LCWR having a bad day. Vatican Names Archbishop Delegate to continue watching LCWR and Network

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It is a bad day for the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR… subsidiary of The Magisterium of Nuns).

If the SSPX gets chilled Veuve, this one might get … dunno… a big chocolate cake?


I save some milkfat from my clarified butter and it is fantastic on popcorn.  That seems appropriate.

From the USCCB:

Vatican Names Archbishop Sartain To Lead Renewal Of LCWR

April 18, 2012
Critiques doctrinal aspects of LCWR assemblies, publications
Faults work with Network social justice lobby, financial, legal Resource Center
Calls for advisory group of bishops, sisters and other experts to assist in renewal

WASHINGTON—The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has called for reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) and named Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle as its Archbishop Delegate for the initiative.Bishop Leonard Blair and Bishop Thomas John Paprocki also were also named to assist in this effort.

The CDF outlined the call in a “Doctrinal Assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious” (HERE), released April 18. The document outlines findings of the 2008 CDF-initiated doctrinal assessment of LCWR, conducted by Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo, Ohio, which included his findings and an LCWR response submitted at the end of 2009, as well as a subsequent report from Bishop Blair in 2010.

A statement by Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is also available at HERE.

The 2010 report included “documentation on the content of LCWR’s Mentoring Leadership Manual and also on the organizations associated with the LCWR, namely Network andthe Resource Center for Religious Institutes,” CDF said. Network is a social justice lobby founded by nuns. [Watch ’em shout “We’re NOT nuns! We’re SISTERS!”] The Resource Center provides religious orders with legal and financial advice.

The Archbishop Delegate’s role is to provide “review, guidance and approval, where necessary, of the work of the LCWR,” the CDF document said.

The mandate for the Delegate “will be for a period of up to five years, as deemed necessary,” the document said. It calls for additional advisers – bishops, women religious and other experts – “to work with the leadership of the LCWR to achieve the goals necessary to address the problems outlined in this statement.” It also asked for a formal link between the Delegate and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).  [Ohhhh… they’re gonna love that!]

“It will be the task of the Archbishop Delegate to work collaboratively with the officers of the LCWR to achieve the goals outlined in this document, [It’s looooong, too.  I have a link to it below.  The document lays it out chapter and verse.] and to report on the progress of this to the Holy See …. In this way, the Holy See hopes to offer an important contribution to the future of religious life in the Church in the United States,” the CDF document said.

[NOTA BENE… NOTA BENEDICT!] CDF said Pope Benedict XVI approved CDF’s taking action January 14, 2011, [A YEAR AGO?] two days after a regular session of the CDF decided that “the current doctrinal and pastoral situation of LCWR [NB] is grave and a matter of serious concern, also given the influence the LCWR exercises on religious Congregations in other parts of the world.” [The Magisterium of Nuns.] CDF also recommend that after the Apostolic Visitation of Religious Communities of Women in the United States, the final report of which was submitted to the Holy See in December 2011, “The Holy See should intervene, with the prudent steps necessary to effect reform of the LCWR.” It also said CDF would “examine the various forms of canonical intervention for the resolution of the problematic aspects present in the LCWR.”

The mandate for the Delegate includes:  [Make some popcorn…]

·Revision of LCWR statutes

·Review of LCWR plans and programs, including its General Assemblies

·Creation of programs for LCWR member congregations in initial and on-going formation

·Review LCWR’s application of liturgical norms and texts

·Review of LCWR affiliation with Network and the Resources Center for Religious Life.

[This is really focused on the leadership of the LCWR.  Sure, the Holy See wants to work with it, but they should just disband it. I have the same view of the Legionaries of Christ.]

The doctrinal assessment criticized positions espoused at LCWR annual assemblies and in its literature as well as the absence of support from LCWR for Church teaching on women’s ordination and homosexuality.  [An “absense of support”?  Love it.]

CDF said that 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 in the life of the 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.  [Here’s the “Magisterium of Nuns” moment….] 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.”

The CDF document said “the Holy See acknowledges with gratitude the great contributions of women Religious to the Church in the United States as seen particularly in the many schools, hospitals, and institutions of support for the poor which have been founded and staffed by Religious over the years.” It said CDF “does not intend to offer judgment on the faith and life of Women Religious in the member congregations which belong to the conference.” [Again, this isn’t about all sisters of every group in the LCWR.  This is about its leadership.]

