On National Review Online Kathryn Jean Lopez interviews a religious sister who has her head screwed on in the right direction.
Sister Prudence Allen, RSM clearly is on the right side of things. It is her model of woman religious which, in the end, will survive, while the liberal odd balls will die off from lack of vocations.
The piece is too long easily to examine in its entirety, but here is the beginning… with my emphases and comments:
Nun Sense: Women in the Catholic Church
A habited woman speaks.
In his New York Times [aka Hell’s Bible] column this month, Nicholas Kristof wrote about “A Church Mary Can Love.” If you didn’t read the column, you might not be shocked to learn its contents: He’s not that into the Vatican, and he doesn’t think the Blessed Virgin would be either. He’s more into a priest who reportedly told him that he “would build a condom factory in the Vatican to save lives.” However, Kristof also wrote something sensible: “I’ve come to believe that the very coolest people in the world today may be nuns.” Amen. And in the following interview with Sister Mary Prudence Allen, I think you’ll begin to see why. Sister Prudence is with the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, Mich., an order with a special focus on health care. Sister Prudence is also a philosophy professor and a published author, having written the two-volume The Concept of Woman and contributed to The Foundations of Religious Life: Revisiting the Vision (a compilation from the other “nuns” in the health-care debate, the ones who stood by the bishops conference’s objection to the abortion provisions in the legislation — and by Catholic doctrine on the most innocent human life).
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: During the recent health-care debate, we heard a lot about some Catholic religious sisters — the Network — who supported the president’s health-care legislation, despite abortion-funding issues. Were they representative of the Catholic Church or Catholic religious sisters?
SISTER PRUDENCE ALLEN, R.S.M.: This question should be more fully answered by a theologian [She is a philosopher.] whose area of specialization is ecclesiology. However, as a Christian philosopher, I see two obvious contradictions that could be initially noted.
The first contradiction relates to the meaning of “Catholic.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#830-831) states, “The Church is catholic in a double sense:” First, because the whole Christ, head and body, subsists in her, and second because Christ sends the Church out on a mission to the whole human race.
By comparing the statements of the Network religious sisters on health care with the statements of Cardinal George and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on health care, it is clear that there are fundamental contradictions between them. Thus, the Network religious sisters have separated themselves from the head, [oops] and therefore cannot be included in the meaning of “catholic.” Therefore, they are not representative of the Catholic Church. [The intention of what she was saying was clear: the "Network Sisters" have tried to set up their own "magisterium" apart from the bishops and the Holy See. However, Christ is the head of the Church, not Card. George and the USCCB (cf. Eph 5:23 and Col 1:18, etc.). To separate oneself from the position of the USCCB is not quite the same as to separate oneself from Christ. I think we are perfectly justified to separate ourselves from the dopey letter the NCCB put out years ago about economics, just as an example. That said, don’t let this discolor your view of the sensible things she says throughout this interview.]
The second contradiction relates to claims about numbers of religious sisters. Network’s letter stated that “we represent 59,000 Catholic Sisters in the United States.” The director of media relations for the USCCB challenged them to do the math. The letter had “55 signatories, some individuals, some groups of three to five persons.” Since there are several hundred communities of women religious in the U.S., the most that could be claimed is that the Network sisters represent a much smaller portion of women religious sisters, more likely a few thousand. [A good reminder.]
Network’s claim that their position in favor of the health-care bill “is the REAL pro-life stance, and we as Catholic are all for it” needs to be assessed by Catholic physicians and health-care personnel to determine the truth of its claims. [Amen.]
LOPEZ: You’ve got a Ph.D. Why would you ever take the vows you have, wear a heavy, colorless habit, and spend so much time praying?
SISTER PRUDENCE: The simple answer is that I received a call from Jesus Christ to follow Him, who was poor, chaste, and obedient, and who came to serve. The specific way of following was revealed over time not only to me but also to those in charge of the formation of the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma. The vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and service we freely take bind us to Jesus Christ forever, in a spiritual marriage. We live a common life in a spirituality of communion with our sisters, who are formed in the specific charism of our foundress, Venerable Catherine McAuley. [This is an important point: the orders and institutes which have lost sight of who they are don’t have vocations.] Our particular charism is expressed in works of mercy at the professional level. So we become educated, not for ourselves, but to give ourselves in service to the Church and the world. It is a joy to serve this way.
Do go read the whole piece.
She has some smart and hard-hitting comments about many current issues.
Furthermore, I will be always grateful to the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, Michigan for the good care they gave to His Eminence Cardinal Mayer.
I notice that Sr. Allen is also one of the "Consulting Editors" of Communio.