20 April 2012

LCWR: getting to the truth of the matter

Reactions to the CDF's assessment of the LCWR are flooding the Catholic blogosphere.  

So far, 99% of these reactions have been predictably supportive of either the Left's narrative of Hierarchical Males Oppress the Alternative Spiritualities of Women or the Right's narrative of Holy Mother Church Finally Punishes Naughty Daughters.

There have been a few reactions that hit closer to the truth of the matter.

Tom McDonald makes a point that needs to be repeated like the "Hail Mary":

The LCWR is a toxic organization that has slowly poisoned the church since the 1970s. . .They do not represent the 60,000+ women’s religious of America, but rather a small, elite cadre of left-leaning leaders who openly break with the church. Many orders belong to the LCWR merely out of habit (so to speak), but feel as though they have no voice in the organization. They largely ignore them as a noisy embarrassment.

My own experiences with sisters/nuns in the last 12 yrs. bear this out.  Frequently, I've been told by religious women that the LCWR-types run roughshod over their member congregations and cause  problems with the clergy and donors.  Many lament the decline of their congregations and point directly to the radical feminist agenda of the national leadership as the primary cause.  My sense of things is that most sisters just ignore the nonsense and get on with their ministries. 

The Always Worthy Anchoress runs her horse outside the track:

People wondering what “side” I am on should know that I distrust any story that runs on the cheap and inefficient fuel of emotionalism; they generally become all about sound, fury and heat and once that happens, the realities become victims to the distortions of agenda. My thoughts are not in tune with either “side". . .I know many “sisters in pantsuits with bad haircuts” who have lived out their lives of faith and service, and their vows, like a poured out libation; their gentleness and generosity of spirit would shame some of their most vociferous critics, should they actually meet up. Often they are besmirched, dismissed and ridiculed as “hippie nuns” (and worse) by people for whom the only good nun is a habited nun.

Again, this lines up perfectly with my own experiences as a religious.  Most of the sisters I know are not in habit and most are fiercely dedicated to the Church.  We have a saying in the Order, "The habit does not make the friar."  There's nothing magical about the habit.  Yes, it is a good thing to wear the habit.  I wear mine most of the time.  On the flip side, the uncritical rejection of the habit by some sisters and their nearly demonic revulsion of those who wear one is scandalous. We cannot assume that the presence/absence of a religious habit tells us much of anything about the person.  How many lay people wear crosses and never give a thought to what it represents?  

Just to be clear about all this:  the LCWR needed to be investigated and it needs to be radically reformed if not outright disbanded.  The poison of the LCWR is pervasive and potentially deadly for some in the Church.  They have led many astray and need to face the Church's judgment.  However, none of us can or should assume that all sisters whose congregations belong to the LCWR have been tainted with their New Agey nonsense.  The self-anointed prophetesses of the LCWR are outliers, powerful outliers but nonetheless unrepresentative of the average American religious sister.

Pray for the sisters who labor under the LCWR-types and do NOT add to their burden by loading them up with scorn. 

Follow HancAquam and visit the Kindle Wish List and the Books & Things Wish List

Click on St. Martin and donate to the Dominicans!  ------->


  1. ModerateRealist7:33 AM

    I don't doubt your experience here, Father. But if you check out the websites of very many of the member congregations, the language and the emphasis and what is left unsaid show a big swath of them firmly in the lefty ecofeminist camp.

    The Amityville OPs mission statement:

    As prophetic witnesses in collaboration with others, we will call ourselves, the Church and society to credibility. We will be responsible members of the universe. We will promote the dignity of marginalized persons. We will reject violence in ourselves and in society in order that all Generations will grow and cherish life.

    With the world as our frontier, we are open to the Spirit.

    "Responsible members of the universe?"

    1. Is that the Amityville horror? Sorry, couldn't help myself :)

  2. Anonymous7:50 AM

    Right on! I can't agree with you more about the LCWR. For years they have pretended to be the voice of American nuns, and what they've done is sow dissention, give scandal and make confusion.
    Beware of the stats--that they speak for 60,000 nuns--they don't: they've imposed their agenda and promoted voices like Sandra Schneiders and Joan Chittister who are angry feminists who have major issues with the Church and have imposed them on the rest of us.
    By the way, I don't wear a habit, I don't think my haircut is bad, but I am totally dedicated to the Church and its ministry!

  3. Father, great post. I've been wondering why there needs to be an LCWR to begin with. I'm not sure there's any comparable organization of men religious, so what's the point of this feminist group, other than to be feminist? What does it do that the orders themselves do not?

    Just sayin' . . .

  4. Anonymous12:11 PM

    If you learn to read the code, enjoy: http://www.adriandominicans.org/OurMissionVision/MissionVision.aspx

  5. According to the GetReligion article, whose reporter read the document as well as many news stories for evaluation of how this was being covered, the LCWR was formed at the Vatican’s request and answers to the Vatican. Interesting.

  6. Moderate, I can tell you from personal experience (again) that corporate mission statements are born after a long, messy process of composition and compromise. Nobody is completely satisfied with the result.

  7. Ron, the men have their own conference of major superiors. One big difference btw the CMSM and the LCWR is that the men invite bishops to their assemblies.

  8. Anonymous4:40 PM

    The Americas are in great need of the attentions of the church, enough so that a comprehensive audit, for purposes of analysis and correction may be needed. Such a vast undertaking would need to be carried out by a holy order, lasting decades, and working under the guidance of the Holy Office.

    While there are many minor misunderstandings, to outright heterodoxy and what approaches heresy, the problems do not end there and, for example, with the pagan following of Santa Muerte, could lead to violent and horrifying conclusions if ignored.

    While already strongly condemned by the church, the potential for disaster in such cases is not lost on the church, but secular authorities are seemingly unaware of the terrible risk. Yet it thrives in darkness, living in the shadow of the church and preying on its congregants.

  9. Wow. . .that's some heavy duty code.

  10. Hi Fr. Philip! In order to respond to a friend's question as to what I think about the "Pope's rebuke of nuns", I need to read what was actually written. In my hour of wild-goose-chasing on Google, your blog came up. Do you know where I could get the actual document that everyone is talking about?

    Thanks and Happy Easter Season!

  11. Steph, I link to the CDF document here: