WaPo politics writer, NYT, on the SSPX, LCWR, CDF, USCCB. Reading this may make you a little stupider.

WaPo has a story on the recent efforts of the CDF and USCCB to help the poor confused women of the LCWR to faithful, orthodox Catholicism. The piece was written by a political writer, the deeply confused, Melinda Henneberger in a column called “She The People“.

I love the headline.

The instructive timing of the crackdown on nuns [ROFL! Whenever liberals see Holy Church do something that is exactly within its job description, they boost it up to a “crackdown”. If this thing with the LCWR is a “crackdown”, then I’m a Cardinal.]
By Melinda Henneberger

There were two Santa Maria! stories out of the Vatican this week. [So, she starts out with flippant blasphemy: words or gestures, also thoughts, which show contempt for God or dishonor God regardless of whether the person intends that contempt or dishonor or not.] First, the bad news: [And the objectivity gets up and heads for the door.] The ultra-traditionalists of Marcel Lefebvre’s Society of St. Pius X are another step closer to being welcomed back into the fold — though church fathers have yet to sort out the problem of the dissident group’s Holocaust denying Bishop Richard Williamson, whose excommunication Pope Benedict XVI lifted two years ago. [Who could see mean by “church fathers”? Surely from her this is a rather arch term.]

Then there was the even worse news, by my votive lights, that the Vatican is cracking down on American nuns – who as one of my fellow Catholics noted over a cup of unconsecrated wine last night, [Boy, she’s pretty clever with that religious imagery, isn’t she!  And note the error of fact: the CDF and USCCB’s efforts are directed at the LEADERSHIP of the LCWR, not American nuns.] “Only do what Jesus told us to do,’’ in their hospitals, schools and orphanages, “so no wonder they’re in trouble.’’

After a lengthy investigation by the office formerly known as the Inquisition, Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle has been signed up to oversee a forced reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents about 80 percent of the 57,000 Catholic nuns in this country.

That’s because, according to the Vatican report released Wednesday, a number of the good sisters appear to investigators to have been influenced by “radical feminism” and to have fallen out of step with church teaching on homosexuality and women’s ordination.

Maybe timing isn’t everything, but the juxtaposition of these two announcements on the same day was perfect. [The first thing she has gotten right!  But I seriously doubt that this was coordinated.] If, that is, the intent was to send the message that while schisms may come and go, feminism won’t be tolerated. [HUH?  Or, otherwise the CDF’s efforts are both aimed at bringing people back into clearer unity, in a canonical sense for the one and doctrinal and spiritual sense for the other.] Or that a man who says, as Williamson did, that history is “hugely against 6 million Jews having been deliberately gassed” will be waved back in, but women accused of dissent can leave if they like.  [This is silly.]

In fact, with the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council coming up in October, what better time to remind people how far we still have to go, five decades since Pope John XXIII promised to throw open the windows of the church and let in some fresh air?

Some things about the Vatican report do leave me torn: I can’t, for instance, decide if my favorite part is where they dare to indict the sisters for silence on abortion. (If memory serves, the Vatican itself has now and again been accused of keeping quiet when it shouldn’t have been.) Or maybe it’s the part where they describe one sister’s language about “moving beyond the Church’’ as “a cry for help.’’

[… I cut out some dopey stuff….]

It also looks like payback. [ROFL!  It’s a vast right wing conspiracy!] Some American bishops openly criticized the Leadership Conference of Women Religious’s support of the Affordable Care Act, which the bishops strenuously opposed.

And though it’s probably a coincidence, the LCWR [a subsidiary of the Magisterium of Nuns.] approved of President Obama’s compromise with religious institutions over providing their employees with insurance coverage that covers birth control — a proposal the bishops have not accepted.

Some of the complaints go back much further, suggesting ancient grievances polished to a high shine: “The LCWR publicly expressed in 1977 its refusal to assent to the teaching of Inter insigniores on the reservation of priestly ordination to men,’’ the Vatican report said. “This public refusal has never been corrected.”

[… I cut out more dopey stuff here… ]

Melinda Henneberger is a Post political writer and anchor’s the paper’s ‘She the People’ blog. Follow her on Twitter at @MelindaDC.


Watch for more of this sort of thing in the future.

This is the sort of thing readers of the WaPo, like those of Hell’s Bible (NYT), expect and that is what they get.

