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Scott Appleby on the forced 'reform' of LCWR.

"These are mature Christian women, and to be placed in a kind of pen as if they were schoolchildren is humiliating and inappropriate.""Why have they done this? I dont' know."Watch here.

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Grant Gallicho is an associate editor of Commonweal. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.



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Thanks very much, Grant, for posting this interview with Scott Appleby. Everything he says strikes me as right on the money.

As part of the forced reform, will the bishop-supervisor (or whatever his title is) force the LCWR to dis-invite certain speakers who have already been invited to speak at the upcoming LCWR conference?

Isn't it rather simple? In Catholicism, women are supposed to be submissive and subordinate to men. Wives are supposed to be subordinate to their husbands. Men are the leaders, women are the followers. Fathers are the heads of families, women and children must obey them. Gay men can't be priests because they aren't "father-like" and can't relate appropriately to men and women. God "himself" is a father, and (heterosexual) men are "godlike." Women are not godlike. There has been a shift in our culture that has recognized women don't have to be subordinate, and that they can be independent and self-sufficient. A certain amount of that has insinuated its way into the Church, and those in powerwho are all mendon't like it. So they are reasserting their dominance.I wonder if the parish where I grew up wasn't a tiny microcosm of the way the Church wants things to be. The nuns were extraordinarily deferential to the pastor and the other priests. Occasionally a priest would visit one of the classrooms, and the nuns acted as if the pope, or the king, had arrived. My mother taught one year at the school, and she found that the nun who was principal and ran the school was expected to make bricks without straw. The pastor gave her so little money to run the school that she tried to get extra funds by selling school supplies. I like to read the article Womanin the 100-year-old online Catholic encyclopedia for laughs, but unfortunately it's very telling. Take this:

The female sex is in some respects inferior to the male sex, both as regards body and soul . . . . If the two sexes are designed by nature for a homogeneous organic co-operation, then the leading position or a social pre-eminence must necessarily fall to one of them. Man is called by the Creator to this position of leader, as is shown by his entire bodily and intellectual make-up.

Once you've said something like that, an infinite number of howevers and on the other hands can't undo it. That, it seems to me, is Catholicism. That's why there can't be women priests. That's why nuns must be put in their place if they show too much independence.

Hi, David:I remember in grade school, sixty years ago, when Father would appear at the classroom door, Sister was quick to leave and let him take over. (Probably delighted to have a few minutes in the convent kitchen drinking coffee with the housekeeper Sister.) But how boring it was for us. Sister always had interesting stories to tell, but Father just made lame jokes and asked us if God could make a square circle. I realized that however poorly educated the nuns were, at least they knew something. They studied real subjects in summer school: history, literature, etc. Was/is the dislike of ordained men for nuns based on the difference in their education?The singling out of Sr. Laurie Brink seems abusive, even by the traditional standards. Hi, Grant: Hearing men discussing women is always interesting. (I wonder if the t.v. station tried to get nuns to comment on their treatment by "the Church", or if Dr. Appleby was their first choice.)Hi, Thomas: I'll bet the female speakers advertised for September will not be allowed to address the women of the LCWR. The CDF statement makes it clear that addresses to the women are of great concern to the men who will reform the organization. It also makes clear which topics are important. Maybe the nuns will be required to listen to priests speaking on homosexuality and abortion, if the September meeting should actually take place.

"Why have they done this? I dont know."It's not hard to figure out: too much tolerance for heresy and outright insanity (i.e., the upcoming keynote speaker Barbara Marx Hubbard).

In a long career in management, I've seen my share of companies that are in trouble. One common characteristic of such companies is a sort of lack of confidence that leads to a crack-down on any disagreement or dissent within its ranks. Healthy companies are places where there is a free flow of diverse opinions, and leadership that is confident enough to not only tolerate it, but to learn from it and grow the company. You can see lots of examples, for instance, in old line companies that either embraced the internet age, or tried to fight it. Or, in what is maybe the best example is IBM that completely changed both its business model and its culture.I wonder if this applies to the Church at this time. It seems to be flailing about, unsure of itself and therefore more doctrinaire and reactionary than ever, unable to cope with change and fearful of dissent and debate. This latest episode with the Nuns seems almost like some kind of tantrum.

