USAToday’s coverage of the #WhatSistersMeanToMe tag on Twitter (We are mentioned.)

I noticed this in USAToday:

Twisting tweets make hash of hashtag support for nuns [Nooo… it brought clarity to support for nuns.]

By Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA TODAY

Hesitate before you launch a hashtag. The experiences of President Obama and Catholic priests prove the point this week as competing views from church and state made hash of their original Twitter intentions. [The original intention, I think, was to fog the facts about the Holy See’s reforming efforts.]

President Obama, riding the topic of rising student loan interest rates, announced a hashtag for collegians to lobby Congress: #dontdoublemyrate.

Conservatives switched that up in a hurry — using that very hashtag to complain about gas prices and unemployment or to lay the blame for the rate increase on the Democrats, according to The Washington Post.

Earlier in the week, another hashtag campaign took a U-turn.

There was an outcry by some Catholics when the Vatican issued a crackdown on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the umbrella group of U.S. women religious (nuns and sisters) and put them under what conservative theologian George Weigel called “ecclesiastical receivership.” Bishops have been assigned to run their show and steer them to focus more on promoting church doctrine and discipline on marriage and sexuality. Weigel and many others thought this was a fine idea and long overdue. [Important point: The Vatican Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith is not concerned with the lifestyle of all sisters.  The CDF is concerned with the doctrine espoused by and promoted by the LCWR.]

Weigel writes in the National Review:

Yes, many sisters continue to do many good works. [Many do! Though that is not what the CDF is concerned with.] On the other hand, almost none of the sisters in LCWR congregations wear religious habits; [Which is true, though that isn’t what the CDF thing is looking at.] most have long since abandoned convent life for apartments and other domestic arrangements; [Very true, though that isn’t the concern of the CDF.] their spiritual life is more likely to be influenced by the Enneagram and Deepak Chopra than by Teresa of Avila and Edith Stein; [We are now getting closer!] their notions of orthodoxy are, to put it gently, innovative; [There it is.] and their relationship to Church authority is best described as one of barely concealed contempt. [And so we get to it.  But don’t mix up all these things together.]

But Rev. James Martin, culture editor of the Jesuit magazine America, noted that what is really overdue is the expression of gratitude to the women who founded schools, hospitals and charities across the USA and the world. Martin wrote an ode to the social justice work by selfless sisters and launched #WhatSistersMeantoMe. [Is that what Fr. Martin was doing?  Okay.]

That was all swell and full of 140 character bouquets to saintly women — for the first 1,000 or so tweets. Then traditionalist Catholic blogging priest John Zuhlsdorf suggested a U-turn for the tweets. [Not quite.  Not a U-Turn.  Perhaps a little sobriety.] He notes that the Vatican’s

…reforming effort is far more about the fact that the queenpins of the Magisterium of Nuns style themselves as teachers about faith and morals over and against the bishops and Holy Father, and that they have even become defenders of abortion and homosexual acts.

Fr. Z suggests to his audience, every bit as lively and Catholic-committed as Martin’s, that if

…the defenders of the liberal nuns want people to tweet (on Twitter, of course) positive notes about the poor, male-oppressed nuns using the hashtag #WhatSistersMeanToMe, I suggest that you give them exactly what they are asking for! Do tweet and do use that tag.

But, he says, use it to link to his posts he dubs “Nuns gone wild” naming dozens of nuns and sisters, some deceased, who strayed from orthodoxy on public policy. [WOAH! NO!  They strayed NOT from orthodoxy on “public policy” but from the Church’s teaching on ABORTION and HOMOSEXUALITY.  See what a deft slight of hand the writer used?]

Now, Martin says, the Twitter column has been ..

… flooded with snotty comments [As if that wasn’t going to happen anyway… on Twitter!] about who were faithful sisters were and who were not. (Apparently the commenters were able to see within the souls of the unfaithful ones.)  [Riiight. Fr. Z is the only person in the whole Twitterverse who remembers nuns and sisters who promote abortion.  I am glad I got a “My Fault Insurance Policy” when I was in seminary.]

