Sunday, May 6, 2012

Nun but the prudent

Our pastor concludes his column in today's bulletin with this item.
"Recently, the Vatican has enacted several disciplinary decrees against the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. This group has been in existence for many decades and represents about 85% of all the sisters in the U.S.A. I am told that only the conclusions of the investigation were given to the leadership of this group. As far as I know, they have not been given the opportunity to see the entire report and to learn exactly what led to this disciplinary action. I fear that church leadership still has a long way to go to be transparent."
There's something to that. For example, the Status Animarum for our parish is on a kind of Index of Forbidden Spreadsheets, so that when I requested it I was told I could have it only for my personal use. If parish statistics ever become freely and publicly available, then parish staff will be in a better position to wonder why documents at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith are not.
"The conclusion of this report alleges the sisters have been 'guilty' of giving scandal to the 'faithful' and that they have not been vocal enough on some issues of Church doctrine.
Here's the report and the Justice Issues at the LCWR website. On the point about what issues are raised and which not, perhaps this is analogous to the way that particular priests conspicuously never preaching on certain topics "says something" to their congregations.
"As I read the media reports, they have also been told that they have been too involved with the issues such as poverty and hunger."
That sounds more like media reports of the LCWR's public relations campaign.
"The Archbishop of Seattle has been ordered by the Vatican to 'take charge' of this organization representing the sisters. He must now approve every speaker and every program they wish to offer. It seems that much scandal has been indeed given, but not necessarily by the sisters."
Who's scanadalized largely depends on whether one is of the same or opposite polarity as the LCWR in our polarized Church.
"Please pray for the sisters as they prayerfully gather to assess what course of action they might take."
Along with praying for the CDF and Archbishop of Seattle.
"We, as Catholics, owe the sisters a great debt for all the work they have done and continue to do."
I hope that one day someone researches how they managed classrooms of 55 kids. If that is a skill that could be taught, the potential benefit could dwarf anything the sisters have been doing since.
"Perhaps it might be prudent for me to say nothing on this issue, but I cannot help but make some comment."
P.S. Speaking of the LCWR's P.R., "While the conference has said it will not comment publicly on the Vatican's Doctrinal Assessment until it has drafted a formal response", its president-elect, Sister Florence Deacon of the locally headquartered Sisters of Saint Francis, is interviewed in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.


  1. Anonymous8:19 AM

    Growing up in 80s and 90s, family was maybe a tad left of center in terms of Catholicism, Mass every Sunday, some Catholic schooling, nice picture of Virgin Mary in the house, but no problem with guitars, altar girls, felt banners, and all the other "Spirit of Vatican II" stuff. Active in parish and 'social justice' stuff as well as religious ed.

  2. Anonymous8:21 AM

    So What sisters mean to me? (the popular twitter meme that one of the hip Jesuits is pushing) Well until I was in college my only impressions of them had come from:

    1-The movie "the Sound of Music"
    2-Stories from older Catholics about how "strict" and "mean" they were back in the "parochial school" with the hitting with the rulers and all that. However, even with fairly large extended family, "sisters" seemed to fall off the face of the earth shortly after the Kennedy assassination in anyone's' stories and memories.
    3-Other popular culture portrayals which were usually some fusion of the above

    Beyond that the closest I ever came to them was typically in a conversation like this:

    Q:Hey what's that building near the church?
    A: Oh that used to be a convent, back when the parish had nuns working at the school, back when the parish had school...

    The only women I ever see with their hair covered for religious reasons are Muslim women and maybe Amish women.

    Sisters might as well have been cowboys, pirates, or gladiators, figures from history now relegated to films and lore. That statement is probably about as true for anyone born in 1960 as anyone born in 2012.

    So now I see the Catholic left so up in arms about what "Rome" is "doing" to the poor sisters (as near as I can tell this is the first volley of criticism that Rome has made against the nuns, and by the 'shocked' reaction of the nuns and their allies I am assuming they have never ever ever said and written anything critical of "Rome").

  3. Anonymous8:21 AM

    The thing is it seems that in the pre-1963 (or '65', or '70 or whenever it all went off the rails) era there were lots of sisters, doing things like working in schools as teachers, working in hospitals as nurses, really living 'social justice' dedicating their lives, sure making mistakes, but dedicating their lives to helping others. They were a visible part of the day to day life of Catholics (and non-Catholics).

    The liberals always seem to think of sisters from this time as mean, authoritarian, to subservient to clerics, narrow-minded and even violent. The post-Vatican II sisters on the other hand, which the liberals really laud, were so far removed from the life of the average Catholic that I'd never even seen a nun prior to my 20's, unless you are counting Julie Andrews and Whoopi Goldberg.

    It seems like sisters went from nurses tending the sick and teachers helping children learn to being something like CEOs on the hospital and university boards. Even if they hadn't tossed the habits no one but professors, doctors, big donors, lawyers, accountants, consultants, bankers etc. would have been noticing them anyway. Living in condos or expansive and well-landscaped convent grounds, expenses still being paid by the hard-earned donations of earlier generations who had really appreciated all that work on the front-lines of helping those in need and spreading the Catholic faith that the nuns once engaged in, they simply haven't been a visible part of the lives of 99% of American Catholics.

    In my 20s when I started traveling to other countries I did start noticing some nuns, in habits, often working in teaching or with the poor, also 2 of my friends from college entered convents, after much discerning and looking around both entered into communities which had retained habits and had a great focus on Eucharistic adoration and faithfulness to Jesus, the Virgin Mary, the Holy Father, etc. If this if the future maybe things will eventually get back on track.

    For now though, watching older liberal Catholics complain about all this is akin to hearing an old neighbor complain that the Andy Griffith reruns are on at 10:00 instead of 9:00 all of a sudden.

  4. Anonymous8:22 AM

    sorry for posting in 3 parts, was having problems with blogger for some reason!