Fr. James Martin’s spin on the CDF smackdown of the LCWR

The spin continues.

Another example comes from Fr. James Martin, SJ of America Magazine.    (Remember his Twitter campaign to show appreciation of the nuns?)

Martin’s arguments against despair over CDF’s smackdown of the the LCWR do not convince.   This is a good example of what is called “special pleading”.  Here are his arguments.

1) Pope Francis is new to the job and, therefore, he doesn’t want to undo something the CDF was doing under Benedict XVI.

I guess that is why he refused to use the mozzetta or other papal garb, why he put aside Benedict’s ferula (though it sounds like he may use it again), and why he isn’t living in the Apostolic palace.   He is convening the Gang of 8 to undo Benedict’s curia.  He has only provisionally confirmed Benedict’s appointments to the highest curial offices.  It’s all because he doesn’t want to undo things that were going on under Benedict.

That’s right!  The one thing Francis really wouldn’t want to do, is go against Benedict’s policy concerning the LCWR.

2) He probably didn’t follow the LCWR affair closely before he was Pope and, therefore, is just going along with the CDF until he learns more.

Translation: the CDF is lying to him.  If this were true, Pope Francis didn’t benefit much from all that great Jesuit training.  Apparently, he isn’t able to grasp an explanation or the history of the LCWR affair.  Otherwise, it could mean that Francis is shallow or craven, that he can’t say “No, let’s wait and keep this quiet until I get the full picture.”

What Martin may be missing here is that a) he does understand what is going on, b) the CDF’s briefing on this was convincing, and c) he really does agree with the CDF.

3) The appointment of the Franciscan (read: gosh, he must be poor and humble and nice and really compassionate and not all legalistic and stuff), as Secretary of the Congregation for Religious serves as a counterweight to the CDF’s newest meanie, mean, unfair, nun-bashing, knuckle-dragger move.

What is lost in this explanation is that the Congregation for Religious is pretty much irrelevant now that the CDF has its own process underway.  The CDF trumps everyone in this matter because it concerns doctrine, not whether the sisters are living in apartments, or wearing veils, or have two or three years for novices…. if LCWR groups have any novices, that is.

4) Since Francis was also a religious (a Jesuit), he’ll probably be sympathetic in the future.

Translation: the CDF is not really telling him the truth.  Once the nuns get a chance to talk to him, he’ll switch to their side.

It could be that Francis’ experience as a Jesuit might not work in the sisters’ favor.  Francis battled mightily to keep his brethren in order when it came to the introduction of Liberation Theology when he was the Jesuit provincial in Argentina.  He would have had to fight his brethren, other provincials in Latin America and also Jesuit HQ in Rome.  And he was treated pretty badly by his brethren, too.  He fought and stood firm against bad theology.

Does anyone think that the guy who fought that hard and at such great cost against bad theology is going to go against the recommendation of the CDF and go over to the side of a bunch of women religious who are moving “beyond the Church” and beyond Jesus?

I have a strong dubitation.

Lastly, Fr. Martin does not think this spells doom for the LCWR.

Pope Francis and the CDF didn’t exactly send the sisters an ice cream cone.

The leaders of the LCWR have a choice.  Conform and reform or be prepared for the consequences which are as sure to result as the night follows the day.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Man alive! If there is one thing Francis is not afraid of, it’s doing things his way. Ha!

  2. OrthodoxChick says:

    “Pope Francis and the CDF didn’t exactly send the sisters an ice cream cone”.

    Well that about sums it up! ROFL!!!

  3. americangirl says:

    I cannot help but pity these people! Fr Martin and the National Reporter are grasping at straws. If the Holy Father doesn’t give them a dose of reality rest assured Our Lord will in his good time! The argument of continuity between Francis and Benedict concerning this matter is ludicrous. For all intent in purposes Pope Francis is orthodox in faith and morals. Not to mention Francis certainly wasn’t skittish about breaking continuity concerning the washing of the feet of both genders on Holy Thursday. I cannot help but believe if he felt the Sisters were being targeted with out good reason he would have ended this investigation immediately. No, Francis realizes the Sisters of many of these communities have fallen away from the teachings of the Church and are contaminating others with erroneous doctrine. While Benedict was once referred to as the Rottweiler, I suspect Francis will eventually be known as the Pit Bull ! LOL

  4. brhenry says:

    Yes. If we can concluded anything about Pope Francis in his first month is that he
    is “His own man.”