Gerelyn: I don't think it was "abusive" for the CDF to single out Sr. Laurie Brink's 28-page 2007 exploratory paper that she wrote at the explicit request of the LCWR. The LCWR gave her explicit instructions about the kinds of things they wanted her to address. She addressed them. I've read her essay. But I don't see any great problem with it as an exploratory essay, which is what she was asked to prepare. So how would I characterize the CDF's singling out of her exploratory essay? Far-fetched. Nutty. Foolish.As more and more people go to the trouble to find her essay online and read it, the CDF is going to look more and more foolish for singling out her exploratory essay.Of course the CDF mentions certain other things in its document regarding the LCWR. But I've not seen any of the other evidence on which the CDF document is based.

Oh, Gerelyn, I am certain the local South Bend TV station actively excluded all manner of women from commenting on this story. You know how men are.

You assume the "local South Bend TV station" is run by men?

Isn't that the only explanation for the flagrant lack of a woman commenting about women, which, if I read you right, you believe is women's work?

Its not hard to figure out: too much tolerance for heresy and outright insanity . . .Studebaker,It seems to me Scott Appleby is not trying to answer the question why the Church did something, but why the Church has done this particular thing in this particular way.

Does anyone know or have an educated guess as to how many of the details of this brouhaha the Pope is likely to know? A billion people is a lot to keep track of, and I just wonder how much detailed information he gets about these cases? Does he know enough to realize how much such events contribute to the alienation of the laity and lower clergy? Sometimes I suspect that his minions just don't tell him exactly what is going on, and if they don't tell, he won't ask.

Thomas -- it seems disingenuous to say that Brink's lecture was merely "exploratory." The issue for most believing Catholics would include the following: 1) Brink wrote in a mocking tone of nuns who do things that used to be "anathema" to some nuns, one example of which is saying the Rosary. Those of us who try to say the Rosary occasionally for its spiritual value, not out of "acquiescence to others' expectations," may quite rightly bristle at Brink's dismissive tone towards prayer here.2) In complete contrast, Brink wrote in a fulsome and seemingly envious tone towards those who had left the Church. Not only did she not disagree with them at all, she praised them as "courageous women among us" who "very well may provide a glimpse into the new thing that God is bringing about in our midst." Well, maybe Brink is right in suggesting that -- maybe moving beyond the Church is indeed the way to God. But that view is most certainly not Catholic, and the CDF's action is every bit as surprising as it would be if Coke started looking into a department that had been hosting speeches (with no disagreement registered) about how "courageous" it would be to move beyond Coke and start selling Pepsi instead.

Studebaker: I've read Sr. Laurie Brink's exploratory essay very carefully, and I see no serious problems in it. Sorry.

"Isnt that the only explanation for the flagrant lack of a woman commenting about women, which, if I read you right, you believe is womens work?"------------If I read you right, you think commenting about anything is men's work. (I clicked on the current issue to see if things have improved. No. Of the fourteen named writers, only four are women.)

Recently, the Catholic bishops in the USCCB have urged their fellow American Catholics to join them over a two-week period before July 4, 2012, in a show of concern regarding freedom of religion.So will the recent action by the CDF regarding the LCWR help the American bishops attract American Catholics to their campaign regarding freedom of religion, or will the CDF action offend American Catholics and keep them from joining the bishops' campaign regarding freedom of religion?

Thomas -- you personally may have no problem with it, and you might even be right, but the point is that you can surely understand why people who actually believe in the Catholic faith would have a problem with it.

Ann Olivier: In light of your comment @2:29 pm, I would urge you to read Matthew Fox's book THE POPE'S WAR: WHY RATZINGER'S SECRET CRUSADE HAS IMPERILED THE CHURCH AND HOW IT CAN BE SAVED (New York: Sterling Ethos, 2011).

Studebaker: No, I do not "understand why people who actually believe in the Catholic faith would have a problem with it." Sorry.

Your failure to understand a simple point is odd. Perhaps you could try to explain yourself and actually come up with an argument. Specifically, why would people who believe in the Catholic faith (i.e., who really believe that the Church is what it says it is) not have a problem with someone who very strongly suggests that leaving the Church may be a better way to God for some people?