Martin says he was

taken aback when gratitude was seen as out of bounds,  when praise was mistaken for dissent, and when an occasion to support elderly sisters was used as an opportunity to mock women who had given their lives to God.

For folks who might prefer more than 140-character views on the sisters and the Vatican, check out the thoughtful Judy Woodruff discussion at PBS. [Thoughtful?  Well… longer.  Let’s not mistake PBS or Woodruff for being experts on the internal workings of the Church or of being able to stray far on that short tether from that liberal stake.]

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Biased Media Coverage, Dogs and Fleas, Lighter fare, Magisterium of Nuns, Mail from priests, Our Catholic Identity, The Drill, Throwing a Nutty and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Diane at Te Deum Laudamus says:

    Actually, that discussion on PBS is good to watch because Donna Bethell was being interviewed.

  2. But Father! Abortion is a matter of public policy! So stop preaching on politics at church!

    I’m warning you: You keep that up and I’ll bring out the other one:

    But Father! Abortion is a matter of morality! So stop preaching on morality in the public square!

  3. Peggy R says:

    But these are not the sister who founded the schools, hospitals, orphanages, etc. These are not the sister who are (properly) instructing the children in the faith. Their predecessors did that. These dissenting women are hiding behind the accomplishments of their forebearers and living off the reservation in the meantime.

  4. Supertradmum says:

    If these sisters and nuns truly “gave their lives to God”, we would not be having this entire discussion.
    But, let us never be defined by our enemies. If we tweet, or blog, or comment, we do so from a love for the Church and for the very institutions the founders of the orders of now recalcitrant sisters and nuns created. We have nothing to say against the great saints of history, but of the false prophets of today, who have led so many souls astray, that I think any criticisms should be seen as valuable for their souls. And, unlike liberals, who is their schizophrenia split inner life from outer life, we know here and on twitter, that “by their fruits you shall know them”.

  5. ContraMundum says:

    USAToday made an error in reporting the new? Unprecedented! And as I would say if I were Sicilian, Inconceivable!

  6. Joe in Canada says:

    I visited a Benedictine Convent where the old boarding school was turned into a retreat centre with all the usuals – Enneagram, Reiki, etc. The oldest sisters were in the infirmary. The ones in wheelchairs, at least, were wearing habits, and when they saw me in clerics, tried to kiss my hand (they were Polish or German). If we define “middle age” for nuns to mean “around 70”, then I have no problem with the elderly.

  7. Stephen D says:

    Peggy R hits the nail on the head! It wasn’t them nor anyone like them.

  8. disco says:

    There’s no such thing as bad press, Father. If even one USA today reader finds wdtprs because of that article and finds his way to a confessional as a result, then you’ve won a great victory.

  9. Blue Henn says:

    Congratulations Father!! You apparently have such a wonderful following to have “earned” a spot in USA Today! :)

  10. Angie Mcs says:

    The general media will do anything to get their messages out. They deliberately and carefully choose whom they need to bring across their points during an interview. They twist words and phrases to make those who don’t agree with their viewpoints sound unreasonable, or out of touch, or just plain prejudiced. And the public continues to accept it, all the while being shaped by phrases and images that are often obvious, sometimes subliminal. We all know this here: we can compare Father Zuhlsdorf’s own words with how they have been manipulated. ( and this is one of many such examples). Thank goodness we have a forum like this one, but now is the time when we need to teach our children more than ever how to use their own minds and values to discern what is important and not to depend on what they are often offered in the PC controlled world of academia or to just accept what they read or see on television. I am grateful to have the access to a truthful source and sensible insight on this blog, not only from Father but from many of his commentators.

  11. Dismas says:

    Uh-Oh, does this indicate that a formal Apostatelitic Visitation to investigate Catholics and Vatican officials regarding dissent from orthodox apostate public policy and their relationship to the authority of orthodox apostate public opinion will be launched by the leadership of the Magisterium of Nuns and Fr. James Martin?

    Does anyone have a better word for ‘Apostatelitic’, I can’t find an appropriate antonym for apostolic? I’m also not sure about redundancy or oxymoron any longer, for example: the proper use of heterodox apostate or orthodox apostate?

