A Habit (or lack-thereof) of Disobedience

By now, most of the Catholic blogging world has heard of Archbishop Peter Sartain’s appointment by the Vatican.  Whispers succinctly delivers the news:

Citing “serious doctrinal problems” found over the course of a four-year study of the umbrella-group representing the majority of the US’ communities of nuns, the Holy See has announced a thoroughgoing shake-up of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), naming Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle as its delegate to conduct an overhaul of the group.

“Serious doctrinal problems.”  This is either the understatement of the century or … actually, it is the understatement of the century … there is no other way to put it.  The “Doctrinal Assessment” comes to us from the Congregatio Pro Doctrina Fidei at which our dear Holy Father spent much of his pre-papal days.  It is worth reading in its entirety.  Among the highlights are little gems like this:

On the doctrinal level, this crisis is characterized by a diminution of the fundamental Christological center and focus of religious consecration which leads, in turn, to a loss of a ‘constant and lively sense of the Church’ among some Religious.

Or this:

The current doctrinal and pastoral situation of the LCWR is grave and a matter of serious concern, also given the influence the LCWR exercises on religious Congregations in other parts of the world.

Lest we think the critique void of specifics:

Addresses given during LCWR annual Assemblies manifest problematic statements and serious theological, even doctrinal errors. The Cardinal offered as an example specific passages of Sr. Laurie Brink’s address about some Religious “moving beyond the Church” or even beyond Jesus. This is a challenge not only to core Catholic beliefs; such a rejection of faith is also a serious source of scandal and is incompatible with religious life. Such unacceptable positions routinely go unchallenged by the LCWR, which should provide resources for member Congregations to foster an ecclesial vision of religious life, thus helping to correct an erroneous vision of the Catholic faith as an important exercise of charity. Some might see in Sr. Brink’s analysis a phenomenological snapshot of religious life today. But Pastors of the Church should also see in it a cry for help.

And then there is this:

The Cardinal spoke of this issue in reference to letters the CDF received from “Leadership Teams” of various Congregations, among them LCWR Officers, protesting the Holy See’s actions regarding the question of women’s ordination and of a correct pastoral approach to ministry to homosexual persons, e.g. letters about New Ways Ministry’s conferences. The terms of the letters suggest that these sisters collectively take a position not in agreement with the Church’s teaching on human sexuality. It is a serious matter when these Leadership Teams are not providing effective leadership and example to their communities, but place themselves outside the Church’s teaching.

Then one of my favorites:

The Cardinal noted a prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith in some of the programs and presentations sponsored by the LCWR, including theological interpretations that risk distorting faith in Jesus and his loving Father who sent his Son for the salvation of the world. Moreover, some commentaries on “patriarchy” distort the way in which Jesus has structured sacramental life in the Church; others even undermine the revealed doctrines of the Holy Trinity, the divinity of Christ, and the inspiration of Sacred Scripture.

And this:

The documentation reveals that, while there has been a great deal of work on the part of LCWR promoting issues of social justice in harmony with the Church’s social doctrine, it is silent on the right to life from conception to natural death, a question that is part of the lively public debate about abortion and euthanasia in the United States. Further, issues of crucial importance to the life of Church and society, such as the Church’s Biblical view of family life and human sexuality, are not part of the LCWR agenda in a way that promotes Church teaching. Moreover, occasional public statements by the LCWR that disagree with or challenge positions taken by the Bishops, who are the Church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals, are not compatible with its purpose.

But one of the best paragraphs comes by way of conclusion:

This action by the Holy Father should be understood in virtue of the mandate given by the Lord to Simon Peter as the rock on which He founded his Church (cf. Luke 22:32): “I have prayed for you, Peter, that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned to me, you must strengthen the faith of your brothers and sisters.” This Scripture passage has long been applied to the role of the Successors of Peter as Head of the Apostolic College of Bishops; it also applies to the role of the Pope as Chief Shepherd and Pastor of the Universal Church. Not least among the flock to whom the Pope’s pastoral concern is directed are women Religious of apostolic life, who through the past several centuries have been so instrumental in building up the faith and life of the Holy Church of God, and witnessing to God’s love for humanity in so many charitable and apostolic works.