The LCWR knows that there are venues [stadia] in every town and city. If they 'build a program' the Catholics will come. I bet that many 'comebackers' will show too [New Evangelization?].....I suggest the the 2 weeks before July 4th. The 'other' plans are not finalized or appropriate.

You seem close to not understanding the principal of non-contradiction. For example, if I think that democracy is better than dictatorship, then I must necessarily disagree with someone who says that dictatorship is better than democracy. By extension, it's almost inconceivable that I would be happy with someone who doesn't actually say that dictatorship is better than democracy, but who dances right up to the edge of saying it by talking about the "courageous" people who have "moved beyond democracy" by choosing dictatorship.

After reading the Doctinal Assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, I feel great sadness for the wonderful Sisters I have known. I think Scott Appleby's comments above and in the video interview are certainly on target. I also read the essay written by Sr. Laura Brink and find it hard to imagine that educated men would see it as something other than an exercise to lead religious orders to more discussion of their goals and plans for the future. To censure or prevent that kind of discussion seems rather silly - every organization needs to re-evaluate its mission and develop goals if it is to continue to make a positive impact. I have often wondered about the collective thinking of the U.S Bishops over these past few years and have silently questioned where they have chosen to focus their efforts. I think it would be in the best interests of the Bishops to stop and listen to the voices of the committed faithful at this time. Reports such as this Doctrinal Assessment of the LCWR appears to seek to humilitate good and faithful women who have dedicated their lives to loving others as Jesus did. As someone who greatly benefitted from being educated by wonderful Sisters, I want those Sisters to know that the work they have done and the examples they have set have been instrumental in my life and the lives of many others with whom I come in contact. I want these Sisters to know that they are appreciated and supported as they continue to discern next steps in their community lives of faith.

On the same subject, here's Carol Marin in the Sun Times: quote:

Yes, if you thought things could not get more surreal or insulting for the women of the Catholic Church, you may have underestimated the lengths the Curia will go to alienate American Catholics from a faith they love and from a hierarchy that has compromised much of its moral authority.

She puzzles about the silent bishops, too: "Surely, there are thoughtful bishops who recoil at what the Vatican is doing here. Why they dont speak up, I will never know."

Thomas and Studebaker -- Okay, I'm confused. Are you both talking about the same thing? Is not the issue about Orders, or Communities of Nuns leaving the Church organizationally rather than individually leaving the Church spiritually (renouncing) ? Or have I misread?

I thought Prof. Appleby gently noted the abusiveness of this Visitation". He also very gently noted the Church doesn't want second class women(women do so much), but I think they really do or at least have minimal ideas about women and feminism.I don't think the Profesor's remarks will cut any ice with the hierarchy just as the letter from Notre Dame faculty asking to have Bishop Jenky removed from ND's board get anywhere.The hierrachy (despite all the revelations of how horribly it handles sex abuse and jbruns is right: the organization is deeply unhealthy) thinks it's sacrosanct and when it says something, noone should criticize.BTW, if Stu thinks he's the voice of the Church, that's "outright insanity" -more of the encapsulated thinking that blankets our hierachy.

(And a side note: anybody beside me intrigued at how many of the photos of sisters in stories of the crackdown depict fully-habited women? Kind of a reportorial blunder, I think, given the circumstances...)

Uh oh, I'm confused again. As best I can tell faith is a thing with which we are born, likely divine in origin, nature and purpose. Mostly. Nurtured well it grows well. Nonetheless, I believe we all can agree we have more than a little experience in watching it grow in spite of less than ideal nurturing. Just more slowly but often with more determination. Religion is a thing we learn. Mostly. Perhaps it can be successfully argued it is a bit less divine in origin, nature and purpose. It is such a truly grand thing I simply cannot know.I believe we can all agree each generation is more "spoiled" than its predecessor. It seems altogether unavoidable. While I do, on occassion, agree this generation may well be successful in setting a new land speed record in that arena I do not believe a rejection of all authority is the goal. Perhaps it is largely a very old story. An attempt to define the recognizable attributes of a useful authority in order to recognize them when in their company in hopes of learning a useful thing or two.Furthermore I cannot convince myself that either race or gender are sufficiently reliable attributes to allow a person much comfort when attempting to identify useful authority. As attributes go, they are quite simply to easily recognizable, even by children.I am opposed to neither tradition nor to structure. I have no idea whatever how we would survive much less find the time and energy to assist each other without them.To the extent my opinions cause distress in any way whatever of someones religous beliefs, I apologize. I simply know too little to understand how my opinions would alter another person's faith.