  12. heway says:

    This reminds me, Father, that Sister McBride has repented and has been reconciled with the church in Phoenix. There has been much discussion about her case. Hopefully, she did not fully understand that what was occuring was direct, rather than, indirect abortion, as she has not appeared to support abortion rights?

    [Do we know that she has? Since the determination of excommunication came from the bishop, then the bishop is the one who lifts the censure, unless the Holy See intervened. Is there link to a document on the site of the Diocese of Phoenix?]

  13. pfreddys says:

    A very revealing statistic would be how many sisters over the past 50 years have actually ” founded schools, hospitals and charities across the USA and the world” and how many over the past 50 years are overseeing the dissolution of: “schools, hospitals and charities across the USA and the world”
    The sisters of today cannot lay credit to the results of the sisters of the past, they are a completely different species.

  14. Scott W. says:

    I second the call for a source on Sr. McBride. Especially one from the diocese. Seems odd that a public scandal would not have to be publically recanted.

  15. Maxiemom says:

    After reading this post, I’m am a bit offended.

    I know many good sisters who do not wear habits and live in convents. And they are not radical, nor do they promote teachings contrary to the church teachings. A habit does not a good nun make. Nor do clerics make a priest a good priest. And I say this from personal experience.

    My parish had two wonderful sisters who did not wear habits. They were good and holy sisters who made a positive impact on the children of my parish, counseling the school children, preparing children for sacraments and healing physical and emotional hurts for not only the children, but many adults in the parish. After being transferred out of the parish and then coming back to the area, my husband and I and another couple purchase a home that they lived in upon their return. No, it was not a traditional convent, but they made it a holy place to live. Unfortunately their time with us after their return was cut short with one passing away from a recurrence of cancer and the other transferred to the mother house after exhibiting signs of dementia.

    Likewise, clerics do not a good priest make. Our last pastor wore clerics only for diocesan and certain parish functions. His “down to earth” attitude endeared him to the parishioners and their respect for him was far greater than the previous pastors who often treated the people of the parish as inferior humans – both in their spirituality and as people. Our current pastor is always in clerics and cassock and is extremely smug and has offended many people in the parish, including me, with holier than thou attitude and hurtful words and actions. Personally, I can’t wait for his time to up and he gets transferred.

    I really don’t think Fr. James Martin was promoting the sisters who are anti the teachings of the church. But, often I feel that this is the attitude of many – that Jesuits are too liberal and are not well liked. My personal experience with Jesuits is that they are caring priests. My son attended a Jesuit college and, while many children go away to college and stop attending mass, the Jesuits were instrumental in my son continuing to attend mass. And for that I am thankful.

    I hope that this comment, like many that I have made, does not get deleted. It seem like comments not encouraging the Traditional Latin Mass don’t exist. While it is not my preference, I appreciate that many prefer TLM. But, please, don’t make us feel like we are not “good” Catholics.

  16. Gail F says:

    I don’t think it was very nice of you, Fr. Z, to ask people to send those tweets. [I refuse to allow liberals to have total domination over the media’s reporting on this issue.] But I’m sure you did not mean for anyone to tweet some of the truly nasty things that some (who, I hope, were not readers of this list) tweeted. People tend to get out of hand when they’re fired up, and there is a lot about some of the LCWR congregations to fire one up.

    On the other hand, I can’t imagine that Fr. Martin is naive enough to think that his hugely public request for tweets was going to be a complete love-fest, considering the volatile and emotional nature of the whole story. Did he really think that ignoring what the LCWR are in trouble for and asking people to say “thank you” to nuns wasn’t going to be taken by many people as tacit support, not for the individual nuns, but for the LCWR? After all, that’s exactly what’s been happening for decades! I happen to like Fr. Martin’s work, for the most part (I don’t know the man), but that’s the first thing I thought when I heard of the request — another attempt to whitewash what’s happening among some of these wacky women leaders by turning it into support for women who have nothing to do with the issue. And I am not radical by any means.

