More (bad) news about the Philadelphia Carmel

Some months ago we read about the travails of the grand Carmel in Philadelphia, established shortly after the dies natalis of St. Therese di Lisieux.

At LifeSite we now read what we suspected:

Vatican on the verge of closing down traditional Carmelite monastery in Philadelphia

Be careful with that headline, but the subheaders says: “all indications point to Rome uprooting traditional orders”.

Indications aren’t necessarily proofs. However, there is an Italian proverb, “Non c’è fumo senza arrosto.”


According to several sources, the Vatican is attempting to shut down the Carmelite monastery in Philadelphia that had been the cradle of devotion to St. Therese of Lisieux in the early 20th century.

The Carmel had been languishing from the fact of an aging communinity and lack of younger blood. Other Carmels sent nuns to the rescue and brought a great sense of Tradtion and the TTLM. The Carmel began to recover.

The there was a document from the Holy See’s Congregation for Religious, Cor orans, that required various houses to be associated in larger associations. At the time, many of us knew that this would be used to crush the houses that were flourishing because of Traditional spirituality.


Father Maximilian Dean recounted in the recent LifeSite interview that the younger nuns made sacrifices to move to urban Philadelphia after having lived in calm and rural surroundings. But then they faced several obstacles from incoming Archbishop Nelson J. Perez (but most probably not upon his own initiative).

The younger nuns were told that they could not live according to their own traditions and rites – as it had been previously promised to them under Chaput – but that they had to adapt to new styles as prescribed by an association of Carmelite orders, the St. Joseph Association, that the Philadelphia Carmel had entered after the publication of Pope Francis’ new document Cor Orans, which called upon contemplative monasteries to join larger associations.

Father Maximilian explained that these circumstances made it clear the young nuns could not stay and so they left on April 9 with tears and also with some joy.

The Mother Superior, who is now alone in the Philadelphia monastery, still receives kind and generous assistance from lay people.

The Carmelite nuns described the events in a June 19 letter to their friends as follows:

For many years, the Philadelphia Carmel had been part of an association. When our Nuns arrived, it was assumed that withdrawing from this association would be a small matter. After all, the Nuns had been invited by the community and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia with the clear understanding that they were part of a young, thriving, dedicated Order who loved the Extraordinary Form of the Holy Mass and the time-honored traditions of the Discalced Carmelites. As attempts were being made to not only interfere with but to obstruct their way of life, the Nuns tried one way after another to gracefully bow out of this pre-existing commitment. When it became painfully clear that the freedom to maintain their identity as originally promised by the Archdiocese was not being honored, the only option left to the Nuns was to return to the monastery in Valparaiso, Nebraska. They did this in the most correct way possible, fulfilling all canonical requirements.

As it becomes clear, the Archdiocese would rather allow the Carmel of Philadelphia to be shut down than to encourage the development of a traditional community of Carmelite nuns.


There’s the paradigm of this regime’s Great Leap Forward… into nothingness.

They would rather see the Carmel die out and that there should be nothing rather than allow them simply to live the way they want.  Since that way includes Tradition, they have to die.

It would probably be convenient for the powers that be to shut the whole thing down, strip all the architectural elements and stone out of the chapel, sell them off at an enormous profit and then liquidate the hulk.

Like Planned Parenthood does with baby parts.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. JT says:

    Instead of taking vows, faithful Catholics who desire to become consecrated religious will have to live in community as lay people in order to practice the Traditional faith, it seems.

    How insane is that given the benefits the Catholic Faith receives from contemplatives, etc. Crazy.

  2. kashort says:

    There is the SSPX!

  3. Semper Gumby says:

    Harassing faithful nuns, saying that Mother Angelica’s EWTN is the “work of the devil” and calling Rosary-wielding Sr. Byrne a Nazi. These hierarchy boys better learn sooner rather than later that you don’t talk to nuns that way. In the good ‘ol days a ruler and a well-aimed eraser took care of hooligans.

    “It would probably be convenient for the powers that be…sell them at a profit and liquidate the hulk. Like Planned Parenthood does with baby parts.”

    Lordy, Faddah.

