“to become highly educated, travel the world … without being beholden to a husband or children”

Some of you alert readers have sent me links to an article in TIME about the Vatican and the LCWR nuns.  Vatican bad, nuns good.

For example, they think this one is pretty spiffy:

For more than four decades Sister Jeannine Gramick has been tireless in her fight for gay rights through her organization New Ways, despite coming under intense scrutiny from the Vatican.

Oooo…. Vatican scrutiny!  You will recall Sr. Gramick from NUNS GONE WILD!


The Vatican doesn’t celebrate these women. In fact, it has done the very opposite. Attacks on American nuns have been happening since 2008, when the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life initiated an “Apostolic Visitation,” a euphemism for investigation, of the nuns.

To put it in perspective, previous “visitations” conducted by the Church were designed to investigate things like the priest sex abuse scandal.

This is simply wrong.  Visitations happen all the time and for various reasons.  From time to time check ups are needed in all manner of the Church’s institutions.  But the silly writer is trying to paint the Holy See in the worst possible light by leading you to accept a false equivalence.

Back to the TIME piece.  It may be that TIME let the cat out of the bag:

Why would a generation of young women raised to believe that they can be anything join an institution that tells them there is something they absolutely cannot be, that there is a certain level they will never reach? Many of the women who are nuns today joined the vocation because it was a way to become highly educated, travel the world and dedicate themselves to a higher good without being beholden to a husband or children.

So THAT’s why the LCWR types became nuns!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. pjsandstrom says:

    Father, I think someone with your obvious love of linguistic precision should note and emphasize the canonical distinctions between ‘nuns’ and ‘sisters’. [blah blah blah] This would be ‘proper discrimination’ in the best sense of that word. The problems of LCWR are almost concerning ‘sisters’ despite the ‘vulgar usage’ of calling them ‘nuns’. It seems to me that this lack of proper distinction really lowers the level of the discussion and also blurs the reality, and the really solid value of ‘nuns’ to the Church.

  2. ncstevem says:

    I think what we are seeing playing out in regards to the LCWR types is what Christ taught in the parable of the vines and branches. Since many (most ?) have decided to ‘move beyond Jesus’, their efforts have become barren.

    No vocations and no merit for their work.

    Figure they are losing about 2500 members per year and that number will accelerate with time. This gives them 5 – 7 ‘active’ years left and 10 – 12 years before most are gone while the remainder are retired.

  3. Brooklyn says:

    Yes, this decline in the number of women religious is very concerning and very sad. However, this is not true in every part of the world. In Asia and Africa – where the Church is growing by leaps and bounds in every sense of the word – the number of women religious is also growing. From Dr Jeff Mirius (May 2013):

    “The number of women religious declined sharply, however, from 782,000 to 713,000. The figures showed growth in Africa (28%) and Asia (18%), overshadowed by steep losses in the Americas (-17%) and Europe (-22%). The number of male religious climbed slightly, showing the same geographical pattern.”

    The whole article is here:


    The West is dying, and so it is only logical that Church in the West would also be shrinking. But the Holy Spirit is moving dynamically in the Third World. That is the future of the Church.

  4. Many of the women who are nuns today joined the vocation because it was a way to become highly educated, travel the world and dedicate themselves to a higher good without being beholden to a husband or children.

    And nary a mention of that pesky Jesus fellow … [They are moving beyond Him.]

  5. That article’s view of the Vatican reminds me of nothing so much as the denouement of practically every Scooby Doo episode, when the villains are caught and their rubber masks removed:

    ” … and we would have gotten away with it too, if it hadn’t been for those darn kids!”

  6. Pingback: Da Tech Guy On DaRadio Blog » Blog Archive » Jo Piazza accidentally gives away the LCWR game away.

  7. JBS says:

    It has long puzzled me why wayward religious sisters joined their respective communities in the first place. Since most of the ones I’ve known joined before the troubles, it can’t be that they joined then to be what they are now. I’ve asked several, as respectfully as possible, for an answer, but the reply is always vague. It’s clever to say they joined for education, travel and liberty, but it’s hard to believe any of them joined for these reasons in the Fifties and early Sixties.

  8. wised says:

    No mention of women increasingly joining those orders with a traditional focus casts doubt on the entire article. Defining “higher good” would have led this author in an entirely different direction, had objectivity been a desired focus. The blatant bias is somewhat surprising and indicates either a complete disregard for the facts or
    an insulting disregard for the intelligence of readers.

  9. JBS says:


    In which canon(s) does the 1983 Code address the restricted use of the term “nun” (monacha)?

  10. robtbrown says:

    I read the article yesterday. Regardless of its ideological slant, it is stunning in its incompetence

    Today’s nuns are simply too progressive for the Vatican. The Vatican chooses not to celebrate nuns and it chooses not to empower them.

    In fact, “today’s nuns” (or sisters . . . whatever) are not progressive. The progressives are “yesterday’s nuns”, members of provinces with a Red Hats demographic, empty novitiates, and living in the ideological dust and cob webs of the 1970ish ambiguities of social justice. Miss Havisham, anyone?

    As someone noted above, “today’s nuns” are the Dominican Sisters of Nashville and Dominicans of Mary Mother of the Eucharist, the latter begun by members of the former.