    The LCWR is a council of women leaders. It is leading in a certain direction, a direction that it has been told not to go in. This is not an indictment on tens of thousands of sisters, some of whom (no doubt) have followed that direction eagerly, others of whom have not followed at all, and others who (I’m sure) try to ignore what the leaders are doing and get on with their mission. The number one thing one can do to show support for faithful sisters who have served Christ and followed their vows is to get rid of the “post Christian,” Earth Elder, life-force harnessing, consciousness-evolving women whose fascination with fantasy seems to me to reveal a deep sadness about and disillusion with life. They are not going to usher in a post-Christian anything, they are not going to evolve to a higher state of consciousness, they are not going to become wisdom-filled Elders whom the world’s youth come to with awe and reverence. They are going to stay what they are now: Regular women. And that is not enough for them, even though THAT is what Christ came to save.

  17. Gail F says:

    And Maxiemom, by my last paragraph I do not mean getting rid of anyone who doesn’t wear a habit. You are right, there are plenty of really wonderful sisters who don’t wear habits and don’t live in community. I think that younger women are discovering why those things were done in the first place — because it is very hard to live the life of a sister without them, and they want very much to live the life of a sister. But not wearing a habit and living in an apartment does not mean that one is automatically heterodox. Some women have done it, and when you meet them you know exactly who they are.

  18. Maxiemom: I agree with everything you said. Except for this:

    Our current pastor is always in clerics and cassock and is extremely smug and has offended many people in the parish, including me, with holier than thou attitude and hurtful words and actions. Personally, I can’t wait for his time to up and he gets transferred.

    Looks like a missed opportunity on your part. Shame you’re too busy not being able to wait until his time comes up and he gets transferred.

  19. Maxiemom says:


    “Looks like a missed opportunity on your part. Shame you’re too busy not being able to wait until his time comes up and he gets transferred.”

    Not sure what you mean by a missed opportunity, but to clarify things, if he passes me exiting church, he looks the other way and in the last three years has said about six words to me, and only because he could not avoid it. His hurtful words and actions have been forgiven, but can’t be forgotten. I have never been treated like he treated me and hope to never be treated that way again. I attempted to try to talk to him, but phone calls and later e-mails were ignored. I, and my husband, contacted our previous bishop about his behavior. He apologized for sending him to our parish, but he was unable to do anything for lack of another priest to replace him.

    And by the way, it’s not just me – a good majority of the parish feels the same way. His “uppity” attitude has offended many. I pray that he will have a change of heart.

  20. PA mom says:

    Rev Martins misdirection is the point here. This Vatican correction is not really of the tens of thousands of (hopefully) faithful sisters in these congregations. But his misdirection performs an important function. When many people read the real thoughts and actions of this group, I think the first reaction is accepting that they are off track, significantly. But the troubling list of errors contains thing that most people think are nutty, and then it contains those things that the most sophisticated of us are supposed to accept as common place, Gaia worship and then abortion, “beyond Jesus” and then homosexual activism. When you see them together, and understand that those who are pushing them are in a formal state of correction from the Church, it must make some people reconsider. And if some of those people reconsider, surely at some point they will ponder why this magazine America sells the same views as the errant Sisters and then… Who knows?

  21. A.D. says:

    For that difficult priest, try lots and lots of positive love. Ask several other parishioners to join you in doing positive things for him. Thank him for a good sermon or Mass faithfully celebrated; invite him to dinner; gather a small group of parishioners who will pray just for him; send him spiritual bouquets; remember him on his birthday, name feast day, and holidays; invite him on a group outing to a state park; invite him to watch his favorite sport’s game on TV with a big family or group of friends; smile and say Hi every time you see him, even if he turns away; wish him a good day anyway.
    I bet you can think of a lot more things. Try it. If he’s young, he’s probably lonely; if he’s old, his heart may be tired and weary. Remember how much God loves him! Try to love him like that.

  22. Maxiemom says:


    Thanks for your suggestions. We had tried many of these things before he chose to be so unkind. He is not an old priest – in his mid 40’s and has only been a priest for about 8 years, so being a priest for too long is the problem either. Unfortunately, his first assignment was in a very affluent community (Princeton, NJ) and our community, while filled with many wonderful people, is just not what he was used to.