Nevertheless, CDF said, “The Assessment reveals serious doctrinal problems which affect many in Consecrated life,” calling it a crisis “characterized by a diminution of the fundamental Christological center and focus of religious consecration.[If you are really focused on Gaia, you lose sight of Christ.]

The document listed the principal findings of the LCWR doctrinal assessment.

On LCWR annual assemblies, it said, “The talks, while not scholarly theological discourses per se, do have significant doctrinal and moral content with implications which often contradict or ignore magisterial teaching.” [Did I mention :Magisterium of Nuns”?]

On formation of religious superiors and formators, [Again, it’s the leadership.] the CDF said, “Many of the materials prepared by the LCWR for these purposes (Occasional Papers, Systems Thinking Handbook) [“Systems Thinking Handbook”? No, that is NOT a typo.  Really.] do not have a sufficient doctrinal foundation. These materials recommend strategies for dialogue, for example when sisters disagree about basic matters of Catholic faith or moral practice, but it is not clear whether this dialogue is directed towards reception of Church teaching.”

Archbishop Sartain acknowledged the significance of the CDF assignment.

“In the four dioceses I have served, I have had the privilege of working with many women religious from a large number of congregations.For most of those congregations, the LCWR plays an important role of support, communication, and collaboration, a role valued by the sisters and their congregational leadership. I am honored that the CDF has entrusted this important and sensitive work to me, because the ministry of religious sisters, especially here in the United States, is deeply respected and paramount to the mission of the Church.Just as the LCWR can be a vital resource in many ways for its members, I hope to be of service to them and to the Holy See as we face areas of concern to all.”

Exactly 3 years ago today we read this, by the way.

The doctrinal assesment of the LCWR is HERE in pdf.  It is looooong and detailed!


What do you want to bet NCFishwrap will name the LCWR’s head as their next “Person of the Year”?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Brick by Brick, New Evangelization, Non Nobis and Te Deum, Our Catholic Identity, The Drill, The future and our choices and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Sister H. says:

    THANKS BE TO GOD!! Yes…I am shouting! For joy! :)


  3. PhilipNeri says:

    Oh. My. This is not going to be well received amongst the sistern.

    Accusations of patriarchal dominance and hierarchical oppression will begin in. . .3. . .2. . .1. . .

    Fr. Philip Neri, OP

  4. MissOH says:

    Love the condescending comments to those orders which actually read the Vatican II and post concillar documents which pertain to women religious.

    Well, the biological solution will resolve the issue with those still clinging to Woodstock.

  5. Bryan Boyle says:

    Ouch. That’s going to leave a mark….

  6. Fr. Erik Richtsteig says:

    Ouch! That’s going to leave a mark.

  7. Fr. Erik Richtsteig says:


  8. TNCath says:

    This is an extremely interesting appointment! Bishop Sartain’s sister is Sister Marian Sartain, O.P., the Secretary-General of the Nashville Dominicans, a thriving community who has retained the traditional habit and apostolic life. Bishop Sartain has had much experience with many different communities and enjoys a very good reputation with all sides of this issue. This is a good move.

  9. Philangelus says:

    My first thought was as PhilipNeri wrote, that it’s going to be framed as those patriarchical males from overseas meddling in the affairs of women, stifling them and hammering them into subservient female roles. I hope the media doesn’t start flogging this story.

  10. Tradster says:

    This is excellent as far as it goes. Sadly, left unmentioned is the consistent stonewalling of sexual abuse. That problem needs to be publicly ackowledged and addressed.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

    [Outstanding comment. This issue, while not doctrinal, goes to the leadership of the LCWR. And let us not forget that the LCWR types have claimed that if only WOMEN could be priests, sexual abuse of children would never happened on THEIR watch. Riiiight. I hope the LCWR types are not so thick as to raise this issue as blowback to what the Holy See and USCCB are doing. They really don’t want to do that. Click HERE. And there is a LOT more out there.]

  11. Bea says:

    Long overdue.
    I’ve had head-butts (not that they did any good) with our local school nuns since my kids were in elementary school. (late 1970’s). After they (the nuns) started going to University of San Diego to get “enlightenment” , after all…….THEY were the “experts” and knew better than us moms.