    *I go to the window, open it and look outside: crispy birds are falling out of the sky, mutant zombie motorcycle gangs in leather chaps and hockey masks are roaring down the street, across the street dogs and cats are living together, over the street the telephone wires are ablaze, on the horizon in one direction is a mushroom cloud, in the other direction a monastery tolls its bell*

    Yep, that was a nuke.

    Well, Padre, it’s always nice to visit but you’ll have to excuse me…*I shrug on a bear skin, body armor, don a gas mask, put a crock pot on my head and cinch it down tight, put on chainmail gloves, wrap a Lepanto battle-flag around my shoulders, heft a Gatling gun in one hand and a battle-axe in the other*…the Missus says we need to stock up on Funyuns and CheezWhiz, so I’m off to the KwikMart.

  4. Kathleen10 says:

    It has been recommended by some leading lights (I won’t say who, because that just paints bullseyes) to refuse to cooperate with these visitations. If the order owns the property, that seems fair enough to this outsider, but I don’t know how often that is the case. It’s a terrible position to be in, for women who take obedience seriously and have lived it, to now resist and reject a visitation, but now that we all see a visitation is a kiss of death most certainly, why do it? God will not be served by closing a traditional order, and the world needs their sacrifices and prayers so badly. I am hopeful that now that these cruel torments have been identified as the rule rather than the exception, that future potential visitors will be ignored, or sent packing. The church is going to have to develop a much stiffer spine for such things, and realize the times we are in. This is a war traditional Catholics did not ask for or want, but now that it’s here, we need to get in it and win it. Don’t accept visitations. Don’t play the game. Don’t dialogue. Put up a grate, and nobody gets past it. Tell them you’re busy, you have to brush the cat’s teeth, whatever it takes. (My niece used to have her kids tell unwanted phone callers that.)

  5. As the hierarchy is showing itself to be less and less trustworthy, and as these traditional religious houses have lay friends and benefactors, maybe what they ought to do is get their assets into lay hands as quickly as possible so they can’t be despoiled by the little Henry VIIIs in the hierarchy.

    It’s looking more and more like the remnant Church is going to end up taking on the appearance of being irregular and outside canonical structures in order to survive.

  6. Unwilling says:

    I think I just realized something… the difference that their (the sisters’ or any other sincere person’s) participation in TLM makes (relevant to NO) is essential. Of course, both liturgies are real sacraments — so not that essential; but not merely a matter of aesthetic personal preference or anti-social grudging. It is more like the commitment to the charism of an order (not counting Stylites) than like the weekly selection of hymns at Mass.

  7. TonyO says:

    I am hopeful that now that these cruel torments have been identified as the rule rather than the exception, that future potential visitors will be ignored, or sent packing.

    In various circumstances, I can see trying one of 3 or 4 different methods:

    (1) Immediately change your mailing address to a P.O. Box. Change your “official” physical address to a bar in Cleveland. Then, when the Visitation calls up to say “we’re coming”, give him/her/it the address of the bar in Cleveland. Let them wonder where the heck Sr. Superior is. When they call again, tell them you can’t hear them over all the noise. When they call a third time (from outside, in a snowstorm), don’t answer. If they can’t find you, they can’t visititate you to shut you down.

    (2) When they actually come to do the Visititation: let them see what they want to see, hear what they want to hear: hire a group of actresses to play the part of liberal nuns. Heck, hire actual liberal nuns. Have the real nuns go on retreat to another Carmel for a week.

    (3) Get a nun who is hard of hearing and only speaks Navajo to be Sr. Door-answerer. Instruct her not to admit any visitors: don’t open the door, don’t explain why, keep saying “no English, no English, come back tomorrow” over and over, leave him/them/it on the door-step until the Visitatators just go away.