  11. Long-Skirts says:

    “to become highly educated, travel the world … without being beholden to a husband or children”


    In orchard of
    Peach and cherry
    Apple, pear and plum

    Children ran and
    Played so merry
    Picking fruit from some

    Apple, peach
    Cherry, pear
    Bade the children come

    But one tree
    Kept limbs up high
    She was the purpled plum

    Between her branches
    Green with leaves
    She was morose and glum

    From childrens’ hands
    She higher heaves
    Her boughs and she stays mum

    For she has smooth-skinned
    Juicy fruit
    Royal purpled that was from

    The way she rooted
    In her dirt
    Proud plum in orchard slum

    Then end of autumn
    Peach and cherry
    Apple, pears they hum

    Their burdened branches
    Light and airy
    For sacrificed their sum

    But oh the royal
    Purpled plum
    She croons sad runes and tunes

    Her held-high limbs
    Baked in the sun
    Dried rot with shriveled prunes.

  12. jbryant says:

    The wheels on the bus go round and round

  13. frival says:

    It’s really pretty simple, isn’t it? If you’re not entering the Order because of your love of Jesus and a strong understanding that this is the way to live your life most pleasing to Him, you’re simply doing it wrong.

  14. Gerard Plourde says:

    “a way to become highly educated, travel the world and dedicate themselves to a higher good without being beholden to a husband or children.”

    It may be that Time magazine has betrayed its secular bias against the Catholic religious and clergy in general. If we substitute one word (“wife” for “husband”) we could ask ourselves if the quote from the article is how Time’s reporters would interpret the following statements of Jesus and St. Paul. – “Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money and let no one take a second tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there and leave from there.” and “An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord. But a married man is anxious about the things of world, how he may please his wife.”

  15. Magash says:

    In the framework of 1950’s American society it is quite easy to believe that a woman might indeed join a religious order as one of the few alternatives to marriage. It must be remembered that for a young woman of the working class marriage was at that time considered one of the only viable survival paths. This was a period when a working class woman might aspire to a job in a shop or as a maid, but was not likely to get any opportunity to go to college, unless she joined a religious order. Even teachers had to have some kind of degree, hence the ubiquitous teachers colleges throughout the U.S. This was also the period when many of their male contemporaries were getting the chance to go to college thanks to the GI bill.
    One should also not forget that while the male priesthood was being infiltrated by men with disordered sexual preferences that the religious orders also provided a place where a young women not interested in dating men could hide without eliciting comment from parents and other relatives. Perhaps an explanation of why so many sisters seem to work in support of the homosexual lifestyle issues like Sister Gramick.

  16. Andrew says:

    This piece was written by a “former Daily News gossip columnist Jo Piazza” author of “Love Rehab” – a piece of worthless and vulgar fiction available at Amazon. She is the “executive director” of “life and style” and some other third grade “tabloids”.

    The web is replete with photos of Ms. Jo not recommended for viewers with sensitive eyes. TIME mag is slouching low these days.

  17. Elizabeth D says:

    JBS wrote: “It’s clever to say they joined for education, travel and liberty, but it’s hard to believe any of them joined for these reasons in the Fifties and early Sixties.”

    JBS is correct, as far as I can tell. The sisters who joined during those years did so to become teachers, nurses, etc, often those joining teaching orders had been drawn to the sisters teaching at their high school. They were devout, but whether they all were well formed and drawn to be brides of Christ is another question. Some few were able to become highly educated and travel the world. However, most didn’t and some of those now say they wish they’d had those opportunities. But I don’t think that was particularly what they joined for. They freely admit that for most of them their belief system, even basic beliefs about God, changed DEEPLY along the journey, under the influence of “exciting” new ideas in the late 60s and onward (ideas which had nothing to do with Vatican II but exploited it for their spread and influence). The mentality of seeking after one’s own desires and self-fulfillment became rampant.

  18. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    Answer to “What happened to these nuns (priests, poorly catechized leaders in lay ministry)?”

    Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin S.J.
    Pop psychology

  19. benedetta says:

    “…Without being beholden to a husband or children….”

    Oh really? The Sisters I know certainly do consider themselves beholden…to Christ, their spouse…and, they have tons of children! The educated, travel the world is all secondary to that…Behold!

  20. LeeF says:

    When you read the diaries of nuns who became saints like St. Thérèse of Lisieux or St. Faustina, and see the zeal they had to become professed sisters in response to God’s calling them, and who trusted in the Church completely, it is sad to see these sisters who lost that zeal if they ever had it. They might have a zeal to serve the poor, which is admirable, but it doesn’t seem to spring from a love of God first.

  21. benedetta says:

    The description she offers to market herself is not so much a Catholic religious sister as a tv world fantasy of a wealthy suburban mid life divorcee…Clearly she does not know and obviously underestimates the intelligence, faith and tenacity of young Catholic women who are being called to a vocation as a religious sister. As well as those who came before her…some now Doctors of the Church…canonized…foundresses…Oh well, her loss!

  22. VexillaRegis says:

    Do you think that the LCWR will demand that the Pope canonises one of their, hrrm, more enlightened deceased members? In the name of equality, you know?

  23. Mr. Screwtape says:

    Glad to know that the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity decided to ixnay the squares in the West and go where the groovy action is.

  24. RAve says:

    The good Father Robert McTeigue, SJ, has written a nice response to the foolish TIME writer.

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