Toward the end of the document are very specific directive given to “the Delegate” (Archbishop Sartain).  The “greatest hits” are:

The mandate of the Delegate is to include the following … 2) To review LCWR plans and programs, including General Assemblies and publications, to ensure that the scope of the LCWR’s mission is fulfilled in accord with Church teachings and discipline. In particular: Systems Thinking Handbook will be withdrawn from circulation pending revision, LCWR programs for (future) Superiors and Formators will be reformed, Speakers/presenters at major programs will be subject to approval by Delegate. … 4) To review and offer guidance in the application of liturgical norms and texts. For example: The Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours will have a place of priority in LCWR events and programs.

I don’t wish to tie this directly to the HHS debacle; it is, after all, a much wider issue.  However, one can’t help but wonder if the hierarchy, in light of HHS and events such as the Notre Dame scandal from several years back, is finally getting serious about making sure that those who profess to be “Catholic” are actually acting Catholic in public.  Where better to start than with priests and religious?  For my own part, I greet this effort with a resounding, “Amen.”
Roma locuta est, causa finita est.  There was a time when this phrase was respected and venerated by those within the Church, and I deeply believe that it can and will be once more.
I ran across the Washington Post’s web coverage of the Vatican announcement, aptly titled “Vatican: U.S. Catholic sisters, nuns making serious theological errors.”  It too is worth your time reading, but for vastly different reasons than the Vatican statement itself.  It contains excerpt such as this:

[Sr. Simone] Campbell sees the current tension between male and female Catholic clergy as a part of a post-Vatican II democratic evolution within the church, but worries that the male leaders fail to recognize the “witness of women religious.”

Such a claim that the male leaders fail to recognize the witness of women religious is not only irresponsible, it is also ignorant.  Both John Paul II and Benedict XVI have spoken widely about this important witness … but only when it is actually a witness to the faith, and never when it is contrary to the faith.  Yet the phrase that caught my eye was, “the current tension between male and female Catholic clergy.”  The mis-categorization of “female clergy” by the Post is ironically a strong argument in favor of the Vatican’s charge of “serious doctrinal problems.”
Sr. Campell continues,

It’s painfully obvious that the leadership of the church is not used to having educated women form thoughtful opinions and engage in dialogue.

This is a misunderstanding of the the term “educated.”  “Instructed” (albeit improperly) Sr. Campell may be, but certainly not “educated,” at least not in the Catholic faith.  Even a dictionary recognizes that being educated means having been entrusted with intellectual, moral, and social instruction within the field in question.  The problem with the LCWR leadership is that they are distinctly not educated in the Catholic faith, nor are they educated in the authentic and beautiful witness that constitutes Catholic consecrated life, as evidenced by the numerous examples cited in the Vatican document.  They may be educated in something other than Catholicism, but they most certainly are lacking in education, not to mentioned formation, within their own faith tradition.
Sr. Campbell, however, enlightens the Post on the real motivation behind the called-for reform:

“I think we scare them,” Sr. Simone Campbell … said of the church’s male hierarchy.

Actually, for quite some time, I have thought this very same thing, except in reverse.  Why is there so much animosity towards orthodoxy in the last several years?  Orthodoxy is nothing new.  There have been those who have championed for quite some time the very same thoughts contained in the recent Vatican statement.  The reason there is an uproar now is because people are beginning to sense that the tide is turning.  It is the very same reason why people are suddenly outspoken by the extraordinary form of the Mass.  While its presence in the Church has never ceased, even following the Second Vatican Council, people have recently begun to sense that things are changing.  They look at the seminarians coming out of seminary … they listen to the things coming out of the Holy See … they watch the appointments made by the Holy Father … and they know that the tide is turning towards Catholicism (to shamelessly steal from Dave Hartline) … and this terrifies them.
By way of a humorous conclusion, the most amusing part of the Washington Post article was the pictures they chose.  Under the title of “Vatican: U.S. Catholic sisters, nuns making serious theological errors,” we find this picture:

And this one:

Now I don’t want to judge a situation purely by a picture, so feel free to correct me here … but … I hardly think the delightful sisters in the these photos are those being called out by the recent Vatican instruction.  In the first picture we have a group of young, energetic, and full-habited sisters, and at the risk of overgeneralization, the young orders of which I am familiar are orthodox to the very core of their existence!  The second picture depicts a sister receiving communion on the tongue while kneeling … call me crazy, but I don’t think she preparing to deliver a lecture on women’s ordination and homosexuality.  (The tour of examples becomes even more amusing when one flips through the embedded slide show to find images of Mother Theresa, Katherine Drexel, Elizabeth Ann Seton, and a whole array of full-habited sisters.)
So why didn’t the Post choose pictures of Sr. Campbell, or even more familiar names like Sr. Carol Keehan, or Sr. Joan Chittister?  The answer is simple: the reading audience would not recognize them as the “U.S. Catholic sisters” to which the Post title refers.  Forgive the pun, but even those in the secular world are in the habit of recognizing sisters by their … well, you get the idea.