    After a really good pastor we had some years back they finally pulled out of our parish and started their own “Catholic” elementary school. Now one of their own (from their order) is the Diocesan Head of Education. Spreading their errors in a wider fashion. Their elementary school principal is a man-hater and when she was teacher to my boys, there was much suffering for them. I think it made some the stronger for it, but other boys were turned off and have lost the Faith. Who knows what’s going on in their schools now, since I’m no longer involved, but I’ve seen some “bossy” girls coming out of there.

  12. Bryan Boyle says:

    Fr. Eric: great minds and all that…

    God bless!

  13. Supertradmum says:

    Let these radical feminists orders die out and let the new ones, full of happy, obedient sisters and nuns in full habit thrive.

  14. Andy Milam says:

    @ TNCath;

    I’m originally from Memphis. I’ve known the Sartain family for years! As a matter of fact, my first communion rosary (which I recently passed on to my nephew for his baptism), was given to me by his mother, Elizabeth. We all went to the same parish…and his mother was the secretary of the school. Sr.


    As for the rest, having His Excellency lead this is a good thing. He is a strong priest and a strong bishop, despite the media. I think that he is a great choice as are bishop’s Blair and Paprocki. This is not going to be a good day for the LCWR….it is going to be a day that will live in infamy for them and it is going to be a day that will live in honor for Holy Mother Church.

  15. mysticalrose says:

    Well I am just having the best. week. ever. First the SSPX development and now this! I, unfortunately, got to know the NETWORK sisters very well sometime back and I was, frankly, scandalized by them. Besides the fact that they lobby essentially FOR the culture of death, rather than against it, many of the so-called sisters refused to attend Holy Mass. Instead, they attended underground “liturgies” with dubious rituals led by women. I am glad that there will finally be some renewal/housekeeping done. Souls are seriously at stake here.

  16. kiwiinamerica says:

    The train wreck that is women’s religious life, is IMHO one of the saddest, if not the saddest aspect of the upheaval of the last 50 years. It doesn’t get as much publicity as the issue of priestly vocations but it has been a far greater disaster, I believe . Amazing that we’re still trying to rein in these aging hippies after all these years. I can’t help feeling that the horse has well and truly bolted as far as these Kumbaya crazies are concerned. The time to straighten out this problem was about 40 years ago when it started to spiral out of control. Now, after several decades of wandering outside the reservation, bringing them back will not be easy. As you rightly observe, they’ll have a fit.

    It’s no different to raising a child. A child who has been allowed to run wild and get his own way for a prolonged period is always more difficult to control than one acting out for the first time and just testing the water to see what the response will be. Still, better late than never.

  17. The Cobbler says:

    If the delegate’s got personal ties to the Dominicans, the LCWR’s in good hands (though whether they like that or not is another matter).

  18. Clinton R. says:

    As Father Zuhlsdorf and others have pointed out, these dissident orders will be taken care of biologically. And it’s no wonder. What young woman would be attracted to an order that does not wear a habit, constantly flouts Catholic tradition and teaching and never hesitates to shill for leftist policies? A look of the website of various orders shows that the non habit wearing set is Golden Girl aged and hasn’t had a novice in decades. In contrast, orders that love the Church and her traditions are much younger and often gain novices in great numbers.

  19. Springkeeper says:

    I am beside myself with glee that correction cometh to the leaders of this largely apostate group. I have heard so many horror stories of good and Godly women who were/are members of these groups who have been forced into “reforms” they never wanted in the first place by their radical feminist “leadership”. I pray the non-believers get right or get gone.

  20. Sister H. says:

    Commentors, be careful…overgeneralization is not appropriate.
    You can’t judge every Sister in a particular order, congregation, etc. by the misdeeds of some or even many. I feel angry when I see comments like, “orders that love the Church and her traditions” or “let them die out”, “unfaithful orders”, etc.
    I don’t feel angry because you offend me, I feel angry because a large number of my Sisters are the finest examples of love for Christ & His Church you’d ever hope to meet…living saints! Please don’t lump them in with the likes of LCWR leaders. Even if a website looks entirely scandalous (and, sadly, far too many do!), there are probably at least SOME Sisters in that group who are completely faithful.
    With blanket statements, you insult my good Sisters. Were I not a nun, “them would be fightin’ words”! ;)
    Please be aware!! You can have 500 nuts and 12 gems in the same group…don’t insult and degrade the good ones.
    With that said, I say, “Bring on the reform!” We need it, we want it, andwe have been praying and working for it for a very long time. Thank you to the CDF for finally hearing our pleas!