Lisa, a complex question, I think. Did you ever run across this video? Quite interesting ...

When appeals to authority fail, pull out the "heresy" card and wave it for all it's worth."There is no heresy or no philosophy which is so abhorrent to the church as a human being. " Letter to Augusta Gregory (1902-11-22), from James Joyce by Richard Ellmann (1959) [Oxford University Press, 1983 edition, ISBN 0-195-03381-7] (p. 107)"Heresy may be the result of poor timing. " Jaroslav Pelikan, "The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine", Vol I, "The Emergence of Catholic Tradition."

Surely, there are thoughtful bishops who recoil at what the Vatican is doing here. Why they dont speak up, I will never know.Lordy, Miss Scarlet: they don't know NUTHIN' about birthin' no babies - or have the stones to break ranks until or unless they are retired.

It's quite ridiculous that a couple of the commenters here are using the word "heresy" in reference to these vowed religious, these women living consecrated lives. We should all be such heretics.

Grant @ 2:23: do you think that male clerics would tolerate women in an official capacity commenting about and investigating them in the manner being imposed in this case?Actually that is a dumb question on my part because you will NOT see women put in a position to have this kind of questioning and investigationing authority over male clerics of any stripe.

Prof. Appleby's comments made his point effectively in terms carefully calculated to get through to the Bishops. Good luck to him. They are a tough audience to reach. St. Brink's "exploratory" (Right, Thomas Farrell!) group dynamics teasers were aimed at women used to open-ended collaborative exercises, and ready to respond appropriately to her technique of leading them through discussion of a series of less than ideal alternative future directions before presenting her preferred option-- one it is hard to imagine its CDF critics could fault. That is, if they had a clue about the way to read the piece.

Sorry, line 3 above should be "Sr." Brink. No need to be premature...

Lovin the typos ;-)

What can people and parishes do to show their support for religious sisters? Here are a few random thoughts:- inserts in the parish bulletin expressing gratitude for the work done by the religious sisters and giving some concrete local examples- collections for the religious sisters' retirement funds- honoring them as opportunities arise (at my parish on Holy Thursday a religious sister had her feet washed by our pastor)- inviting religious sisters (rather than priests) to give theological reflections at the next parish retreat or at Lent next year.Any other ideas?

"Any other ideas?"Yes, drop a note in your Sunday collection plate to inform the bishop that if he doesn't publicly condemn this Vatican witchhunt, you *will continue* to divert your contributions to the sisters' retirement programs.

"[The hierarchs] are a tough audience to reach."Yes, but I keep on a' tryin' to reach these guys here and elsewhere.God knows, these fellas in their reds and purples could benefit from my input.

studebaker,Sr Brink address had this to say about the Rosary:

They are taking seriously Pope John Paul IIs call to pursue holiness first above all else. They are putting on the habit, or continuing to wear the habit with zest. They are renewing pious practices such as adoration and the Rosary. They are returning to the classroom.

That sounds pretty respectful to the Rosary to me.God Bless

Chris -- you need to read the whole passage. Let me annotate it for you:

Some have attended to their reality and are making choices that a generation ago would have been anathema to their members. [IF YOU LOOK UP THE WORD ANATHEMA, YOU'LL SEE THAT IT IS NOT A TERM OF PRAISE. KEEP THIS IN MIND: SHE'S GOING TO DESCRIBE THE ANATHEMA CHOICES THAT ARE BEING MADE.] These groups are recognizing the changing atmosphere in the institutional Church [TO PEOPLE LIKE SR. BRINK, THAT IS NOT A COMPLIMENT], the reneging on the promises of Vatican II [SAME: NOT A COMPLIMENT EITHER], and the seemingly conservative [SEEMINGLY? ANYWAY, NOT A COMPLIMENT] young adults interested in pursing a life of holiness through the profession of the evangelical counsels. They are taking seriously Pope John Paul IIs call to pursue holiness first above all else. They are putting on the habit, or continuing to wear the habit with zest. They are renewing pious practices such as adoration and the Rosary.

