Analysis of NPR’s interview of LCWR Pres. Sr. Pat Farrell: like a 7-year old’s manipulative obfuscation

Sr. Pat Farrell of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (a subsidiary of the Magisterium of Nuns) did an interview with the liberal-leaning National Public Radio.  Carl Olson of Catholic World Report deftly dissected Sister’s interview.  Let’s see the first part with my emphases and comments.

[Don’t forget: The LCWR’s leadership claim that, since they are not clerics, women religious don’t have to stand up for Magisterial teachings in their apostolates.  Therefore, they think they can blur and be silent about important moral and doctrinal issues and align themselves through that blurring and silence with a secular feminist agenda or with the Obama Administration’s pro-abortion efforts.]

Sister Pat Farrell, president of the LCWR, deflects, blames, and otherwise obfuscates

By Carl E. Olson

National Public Radio recently interviewed Sister Pat Farrell, the current president of the LCWR (Leadership Conference of Women Religious):

Farrell tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross that the leadership organization is currently gathering the perspectives of all of its members in preparation for its national assembly in August.

“We’re hoping to come out of that assembly with a much clearer direction about [the Vatican’s decision], and that’s when the national board and presidency can proceed,” she says.

Among the options on the table, she says, are fully complying with the mandate, not complying with the mandate or seeing if the Vatican will negotiate with them.

“In my mind, [I want] to see if we can somehow, in a spirited, nonviolent strategizing, [LOL! She introduces the notion of “violence”?   What a manipulative joke!] look for maybe a third way that refuses to define the mandate and the issues in such black and white terms,” she says. [Let’s make everything gray and squishy.]

[Olsen now continues… sorry, the formatting here could be confusing…] In other words, let’s sit down and talk about having further dialogue that will point us in the direction of additional conversations, which in turn will open up new vistas of vague and non-distinct paths ushering in an even more rewarding round of discussions, etc., etc. Frankly, this is what it is like sometimes dealing with my seven-year-old son, who is verbally skilled, sometimes manipulative, very adept at deflection, and usually refuses to back down when caught breaking rules, telling lies, or stealing sweets. A “third way”? That’s simply grown-up talk for “one more chance”. Refusing to define issues in such “black and white terms” is a variation on “why do you always have to be so strict about X, Y, and Z?” The key to this approach is being willing to outlast—often through endless talk!—those in authority. It also helps to be able say one thing while claiming to say another.

But, first, how about a little dose of deflection?

[Another snip of the Farrell interview…] “The question is, ‘Can you be Catholic and have a questioning mind?’ That’s what we’re asking. … I think one of our deepest hopes is that in the way we manage the balancing beam in the position we’re in, if we can make any headways in helping to create a safe and respectful environment [Notice how she goes back to this “violence” theme?  She is slyly trying to paint the LCWR as some sort of battered-women’s shelter.  If memory serves, however, in schools all across the land it was the nuns that did the battering… of children.] where church leaders along with rank-and-file members can raise questions openly and search for truth freely, with very complex and swiftly changing issues in our day, that would be our hope. [blah blah blah] But the climate is not there. And this mandate coming from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith putting us in a position of being under the control of certain bishops, that is not a dialogue. If anything, it appears to be shutting down dialogue.”

[Now Olson…] First, begin with a nonsensical question (my son, caught watching a television channel he knows is off limits, says, “Why does my sister get to watch whatever shes wants to?” Well, she doesn’t. But he’s not interested in the answer, is he?) Does Sister Farrell really ponder, with all seriousness, the question, “Can I be a Catholic and have a questioning mind?” Uh, the fact that a Catholic can even ponder such a question indicates the obvious answer: “Yes!” Crack open the Summa Theologica, one of the seminal theological and philosophical texts in the Tradition, and what do you find? Questions! Hundreds of ’em! Because we were made to question, ponder, contemplate, and wonder. But what is really being asked is this: “Can I be a Catholic and reject certain Catholic teachings?” The giveaway is in the term “complex and swiftly shifting issues in our day“. The next part of deflection, of course, is blaming someone else. In this case, it’s the CDF and the bishops appointed by the CDF: “But the climate is not there.” Yes, that’s right: the forecast for the LCWR is stormy weather, not smooth sailing.


You definitely want to read the rest over THERE.

I am especially pleased that Olson linked to my post NUNS GONE WILD!