  21. Sister H. says:

    Right on, Springkeeper!
    I think disbanding LCWR all together would be even better; then we could truly have a fresh start.

  22. anilwang says:

    Clinton R, unfortunately many women want those things.

    The key thing is, the women that do want those things will find “better” alternatives in the secular/Protestant world, and the secular/Protestant alternatives don’t have any commitments. Given this, without any changes the LCWR will die out, not only because of the biological solution, but also due to “market pressures” and lack of “brand loyalty”.

    Traditional orders have no secular counterpart, so for anyone who truly desires the religious life, traditional orders are a pearl of great price.

  23. PA mom says:

    Sister H is just what many of us are hoping for , that within many orders are holy women quietly praying and waiting for reform to come, ready and willing to get right to work. May God bless them with the graces needed for success!

  24. Dr. K says:

    The sisters will revolt in 5…4…3…2….

  25. How ever did the Church manage for the first 1,956 years of her history as a visible organization on earth without the LCWR? Forget about reforming it: just get rid of it.

    30 or so years ago, the Soviet KGB defector Yuri Bezmenov described a key method of ideological subversion as replacing traditional institutions and traditional social ties in a society with fake organizations and bureaucratically run bodies whose purpose will be to distract and pull people away from the true ends that those institutions and ties were meant to serve. The Church has certainly had her share of this over the last several decades, and the LCWR is a prime example. Think about it: what is the traditional basis for church organizations that are superimposed on traditional structures and run along secular, bureaucratic lines? Dump them.

  26. cl00bie says:

    If you’re drawn to social work, you can be a single woman and still do that. Brides of Christ are expected to spend time with their spouse. When they spend all of their time with outside pursuits and not enough time with their husband, the relationship suffers just like it would with any other married couple.

  27. papaefidelis says:

    Ho-hum. We’ve heard this rigmarole before, many times. “Now, at last, the Vatican is going to do SOMETHING!” Our hopes soar that, at last, things will be set right and wickedness cast out. Our hopes, of course, will be dashed by the effete emasculation of what SHOULD have been a straightfoward matter, with protracted investigations and a concluding document worthy of Pollyanna. How will this intervention be any different than ANY of the others (the “Quinn Commission”, “Essential Elements”, et al.)? I’ll bet my socks that, ten years from now, things will be more or less as they are now. Please, Lord, let me be wrong!

  28. Pingback: Wowzer! LCWR to get oversight and desperately needed reform « A Blog for Dallas Area Catholics

  29. Dr. K says:

    Papafidelis – Would you deny that the Vatican investigation into American seminaries didn’t produce great fruit?

    Just take a look at the caliber of priest we have today compared to pre-2000s.

  30. Dr. K says:

    That should read: would you argue

  31. Joseph-Mary says:

    This is decades late in coming. Countless parents did not realize that the ‘nuns’ left in the Catholic schools had lost their way and brought their confusion and error to the childen to the great falling away from the faith of those who were supposed to have a Catholic education.

    It sort of started here:
    with Carl Rogers and the IHM nuns. He destroyed them. They went from brides of Christ to lesbian feminists. It boggles the mind. And my own children have never seen a live religious sister in a habit. We have known a few–involved with ‘peace and justice’ but you would not ever see them at any devotion nor want your children around them.

  32. catholicmidwest says:

    Women’s religious life in the United States collapsed after Vatican II for a number of reasons, and this has led directly to this sad state of affairs. At Vatican II, religious life was ordered to return to its sources and very vague instructions were given. Many of the teaching orders did not have strong sources and could not return; in fact many congregations found that they didn’t even have an identity once the habit and the minutae that had identified them internally were gone. I mean things like how to turn a corner or break an eggshell or ask for a pencil–this is what the charisms of some of these teaching orders were founded upon, believe it or not. In some cases, they had been founded by non-religious specifically to staff a particular institution or live in a specific town, and when that institution closed they were still there and had to manage somehow. Not only that, a learned helplessness had taken hold of the members because they practiced these minutae and only these minutae for years. They were expected not to think for themselves, and they didn’t. Before Vatican II they were rewarded for this; after Vatican II they were punished for it. There is some anger out there over this, on both sides. Some sisters have also left the Church while remaining in the congregations because they literally have no where else to go. It’s a very sad state of affairs and it isn’t over yet. It won’t be over until the last generation of teaching sisters passes on.