Speaking of Hell’s Bible, Laurie Goodstein has this.  It is a lot smarter than the piece, above, but you can tell where she is going with it: Bishops are mean meanies picking on women.

April 18, 2012
Vatican Reprimands a Group of U.S. Nuns and Plans Changes
The Vatican has appointed an American bishop to rein [at least it isn’t a “crackdown”!] in the largest and most influential group of Catholic nuns in the United States, saying that an investigation found that the group had “serious doctrinal problems.”

The Vatican’s assessment, issued on Wednesday, said that members of the group, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, [a subsidiary of the Magisterium of Nuns] had challenged church teaching on homosexuality and the male-only priesthood, and promoted “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”

The sisters were also reprimanded for making public statements that “disagree with or challenge the bishops, who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals.” During the debate over the health care overhaul in 2010, American bishops came out in opposition to the health plan, but dozens of sisters, many of whom belong to the Leadership Conference, signed a statement supporting it — support that provided crucial cover for the Obama administration in the battle over health care.


Word of the Vatican’s action took the group completely by surprise, Sister Sanders said. She said that the group’s leaders were in Rome on Wednesday for what they thought was a routine annual visit to the Vatican when they were informed of the outcome of the investigation, which began in 2008.

“I’m stunned,” said Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobby founded by sisters. Her group was also cited in the Vatican document, along with the Leadership Conference, for focusing its work too much on poverty and economic injustice, while keeping “silent” on abortion and same-sex marriage.

“I would imagine that it was our health care letter that made them mad,” Sister Campbell said. “We haven’t violated any teaching, we have just been raising questions and interpreting politics.”  [That could use some parsing.]


Again, this is the sort of thing that NYT readers expect.  And it what the NYT gives them.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Biased Media Coverage, Blatteroons, Dogs and Fleas, Magisterium of Nuns, Our Catholic Identity, Priests and Priesthood, The Drill, The future and our choices, The Last Acceptable Prejudice, Throwing a Nutty and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. kab63 says:

    Ms. Melinda believes she’s entitled to that flippant tone because she’s Catholic. Our own people are often the ugliest voices in the public square.

  2. Andrew says:

    “Reading this may make you a little stupider”

    Non dum legi totum et jam me sentio hebetiorem. Nolo prorsus retusi acumunis fieri.

  3. WGS says:

    Some recent articles have referred to those of the LCWR as “radical nuns”. Far from it! To be radical in the Church, one would be orthodox. Strip away the heterodox aberrations, and that brings you to the root, the radix.

  4. Legisperitus says:

    But the Bishops didn’t oppose the ACA in principle… just the abortion aspects.

  5. cblanch says:

    These nutty liberals are just making it easier for people to ask me, “Why in the world are you Catholic?” THANKS!!! :)

  6. Supertradmum says:

    [… I cut out some dopey stuff….]

    How did you discern dopey, dopier, dopiest?

    I am ashamed of these women.

  7. jorgens6 says:

    I’ve also noticed that when this LCWR story has been featured in the secular press…WHY! WHY! WHY! Do they choose photographs of nuns in conservative habits who belong to an order that’s most certainly part of the CMSWR…I didn’t realize that “….While LCWR was chartered as the sole confederation of the US’ womens superiors in 1956, concerns over the group’s stances on church teaching led to the Vatican-backed creation of an alternative body more receptive to Rome, the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR), in 1992. Though a handful of communities hold membership in both organizations — the newer of which requires that its orders maintain a defined habit — the US is the only country to have dueling leadership conferences. All the nation’s mens’ orders are represented by the Conference of Major Superiors of Men.”

  8. BaedaBenedictus says:

    “I’m done with the emotionally stunted man-boys in the funny dresses in the jewel-encrusted fairy kingdom in Italy!” A taste of the comments section below the WaPo piece. Break out the popcorn, the Sturm und Drang coming out of Sister Pantsuit Land Geriatric Gaia should be quite an amusing spectacle ;-)

    Speaking of which, Father, one of the dopey parts you cut out was this howler: “The Vatican, of course, knows a lot about scandal — to the point that the nuns are the only morally uncompromised leaders poor Holy Mother Church has left.”

    They keep bringing up the sex abuse scandal to attack the credibility of the “Patriarchy” but are strangely silent about the LCWR’s own p*ss-poor record on abuse.