In the interview, Sr. Farrell also opined that women religious are closer to understanding women’s health predicaments than are men/clerics. Does that sound to you like opposition to abortion?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Biased Media Coverage, Magisterium of Nuns, The Drill, Throwing a Nutty, Women Religious and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Sam DiPiazza says:

    Members of just about any other denomination that reject the teachings of their church just leave and join another, or form their own. Why do CINOs insist on staying in the Catholic Church and trying to shape it into their own image?

  2. jbosco88 says:

    The Saints have their work cut out for them when lecturing this lot in purgatory!

  3. anna 6 says:

    As with her interview at NCR, I am amazed at how unimpressed I am with the leadership of the Leadership. Naturally, I disagree with almost everything that Sr. says, but what surprises me is that a person in such a high position appears to be incapable of answering questions in a clear and direct manner. She speaks in generalities, but the CDF assessment is quite specific in its concerns. If they are unable or unwilling to address those issues then the future of the organization is precarious.

    The LCWR are fortunate that Bishop Blair’s interview is a week away, because the contrast will be dramatic.

  4. Dismas says:

    The incredible patience and charity demonstrated in this analysis is truly heroic. Listening to this interview today on podcast was like being dropped in a pot filled with oil of relativism and brought slowly to a rolling boil. As long as questions can be asked and dialogue continued there is no such thing as absolute truth was the only thing I could discern in her thinking.

    I’m afraid this interview dangerously jeopardizes my quest against smugness.

  5. PostCatholic says:

    I heard a chunk of this in the car yesterday. I thought that Terry Gross did a pretty good job of spotting the moments where where Farrell was trying to nuance the issues to her benefit. At one point, I think right before or after the comment about questioning minds was made, Gross asked Farrell something like “I think I hear that you are experiencing a lot of pain,” which was an emotionally loaded question and an astute one from an interviewer who knew she didn’t have background (I believe Gross is a secular Jew) to engage on the issues but wanted more from her subject.

  6. Fabrizio says:

    Sam DiPiazza wrote:

    Members of just about any other denomination that reject the teachings of their church just leave and join another, or form their own. Why do CINOs insist on staying in the Catholic Church and trying to shape it into their own image?

    because they could never have the same visibility without that “Catholic” on their business card and because most of them would have to actually work to pay for their food, clothing and shelter should they leave the Church in a formal way. How many books would people like these sell, how many interviews would they be requested of, how many laudatory editorials would be written for them were they dissenting from the Anglicans, or the Lutherans, or, for that matter the hare Krishna or the UFO cultists? In our sad age of tolerated, pervasive idiocy, pretending to be part of the only true Church while attempting to demolish it from within has its perks.

  7. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Sam DiPiazza,

    Members of just about any other denomination that reject the teachings of their church just leave and join another, or form their own. Why do CINOs insist on staying in the Catholic Church and trying to shape it into their own image?

    Because the Catholic Church is the Church of Christ.

    Of course they could leave, but then their deviation in teaching would be just about as important as a masquerade in Carnival. This they know (that they’ll dismiss such talk as outdated – they never say “incorrect” or the likes – is another story); therefore they stay.

    We’ve got to give them their sanctions, suspensions, interdicts, excommunications [and please I’m answering to the comment, not the article, so I am no way implying anything on whether the respective Sister does or does not deserve any censure] they so desperately crave for. [*And leave out the “that’s what they want; and it’ll only give them publicity”. We’re to confront and love our enemies; we’re neither to make sure they do not get what they want, nor to bury them in silence; and besides, attempts to bury them in silence have been unsuccessful.] That’s what they’ve been made for. But “let us teach what we teach and teach yourselves, other place, what you teach” does not work in a Catholic scenery. Never has.

  8. Supertradmum says:

    First of all, if my seven-year-old exhibited so many traits of serious patterns of sin, especially lying, I would be very worried.

    Secondly, what do these nuns and sisters want? What do they want? Do they want to be completely independent of the Church? Do they want to be heretics? Do they want recognition as feminist rebels? Do they want the Knowledge of the fruit of the Tree of Good and Evil?

    They obviously so not want to be nuns or sisters in any traditional definition.

    My only hope is that if Sr. Farrell and others are at a developmental age of seven, they might be able to seek more mercy from God for their many errors, than if they were truly Catholic adults in their Faith.

