Monday, April 15, 2013

NUNS ON THE BUS: Father Zzzz & Father D Agree

The amazing headline here is that Father D and Father Zzzzz have actually found common ground. The Leadership Conference of Women Religious. 

"But Father, but Father.... you're blog used to be so funny.  It's not so fun to read anymore.  You're getting as boring as Father Zzzz."

I know. I'm working on that.  Some days I just don't have the time to put any real effort into satirizing Zzzz man. Father Zzz has stepped up the quality of his posts and reigned in the level of his arrogance.  I count on Father Zzz to do his part.  Don't worry. Given enought time he will ratchet up the arrogant overkill once again.

This statement was released by the CDF on the meeting with the LCWR.  As Father Zzz indicates, it really is a smack down.  

Today the Superiors of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith met with the Presidency of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) in the United States of America. Most Rev. J. Peter Sartain, Archbishop of Seattle and the Holy See’s Delegate for the Doctrinal Assessment of the LCWR, also participated in the meeting.
As this was his first opportunity to meet with the Presidency of the LCWR, the Prefect of the Congregation, Most Rev. Gerhard Ludwig Müller, expressed his gratitude for the great contribution of women Religious to the Church in the United States as seen particularly in the many schools, hospitals, and institutions of support for the poor which have been founded and staffed by Religious over the years.
The Prefect then highlighted the teaching of the Second Vatican Council regarding the important mission of Religious to promote a vision of ecclesial communion founded on faith in Jesus Christ and the teachings of the Church as faithfully taught through the ages under the guidance of the Magisterium (Cf. Lumen gentium, nn. 43-47). He also emphasized that a Conference of Major Superiors, such as the LCWR, exists in order to promote common efforts among its member Institutes as well as cooperation with the local Conference of Bishops and with individual Bishops. For this reason, such Conferences are constituted by and remain under the direction of the Holy See (Cf. Code of Canon Law, cann. 708-709).
Finally, Archbishop Müller informed the Presidency that he had recently discussed the Doctrinal Assessment with Pope Francis,who reaffirmed the findings of the Assessment and the program of reform for this Conference of Major Superiors.
It is the sincere desire of the Holy See that this meeting may help to promote the integral witness of women Religious, based on a firm foundation of faith and Christian love, so as to preserve and strengthen it for the enrichment of the Church and society for generations to come.
 My concern is that the Nuns on the Bus would be hard to distinguish between your local chapter of Dykes on Bikes.  Massage giving, labyrinth making, drum beating, quasi-new age meditation teaching sisters are just not appropriate expressions of ANY religious charism that I can think of.  I am not saying that nuns should be relegated to teaching and nursing.  No. Not at all. 

So many congregations have wandered so far from the intentions of their founders that the community would be unrecognizable today.  The Eerie Benedictines if Erie Pennsylvania are a prime example.  Having abandoned any semblance of a habit these women are Benedictine in name only, having adopted apostolates of writing, speaking, day care, housing, etc.  All these ministries are directed by one of the sisters, but hire laypeople to do the heavy lifting of day to day operations.   Social action is extremely important.  Benedictine life is based on prayer and work.  Yet they pray have Morning Praise and Evening Praise, which I am assuming are Lauds/Office of readings and Vespers.  With almost one hundred Benedictine Nuns in residence they are not able to keep the remainder of the canonical hours required by the Rule of Saint Benedict?  Having lived in a monastic community of less that ten, I can assure you that a full cycle of liturgical services in additional to manual labor to support the monastery can be kept with a bit of creativity.


  1. It is too bad that you (Fr. Z or Fr. D) are unable to recognize and appreciate the profound wisdom, courage and strength of the nuns of the LCWR. You might want to read up on Sr. Mary Luke Tobin, Sister of Loretto and friend of Thomas Merton, who was part of this organization.

    The language that you both use in expressing yourselves (for example, "smack down") is both offensive and revealing of the violence that has been directed toward women throughout history.

    Let's keep them all covered up in habit and continuing their "yes, Father's". Good grief. Grow up.

    1. I am aware of many of the contributions that members of the LCWR have made to society and the church. I am equally aware of the address by Dominican Sister Laurie Brink in which she declared she had moved "beyond Jesus". Yes, I read the entire address which only went downhill from there.

      They have indeed been smacked down. Would you prefer slapped on the palm with a ruler? I venture to guess this is just the beginning of the dialogue that will occur. Though the dialog will be more of an instruction. The LCWR is chartered by the Bishop's Conference. That charter can be revoked.

