Check out one blog’s vivisection of Fr. James Martin’s (SJ) claims about LCWR’s vocations v CMSWR’s vocations.

Over at Amerika, our old friend, Fr. James Martin, SJ, wrote a piece in which he manipulated statistics so that it appeared that LCWR orders of nuns were getting as many vocations as the CMSWR nuns (the more traditional groups). That is absurd on the face of it, of course.

I was going to write about it, but Joanne K. McPortland of the blog – love this title – Egregious Twaddle – vivisects Martin’s egregious twaddle. I can’t do better than what she did in exposing the absurdity of his claims.

Tell her Fr. Z sent you!

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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12 Responses to Check out one blog’s vivisection of Fr. James Martin’s (SJ) claims about LCWR’s vocations v CMSWR’s vocations.

  1. jjfxg says:

    I am reminded of what was written at the beginning of my statistics book in school. “There are three kinds of lies; lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

  2. wmeyer says:

    Sad, very sad. It seems to me that the Jesuits are in need of the same sort of scrutiny and correction as the LCWR.

  3. Traductora says:

    I’m glad somebody did this, since Fr Martin’s statistical lying (if that’s not an oxymoron) was so obvious that it was almost laughable. The first thing I thought was, well, the LCWR has about 4 times the members of the CMSWR, so if they have the same number, they’re seriously behind.

    Another thing that should be mentioned is that almost all of these LCWR orders accept 50 and 60 yr old candidates, because they’re desperate for money and membership and no young people want to join. A “novitiate” collecting Social Security is not exactly the same thing as what, for example, the Nashville Dominicans have…just saying.

  4. jravago says:

    The Jebbies used to the be the Popes “Marines,” now they play for the other team….

  5. fvhale says:

    Well, what do you expect? Barbara Marx Hubbard is no math teacher.

    If all you read is the title and conclusion of the article (America Aug 13, 2012) by Mary Johnson, SNDdN (sociology and religious studies professor) and Patricia Wittberg, SC (sociology professor), you think that all is well with the LCWR: “Reality Check: A fact-based assessment of US religious life: …. We believe that the church and the U.S. public deserve an accurate picture, devoid of distortions [really?], ideology and fatalism…. 1.) One of the most striking findings regarding new entrants is that almost equal numbers of women have been attracted to institutes in both conferences of women religious in the U.S. in recent years.”

    Okay, so the numbers of new women are about equal. But by any number of measures, the LCWR is about four times the size of the CMSWR (e.g., common reference to LCWR representing 80% of US sisters, or four times as many respondents to the survey, etc.).

    Illustration: If Martha’s Mufflers has 20 stores in town, and Mary’s Mufflers has 5 stores in town, but they get the same number of new customers, which business is doing better? (Statistics is most often taught to business folk.) In this case, it actually looks like of all the new muffler customers in town, 55% went to Mary’s with only 5 stores, while 45% went to Martha’s with 20 stores. Which business would you invest in, Martha’s (LCWR) or Mary’s (CMSWR).

    Fr. Martin uses “Honda dealerships” and “Toyota dealerships” in his discussion of this point, but concludes that it only means that both Hondas and Toyotas are popular, since they receive equal numbers of new customers. Apparently Fr. Martin does not take his illustration a step further, and ask how will all those 80 Toyota dealerships stay in business if they only receive as much revenue as 20 Honda dealerships.)

    Then look at this point the authors make: “3.) A sizable proportion of L.C.W.R. and C.M.S.W.R. institutes have no one in formation at the present time (32 percent and 26 percent respectively).”
    Recall that 67% of the instutions are LCWR, and 14% are CMSWR. Say there are 500 institutions that responded: 335 LCWR and 70 CMSWR. Then the number of instutions with nobody in formation is: 107 for LCWR and 18 for CMSWR. Although the “proportion” is similar (one third vs. one fourth), the number of instituions with nobody in formation is 6 times higher for LCWR than CMSWR.

    While in their points 1 and 3 they gloss over the differences in number of actual institutions in LCWR and CMSWR in order to make the “new business” and “no new business” numbers look equal, when they come to their point 4 they reverse the spin, and instead say that because of the differences in numbers of instutions, the disparity in number of entrants is irrelevant! Amazing!

    “4.) The median number of entrants to L.C.W.R. institutes is one, which means that half of the responding L.C.W.R. institutes had no more than one woman in initial formation in 2009. The corresponding median number of entrants for C.M.S.W.R. institutes is four, which means that half of C.M.S.W.R. institutes had four or fewer in initial formation in 2009. Since there are far fewer C.M.S.W.R. member institutes than L.C.W.R. institutes, the key finding here is that only a very small number of institutes are attracting more than a handful of entrants.”