  9. Pastor Bonus says:

    The leadership of LCWR still seems to be labouring under the delusion that the findings of the CDF are merely a bargaining position, hardly surprising since when you have already bought into reletavism everything is up for grabs. We all know what needs to happen; full implementation of the CDF directives or they should be disbanded. Rome has spoken.

  10. mstrange382 says:

    As I write this I’m listening to the entire interview. Sister continues to make reference to this idea that our Bishops are telling them what to do. Of course they are! That is their job, to lead us in the ways of the faith and, when necessary, pull wayward sheep back into the fold.
    She makes no acknowledgement that the teachings on homosexual “marriage”, contraception, and abortion are in fact teachings of the Church. Therefore, they not just some ideas that the hierarchy (as the Bishops were continually referred to as) came up with on their own.
    Finally, does silence not imply consent? So when our Bishops speak out against evils in this world and the LCWR remains silent, to me at least, this implies one of two things: one, they disagree with the Bishops and therefore agree with the secular society, or two, they don’t have the character or courage to stand up for the Church’s teachings. Of course there is the possibility that both of these apply, and if that’s the case, then there is more of a reason for the Vatican to step in. Either way, I feel a need to send a prayer to St. Teresa of Avila, for these reforms that must take place.

  11. jilly4ski says:

    @ anna6

    I am actually not surprised. Your comment reminded me of a classmate I had in law school. He had his undergraduate in philosophy from Berkley and by all accounts was smart and an intellectual. (Probably thought a little too much about his brains). He was the student from the most prestigious university at our school, yet in our property class he could not answer the professors questions. Every question was met with another question or a long analysis that had little or nothing to do with the question. The funny thing was, that this particular professor was very interested that we learn logical and precise thinking, and this student could not follow the logic questions to the correct answer. The professor worked with him all semester (meaning she called on him a lot) and he never did learn.

    It was the epitome of irony. The student who should have been the leader as the elite intellectual could not answer simple logic questions, and instead try and manipulate and obfuscate the questions so he could give his non-answer. This type of thinking seems to be rather prevalent in these days. It seems that students are not taught to think critically or logically, but rather ideologically.

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  13. acardnal says:

    The quote that spoke to me and is just one of many reasons why the CDF has put them under the supervision of Bishop Sartain is this one . . . “Regarding abortion, Farrell avoided taking any clear stand, saying that the LCWR is pro-life, but defines the issue broadly. ‘If the rights of the unborn trump all of the rights of all of those who are already born, that is a distortion, too,’” she said. UNBELIEVABLE! It appears that is is just fine with the LCWR that the weak and innocent can have their legitimate right to life usurped by the living and strong and selfish!

  14. Johnno says:

    So they expect us to get lost in the backyard labyrinth of endless talks and discussions and politeness, all while they are continuing to burn down the house while musing “what is fire really?”. It’s all sleight of hand. A Magician’s trick. It diverts your attention elsewhere. Unfortunately for them we know how the trick works, the mainstream press on the other hand is always willing to suspend reality to be enamored.

  15. Widukind says:

    “… putting us in a position of being under the control of certain bishops, that is not a dialogue. If anything, it appears to be shutting down dialogue….”

    Well, gee Sister, I really guess there is no dialogue, as you have said yet nothing that is intelligible or worthwhile. When a baby goos at you, most people just goo back. Wake up and stop your gooing.

  16. fvhale says:

    I am growing fond of major league baseball as an analogy for the Church, realizing, of course, that all analogies have their limits.

    But in a baseball game, the umpire makes the decision. He may be right. He may be wrong. But he makes the decision. The players and even the coaches can disagree, make gestures, engage in “dialogue,” but if it goes on too far, somebody has to leave the game. Otherwise, the game could not continue. And the crowd (the laity by analogy), can also express their opinions–cheer, boo, hiss, whatever. They have freedom to express their opinions and thoughts. That adds to the pleasure of the game, really. But that does not change the decision of the umpire. People can analyze and discuss and talk about a decision for days, weeks, years and that becomes part of the lore of the game. But still, the decision stands, the players must accept the decision with a docile spirit, and the game goes on.

    For some reason American Catholics seem to understand how authority in baseball works, and accept that, much more than they understand how authority workds in their Church (magisterium). I think it is because American Catholics are deeply inflenced by their surrounding culture of protestantism, with innate rejection of the church’s authority, much more than they realize.