7 Responses to A Habit (or lack-thereof) of Disobedience

  • DarwinCatholic says:

    Yeah the “here are some nuns” slideshow at the WaPo is a really weird choice, for the reason you point out.

    One of the things they do not mention is that the LCWR is actually only one of two organizations of the leaders of women’s religious orders in the US. The other is the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious Orders, which was set up in the ’90s, in part to provide a more Catholic-friendly venue for the leaders of women religious orders that were more orthodox in their practice and teaching. A quick look at the two sites makes the difference moderately clear:

    http://cmswr.org/
    http://www.lcwr.org/

    So, it’s not as if all US nuns are even represented by the LCWR, and the sort shown in full habit in the WaPo slideshow are more likely members of the CMSWR rather than the LCWR.

    The existence of the two separate leadership councils is itself a sign of how long there have been problems with the LCWR (which was originally founded in ’50s.) It’s highly unusual for one country to have more than one council for the heads of religious orders. There is only one in the US for the heads of male religious orders.

  • Mary De Voe says:

    Women cannot espouse the Bride of Christ. The Faithful are entitled to the TRUTH.The seven foolish virgins did not bring enough oil of wisdom, they fell asleep, and they were barred from entrance into the wedding feast of the Lord. The Leadership Conference of Women Religious have rejected the Bride of Christ and seized the vacuum in their soul to fill it with their own definition of the Catholic Church. How fitting it is indeed that the story of the deacons being appointed to help the Apostles to do the duties of caring for the people was this week’s reading. The Leadership Conference is not leading but bringing up the rear. Everybody, but everybody, knows the needs of the people and many great lay people have taken up and filled the job, worthily. This Leadership is to point the way to Jesus Christ. Jesus will feed the multitudes as He has. This Leadership is pointing the way into submission to the despair and misery without our Eucharistic King. They probably were raised on Becoming a Person and will expend their lives in futility. This investigation into the worthless venture upon which the Leadership has embarked is the best thing Holy Mother Church is able to do for them. The Leadership Conference of Women Religious is to live in obedience to Jesus Christ. Without obedience to Jesus Christ in the Vicar of Christ, they are a church unto themselves and then the name Catholic is not theirs to use.

  • Mary De Voe says:

    Women cannot espouse the Bride of Christ. Priests, in persona Christi espouse the Bride of Christ and bring forth the TRUTH, Jesus, for the salvation of all souls. Only by denying Jesus Christ as God-man can this nonsense continue. The High Priests were called: “THE PRINCES OF THE LORD”. The bishops are called: “THE PRINCES OF THE CHURCH”. There were no PRINCESSES OF THE LORD in the Old Testament. There are no PRINCESSES OF THE CHURCH in the New Testament. Jesus came to fulfill the law not to change it. Human sacrifice is the chief form of worship of the devil. Next, comes fornication, idol worship. Read: abortion, gay marriage, narcissism. This investigation is the best for the Catholic Church.

  • Mary De Voe says:

    The Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, Anima Christi.
    Denial of the human soul brought about desecration of the human body. Abortion, gay marriage, human trafficking. Rape of the human soul resulted in rape of the human body. Carl Rogers laid the foundation for CRIME, INC. Without a human soul, civilization as we know it, does not exist. Those who would deny the existence of God find that it is their own existence that is not on the books.
    Jesus Christ was crucified and died in obedience to His Father. Jesus Christ in obedience to the Scriptures rose from the dead. Denying obedience to Holy Mother Church denies to the adherents eternal life in the Resurrection of the body.
    Without acknowledging the rational, immortal soul of the sovereign person, the human being, composed of body and soul, man has no personhood, no unalienable rights endowed by our Creator when two become one, no informed consent, no free will, no power of attorney, and the Supreme Court shot itself in the foot with this one, no right to choose, no right to privacy, no right to exist that is unalienable, except to be a beast of burden to the state. According to the Dred Scott decision, even slaves had half a soul. Except, that the individuals making such judgments are cut of the same cloth, no soul, no eternal life, no infallible truth, no right to ownership of private property. This brings to mind Obama calling his grandchild a “punishment” for his daughter, as Obama is a “punishment” to his mother and a “punishment” to all of us, his abused constituents.

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