORK. All three are considerably more thoughtful and balanced on the issue than some print-media reports and Catholic analysts would suggest.

Give it a listen or read the text. It’s good stuff.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Elizabeth K.

    This is a good interview. The woman who called in troubles me–she seems like a good person, but her sense of “I’m a good Catholic and I have nothing really to say in confession” took me aback. And I really liked Donna Bethel’s response about the caller–that she may not understand the fullness of the teaching. I disagree with Sr. Simone that the church is “obsessed” with sexuality, but I find her viewpoint interesting.

  • SWP

    I’m so grateful you linked to this, or else it would never have come to my attention. I was equally impressed with Donna Bethel’s handling of the questions when she was interviewed on PBS NewsHour. In both interviews, the women opposite Donna revealed their remarkably malformed grasp of church teaching. For example, in this interview, when Conan asks if it’s a matter of obedience, Sr. Simone says she has made a vow of obedience to the Gospel teachings; but the reality is that she has made a vow of obedience to her superiors who have made a vow of obedience to their bishop and ultimately the Pope. No matter how you cut it, and Sr. Simone seems to want to sidestep what real obedience requires of any member of the laity, the vow of obedience means fidelity to the Magisterium. Her response precisely illustrates why this investigation was necessary: too many American Sisters see their vow as tailored in such a way that makes room for dissent from the Magisterium and the hierarchy of the Church of which they are a public and vital part. In their fidelity to the Church’s Social Justice Teachings, they miss the glaring fact that those teachings have value and worth insofar as they are guranteed by the same Magisterium that obliges Catholics to refrain from using birth control. ALL of it must be obeyed, not simply the doctrine on the Eucharist and Social Justice, which is what Mary said when she called in: “I think I’m a good Catholic if I pay attention to the doctrines that are important: Eucharist and social justice. I think our social – and taking care of the poor. That’s – that is what we’re supposed to be doing, and so few do.” There aren’t some doctrines that are important and others that we can leave aside. There aren’t two churches- one of the People of God to whom the Sisters owe allegiance and one of an institution to whom Bishops owe allegiance- which Sr. Simone has set up in her mind in order to justify her dissent. There is only one Church and it is only in the real Church that we find the REAL Christ. To borrow from Pope Benedict when he was yet Cardinal, let us not seek a Christ of our own invention!

  • vox borealis

    Very interesting interview. The Church really must work hard to overcome this meme that it is “obsessed with sex.” My goodness, we live in a society that is absoluetly obsessed with sex, that can’t imagine life without sex, that objectifies sex, glorifies sex, tries as hard as possible to produce as much risk-free and consequence-free sex for as many people as possible, starting at younger ages and lasting lobnger. We advertise sex, we advertise with sex. we joke constantly about sex. We use profanity that is largely sexual in nature (rather than religious, for example). I could go on.

    And yet it is the Church—whose teachings on a wide range of issues are vast, of which a tiny sliver concerns sex—is obsessed? Seriously?

    The Church only appears obsessed with sex because it is one of the few voices responding out of step to the sexual bombardment of western society, to our society’s real obsession with sex.

  • Klaire

    I listen to this last night from a referral from a friend. I was appauled at the “ingnorance (or blindness) of faith of Sister S. The dead giveaway, even worse than her comment about sex, was that “obedience” was to “be among the people” or something of that sort.

    Where did she get THAT teaching?

    On the other hand, Donna B’s responses were spot on with chruch teaching, and if I must say, most refreshing to listen to, especially on NPR, someone who actually understands the teachings of Catholicism. I doubt Pope Benedict would have answered much differently than Donna.

    The problem is more than obvioius: either blind out of disobedience or totally clueless to the teachings of the faith. Perhaps these nuns should all be enrolled in Catechsim 101 and JPII”s Theology of the Body. If for no other reason, to understand that when we reduce Jesus to merely a “soup kitchen”, we no longer have the real Jesus.

    Who knows, maybe this situation will be what finally make TOB explode “like a ticking time bomb.”

  • Ruth Ann Pilney

    Thank you for the link, Elizabeth. I found John Allen’s comments balanced. And his main point seemed to be that we need to wait and see how this develops. The two Sisters were an interesting contrast. They sounded to me like they were at opposite poles in their understanding of Church authority, Church teaching, and the role of women religious. Most interesting was their take on the Gospel account of the Woman at the Well. I think that Sister Donna Bethel’s interpretation was more complete than was that of Sister Simone Campbell. When someone focuses on one aspect of the truth while ignoring another that gives the full picture, we get a distortion.

  • Victor

    Dear Anchoress,

    I hope to read these comments also but as I listen to your tape provided, I just heard a woman saying that we share “ONE Faith” and I’m hearing more and more. Long story short, lately some happenings have been kind of scarring me spiritually speaking because I’m not praying and/or going to church as often as I use to.

    I hear ya! Victor, Victor, Victor! What are you doing anyway? :)

    To be honest Anchoress, some would say that’s a good thing for me but in my own crazy ways me, myself and i are trying to provoke “GOD” (Good Old Dad) and from the way we humans are acting, HE must be listening to U>S.