    Here are two thought experiments:

    1) Imagine if the LCWR leadership just quietly, obediently, and humbly received the report from the CDF and said, “Thank you, we will endeavor to address all these concerns.” And that was that. No media circus. No protests. No nuns-on-the-bus. No 50-woman marches (mostly ex-sisters) in front of small town news cameras. Just quiet, humble obedience, and back to work serving the poor.

    2) Imagine if every territorial bishop said, “Nuts!” to the Pope; every parish riest said, “Beat it!” to his bishop; every religious superio said, “Get lost!” to their superior; every parishioner said, “Don’t you tell me what to do!” to their parish priest. In short, imagine if a virus of rebellion was spread throughout the entire Church. Why, overnight we would all be like be doing whatever is right in our own eyes, using whatever we decided was an authority (Bible? maybe not. Psychology? Individual conscience? Omens? Feelings? Good intentions? Oprah?) Probably most people would stop practicing what was once called “The Faith” and many would not be seen coming together in any way. Churches would close or be converted to other uses. New places of “improved, responsive, emergent” worship would spring up all over for the like-minded (until they split over differences of opinion). Bishops would find somebody to follow them. Followers would find somebody to lead them. Texts would be developed (more inclusive, no doubt). And where would the Faith be? Where would the Church be? It would be very, very small and hard to find, like the 7,000 that the Lord spoke to Elijah about. But not extinct. What would be extinct is those that rebelled, and all that they had. Look at the experience of God’s people in the Old Testament. Rebellion against authority comes with a very high price, even if things look just grand for a while under the new, “more democratic,” “open dialogue” management.

  17. Indulgentiam says:

    “We’re hoping to come out of that assembly with a much clearer direction about [the Vatican’s decision], and that’s when the national board and presidency can proceed,”
    Translation: we uh, um don’t uh, have a plan but we’re working on it! yeah that’s right! we shall outflank them! and wrest from them the power that is rightfully ours! Haven’t we worked our fingers to the bone! we do all the work and they get all the credit, just like a man! but they forget the power behind the throne! that behind every great man is a greater woman! we are woman hear us roar! (insert your own delusional cliche here)
    having worked in social services and met some of these high heel, dangle earring wearing, sisters? they actually do believe that the “male hierarchy” fears their “female charisma” whatever that is. If they invite you to lunch bring aspirin, antacids, Dramamine and a HUGE St. Benedict Crucifix (Rosary and Holy water should already be in your purse). Their Re- Presentation of history will give you vertigo, their opinion of Priest heart burn. The aspirin you’ll need the next day when you wake up with a hangover after drinking an entire bottle of wine, trying to forget the look in her eyes and the shrill in her voice as she “explained” Priests and the sex abuse scandal. Positively, frighteningly demonic. Don’t underestimate these old gals they’d be less scandalous and scary if their heads rotated and they vomited pea soup.

    St. Joseph terror of demons pray for us!

  18. carleolson says:

    Thank you, Fr. Z, for linking to my piece.

    First of all, if my seven-year-old exhibited so many traits of serious patterns of sin, especially lying, I would be very worried.

    As would I. As am I and my wife. The fact is, he is an incredibly bright kid (he reads books faster than most adults and has an amazing vocabulary) with some incredible challenges in his life, some of them genetic and some of them otherwise. I won’t get into it, but suffice to say, we are doing all we can for him—physically, spiritually, medically, emotionally, etc. Say a prayer for him, his siblings, and for us if you think of it.

  19. Clinton R. says:

    I have never thought the Church should change for me. I wanted to change my ways and seek forgiveness and do penance for my sins so I may be pleasing to God and His Church and for the hope of eternal life. Unfortunately, these sisters constantly yammer on how bad the Church is and how it is a male dominated hierarchy. Yes, we can question things. It is one thing to have a theological discussion, but quite another to promote the approval of mortal sins. To be a faithful Catholic means we cannot teach contrary to the Magisterium of the Church. God’s ways are eternal and unchangeable. Sins are sins. These sisters are the epitome of egocentric harpies who might be better served joining the anything goes Episcopal church if they refuse to back off their heretical views.

  20. AnnAsher says:

    These nuns irk me. They conduct themselves reprehensibly. They seem to think they are the SSPX. They are not.

  21. frjim4321 says:

    Thanks for the link to the interview. Terry Gross is wonderful but I don’t often get a chance to hear Fresh Air. I will look forward to listening.

  22. frjim4321 says:

    ” … did an interview with the liberal-leaning National Public Radio … ”

    Guess it’s a matter of perspective.