    Ms. Henneberger, however, has an awful lot of chutzpah to go so far as to call the Magisterium of Nuns “the only morally uncompromised leaders” left!

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  9. pfreddys says:

    They really love to bring up Bishop Williamson ‘holocaust denial’, as if it has any bearing whatsoever on any issues involved. The question of the holocaust is not a question of faith or morals so it has no bearing on the dialog between the SSPX and the CDF.
    To be honest I share Bishop Williamson’s opinions on this historical event, in fact, I may go beyond what he has stated. That being said, I do have to say that it was imprudent and just plain stupid for him to express those opinions. The only thing he succeeded in doing was to distract from the mission of the SSPX and give authors such as the above grist for the mill.

  10. Random Friar says:

    I thought “ultra-traditionalists” in NCR-speak were OF priests who actually liked the new translation.

    I guess they only allow one “ultra” per adjective.

  11. ckdexterhaven says:

    There’s a twitter hashtag meme now: #whatsistersmeantome. Promoted on the HuffPo. It’s now got hashtags like #radicalfeminist, #lgbt, with links to change.org. Would be nice if those in the twitterverse took Father Martin at his word that he wants the #whatsistersmeantome hashtag to be “pro nun”, and “gratitude”. He didn’t say we only had to be grateful for social justice first nuns. #justsayin’ #hinthint

  12. AvantiBev says:

    What is wrong with this “crackdown” or “reining in” is that it is coming 40+ years too late. 40 years ago I was in an all girls Celtic Druid, er, Irish Katholic, High School in Chi town which was firmly in the grip of Lefty Sisters of No Mercy who had tossed their habits along with Aquinas and Augustine course materials into the dumpster.

    A few sisters, refugees from other teaching orders whose schools had been shuttered provided me with a good education: the Franciscan former actress who really knew how to teach Shakespeare and poor Sister Clare – no pun she really was named Clare — who TRIED to teach an orthodox class on the Old Testament only to be REINED IN by the nuns who showed NO MERCY for any such doxology. She did manage to instill in me a deep love for reading and meditating on the OT.

    The rest of the nuns and lay teachers taught a religion class that not only was not Catholic, it wasn’t even Christian. It was pop psychology with books such as Are You Running with Me, Jesus. We were lectured not on what Isaiah or Moses had to say and do but on honoring our feelings and being “authentic persons” who didn’t wear a mask and sought (ugh) “justice” – as defined by the Alinskyites who were at that time deep into Chi Town Katholic Action groups.

    FORTY YEARS TOO LATE but better late than never. Clean those stables Pope Benny 16!

  13. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Hmmm, so, is there a way that some of this could be parlayed into a “Cardinal Z” scenario? Maybe we should look at it again.

    And I love that these clunks never can get straight the differences between the Pope, the Holy See, the Roman Curia, and the Vatican. Everything, EVERYTHING, is the Vatican with these guys and gals. In fact, “the Vatican” is least important of these institutions.

  14. digdigby says:

    I am a Jewish convert to TLM. My grandpa had over thirty relatives in Poland and Russia and they wrote back and forth for years. Until 1939. Silence. All gone. Forever. Let me ask you one thing. Are you calling Hoess, the commandant of Auschwitz in the mass-extermination years a liar? He, with his outstanding memory gave precise and exhaustive testimony of mass exterminations, gassings, train arrivals, delays, decisions about ‘liquidating’ various sub-camps etc. etc. etc. This is a man on trial for his LIFE. Not only him, but not ONE Nuremberg defendant even THOUGHT to attempt to deny the magnitude and logistics of mass murder. But you and ‘Bishop’ Williamson know better. I’m so Catholic that I even find the term ‘holocaust’ offensive as does my Jewish brother – it is referred to as the Shoah now. A holocaust has a particular religious meaning and it is offensive to refer to mass murder thusly. I sincerely doubt if ANYTHING could convince you of anything, I don’t know why I am bothering.

  15. Matariel says:

    Am I the only one who thinks Sister Ruth from the 1940s film Black Narcissus is a perfect allegorical figure of the LCWR?

  16. irishgirl says:

    Please, will someone slap these foolish female ‘reporters’ silly?
    Same old tired whining. ‘Yada yada yada’. Continual ‘Catholic bashing’, this time from within.
    Get a clue, ‘ladies’. Your time is soooo over!
    @ AvantiBev: I echo your last words, ‘Clean those stables, Papa Benny 16!’
    Yes, I’d like to see you become a Cardinal, Father Z! I know you really don’t want to be one…but I can dream, can’t I?