    I think that many of these old teaching congregations with weak sets of constitutions and statutes, who no longer engage in the apostolic ministry for which they were founded, should be officially suppressed and their aging members (average age = 75) put on pensions until they expire. Enough is enough.

    We shouldn’t even have sisters unless there is clarity, particularly among them, about who they are and what they are for. This has been a fiasco, all the way around.

  33. catholicmidwest says:

    By way of the last comment, Fr Z, I’m agreeing with you. A thorough-going reform needs to happen. The LCWR and the CMSWR both need to be closed up, and a new organization started without the bad blood of either of the two. Congregations, particularly women’s congregations founded after 1600, which took the brunt of this nonsense, need to be sorted through and those without a legitimate founder and succinct set of constitutions and statutes need to be fixed, merged or suppressed. We have an outdated patchwork of pieces and parts and it just doesn’t work anymore.

    Older members who are past retirement age need to be supported in their old age, and need to be retired in anonymity and peace. And we need to get on with the business of being Catholic and stop this miserable nonsense.

  34. JKnott says:

    Dear Sister H,
    Thank you for your reminder that we should not be making blanket statements about all Sisters . We must never forget the nuns and sisters who have suffered great trials living in communities led by sympathizers of the LCWR. I have always believed that they obtain many graces for souls by their interior fidelity and sacrifices, and are as you have said, “living saints”. It is wonderful news that the CDF is finally taking charge.
    In the same light I would also like to take issue with the very unfair comparison of the Legionaries who are obedient, faithful, orthodox and holy and who have suffered greatly over the sins of one weak man, with the LCWR leaders who have demonstrated dissent and heresies. The results of the two visitations are emphatically opposite. Even the papal Delegate Cardinal DePaolis often expresses frustration with outside opinions that dissent from the decision of the Vatican to grow the Legion to continue doing the good work they are doing.
    The LCWR needs our prayers, but also the good Sisters and the good priests and seminarians, called by God, need the support of their faithful Catholic brothers and sisters. It is always hard to understand, given the state of the Church today, how orthodox Catholics, rip other orthodox Catholics. Dissenters stick together.

  35. Ambrose Jnr says:

    I also believe that the comparison of LCWR with the Legionaries is unfair…their charism is intact and their devotions and basic principle of moving with the Magisterium are all sound…their psychotic founder and excessive control are being remedied by Holy Mother Church…I see a great future for them.

    May our magnificent Pope continue the good work (Neo-cat pseudo-liturgies & LCWR investigations/SSPX reunion)…what about Cardinal Ranjith as new CDF Prefect and rubrics for the Mass inspired by the vetus ordo next? That would make 2012 the best year of the papacy in a long while.

  36. TNCath says:

    Andy Milam: Archbishop Sartain’s mother’s name was Catherine, not Elizabeth.

  37. Maggie says:

    Praise God. Now we have a few tasks, as laity, ahead of us.
    1) pray and fast for the continuing work of those overseeing the LCWR situation. They are going to be under major spiritual and personal attack, especially Abp. Sartain.
    2) pray, fast, and contribute to the material support of those religious orders that are faithful to the Holy See and teachings of the Church (=those communities that are members of the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR)
    3) encourage our daughters, nieces, granddaughters, neighbors, etc. to be open to God’s voice if they feel a call to the consecrated life. It’s a demographics game. The new orders that are faithful are overflowing with vocations. The pantsuit wearing sisters of yesteryear are fading away.

    Note: in the document, on the last page under the mandate’s forthcoming actions, #4, it says how all religious communities should be focuses around the Liturgy of the Hours and the Eucharist. It’s pretty sad that needed to be mentioned… shouldn’t that have been a no-brainer? Shows how much work to be done.

    And if you can stomach it, here is the document that is no longer to be used, the “Systems Thinking Handbook.” Ugh, ugh ugh.

  38. Andy Milam says:

    @ TNCath;

    You’re correct. I was transposing my niece’s (nephew’s sister) name as I was typing. This is a great example of the need for self-editing. My apologies.