  23. Dear Father Zuhlsdorf,

    You write:

    “You definitely want to read the rest…”

    You could hardly be more wrong about my desires. I am already feeling sufficiently uncharitable towards the leaders speaking for the LCWR that reading more about their manipulative inanities and violations of vows would, for me, constitute a near occasion of sin in terms of its effects upon my attitude towards those very individuals.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  24. AnAmericanMother says:

    So much blather, gas, and avoidance.
    Makes me wish I could get her on cross-examination under oath.
    “Objection, your honor. Non-responsive.”
    “Your honor, could you please instruct the witness to answer the question?”
    “Ma’am, you can explain your answer – but first you need to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’.”
    I have been here many, many times. Either the witness comes clean, or her intransigence disgusts the jury to the point that they find her . . . Guilty? Liable? Send her home with no recovery?

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  26. robtbrown says:

    I doubt that one of the questions to be considered by the LCWR at their August assembly will be where their member institutes will find the room to house all their postulants and novices.

    As Norman Bates said: Twelve cabins. Twelve vacancies.

  27. Supertradmum says:

    frjim4321, oh my–NPR has not only been liberal, but positively anti-Catholic in years. I decided in the 1990s to stop supporting them as it has been obvious at least that long.

    But, I used to listen to NPR in the car when I was commuting and had enough samples of bias to make such a judgment.

  28. PostCatholic says:

    I think, as a liberal, that the NPR talk shows do lean to the left. I get annoyed at the conservative bias in the news programs, which conservatives tell me are biased the other way, so perhaps they’re fair.

    Everything in the world is anti-Catholic, isn’t it? Is there any media that’s not? (I am being mordant. I think you are overly sensitive, Supertradmum.)

  29. Supertradmum says:

    PostCatholic, as to anti-Catholic or even anti-Christian, just follow the reporting on the martyrs in the Kenya, the Sudan, Mali, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Syria-one never hears the words which would indicate that NPR understands the persecution of Christians in this world. NPR blurs the distinction between victims and perpetrators. When reporting news, they have a clear Marxist vocabulary, making conflicts into class warfare based on haves and have-nots. It is really built into the media-psyche of NPR.

    Also, when they report something about the Pope there are blatant errors. I am not overly sensitive. I am a careful listener and a word-smith. I understand the power of nuance and propaganda.

  30. acricketchirps says:

    Man-oh-man, I wish I was a wordsmi–oops! I mean: I wish I were a wordsmith!

  31. frjim4321 says:

    I guess for me I can deal with an ideological bias if I know what it is. I can always backfilter it. For example, I’m not going to expect “Being” on Sunday mornings to present a very balanced view of the Catholic Church since basically it’s an agnostic program. But Terry Gross is always quite fair, case in point her interviews of some protestant fundamentalists over the years.

    To me journalistic integrity is more important than ideological slant, so that argues very much in favor of NPR as a news source.

  32. theidler says:

    Ugh…I’m tired of this dialogue thing, at least in the sense that they mean it – endless circles of ambiguous chatting and fifty gallons of tea later, and they’ll still be the same and the Church will be the same.
    When it comes to dissident movements, at least the Franciscan Spirituals were an interesting and at times profound. The LCWR magisterium, so called, is anything but.

  33. Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam says:

    Thanks goes out to Indulgentiam!! I laughed out loud.

    Terry Gross is workmanlike in pretending to be fair. She is anything but fair and NPR is as modern as it gets in so-called “news” reporting. They report what their owners tell them to report when they’re told to report it; and it’s on a need-to-know-basis. Generally, none of us needs to know.

    As for “Sister Pat” and the 50 none(s) in their bus : in our family we call what she does in this interview “Social Worker Talk” meaning none of what she says makes any common sense–it’s just a lot of blather used to obfuscate and/or misdirect. Social workers use this junk to try to make the “case” feel better about being a sinner or a screw-up. If we had more real priests and a Church that hadn’t fallen down on the job we’d have fewer people wasting money in the offices of psychologists, social workers and family counselors. They be in confessionals getting the free spiritual direction they really need, not this so-called “therapy”. I have no time for her purposely soft-spoken manner (what a put-on) –the same as Terry Gross. They’re both gross.

  34. PostCatholic says:

    I shall have investigate the Marxist vocabulary from the intellegentsia and apparats at NPR and their glasnost. Thank you for your report of this to me, Comrade Tradmum, I had failed to notice.

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