    (4) When all else fails, let them come in. Misunderstand EVERYTHING they say. Re-print all schedules to be off by 2 hours. Have terrible food served at odd hours of the day, and no caffeine. Turn off the hot water, and (at odd times) all water. Say YES to EVERYTHING they say, if doing so is not an outright, bald-faced, explicit lie, and “I don’t understand” to those that would be. Turn every discussion into a 3-hour request for “more nuggets from heaven, please” – what liberal doesn’t like hearing himself talk? Have a nun who has a severe case of scrupulosity pester the Visititatator at odd hours of the and half the night with her scrupulous qualms and her long, rambling explanations that “Sr. Superior keeps telling me this isn’t a sin, but …etc.” Keep the Visitapotato busy with 10,000 ancillary requests, discussions, questions, activities, conferences scheduled beforehand (by you) on YOUR topics, to which the Vitiatator is a “panel expert” with 3 others, including an invited guest “super-lib” nun trained by the liberal wing of the Portland jesuits. DO NOT allow the Vitiator to set his own schedule or determine the topics to be discussed, set it ALL beforehand, and when he objects, let him change each item on the list one at a time while you mop up behind him changing them back but use words ALMOST the same as his words. Be overwhelmingly kind and gracious and meek in words, and “lose” all track of his actual requests, over and over. And put bed-bugs in his bed.

  8. Pingback: FRIDAY EDITION – Big Pulpit

  9. robtbrown says:

    Abp Roche, the new Prefect of the Congregation of Worship and Sacraments, and Cardinal Braz de Aviz the Prefect for the Congregation for Religious, were both brought to Rome by BXVI.

    I would like to know who was advising Papa Ratzinger in these nominations.

  10. kat says:

    Young ladies looking for a traditional Carmel:

    This is in Spokane, WA

  11. Not says:

    It’s all about the MONEY. Here is the Archdiocese of Boston our esteemed Cardinal was sent for one purpose, that was to sell off church real estate to pay for the sex scandals. Thriving churches and schools were shut down and sold because of the commercial value of the property. Families whose ancestors paid to build the churches and schools and whose descendants were still active in its support were given the” ecclesiastical” The property is ours, not yours! Offers we made by the parishioners to buy the properties at market price and were refused. Why?
    The Carmelite Chapel in Philadelphia will be sold and turned into high priced condominiums.

  12. kurtmasur says:

    And so the persecution continues. I wholeheartedly agree with Kathleen10 regarding the need to start standing up to these types of oppressive actions.

  13. Amateur Scholastic says:

    This essay explains the difference between the true, patristic-Thomist idea of obedience, and the exaggerated Ignatian-nominalist one.

    Essential reading for all Catholics at this point in history:

  14. Gaby Carmel says:

    I’ve been saying for years that we must return to the pattern set by the Beguines in the Low Countries. They were lay women, associating in usually small, and occasionally in big groups, for the purposes of good works and mutual support in the spiritual life. Any vows they took were private vows. They sometimes came from well-to-do backgrounds, but otherwise, they earned their living quietly in their native environments. They did not take any vow of poverty, and therefore could provide both for their particular apostolic endeavours, as well as for their own needs. The system thus allowed them to live the spiritual life in utter loyalty to the Faith, but without the interference of the hierarchy. We must establish them anew, in these troubled times: no ‘Cor Orans’ could touch them!

  15. Fyrdman says:


    Perhaps I am confused, but aren’t Religious considered members of the laity, living in community, bound by vows, etc.? Unless, of course, they are ordained clergy like Priests who are also religious?

  16. Chrisc says:


    Yes. This is certainly a model. There could be others that have the intern/extern model that was more similar to the house monasteries of the Cappadocians. There might be some who could have a kind of monastery where they all make one item, though being almost exclusively cloistered may prove impossible without the reliability of in house ordination.

  17. Kenneth Wolfe says:

    Regarding this one possibly being about money, I would note the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is actually run by pretty good men right now. It has been one of the more impressive large archdioceses with respect to TLMs, appointments and other decisions.
    Sadly, I think this particular situation indeed comes from all the way at the top in Rome, based solely on anti-TLM values. There are some in the Vatican who would indeed rather see orders die rather than permit them to use traditional books. It is disgusting.