  39. AnAmericanMother says:

    Wow. I skimmed that “Systems thinking handbook”. It’s horrid on so many levels.
    My quick impressions:
    The authors reject “Western” thinking, science, and faith, and the “patriarchal”, “top down” church governance. The work rarely mentions God, who seems to be used merely as an endorser of their stated causes, which of course are left wing political, not religious (global warming, etc.)
    The first example of “resolution” is chilling, since an order’s leadership is trying to substitute a “creative” “prayer service” for the Mass (which comes in for the usual condemnation as “patriarchal”). The supposed “systems solution” seems to be talking the sisters who object out of their concerns.
    This is probably familiar to many as the “Delphi Method”, which consists of the leadership setting the goals and then defusing any objections by splitting up dissenters into small groups, planting their advocates in those groups, and isolating and browbeating the dissenters into silence.
    In other words, this is just as “top down” as the system they condemn, but with deception, coercion, and complete moral relativism added. But they get to be the bosses instead of the bishop.
    Ladies, this is not an improvement!

  40. EXCHIEF says:

    Let them have many bad days–until they either clean up their act (doubtful) or flee to another religion more consistent with their heresy.

  41. Legisperitus says:

    Systems Thinking Handbook

    Somebody set up us the bomb.

  42. irishgirl says:

    When I was much younger (midteens to midtwenties) I had thought of being a nun (Discalced Carmelites). It was in the early 1970s. Ended up never going in-got ‘cold feet’ and I wanted to do some traveling (go on pilgrimages). Now, in my late fifties, I can’t even be considered a candidate for any of the newer, flourishing, more orthodox communities because I’m considered to be ‘too old’.
    The only Sisters I knew in my youth were teaching and nursing Franciscans. They wore their black and white habits and veils up until the 1970s, when they were ‘modified’, and then later on, ditched altogether.
    All we have in my Upstate NY diocese are the old, tired communities that are dying out. There’s not a ‘young one’ in the bunch….
    That said, I hope that this investigation of LCWR will expose the rot that has been in religious life for the past 40 years or so, and extirpate it, root, tree and branch!

  43. Pingback: First Reaction from the LCWR

  44. catholicmidwest says:


    Yes, many of the women’s communities lost their reason for existing because the school/hospital or whatever that they had been founded to staff didn’t need them anymore in the late 20th century. Lots of factors contributed to this: housewives started to work outside the house; farming was replaced by other occupations; people wanted Catholic schools staffed by certified teachers; nursing became much a more technical field than it had been previously, the sisters got older and started to retire or have medical problems, etc etc.

    A little history: Many communities of sisters didn’t even have a real religious founder, or their founder had been replaced by someone else for whatever reason. Many of them didn’t really have a “formal religious rule” either, but just constitutions and statutes written to support the school/hospital etc where they were to work. Their “charism” consisted of generic “semi-monastic-looking” customs, taught in minute detail, designed to facilitate their work, bolster their reputation among the laity, and support generic notions of religious life, and that was it. With few exceptions, these women were also not highly educated in the early years. Many of them taught huge classrooms full of children on little more than a high school education or whatever they had entered the order with. They managed any way they could and taught what religion they knew, which sometimes wasn’t much more than custom.

    Thus when their apostolates broke down and they were asked to “return to the sources” by Vatican II, they were set adrift because they almost didn’t have any sources and they had been idled. The whole subject of their reason-for-being was a blank to them so they adopted all kinds of stuff, and I use the word “stuff” loosely. They took up political causes and abstracted bits of religious fluff to create what they call “witness” or “prophetic activity,” or something of the like. Reading the story of the IHM sisters is instructive in this regard because this was one of these communities, founded in the 19th century, and you can see all the pieces fall into place. It’s one of the things people should read if they want to know what really happened, along with some histories of these congregations.

    This is why the problem is worse among women’s communities, because all this apostolic-targeting, founding without a real rule, changing founders, and so on, happened much more thoroughly in women’s congregations, particularly the teaching congregations started in the 17th-19th centuries.

    Now, of course, many sisters have used their funds to become highly educated and serve as administrators and specialists of all kinds, and that’s why they look like they do now. That’s also why even though they are aging very quickly, they are able to cause so much difficulty for the rest of us.