      I am well aware that women religious have been treated as less than second class citizens by the church for centuries. This is a crime that must be atoned for by the Church at large. Perhaps my endorsing the "smack down" terminology is in sensitive. I will be more attentive of my choice of language in the future as violence toward women, or any person for that matter, is not appropriate.

      What am I advocating that they "cover up" in their habit? I never suggested covering them up. Part of the religious life for MEN and WOMEN has been the wearing of a religious habit. Part of the theology of the habit is that the religious dies to the world. In fact in the traditional Benedictine Rite of Profession the monk or nun lays prostrate on the floor with a funeral pall held over them symbolic of their death in the world. Upon rising they are fully clothed in the remainder of the habit (if I remember the sequence of events right) and given a new name signifying their new life in Christ.

      Habits have a place in religious life. Even if that habit is a black skirt, white top, vest or jacket and small veil for the head. (veil symbolic of being a bride of Christ.)

      I don't expect nun's to be "Yes Women" at all. I expect that they be given an equal voice in matter that pertain to them and to the Church as a whole. I would even go so far as to support the restoration (and expansion) of the ancient office of deaconess which is supported in Scripture and Tradition.

    2. Thank you for your reply, JTD.

      I have not read Sister Brink's lecture, but I think that I would probably like it, and as time permits over the next few days I will take a look at it. I do read America magazine and one of my favorite writers there had a commentary on the talk. You can find it here:

      THe women of the LCWR seem to have a special charism in the Church. With those who are dedicated to the "new world" of active apostolic missions (as distinct from the cloister) there is this dance with hierarchical resistance/control. There was usually a persistent founding personality who clung to the call of the Spirit to discern and then respond to the signs and needs of the time. Many of the U.S.'s most fruitful groups emerged from this initial resistance to go on to do all the good works so many have recognized in their support of our U.S. Sisters.

      They are navigating the current of this latest challenge with a great deal of wisdom, the result, I think, of focusing on their true north--the well-being of all of us in the church. These are the same women who have run entire educational, health and social justice systems for our U.S. church. They have their well-honed practice of process and dialogue with one another as they struggle to respond to the changing needs of our time. These are some of the good practices we desperately need in the institutional dimensions of our church. Perhaps, as so often in the past, the sisters are being called by the Holy Spirit to blaze this path.

      As for habits, it seems to me that all religious orders (including the Benedictines of Erie) do indeed have an official uniform or habit, but they are not required to wear them all the time. This has been the case with men religious and clerics all along, hasn't it?

      I find the wording of "smacking" and "slapping" in describing this dialogue to be entirely inappropriate. In fact, I'm horrified.

  2. P.S. I know these women in Erie, some are my friends. They are wonderful, holy and prayerful women. I suspect that Pope Francis and those who have been charged with dialoguing with them, will come around as they come to know them. All will be changed in the process. That's the way the Spirit works.

    1. I have met members of the Erie Benedictine Community. I have no doubt they are wonderful, holy and prayerful. I have many good friends at the Thai Buddhist Temple here in town who are wonderful, holy and prayerful-- quite disciplined in their prayer life as well. Private and communal. That does not make them in full agreement with the essential teachings of the Catholic Church. This is the issue at present. Are the members of the LCWR in full agreement with the teachings of the Church that they represent? If they are, then their actions should show that. If they are not, it does not detract from their holiness, their depth of prayer, or any of their social works. All it means is that they are not fully Roman Catholic. If they are not, there is NOT ONE THING WRONG with that. But they can not present themselves as representing a Church they disagree with, without compromising their integrity.

      Want to be priests? Episcopal and other Non-Roman Catholic faith communities ordain women to serve as priests and even bishops.

      There is room for diversity in the Church for sure. However the essentials of the Faith are outlined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. When we begin to disagree with those essentials we need to ask ourselves if we are truly Roman Catholic.

      I always give readers my full respect and consideration. I try to "hear" (read) what they say and admit when I am wrong. I make every effort to respond to all comments that leave such an opening for me to do so. We will not always agree, but perhaps we can gain a greater understanding of one another's perspective.

      I consider this a very "grown up" way of handling these issues.

    2. Just which Catholic teaching are we speaking of that the nuns are in disagreement with?

      Thank you for your respect and allowing me to make my comment and better understand your perspective. I still do not understand, but I'm not so angry about the language anymore.

    3. No - I'm still disturbed by the violent language, but I probably should have calmed down some before reacting to your post. I apologize for telling you to "grow up". You are attempting to be reasonable in response to my reaction and I appreciate it.