Schism at NSR?

Something curious is happening at the National Schismatic Reporter (aka Fishwrap).

Our pal Michael Sean Winters wrote about the Holy See’s hostile takeover of the LCWR in light of the keynote address to the LCWR given by Sr. Laurie Brinks.  Sr. Laurie, it was reported, spoke about “moving beyond the Church”.  As it turns out, Winters has interesting things to say about that and you can read them there.  Effectively, he says that Brinks was misquoted and he has a point!  Winters defends Brinks on that charge, but he takes her apart on something more serious.

Winters does some surprising things.  For example, he gives support to more traditional sisters and goes after the LCWR for marginalizing them.  HERE

Perhaps alert to the danger, [Brink] next paragraph includes some condescending remarks about more traditional religious communities, writing that “these groups are recognizing the changing atmosphere in the institutional Church, the reneging on the promises of Vatican II….They are taking seriously Pope John Paul II’s call to pursue holiness above all else.” I know some women in traditional religious communities and I do not think they would characterize their apostolate as “reneging on the promises of Vatican II.” They most certainly would agree that a central theme of Vatican II was the universal call to holiness and that, yes, they pursue such holiness above all else. Isn’t that a good thing? Or are these more traditional women mere dupes of a pre-modern worldview?

And then, even as he repeats how wonderful the LCWR is, he blasts them for giving their podium to Brinks:

When Sr. Brink does consider the “moving beyond Jesus” direction, the condescension disappears. These women who have abandoned their tradition are “courageous” and – here comes the post-modernism – “who’s to say that the movement beyond Christ is not, in reality, a movement into the very heart of God?” Well, as Sr. Brink learned, within the Catholic communion, it is the CDF that says the movement beyond Christ is not a movement to the very heart of God. It is a shame, a damned shame, that the leadership of the LCWR gave a lectern to this post-modern nonsense.

Clearly he has a beef with post-Modernism, which he sees as an enemy.  There are other enemies as well, but this is a start.

Here is the money-quote from Winters:

It is true that Brinks did not advocate moving beyond Jesus. It is also true that the speech, in its entirety, is not only the kind of theological talk that is likely to catch the attention of the CDF, it is the kind of theological talk that deserves to catch the attention of the CDF.

Winters doesn’t give full endorsement to the CDF here, but he doesn’t think that what the CDF is doing is only about power or politics.

Moving on, a nanosecond after Winters posts his partial defense of what the CDF did… and that this is about doctrine, the editors of the Fishwrap issue something that seems to throw Winters under the nun-bus.  It’s a long and boring editorial too! HERE

For example:

The takeover of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the result of an extended “doctrinal assessment,” knowledgeable Catholics understand has much less to do with core beliefs than with episcopal obedience.  Our women religious are among those who understand this firsthand. We have all come to see too many of our prelates feel uncomfortable around women. The result is they stay away from them. 

And the editorial’s money-quote:

Our women are the most theologically educated in the history of the church. The differences between their thinking and our bishops’ thinking has less to do with faith and doctrine than church structure, and more to do with applications of church teachings and mission.

The very point Tom Fox and the editorial staff are defending, is precisely what Michael Sean Winters rightly took apart.

Basically the NSR says that the CDF is involved in a powerplay of men against women.

This is about doctrine and not politics or male-power games.

Winters sees that and I, for one, agree with him.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Liberals, Our Catholic Identity, The Drill, What are they REALLY saying?, Women Religious and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Jacob says:

    +1 for using Crow and Tom Servo!

  2. Chuck3030 says:

    I see what you did there (mst3k)

  3. Eugene says:

    today is the 90th birthday of Mother Angelica…the founder of EWTN, I pray for God’s continued blessings on this great woman and a personal hero of mine and I know a future Saint…the LCWR, Sister Brinks, Sister Campbel and all their ilk can continue moving beyond Jesus right on out the door of Holy Mother Church..I will continue to listen to Mother’s words and simply LOVE JESUS in my imperfect traditional Catholic way…God save us from liberal nuns

  4. Ignatius says:

    ” knowledgeable Catholics understand …”

    They are “in the know”, yo see? The rest, the hoi polloi, don’t have a clue.

    How condescending!

    Best regards,

  5. DAndrew says:

    As if episcopal obedience is such a trifle.