    Incidentally, there’s a difference between nuns and sisters. What most people remember are sisters, not nuns. Lay people almost never see nuns. Nuns belong to the very few ancient orders that exist, founded before the Reformation, and almost without exception, they live in the seclusion of the cloister because the requirements for women before the Reformation strongly affected their rules. They even go to mass in the enclosure. You pretty much have to catch them in the hospital or something to see one. Occasionally if a new enclosure is erected you can see one there at an open house or something, and then it’s back in the enclosure for them.

  45. catholicmidwest says:

    BTW, when I said “see one” earlier, I meant see one in close proximity so that you can speak to one. One of the interesting things about the internet is that it’s possible to see photos of real nuns online, which some enclosures have used in their formation materials. So you can see things like this:

    And of course, there are Mother Angelica’s PCPAs, which are a more modern branch of the Poor Clares, not having all the properties of the original Poor Clares (OSC) founded by St. Clare in the 13th century.

  46. Christopher1978 says:

    Everyone on every side is talking as if the CDF is coming down on the whole of women religious leadership. This is a false representation. The LCWR are simply one “leadership group” that has been wayward for decades. There is also The Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR), which are very much in line with those teachings taught in the Ecumenical Councils and other infallible documents which Catholics cannot dissent against and remain truly in the Fold. The CMSWR represents religious women all over the United States. They represent over 100 communities and the CMSWR goals are stated as:
    1-to establish collaboration among major superiors who desire it,
    2-to serve as a channel of communication among major superiors,
    3-to provide a forum for participation, dialogue, and education on the patrimony of the Church’s teaching on religious life,
    4-to promote unity among major superiors, thus testifying to their union with the Magisterium and their love for Christ’s Vicar on earth, and,
    5-to coordinate active cooperation with the USCCB.

    The only reason that it is “shocking” that the CDF has come down on LCWR is due to so very many years of open dissent not being dealt with. The first people to drop the ball were the local bishops, who refused to reign in dissent from those Catholic teachings which are a part of the Deposit of Faith. If the local bishops were doing their respective jobs, it would have never turned into an issue. After much more time passing without these issues being dealt with, they became deep seated. The CDF should have stepped in quite a bit earlier. So, I would say that the CDF also dropped the ball.

    Now, the dissent is rooted deeply in the US Catholic Church. There is plenty of blame to go around, but finger pointing will do no good. It is time for correction. Unfortunately, it was let go for so long that those dissenters FEEL they have a “right” to do and say what they are doing and saying. They do not have a right to do what they are doing, or to say what they are saying. They are abandoning Jesus Christ, and His Bride, the Holy Catholic Church when they do so.

    So, let’s pray for these women, and for our Church. There is going to be some ugly backlash due to this development. We are going through some growing pains right now.

  47. AnAmericanMother says:

    Sister H,
    You make a good point.

    One of the problems with leadership in almost any local group — whether it’s a homeowners’ association, a dancing club, or an umbrella organization for women religious — is that the really good and competent people, the ones who are actually doing the bulk of the work, are far too busy to take on a leadership role. Often the leaders are the only ones who are willing to lead.

    So leadership often falls to the obnoxious, the discontented, and the disobedient. They want the job for all the wrong reasons — to feel important, to throw their weight around, to “change” things to their personal whims.

    With that said, though, there comes a point when the unsung hardworking sisters in these orders have to wake up and realize that their “leadership” has strayed far, far away from Catholicism. Sometimes, even if you’re busy, you have to get organized and take out the trash. Because otherwise, eventually you will be held responsible for failing to keep an eye on the leadership.

  48. catholicmidwest says:

    A bit of detail that no one seems to be catching here:

    There’s a difference between a nun and a sister. A sister belongs to a congregation, institute or something of that sort. A nun belongs to a medieval or ancient order. What’s being investigated is the LCWR, a council organization that represents congregations of sisters, and also has a lot of connections to other organizations. The Holy See is objecting to the behavior of the LCWR itself and also to its connections to some other organizations.

    Of the congregations of sisters, some belong “congregations of diocesan right” which the local ordinary (the bishop) has responsibility for; some belong to “congregations of pontifical right” which the Congregation in Rome has responsibility for.

    We haven’t seen the results of the investigations of the individual congregations. Those are expected to be finished before the end of this year.

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