03 March 2009

Rebels Without a Clue

Many of you have asked me to comment on the recent email from Sr. Sandra Schneiders concerning the upcoming apostolic visitation of U.S. religious sisters. The email is long and whiney and chocked full of delusional meanderings on the reality of women's religious life in the U.S. I don't intend to fisk the whole thing. This is Lent after all.

As I read the email though I was reminded of my years working in adolescent psych. Most of our teen patients were drug and alcohol abusers and most had been sexually molested. By far the most common diagnosis was ODD, "oppositional defiant disorder." Below you will find a description of this affective-mental disorder. Read it and then click over to Sandra's missive and see what you think.

In children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), there is an ongoing pattern of uncooperative, defiant, and hostile behavior toward authority figures that seriously interferes with the youngster's day to day functioning. Symptoms of ODD may include:
  • frequent temper tantrums
  • excessive arguing with adults
  • active defiance and refusal to comply with adult requests and rules
  • deliberate attempts to annoy or upset people
  • blaming others for his or her mistakes or misbehavior
  • often being touchy or easily annoyed by others
  • frequent anger and resentment
  • mean and hateful talking when upset
  • seeking revenge
Check all the above.

Here's my take on the whole thing. . .most of the dissident women's orders in the U.S. have spent the last four decades destroying their history, dismantling their faith, and deluding themselves into believing that they are somehow leaders in the vanguard of
an ecclesial revolution. Well, they are leaders of a sort, leaders of a devolution into non-existence. We don't need to recount the stats that trace their rapid disappearance from the Church scene. As I have said many times before, "Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock. . ." Fr. Z. rightly calls this the "biological solution" to the problem of New-Agey priests and religious.

What's interesting to me about these groups is their oppositional-defiant relationship with Church authority. You see, when I worked with ODD teens in the hospital, it was often the case that the teens would act out when discipline on the unit grew lax. When staff and clinicians got a little lazy about the rules, the teens would let us know--through their bad behavior--that they felt unsafe and needed the boundaries to be enforced. When the staff got tough again, there was a little sassy lip and the occasional time-out, but most of the teens quickly dropped back into their polished disinterest in authority. . .all the while carefully crafting for themselves and for their peers attitudes that let them be safely contra staff.

Sandra and sisters like her have spent the last forty years establishing themselves as oppositional-defiant figures in the Church. Their entire identity as Catholics, religious, women, and human beings is so deeply entangled in being O-D to the Church that they no longer know how to exist outside their comfortable (i.e., well-funded, tenured) bubbles of oppositional nastiness.

If I had to bet this month's stipend on a sure thing, I would bet on this: Sandra and her sisters are thrilled to hear about this visitation! It gives them something to oppose, something to rally against, something TO DO that ratifies their already self-confirming identity as courageous ecclesial rebels. There will be workshops, conferences, websites, petitions, "calls-to-action," oh but the phone trees and email lists will be lit up, rallying opposition to the visitation.


Because in the absence of any identifibly Catholic characteristics in their "religious lives," Sandra, et al only have the reassuring warmth of their communal temper tantrums and the thin gruel of their rebellion to sustain them in the few winter years they have left. Without this Evil Vatican Visitation--heck, without the Evil Vatican!--Sandra and her goddess-worshipping sisters, would be rebels without a cause.

As it is, their whining is little more than adolescent snarking from the time-out room.

Here's my deadly serious challenge to Sr. Sandra and her ilk: Leave. Simply, leave. Go to another ecclesial communion that will celebrate your wingnut religiosity. If the Roman Catholic Church is so horribly oppressive, so unjustly bigoted, so irrecoverably patriarchal, and these features cause you so much distress and anguish, then leave! But see, you won't leave. Why? Because you have an ODD relationship with Church authority. If you join the Episcopalians, a group that will embrace you and all your moon-batness, if you join the Episco-pagans, you become the establishment. You become the norm, the regular. . .and since you are constitutionally incapable of forming a positive identity, you will cling for dear life to your oppositional-defiant identity in the RCC. You need the Pope. You need the hierarchy. You need the haunting spectre of an Evil Vatican Visitation. You need the orthodox sisters of the CMSWR. You need bloggers like me writing posts like this. . .ah well.