    For a while, we considered leaving the parish, but I’ve been here for 20 years and hopefully he won’t. It’s my cross to bear and though I’ve been very hurt, I’ll be here longer than him (I hope!).

  23. SKAY says:

    “Rev Martins misdirection is the point here”
    Excellent point PA mom.
    Father Z has made it very clear this not about ALL nuns and sisters. As others have commented-perhaps some have actually come to this blog and been enlightened.

    We can also see how the USA Today reporter twisted Father Z’s words to suit her faulty understanding of his point–or just to suit her own agenda.
    The MSM is guilty of a lot of misdirection on this subject–especially the women that I have seen discussing it on various panels. It would be nice if they at least tried to have one knowledgable Catholic like Donna Bethell included on all of these forums instead of treating it as a “women’s rights issue”
    and laughing about it. At least PBS did do that.

  24. AnAmericanMother says:

    Try it again anyway. If he is a mid-life vocation, that has trials and challenges all its own (kinda like a mid-life conversion, cough, cough.)
    The trick is to stop thinking about how hurt you are and start thinking positively about how you can turn him around. Forget it – that’s the only way to deal with it, otherwise you will continue to treasure it up and brood on it and take it out on him, and if he were to try to mend things you would miss it.
    No matter how badly you were hurt, there are people who are hurting worse than you are (I could tell you stories that would make you run away screaming). He might be one of them.
    And if he really is a jerk, remember Saint Paul’s words and heap burning coals of fire on his head.

  25. Precentrix says:


    I don’t know your parish or your priest. But I would be very surprised if Father intended to come off as smug or condescending, or as turning up his nose at his parishioners.

    A thought from an utter traddy here… Some of the more traditional priests with whom I have come into contact have a certain idea of how a priest should behave that can at times make them seem quite ‘cold.’ They are very cautious about what they say and to whom, and especially tentative in any dealings with women – particularly with young women like myself (well, not so young now, but I was a few years ago!). This can extend not just to words spoken – which may be few – but also to things like eye contact and bodily posture. It can give you the impression that they don’t care, whereas this is not at all the case.

    Other priests I know are quite brusque, they offend people easily without meaning to do so. I used to go door to door with the Legion of Mary and know of people who have not set foot inside a church since Father said something particular to them – something that he (since I know the priest) clearly intended to be taken lightly, said tongue-in-cheek, but which had deeply affected that person.

    Yet another case is the priest from a comparatively affluent and certainly well-educated background who was working in a completely different sort of parish. It took him around a year to work out how to pitch his homilies so that people could relate to them and to build up relationships with the locals. Many people went elsewhere because they felt like he was looking down on them at the start; but those who stuck around realised that this wasn’t the case.

    In short, it is possible that Father has offended you without meaning to. It is also possible that he doesn’t even know he’s offended you. It is *certain* that the Lord asks us to extend forgiveness even to our priests – and equally certain that priests are also sinners and that they are far from perfect.

    If you feel like I’m being condescending here, please bear in mind that I’m preaching to myself too – I really don’t get on with my own parish priest, but he *is* a good person, I will not tolerate people speaking badly about him publicly, I respect his office and it is my duty to pray for him even if I do try to avoid him at times!

  26. Son of Trypho says:

    A priest’s bearing can be very different – sometimes you might get a St Philip Neri and another time a St Arsenius the Great – one very engaged socially, the other very withdrawn, but both holy.

  27. Trad Catholic Girl says:

    Son of Trypho,

    “St. Philip Neri and St. Arsenius the Great” – two of my favorite saints!

  28. jflare says:

    I’ve been reading some of the comments after the original article over there. There are some VERY nasty people!

  29. MPSchneiderLC says:

    Somebody needs to start a site to collect victim stories of people affected by these nuns. The media likes the victim story. Right now they have the nuns as victims but if somebody collected personal stories of people negatively affected by these nuns maybe we could show it for it truly is. These stories are a lot harder for deadline-pressed media types to find. The Vatican are like the police who are removing certain elements to make the neighbourhood (or the whole US in this case) better for everyone.

  30. RuariJM says:

    MPSchneiderLC – Fr Z has blogged before about SNAP representatives being refused meetings with these people. Perhaps they could help?

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