20 October 2009

Fr. Barron on the Investigations of Women Religious

Fr. Robert Barron comments on the Vatican investigation into the LWCR. . .

He mentions that a number of sisters and their defenders argue that the Vatican is pursuing its "inquisition" despite that fact that nuns and sisters have been the thankless, working backbone of the American Church from its inception.  He rightly points out that American priests and religious men have also worked tirelessly, thanklessly, and without much material compensation as well.  His point?  They all did it voluntarily.

I think it is also important to note that most of the sisters who complain about the investigations in these terms are not the sisters who actually did all that thankless work.  I doubt very seriously that many of the pros at the LCWR have spent much time teaching 3rd graders for little more than room and board.  The women who broke their backs for next to nothing are long gone.

During talks with a Catholic university for a teaching position, I was told that my salary and benefits would be based on the diocesan pay scale for priests.  This meant that I would be receiving about $20,000 less a year than a layperson with the same credentials.  "Layperson" here includes a religious sister.  So, for no other reason than that I am a priest, I would be paid significantly less than a sister for the same work.  Checking around at parishes where I know the pastor, the same is true there as well.  Religious women holding non-clerical jobs in the parish are paid more than a priest would be if he held the identical job.

What a lot of American religious women refuse to accept is that they are "The Man" now.   In terms of numbers, material wealth, influence in seminaries and formation houses, and in the media, they rule.  Their focus on having recognized institutional power (i.e. ordination) ignores the enormous power and influence they wield in virtue of their money, institutions, and tenured academic positions.  They are far, far from being oppressed or ignored by the hierarchy.  But. . .the "we are being oppressed" meme is central to their self-proclaimed roles as prophets crying in the wilderness.

(corrections made to this post to reflect the fact that US nuns are not part of the Vatican theological assessment)


  1. Father, to make a distinction (which we love as OP's yes?) the Sisters are being visitated, not the NUNS!

  2. Sister, I stand corrected and so does the post!