    As I continue to listen to this woman who called in and saying that she is a good catholic and so “I” say that “I” am a very good Catholic also. In reality, call me crazy but I no longer bait the master’s cells and so no longer need to use the phone booth unless I’ve got something to confess and balancing my body cells with today’s humanity hole, I mean whole, my peter quietly tells me that “I” am a saint and his body cells have their own galaxies and long story short, he’s angry with the rest of my brain cells because he wants to have fun and also do his own things which is accepted by the majority of so called Christians nowadays, so he says. He quietly also says that my so called 3% Jesus cells have no right to tell the majority cells of my body parts what they can or can not do.

    Long story short, this human who still bleeds, laughs and yes on occasions even cry know that I must continue to pray and go to church and at the same time continue to keep “IT” simple and that is that GOD created The Angels First and long story short, HE then created U>S (usual sinners) in HIS OWN IMAGE but Adam and Eve failed HIM cause HE expected too much from U>S when HE believed that we could bring HIS Lost Angels back Home. In fairness to our first parents who were made in GOD’s own image, some angels never gave Eve a fighting chance to really get started and……

    I hear ya! Victor this and/or these angels must have had some male cells in them? :)

    Anyway thank you for stopping me on a dime and the news program just finished so I also should stop cause some might think that “I’M” really trying to preach but if “Truth” be known, I’m just scared of what some of U>S gods might do if we lose our “Temper” and “I” thank GOD that we really are not “Animals” cause that’s a LOT scarry her if ya know what “I” mean? :(

    God Bless you too Anchoress and please keep praying for this poor Annoying Super Sinner.



  • Dan C

    If the Church wants to reframe itself as REALLY interested in something more than sex, it has to REALLY support something outside the realm of sex and reproduction.

    In the face of an unjust war, the USCCB issues opposition, cautions, and warnings supported by the Vatican and repeated by the Vatican, with a visit specifically by Pio Laghi on the advent of the Second Gulf War. Once the war began…there were no condemnatory comments, just mournful pleas to end the war, that petered out as weeks progressed. Catholic Paul Ryan issues a budget lauded by conservatives and the relevant spokesman at the USCCB are not supportive, issue cautions and concerns. These same folks will be cowed by the condemnatory remarks of folks like Weigel, Sirico, and Novack. As a body, the bishops of this nation will let the commnetary stand with those concerns.

    But Dolan and the USCCB have taken to the streets over contraception.

    The Church teaches on a vast series of matters, including poverty, education, science, and war. Sexuality is only one area of concern. It is the point on which the Church has doubled-down in terms of its waning political influence. As is abortion. Not other serious concerns over the past three decades.

    The Church should clearly choose its public battles carefully. I would presume it has done so, and chosen contraception, opposition to gay marriage, and abortion. These are very defining political actions that it has taken to the faithful, asking the faithful to expend political effort for change. Politicians who support any of these three issues (each a part of sexuality) are targets for ecclesial identification as standing apart from the faith. These are the only topics which prompts such strong commentary.

    This is merely a notation of why folks think the Church is “obsessed” with sexuality. The biggest drama the American Church has taken on most publically and most distinctively has been on these matters.

    I am in full aggreement this fails to touch on the sum total of the vast teaching of the Church. Nor is it the sense of welcome Benedict envisions as the public face of the Church in order to win converts. It is, however, what the leadership in America has “doubled-down” on, with the longest track record. That is the distinction.

    Criticizing this “impression” as false is failing to identify what the public face of the Church has been since 1990. Dolan may be trying to change that, but a 4 month “New Evangelization” campaign, even if highly lauded, isn’t yet matching the long history of this national Church’s politics.

  • Manny

    Oh that first caller was a dolt. Yeah, she has nothing to confess. *sarcasm* We all have things to confess, at least I do.

    I didn’t find it the NPR piece all that interesting. The interviewer’s slant is clearly biased. The callers were almost all Liberals. I’m glad I got to hear Sister Simone’s points of view straight from the horse’s mouth. Now I know exactly why her fellow LWCR are so wrong.

    Kudos to the Vatican for their action.

  • John

    Why is war ‘bad’? Is it because the military is involved and all things military are ‘icky’? Or because innocent people get killed? If war is bad because innocent people are killed and every human being on earth is of equal dignity and value before God…. then explain to me why the Church isn’t right in regarding abortion and the culture of death in the West as a FAR greater threat and injustice than any and every war the USA has ever fought?

    If person A is just as valuable as person B…. then why does the “peace movement” only care about person B (and only when the President has an “R” behind their name)? If dropping bombs are bad because lots of innocent civilians are killed in one blow…. why is it not worse to have 1,000 clinics spread across the country, each of which perform 2-3 abortions per day, every day?

    That’s why the Church has to be in the streets to overthrow the Abortion-industrial complex: it kills FAR more innocent human beings than the Pentagon does. In 10 years of war in the Middle East, the entire US Military has not killed more individual innocent human beings than Planned Parenthood has killed in the past year alone.

    Now, if you think people aren’t equally valuable and of equal dignity before God and that the utterly defenseless and totally innocent unborn are of less worth than Iraqi or Afghani civilians or unlawful enemy combatants…then just say so. I dare you.

  • SKay
  • Elizabeth K.

    Well said John–thank you. I’m dismayed that Sr. Simone does not seem to see, at least in this interview, that abortion is important to the Church right now because of the numbers of people it is killing, everyday.