    My hunch is that he will likely not please the typical modernist or traditionalist. And this is a good sign, since Our LORD was not a favorite with the Sadducees (modernists) or the Pharisees (traditionalists).

    Another hunch is that Pope Francis will embody the combined strengths of our last two Popes,
    praise be to GOD!

  5. JimGB says:

    The Pope is perfectly capable and within his prerogative to say “hold up until I have a chance to study this more.” He did not do so and approved the CDF telling the world that he approved its action. How could the Pope, consistent with his repeated references to the centraility of Jesus Christ and the dangers posed by the Devil, put the brakes on a process to reform a gruop whose members support abortion and march in protection of abortion clinics. THAT is truly the work of the devil. BTW, why has that one notorious ‘sister” not been drummed out of her order or otherwise sanctioned?

  6. anna 6 says:

    At a parish meeting I attended shortly after the election, the big issue everyone wanted to know was this: Will Francis be nicer to the nuns than Benedict?
    In the words of his predecessor…”caritas in veritate – charity in TRUTH”.

  7. pmullane says:

    Sorry to go off topic, prayers from England for all out brothers and sisters in Boston and the rest of the US.

  8. mamajen says:

    I liked the point you made in #1. People have been concerned about Pope Francis’ apparent departures from Pope Benedict, but when he agrees with Benedict it is all the more powerful because we know he doesn’t automatically follow in lockstep. I don’t think it’s an accident.

  9. merlk says:

    About “nice and humble” new secretary from italian side (Sandro Magister): “Veramente, che papa Jorge Mario Bergoglio non fosse tenero con queste suore “liberal” degli Stati Uniti lo si era già capito dalla sua nomina, pochi giorni fa, del nuovo segretario della congregazione per i religiosi, nella persona del francescano José Rodriguez Carballo, tutt’altro che arrendevole.”

    Not good sign for dear sisters.

  10. Pingback: I say reform, you say crackdown » The Curt Jester

  11. McCall1981 says:

    What does the bolded in your quote translate to?

  12. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    Call me a “social justice” Catholic. And a Catholic faithful to the Magisterium.

    Catholics faithful to the Magisterium have begun to realize that the primary element of all notions of “social justice” must be nothing other than life itself – life from the moment of conception until natural death . . and that any attempt to achieve a “just” society by denying the sacred humanity of the innocent unborn, besides being an unholy and monstrous enterprise, is an edifice built upon sand and cannot endure.

    Support authentic social justice, the foundation of which is the alienable right to life!

  13. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:


  14. mightyduk says:

    brhenry ,
    Our LORD was not a favorite with the Sadducees (modernists) or the Pharisees (traditionalists).

    I suppose then he was the favorite of the lukewarm middle folk like yourself?

    What a despicable comment to make. You make a moral equivalency between those who cling to tradition and Tradition and heretics who deny the teaching authority of the Church? While some on the traditional side can certainly go to far in certain aspects, they overwhelmingly assent to all that Holy Mother Church proposes.

  15. Kathleen10 says:

    pmullane, that is so kind. In light of yesterday’s act of terrorism, London has occurred to me a few times. I was thinking about England’s obvious determination to carry on in the face of similar attacks, and that is inspiring and necessary. I don’t want to worry my family, but next year I want to be at that finish line in Boston. I’ve never been before, and I’m no risk taker, but we can never let terrorists believe they have frightened us into changing our lives. Never! whether we want to believe this or not, we are combatants in a way, and the field of battle is HERE. We must act with courage and be just as determined. God bless all in Boston and all affected.

    On the other comment about Pharisees and Sadducees, I have heard that comparison before. I never thought much about whether or not it is a true or rough approximation of things. I now wonder, is it? I don’t enjoy thinking of myself as a Pharisee, but, what are other thoughts?

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