If that weren't so sad, it would be funny.

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  1. Brilliant! I am linking to this post!

  2. Anonymous7:48 AM

    One thing that concerns me was the use of the term "non violent". Had they entertained thoughts of being violent? The good sister, who is over the visitation, may not carry a gun, but a nice club might get their attention and establish some healthy boundaries. I thought I had problems.....

  3. Anonymous1:55 PM

    Having my vocabulary expanded at this site, are these sisters “moonbats” or” wingnuts” I thought you Ann Coulter types were the wingnuts?

    Seriously, this is a subject that is fascinating and I think in two hundred years will be the subject of some great scholarship . I wonder if this is less the need to complain as the desire to control, specifically at the 220+ Catholic universities and the HUGE endowments and grants therein. It seems this is the "powerbase" for much of dissidence within the US Catholic church (its certainly not the hopitals or missions; no money or soapbox there)....at least from my limited perspective.
    Your opinion father?


  4. Chris,

    You're right...for the most part these dying sisters' groups will give their money and property to lay controlled groups...if history serves, they will not give their "stuff" to the Church. For all their carping about authority, control, and power, you will not find on the face of this earth a more controlling, authoritarian personality than a left-wing sister. I know from long experience.

  5. Anonymous3:45 PM

    Boom goes the dynamite! You nailed that one Father. You addressed and answered the question that always begs: why not just leave the Church ... Kung ... McBrien ... Chittister ...? Without the Church (and Her "violent" and "uninvited" intrusions), these folks would slip into the dust bin of history more quickly than the more time-consuming "biological solution." But such visitations give them reason to write "private" email instructions to their troops, which are inevitably shared with the NC Reporter. The visitation will provide months and months writing of material for the moon-bats!

  6. Anonymous4:05 PM

    Professor Schneiders teaches at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley (CA), which is a pontifical faculty. Why is someone with her views permitted to teach at an ecclesiastical faculty of theology?

  7. So well said! Good for you for putting a point on all their whining.

    If they could change the church to be just they way they wanted it, well, then they'd have to leave.

    It's like the guy who marries a gal because she is lively and immediately starts to clamp down on her. The very thing that attracted him becomes the first thing he wants to change.

  8. I love that phrase - "biological solution" - it can't come soon enough!!

  9. Anonymous8:25 PM

    In a way, your description reminds me of an assessment I read/heard about George Carlin following his death. The writer/speaker talked about enjoying George in his rebelious days because he was so anti-establishment. The writer found George less humorous as society changed and George no longer was anti-establishment...he was establishment himself. Dennis

  10. I've never been able to figure out what makes women such as these behave as they do. Now I get it! Brilliant and spot on. Thank you, Father!

  11. I suppose I don't understand their vision of this "renewed" religious life. Why not simply consecrated single life? It would seem to match better with their vision of what they want to do with religious life. I mean... if they want to get rid of habits, community life, common prayer, and obedience to a superior... It seems like they've gotten rid of religious life altogether. Why not simply be a group of consecrated singles?

    Regardless, the total disregard & lack of respect for the Church and Her Teachings reveals their fruit.

    Who would even want to join these orders nowadays? Certainly not me.

  12. Anonymous9:37 PM

    But see, you won't leave. Why? Because you have an ODD relationship with Church authority. If you join the Episcopalians, a group that will embrace you and all your moon-batness, if you join the Episco-pagans, you become the establishment. You become the norm, the regular. . .and since you are constitutionally incapable of forming a positive identity, you will cling for dear life to your oppositional-defiant identity in the RCC

    This paragraph gets a standing ovation. I think you hit the nail on the head... though I think in addition to a psychological factor, there might be the occasional influence of greed... Quite simply, some of these folks got their reputation not from being brilliant, but simply from bashing the Church. On some level, I think they also realize that if they leave the Church, then they lose the cash cow.