    This statistic, “median number of new entrants,” can also be supported by the fact that both organizations had similar numbers of new entrants (their point 1), but that LCWR is four times bigger than CMSWR. Going back to the illustrative number of a total of 500 institutes responding, that means 167 in LCWR had nobody in formation (less than 1 person leaves little room for discussion) and 168 had one or more, while 35 of the CMSWR institutions had less than 4, while 35 had four or more. From this the authors conclude “the key finding here is that only a very small number of institutes are attracting more than a handful of entrants.” Right.

    They begin the conclusion of their article: “The ecology of religious life in the United States, with more than a thousand sisters in formation programs in institutes of women religious, deserves a nonideological analysis.” Yes, that would be nice. But their analysis is full of their own ideology which basically says, “nothing to see over at CMSWR.”

    Fr. Martin concludes his gushing reveiw of the Johnson and Wittberg article with a classic straw man in his penultimate sentence: ” But at the very least, let’s set aside this false notion of the more progressive orders having absolutely zero vocations, and floods of women entering the more traditional orders.” He is right, of course–only half of the LCWR institutes reported zero vocations. But the actual number of that half of LCWR institutes with no vocations is twice the entire number of institutes in CMSWR.

    So maybe only half of LCWR institutes are dying out, and maybe only half of CMSWR institutions are receiving four or more vocations a year (which may feel like a “flood” to those institutions). I heartily agree with the authors of both articles that we should pray for all religious vocations in this country, and priestly vocations, as well.

  6. jhayes says:

    It seems to me that the important point is that about half of women who choose to enter religious life enter LCWR-related organizations and the other half enter CMSWR-related institutions.

    Unless you are simply looking at religious organizations as businesses, the size of the existing organizations doesn’t affect that expression of the kinds of religious life women discern as appropriate for them.

  7. benedetta says:

    The generalizations or conclusions of Fr. Martin are not so obviously not borne out by the data. I’m no statistician but even I could tell that the numbers supplied didn’t say what he says they do. It just seems so desperate. Why the determination not to face the reality? These LCWR nuns simply are not attracting the vocations, it’s so obvious just by anecdotal evidence let alone the stats that it seems silly to invent conclusions just to pretend otherwise. It’s just a desperate avoidance of the reality, seemingly at all costs. It doesn’t lend credibility to any of their pet causes frankly.

  8. drea916 says:

    Just look at pictures of the different orders. They speak volumes.

  9. relee54 says:

    Father Z:

    You need to check on Twaddle’s updated post, which does fit her moniker of egregious:
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/egregioustwaddle/2012/08/mea-maxima-culpa-an-upstart-blogger-eats-crow.html

    Twaddle apparently had a change of heart, and says Father Martin has forgiven her. In her public mea culpa, Twaddle is brazen enough to label the truths on your web site as ad hominem attacks on poor Father Martin. What drivel! Of course is that not the definition of twaddle?

    I’d suggest that you update the original story and remove the link to this individual’s blog. By the way, I surely enjoy the periodic tantalizing photos of your dinner fare, as opposed to seeing Twaddle’s plate of crow.

  10. irishgirl says:

    Traductora: I agree with you, especially in your last paragraph about ‘a novitiate collecting Social Security’.
    I’m on ‘the other side’ of 55-will be 58 in another couple of weeks. In my ‘younger days’-between 15 and 23-I thought of becoming a nun myself: a cloistered Carmelite. I wrote and visited a monastery for seven years (1970-1977), but in the end they [graciously] turned me down.
    There have been times, as I’ve grown older, that I wish I could be a religious. But none of the ‘good’ communities will look at someone of my age! Nearly all of them have an upper age limit of 35.
    The only ones that will accept a woman past 35 are those whom I have no desire to look into. One of them is in my diocese, and they were my religious education teachers in my youth. The way they look now-mostly late middle age and beyond, wearing no habit, living in apartments, involved in radical feminism, getting ready to sell their large convent building because they have no vocations [sorry, ladies, but you brought it upon yourselves]-I wouldn’t touch them with a ten-foot pole!
    If I were to go into religious life, I would go into one where the religious look, live, and act like true Sisters and true Spouses of Christ! Not this ‘worldly’ stuff that they’ve been engaged in these last forty years or so!
    But there’s no place for us post-35 Catholic women who have tried to ‘keep the Faith’!

  11. Laura R. says:

    “But none of the ‘good’ communities will look at someone of my age! Nearly all of them have an upper age limit of 35.”

    Irishgirl: I believe that the Visitandines accept older vocations; they have a convent in the Archdiocese of Atlanta (Snellville, I think) where the sisters wear traditional habits.

  12. irishgirl says:

    Laura R: Yes, I forgot about the Visitation! St. Francis de Sales founded it for those women who were considered ‘too old’ or ‘too weak’ for the austerities of the older Orders of his day.
    I made a retreat at the Visitation in Philadelphia in 1998. The Sisters all wore the full habit, with the exception of one or two who wore a modified headdress and veil. They were all very kind to me during the five days I spent with them.
    The Visitandines completely slipped my mind! Thank you for reminding me!