  17. cblanch says:

    It only makes sense that Bishop Williamson is constantly brought up by the liberal media. In their minds, an “organization” should be able to control the thoughts and opinions of every single one of it’s members.

  18. Gail F says:

    “the largest and most influential group of Catholic nuns in the United States” — does she understand that part of the problem is that the LCWR leaders are “leading” what used to be large and influential orders off into obscurity and oblivion? How can you take these women seriously when they are calling themselves “post Church” and off learning Rieki and such things? There are some really wonderful liberal nuns. But when you are more concerned about being co-creators of evolutionary consciousness or whatever, you kind of lose your claim to be Catholic. I wrote on the NCR site that they can do anything they want to do, no one is stopping them, but after a certain point they can’t call themselves Catholic nuns while they do it. I know I’m being snarky but really it makes me very, very sad.

  19. One of those TNCs says:

    Keep in mind the little game news articles play, cherry-picking the juiciest bits of “news” to include, aimed at stirring up emotions instead of encouraging folks actually to think. There is precious little to learn about what “the Vatican’s” document actually said, if one reads only the press’ accounts.

    Since I know next to nothing about the LCWR, I Googled it and the first article I found was this one, an interview with a woman who was shocked, shocked! by the result of the process. Most interesting was her cunning evasion of every single question that could have enlightened the reader as to just what it was, exactly, that the bishops objected to. But what do you expect, from NPR? http://www.npr.org/2012/04/19/150984872/vatican-criticizes-nuns-stance-on-social-issues

    And then there is this excellent opinion piece, from one Omar F. A. Gutierrez: http://www.regnumnovum.com/2012/04/18/lets-be-sober-about-the-lcwr-assessment/

    I’d love to see the actual final assessment of the LCWR – and get the whole “tree”, not just the “cherries.”

  20. One of those TNCs says:

    Aha! Here is the document in question:


    Read it and see if those mean ol’ men really are out of step with what Catholic nuns oughta be and do.

  21. Maltese says:

    “I would imagine that it was our health care letter that made them mad,” Sister Campbell said. “We haven’t violated any teaching, we have just been raising questions and interpreting politics.”

    Oh REALLY?

    When did nuns stop their vocations of praying and become politicking lobbyists?

  22. e.davison49 says:


    Will you also look at the attack by Michele Somerville on Huffington Post? It is pretty bad.


  23. JohnE says:

    Melinda’s first job was for her junior high school newspaper, reporting that the parents of one of her friends had the nerve to search her friend’s room.

  24. e.davison49: Michele Somerville on Huffington Post

    Probably not. I read through the piece and didn’t detect adequate intellect or learning behind what was offered. Fisking that would be like kicking a zealous little puppy.

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  26. Sandy says:

    Last night’s PBS show had this discussion of course. Christendom College had the true Catholic representative (sorry I forgot both women’s names) and Fordham had the “catholic”. The latter began every answer with “As a feminist/catholic/theologian/etc. layperson (some or all of the adjectives)”…. She had to keep repeating herself as though she needed it to feel worthwhile and important.

  27. Father K says:


    “That being said, I do have to say that it was imprudent and just plain stupid for him to express those opinions”

    Not if he wanted to throw a hand grenade into the dialogue between the Holy See and the SSPX. Unfortunately for him, it created a lot of heat but did not derail the talks. If, here’s hoping, the SSPX are reconciled, Williamson will probably gather around himself ‘the true believers’ clergy and lay and a schism will develop from there.

  28. Charles E Flynn says:

    From On Fifteen Years a Catholic, by Carl E. Olson at The Catholic World Report:

    But, of course, just as the narrative about the LCWR presents disobedience as goodness, the narrative about Benedict XVI has often been as follows: an angry, narrow-minded, Nazi-sympathizing reactionary is now Pope, and he is intent on dragging the Church back to the dreaded Dark Ages. Perhaps some of this utterly banal silliness could be forgiven in the first week following the election. But since then it has reflected unlearned arrogance (a media specialty), or petulant and personal smearing (a media delight), or slovenly regurgitation of falsehoods (a media habit). Or all three (a media trinity).

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