  18. Kathleen10 says:

    TonyO gets it. Look, there comes a time when you’ve simply got to push back if you want to survive. One of the things about modern life and the church that is so depressing and demoralizing is, Catholics simply don’t fight back, they just accept everything, whimper, and give up. That’s great for the other side, it makes it much easier for them, but it’s wrecking us. Isn’t anybody tired of losing?? There comes a time when even a cornered rabbit realizes he’s going to have to give it all he’s got to survive or he’s gone. Sometimes the church herself has disarmed us, made us pacifists to the extreme, which has grown tiresome, frankly. Some of it is pure effeminacy. But we’ve got to shake that off, reject that as unhelpful, and find some fire. Zeal for God’s house ought to do it! Do we care enough? Because if we don’t, and this includes traditional orders, priests, etc., then they are going to just have their way with us until we’re gone. Clearly this is the goal. If you believe what you’re doing is God’s will, you’re serving God as He wants you to, and that the people are benefiting, you should dig in and resist. TonyO may be making those recommendations tongue in cheek, but those are sound survival strategies. Resistance can be holy too. Resist! Thwart these people. Keep the faith alive.

  19. Charivari Rob says:


    Looking at online Philadelphia tax info… Unlike a typical parish, this property does not appear to be owned by “Archbishop of Philadelphia, a corporation sole” (or however it is constituted there). It’s owned by “Carmelite Convent of Philadelphia”.
    Is there any indication that that is, ultimately, the Archdiocese, or that there is any arrangement/status that the Archdiocese has any leverage or right of first refusal on any potential sale?

  20. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Um… guys… refusing a visitation from an officer of the pope is grounds for instant disbandment of a religious order. You can’t even hem and haw much.

    The book I read about St. Charles Borromeo was very informative on this point.

    Of course, when he was sent on visitations, one of the lay orders hired assassins to kill him, which is an even better way to get disbanded and have all your property taken away.

  21. Son of Saint Alphonsus says:

    Something that’s unclear is who actually owns the monastery, the Carmelites or the Archdiocese? Usually it’s the order that owns the property. If the Archdiocese owns it it seems they would have relocated the Mother Superior (read: kicked the last nun out) and taken over the property. If the Carmelites own it the Archdiocese gets nothing from the sale of the Monastery and contents unless the nuns give it to them. Either way, I hope the last remaining nun has a good canon lawyer and a good civil lawyer.

  22. Not says:

    Very good points about ownership. One thing to look at is if there is a mortgage on the properties. In the 90’s in New Hamphire Novus Ordo parishes were building new (ugly) churches costing mucho bucks. They were all financed through a Catholic Credit union, sounds good until we found the Bishop at the time (long deceased), was the major stock holder. Mortgages were for millions of dollars.

  23. Dominicanes says:

    Pius XII wanted monasteries to be federated or associated. Most did follow the document Sponsa Christi, which, until VDq was the legislation for cloistered nuns although a lot was obselete. It hasn’t been totally abrogated, in fact. That’s what the document says.
    Federations have no authority in individual monasteries so that blame is mininformed.
    I’m confused…the 10-12 nuns who were at Philly all leave one fine spring day, leaving one nun left and the Vatican is being blamed for closing the monastery? Even before CO one nun a monastery doesn’t make.
    Philly continues have the Tridentine mass there so how can that be the cause?
    Seems to me there is a lot of rash judging going on. Just because the chaplain gives long interviews it doesn’t mean he knows the facts. I listened to the interview and there was a lot of conjecture. I wonder if the nuns even know he is giving these interviews.

    Religious are bound by their vows to obey their lawful superiors in all that is not sinful. Can’t see what is so sinful in belonging to a structure of monasteries. The St. Joseph association seems pretty strict to me.
    In the end, this is really none of our business. I have been really taken aback by the really nasty comments and rash judging. Seems a weakness in the Trade movement ever since I can remember back to the ’70s.

  24. APX says:

    2) When they actually come to do the Visititation: let them see what they want to see, hear what they want to hear: hire a group of actresses to play the part of liberal nuns. Heck, hire actual liberal nuns. Have the real nuns go on retreat to another Carmel for a week.

    It doesn’t work like that. They have a park enclosure. They can’t just leave and they can’t just let people in.

  25. APX says:

    I was discerning a vocation to Carmel a number of years ago. I want to clarify something about the St. Joseph Association. They are not liberal nuns. They are still strict and traditional in the sense that they follow the traditions of the Carmelite Order and follow the original constitutions of the order. The OCD Carmelites have two sets of constitutions. One is more liberal and allows for more leeway with changing things, and the other is the original constitutions laid out by St. Teresa of Avila. The Carmel in Philadelphia was following the revised constitutions and wasn’t a member of the St. Joseph Association. All the Carmels in the St. Joseph Association follow the original constitutions. Some of them still even have their double grilles and communion face veils.

    Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.

  26. dinsdale says:

    This is what happens when we have people in the Vatican who think the movie “Sister Act” was a documentary.

  27. TonyO says:

    It doesn’t work like that. They have a park enclosure. They can’t just leave and they can’t just let people in.

    I know, I know. But there are exceptions. If there is a fire, they can leave the building. If foreign troops come stomping through firing guns, they can leave the building. If part of a roof collapses, they can bring in contractors to fix it. You know: emergencies. Obviously, there’s a judgment call here for these, but that means it’s in someone’s capacity to decide:

    This is an emergency.

  28. Kathleen10 says:

    There’s a word for when people can’t or won’t find moxie enough to figure out a way to survive, it’s extinction. I do not know the particulars of what it entails to be in a cloistered monastery or order. I may be simplifying what is possible. But the cold, hard truth is these people intend to eliminate traditional carmels and orders.
    If the people inside and around them don’t resist and find ways to thwart them, they are going to have their way. Now that I think about it, even Archbishop Vigano said they should not cooperate with visitations. I’m sorry, now that it is understood a visitation means you’re about to be gone, you fight like that third monkey on the ramp to Noah’s ark. You think and you collaborate and you dig and you consult and you pray and you do what you have to and find a way.

  29. Charivari Rob says:


    re NH: O’Neil? Personal shares or as bishop (which is basically ‘as the diocese’)?
    Isn’t that generally what credit unions do? Loan to shareholders – and the depositors are the shareholders. Makes sense, if the diocese banked money there, to borrow from there.

  30. APX says:

    This is an emergency
    No, it’s not. It’s also nothing new. One need only to look to Australia’s first canonized saint, St. Mary of the Cross.

  31. TonyO says:

    APX offers that “No, it’s not” an emergency. He offers the example of St. Mary of the Cross.

    The bishop eventually sent Father Woods away from the diocese and tried to force Mary and the sisters to make significant changes to their Rule of Life. While the congregation appeared to be flourishing, it was also plagued by trouble. Mary made it her mission to support the sisters and oversee the ministries.

    In September 1871, Bishop Sheil excommunicated Mary from the Church and evicted the sisters from the convent. Mary went into hiding with Father Woods’ brother. After Mary’s excommunication…

    Clearly, Sr. Mary (a) refused to comply with the bishop’s attempt to force her and the sisters to make changes to their rule of life. The resistance was definitive enough that the bishop excommunicated her, and evicted the sisters. Mary apparently continued defiance, because she “went into hiding”. (You don’t have to hide if you’re not trying to avoid the authorities.)

    Whether or not the Carmel situation is an emergency, I offer that the example of St. Mary of the Cross shows that there are times to resist the ecclesiastical authority. If that’s not an emergency situation, I don’t know what is.

  32. Semper Gumby says:

    Good points by Kathleen10 and TonyO.

    “The church is going to have to develop a much stiffer spine for such things, and realize the times we are in. This is a war traditional Catholics did not ask for or want, but now that it’s here, we need to get in it and win it.”

    Faithful Christians are the Church, whether laity, religious, clergy or those in the hierarchy not pagan wolves in sheep’s clothing or Leftist apparatchiks.

    “Sometimes the church herself has disarmed us, made us pacifists to the extreme…Some of it is pure effeminacy.”

    There is an abundance of evidence supporting that statement.

    “…there are times to resist the ecclesiastical authority.”

    Particularly when the Vatican today, by their own anti-Christian and hostile actions and words, has little, if any, legitimate authority.

    robtbrown: “I would like to know who was advising Papa Ratzinger in these nominations.”

    An excellent point about these so-called “princes of the church.”

    JT: “How insane is that given the benefits the Catholic Faith receives from contemplatives.”

    Sure, insanity could have something to do with this. More likely is malice and willful man-made destruction of “the benefits the Catholic Faith receives from contemplatives.”

    “Whosoever perseveres to the end shall be saved.”

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