    And Samuel said: Doth the Lord desire holocausts and victims, and not rather that the voice of the Lord should be obeyed? For obedience is better than sacrifices: and to hearken rather than to offer the fat of rams. Because it is like the sin of witchcraft, to rebel: and like the crime of idolatry, to refuse to obey. Forasmuch therefore as thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, the Lord hath also rejected thee from being king. And Saul said to Samuel: I have sinned because I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord, and thy words, fearing the people, and obeying their voice. But now bear, I beseech thee, my sin, and return with me, that I may adore the Lord. And Samuel said to Saul: I will not return with thee, because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord hath rejected thee from being king over Israel.

  6. Blog Goliard says:

    Such a classic move there, attempting to set obedience and the “core beliefs” of the Faith (however the LCWR might define them, of course…because that’s the only criterion they recognize in the end) against each other.

  7. marylise says:

    God created Adam before He created Eve. We do not know why He did this. He could have created Eve first or He could have created Adam and Eve at the same time. There is a deep mystery in the wisdom of every decision made by the Creator, which we mock at our own peril. When the Divine Saviour of all mankind established the Catholic Church, He chose twelve men to be His apostles. We do not know why He chose only men. He could have chosen only women or both men and women. Again, there is a beautiful mystery in the wisdom of Christ, which seeks our eternal happiness no matter how hard we work to damn ourselves. The Church has no choice but to follow the mind of Christ because she is in fact an extension of the mind of Christ. Women religious who want to change the structures of the Church for the sake of acquiring power have lost their way. No matter how pathetic they are, it is a false compassion to allow them to remain in positions of prestige (e.g., being called “sister”). Let them take their real estate, pant suits and theological degrees with them when they go.

  8. Elizabeth D says:

    Sr Laurie Brink is one of the very youngest members of her congregation. I haven’t personally seen evidence of any kind of writings from her that would make her seem to be among the more radical Sinsinawa Dominicans (though undoubtedly she’s fairly liberal). Recently I happened to do a search on her name and found a NCR article from Feb 18, 2000 in which Sr Laurie, then a “thirtysomething” doctoral student in biblical studies at the University of Chicago, described finding it hard to understand the experience of older religious. She wrote:

    “I can only imagine the power and energy many of my religious sisters must have felt in the ’60s and ’70s. Hope and possibility freed them from arcane rules and imbued them with a spirit of adventure. I have sat at their feet and listened with awe and wondered what it would have been like to be so hopeful; to believe the “seed theology’ — the old was dying, the new springing forth; to trust that the spirit of Vatican II had the power to unsettle centuries of encrusted hierarchy. Sisters responded to new challenges and needs of the people of God, leaving the parochial classrooms to capable lay people. They became pastoral workers and social workers, ministering to the very needy, the anawim who oftentimes were their congregation’s original inspiration.

    “But these sisters who have so inspired my vocation are the very ones with whom I cannot talk. A recent encounter will illustrate. A group of us were having dinner and attempting to discuss church issues. I said I didn’t understand why some of our sisters were estranged from the church, sometimes choosing not to attend the local parish. A sister in her late 50s who has spent much of her religious life working in a parish responded, “You’re not honoring my anger.” I said it wasn’t a matter of honor or respect. I simply did not understand it and felt overwhelmed by it. ”

    For me, this was very interesting to read: there are Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters who don’t go to Mass, who aren’t practicing Catholics. And Sr Laurie is one who doesn’t really agree with that, or at least in 2000 she didn’t agree with that and had a little courage to say this “out loud” in the NCR–for which, really, she deserves some respect. It seems like Sr Laurie keeps a low profile, she’s not someone whose name I see pop up in the media or etc. I would really like to see Sr Laurie speak up again about the issue of fallen-away Catholic Sisters, because this continues to be a serious problem, even an elephant in the living room that religious Sisters are acting like is not there.

    [Yes, this is a deeply dysfunctional community which ought to attend to their own problems (including their auto-destruct countdown problem). The REAL POINT of this, however, is the break between Winters and the editorial position of the Fishwrap.]

  9. PA mom says:

    This is real soul awakening kind of writing. He hit it, didn’t he? When the situation is such that “beyond Jesus” is even a category, there IS a problem. For the Sisters, for the other Sisters in their communities… Education does not guarantee perfect accuracy. Come back, dear Sisters…

  10. PA mom says:

    Oh, Elizabeth-fallen away Catholic Sisters… How heartbreaking.

  11. Burke says:

    So NSR’s ‘knowledgeable Catholics’ must have knowledge unknown to regular Catholics – in which case, wouldn’t that make them gnostics?