    FWIW, I have an atheist friend in whom I've noticed a similar psychological tendency. He considers himself extremely liberal, and likes things purely because they're new. Not because they have any particular merit, but because they're different and trendy... What mental chaos that must be...

  13. What is interesting is how things change when an institution...say, a parochial school...goes from having Sisters who are on the Sr. Schneiders end of the spectrum to having Sisters whose website cheerfully proclaims full and complete adherence to the Magisterium.

    The change, people, is more than night and day. It's like night on Pluto vs. day on Mercury.

    So, basically, pray for all concerned. Even the ones whose lives and outlooks have placed their salvation in peril via the ODD which Fr. P. so correctly identifies.



  14. First Things on this story:


  15. Thank you, Fr. well said and I agree wholeheartedly. My experience working in Special Ed. -Emotional Conflict has assisted me in my dealings with these 'nuns'...and it is quite unfortunate - just as you say about having to write your post. 'Tis very sad.

    I do feel tho that many of us are answers to the prayers of those older nuns that have been praying for their orders to be 'rescued'. And isn't it quite sad to see all their wasted energy being spent going the wrong direction. It seems so tiring to be beating your head against authority. Just think how much would be accomplished in building up HIS Kingdom if they just cooperated with HIM? Gosh.

    We continue to pray...may HIS grace and truth be shown to them and may they be open to it, accept it, and internalize it to do HIS will. Amen.

  16. Anonymous10:45 PM


    EXCELLENT post! I need to figure out how to link this to my facebook.

  17. how truly enlightening.

    hubby told me a story about how the Pope was asked what he thought about all those leaving the RCC...the response was GOOD!! basically that the RCC needs a purging of the rifraff (my paraphrase here obviously) so that those who are left will make her stronger. wise man.

  18. Your words also perfectly describe the pathology of the secular-leftist-progressive-liberal-materialists-nihilists. The current economic "unpleasantness" reflects a moral bankruptcy which I believe is being shaken out, and I fear the accounting will be terrible. But since prayer is ofter not the first but the last resort, what other course might Providence take than cataclysm. Pray the Rosary! "IHS"

  19. Anonymous4:02 AM

    JSTB Grad prompts an interesting question re Sister Schneiders' faculty standing. Whereas I suppose no one can really officially challenge Sister for having her "private email" conveniently published (with her permission; perhaps a transparent attempt to show some distance from it in case there's trouble?), in this message she does reveal her mind on matters of ecclesiology and the extended competencies of the Petrine mission. And the mindset she reveals obviously runs counter to the mind of the Church since she is urging non-cooperation with a Vatican initiative (in this case, one aimed at strengthening religious life in the U.S.A.). The Vatican visitation of seminaries has been completed and the final report shows that the religious order seminaries have some cleaning up to do. Her employer is the Jesuit "seminary" on the west coast. I wonder if the new, more careful climate that is emerging in seminaries following this valuable visitation will result in a closer check at who is having access to our seminarians in their classrooms? Might this prompt the administration of the JSTB to realize that it might be to their benefit to move toward a convenient "retirement" status for Sister? Certainly by promoting her problematic views while serving as a seminary professor, she has captured the attention of all sorts of Catholic watchdog groups, and I imagine it will just be one report after another sent to the Vatican after this. She is already listed on the JSTB website as faculty emerita. Might she suddenly disappear entirely from the JSTB faculty? You know, there is a phrase that keeps rolling around in my mind that it seems we've heard before. I wonder why it's coming to mind as I write on this topic? Hmmm. As far as I can remember it goes, simply, "Non serviam." Hmmm.

  20. Anon,

    There is NO chance in you know where that S.S. would be fired from the GTU b/c of her dissent. She's the least annoying heretic of the bunch at the GTU...she's downright conservative compared to the faculty of the PSR, or the Pathetic Scandal of Religion as some call it.