  12. Indulgentiam says:

    From the article that Fr. Z linked too. Where they indeed appear to throw Mr. Winters under the womyn gone wild bus
    This from the article-“We are fast approaching a perilous moment. This highly visible rift between the Vatican and Catholic sisters begs a question: Can our church sustain theologically literate women in its ranks?” Oh the irony! No, the Church absolutely, can NOT and should not sustain theologically ILLITERATE womyn in its rank. For the obvious reason that they are preaching heresy and are therefore a Scandal.
    Further she states: “While persecution comes with the territory of living and working in the “accidental” church, we don’t expect such attacks to come from our own clergy. Yet, too often they have.” What a load of horse manure. They are allowed to run wild and spread their poison while the SSPX is sanctioned. If there is an inequality it is that they are coming down harder on the males than the females.
    I’ve never been over to the fishwrap for more than a few seconds. Just been there once or twice to check out an article Fr. Z sites. Today I happened to scroll down to the comments. What vile, Priest bashing! What a disgusting lack of charity and actual understanding of Catholicism. Yuck I need a shower.
    I completely agree with– marylise— these womyn need to take their real estate , pantsuits and Phoney bologna theology and go. Don’t let the door hit ya! I’m going to pray for them but it won’t be easy. :|
    The article, while trying to dismantle it, only ends up reinforcing Mr. Winter’s argument. Good for Mr. Winters.

  13. Soporatus says:

    But that “NSR” Editorial is frankly, unabashedly, apologetically preaching schism!

  14. Elizabeth D says:

    I agree heartily Fr Z, it is good to hear MSW saying this, and it does stand in sharp contrast to the dominant editorial position of fishwrap.

    In a sense it is “about” church structure to the whole “Call to Action”-type crowd including the radical Sisters, in the sense that they want democracy, but the reason why is kind of like the reason why the tenants in Jesus’ parable of the vineyard thought they were entitled to the vineyard, killing one after another of the representatives of the owner of the vineyard and finally killing his own son, thinking that then the vineyard will be theirs. These folks reject the teaching authority of the Church on basic matters of faith and morals, and they think if only they can do away with the authority of those the Owner of the Vineyard has sent, then they will be at liberty to create Catholic doctrine however they please. But in the vineyard parable, the tenants simply acted radically unjustly and still did not become the real owners of the vineyard, and in the case of the “Call to Action” types and radical Sisters, the rejection of the authority of the hierarchy does not change the truths which God provided the hierarchy to convey to them.

    The problem Sr Laurie Brink has repeatedly highlighted, of Sisters who have actually departed from being practicing Catholics, shows that rejection in one of its most extreme and shocking forms. One should not think “oh, of course Sr Donna Quinn rejects the hierarchy, promotes abortion, and doesn’t go to Mass, that’s just how she is.” No, there is something absolutely appalling here and it is something that the congregation (this and others with similar situations) is aware of and simply accepts, for years and years and years and years.

    [Winters got it right: it’s about doctrine. The NSR editors, with the sisters, say it’s about power and politics.]

  15. Veronica says:

    I would apply to the sisters in the LCRW the words from today’s fervorino by Pope Francis:

    “Every ideological interpretation, wherever it comes from — from one side or the other — is a falsification of the Gospel. And these ideologues –we have seen them in the history of the Church — end up being intellectuals without talent, ethicists without goodness. And let’s not even speak of beauty, because they understand nothing of that.”

    Sisters, beware that if you keep moving beyond the Church and Jesus, you may all fall down a precipice…

  16. Allan S. says:

    I’ll bite…what’s that silhouette thingy at the bottom?

  17. anna 6 says:

    Exactly right…it IS about doctrine, but the LCWR’s PR (which was highly successful) made it about power.

    I don’t always agree with MSW, but he does hit it out of the park sometimes:

  18. Stu says:

    MSW would be better off as the token liberal at the National Catholic Register rather than the so-called token conservative at the National Schismatic Reporter.

  19. jflare says:

    I didn’t read the Winters piece thoroughly, but I’d say it might be about time that he and John Allen find their way elsewhere. I suffered a jaw-dropping moment upon reading that the nuns represent the most theologically capable women in the Church today–or comments to that effect.
    I’ve read some VERY off-the-wall stuff by Winters these past several months, but at least he seems to have understood the madness of the nuns’ views. Partially at least.

  20. jflare says:

    A quick look at Wikipedia helps me with a few details: Back in the 90’s, I used to enjoy a show, Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST 3K). A man and two robots have been placed on a space station, they’re being forced to watch sci-fi movies.
    We see the movies covering most of the screen, but we also see the silhouette of the man and the robots as though they are sitting in a movie theater. We hear both the soundtrack of the movie AND the commentary of the man and robots.
    I miss the show because, often enough it’s quite hilarious. The movies are quite poor, but the commentary the man and robots offer is primarily wisecracks and jokes about what they’re seeing.

    Ahh, college. I loathed the administration most of the time, but I DID have a few good friends. ..And I did see some good stuff too.
    BTW, Wikipedia says MST 3K finally was canceled for good about 1999.
    ..Which explains why I saw it through some of college, but upon returning to the ‘States in 2000 (I’d been stationed in Japan by late 1998), my favorite shows could not be found.
    Them were the days…..

  21. frjim4321 says:

    today is the 90th birthday of Mother Angelica…the founder of EWTN, I pray for God’s continued blessings on this great woman and a personal hero of mine and I know a future Saint…the LCWR, Sister Brinks, Sister Campbel and all their ilk can continue moving beyond Jesus right on out the door of Holy Mother Church..I will continue to listen to Mother’s words and simply LOVE JESUS in my imperfect traditional Catholic way…God save us from liberal nuns

    Hmmm I don’t agree. Personally I think she has done more harm than good. With regard to sainthood it will never happen; there is too much on the record.

  22. netokor says:

    Frjim4321, Mother Angelica’s network is itself a miracle of faith. So many liberal bishops tried to create their own network and failed miserably, even though they had far superior resources than MA. She has been a fearless defender of the Faith and has taught us to trust in the Lord no matter how rough circumstances might be. She is my hero and an inspiration. Pope Benedict awarded her the pontifical medal “Pro Ecclesia Et Pontifice.” The name of the award says it all. I wish I’d been a fly on a wall so that I could have seen Mahony’ reaction when he heard that bit of news! Mother,we love you and pray for you!

  23. acardnal says:

    frjim4321, you are mistaken – as usual – and are wrong about EWTN and Mother Angelica. She has already received the highest award available from Pope Benedict, the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Medal. (Have you received yours?) Both BXVI and JPII thought very highly of her and EWTN.

    A number of American bishops, especially some USCCB staffers, disliked her for her orthodoxy and they even created a USCCB sponsored cable television network to compete with EWTN, the Catholic Telecommunications Network of America. It failed!

  24. JacobWall says:

    I’m going just throw it a purely speculative idea that I could be entirely wrong about, and may simply be a bad idea – but here it is:

    Could it be that Winters, seeing a style in Pope Francis that he prefers, is being “won over” on the side of doctrine? Here, I’m not defending the liturgical practices of Pope Francis, but perhaps it would be safe to say that his personal style (as opposed to his liturgical style) is a good complement to what Benedict was doing. Probably, as Fr. Z has said many/most liberals will eventually turn against Pope Francis. Yet, perhaps, even just a few, may be excited enough about him that they will actually listen to what he says, and be convinced. That would certainly be a “conversion.”

    I don’t say this idea to promote contrasting the Pope with his predecessor – a practice which I detest – but rather to point out that different personal styles, different personalities, can inspire different kinds of people to do what’s right. The Faith is not about finding personal inspiration in others, but it certainly can help, it can be an important step in the right direction in the right circumstances. If Pope Francis’ personal style (again NOT his liturgical style) can inspire some liberals to get on track in terms of doctrine, thanks be to God! Benedict’s style certainly inspired people, but with a different kind of person.

    At this point, it’s probably too early – after only 2 articles that are on track and look promising – to say if this is the case with Winters or not, especially since I don’t really know his background, but reading about him brought this idea into my head.

  25. Gail F says:

    Elizabeth D has got it right, I think. These sisters DO see everything in terms of power and politics, but precisely as the parable of the vineyard has it — the vineyard is the all-important thing to them, and if they get power over it they can do anything they like with it, even if that means killing the vineyard owner’s son to get it.

    And the NCRep agrees with them, because to a large extent they want to do the same thing. [And what we see now is a division at the Fishwrap.]

  26. maryh says:

    @JacobWall Could it be that Winters, seeing a style in Pope Francis that he prefers, is being “won over” on the side of doctrine? Here, I’m not defending the liturgical practices of Pope Francis, but perhaps it would be safe to say that his personal style (as opposed to his liturgical style) is a good complement to what Benedict was doing.
    I think you are exactly right. It is frustrating to see Pope Francis praised for doing and saying the exact same things Pope emeritus Benedict did, and having it portrayed as something completely new and different. But it does mean that a group of people are listening to Francis who never bothered to listen to Benedict.
    Francis is, of course, no more humble or caring about the poor and marginalized than Benedict was, but he is reaching different people in the US at least. And just to have MSW print the truth about LCWR in the NCRep is a breakthrough.
    And what’s more, other people who read the NCRep will hear from a liberal source that it’s not completely crazy to consider that there might actually be some justification to what the CDF is doing re the LCWR.
    MSW may be making it safe for people to question whether the CDF is completely and totally the “bad guy” in all of this.
    Maybe we’re moving out of the era where it isn’t safe for the average pewsitter to question these kinds of things.

  27. jflare says:

    Do you refer to Mother Angelica or to the LCWR ilk?
    I don’t follow how Mother Angelica has inflicted any harm?
    I might comment that any number of people have been (re)introduced to many a worthy concept or practice because of EWTN. When it comes to the LCWR nuns, however…..

  28. wmeyer says:

    Clearly it is and has always been about doctrine. To make it about power and politics, one must first dismiss doctrine as something minor. And that, I think, is not only what the LCWR have done, but what the NSR has also done. Mr. Winters’ article is a very slim ray of hope, a sign that not everyone at the NSR has turned away from the Church. The ray is very slender, however, as witness the disagreement from the editors of that rag.

    I do love the “not honoring my anger” quote from Sr. Brinks’ older article. How succinct a summary of the view of many of these plain-clothes systers that is is, truly, about them, and not about service to God.

  29. Eugene says:

    fr jim: you are wrong and way off base with your comment about Mother Angelica..a woman who built a broadcasting evangelizing supernetwork that broadcasts in many languages, and is on radio and now also is in the print media with the recent purchase of the orthodox newspaper. the National Catholic Register..i dont of many others (religious or laity) who have done as much to evangelize as this great woman, all of which has been recognized by two popes, JPII and Benedict XVI..really i find your comment quite distasteful

  30. BLB Oregon says:

    –“The whole thing was dreadful and alarming. I believe with all my heart that women religious are just as much leaders of the Church as the bishops. They deserve better than this faux-intellectual, post-modern nonsense. I hope they realize it too.”–Michael Sean Winters, on the keynote address of Sr. Laurie Brinks.

    If those sisters are leaders as surely as the bishops–and what Catholic lucky enough to be taught by a religious sister as a child who won’t vouch for the pivotal leadership role that any teaching sister can play, for good or for ill?–then they are not the primary ones who deserve better than to have faux-intellectual nonsense substituted for the faith. The Catholic laypeople who trust that the consecrated religious sisters and brothers are of one mind with the bishops and reliable sources of the truth about what the Church teaches deserve far better even more.

  31. jbpolhamus says:

    “…reneging on the promises of Vatican II…”

    Now, what promises were those, exactly? I think we’d all like to know what exactly was the plan to of the subversion.

  32. tom g says:

    Could it be that what we’re seeing at NCR is simply differences of opinion? Sister Brink’s responses to the older nuns in her community seem to be evidence to me that she’s closer to Mother Church than are the older, schismatic nuns in her own congregation! If so, they, and not she, are the schismatics.

    Speaking of schism, let’s please stop calling the NCR the NSR. [NO! Absolutely not. It is the journal of record for heretics and dissenters and, ultimately, schismatics.] It’s a newspaper whose slant is clearly disloyal to the Church, but I almost prefer it to the sort of namby-pamby journalism that never questions any of the actions of our bishops. Even the bishops themselves–witness the astonishing frankness of pre-conclave TV interviews by Cardinals Wuerl, George, DiNardo and Pell–seem to be seeing the need to be more frank and more self-critical and more open, and we can give part of the credit for this new openness to journals like NCR.

    To call NCR Schismatic is inaccurate. More to the point, it is unChristian. [You are wrong. Thanks anyway.]

  33. BLB Oregon says:

    –” If so, they, and not she, are the schismatics.”–

    You do realize that both Sr. Laurie and those in her congregation who disagree with her both being schismatic are not mutually exclusive possibilities. It does not take someone who is fit in order to recognize someone who is having more trouble than they ought in getting up stairs.

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