So saying the Rosary is at the end of a list of things that "seemingly conservative" nuns (whatever that means) are doing that would have been "anathema" to older nuns. Irene: Its quite ridiculous that a couple of the commenters here are using the word heresy in reference to these vowed religious, these women living consecrated lives. We should all be such heretics.No, what's ridiculous is your assumption that just because someone is a vowed religious, she can say anything imaginable and it automatically can't be heresy. Well, if suggesting that people who have moved out of the Church and "beyond Christ" are moving closer to God isn't heresy, then nothing is. That isn't consistent with anything that a Christian of any sort would say. Even the most tenuous of Christians ought to have expressed at least a tinge of sadness that some people felt the need to abandon Christianity altogether. Brink doesn't even say that much. Instead, she just keeps waxing eloquent about how leaving Christianity was "a choice of integrity, insight and courage," and how the people who make that choice "will also become a great nation, for women and men are hungering for their leadership, insights and inspiration."Look, I can understand why some people are not Catholic or Christian, and why they would agree with Sr. Brink's glowing praise of those who leave Christianity. What I don't understand is putative Catholics who profess to be unable to figure out it's odd, to say the least, to see a nun being so effusive in praising those who had left the Church.

"Any other ideas?"--Some orders have magazines. Write an article about a teacher you remember and what was so special about her. If the order doesn't have a magazine, write to the superior about the Sister and she will post it on the bulletin board. The Sister will get a lot of attention and will write to you, thanking you for the letter and complimenting you on your good memory of her good stories, special skills, etc.If the Sisters you loved most are dead, send a memorial contribution to the order. Some orders publish yearly magazines with the names of the Sisters and the names of those who donated gifts in their memory. Seeing a particular Sister's name may jog the memories of other alumnae and inspire them to send money, too. Since many orders have merged, this is a good way to ensure that the deceased members of a smaller group that joined a larger group will not be forgotten.Become an Associate, or Oblate, or Third Order member of the congregation that means the most to you. Write an op-ed piece for your local paper about the nuns who meant the most to you.

Refuting the claim that NETWORK are insufficiently concerned about abortion, here's an extract from their statement on health care reform showing that abortion is very much a key concern for NETWORK:

Healthcare Reform Law and NETWORK ValuesHere are some of ways the new healthcare law reflects NETWORKs healthcare values. Under the new law, healthcare is: ...Pro-life Maintains existing law on abortion -- no federal funding of abortion and no federal sponsorship of abortion in any form Requires healthcare plans that offer abortion services to segregate funds so that no federal subsidies can be used for abortion. An annual audit will ensure that this is done Ensures that healthcare exchanges have at least one plan that does not offer abortion coverage Maintains existing law on conscience protection for healthcare providers. could argue with the prudential judgment the good sisters have made on the specific provisions of healthcare reform, but the facts seem to be that abortion is a key issue and a core value to NETWORK.The more one looks into the criticisms leveled at LCWR, by studying the actual LCWR documents, the less they seem to be firmly based in reality.God Bless

Mr. Studebaker- You have questioned whether other commenters were Catholic because they were critical of our bishops. Wouldn't it be fair, then, to also ask that of someone who is so critical of our religious sisters? I don't know what's heresy and what's not; I'm not an expert. But I know these women have sacrificed a lot to follow Jesus and they have dedicated their lives to the Catholic Church. Can you say the same? I can't, which is why I think it would be a little arrogant for me to question their fidelity.

Stuart's comment about Sr. Brink's talk is, I think, actually very important for unpacking part of what is going on in the conflict between the bishops and the sisters who are in leadership in the LCWR. He is pointing to the question of limits, which a community has to have in order to define itself. Several commenters here have noted that Sr. Brink's talk was exploratory, and intended to tease out discussion. True enough. I felt the essay savored of the academy, which is her work environment and intellectual milieu (she teaches at CTU). For some of her listeners and some of the commenters here, the academy is a familiar and comfortable milieu. The average American sister has more higher education than the average bishop, if I'm not mistaken. Now it's a fairly standard gambit in the classroom to put out there several scenarios and push your students to think their way into alternative thought-worlds by means of discussion. The student is expected to find her place on a spectrum of opinion, freely. The exercise is aimed at both broadening the mind, and developing a sense of one's own views by articulating a position with which others are free to disagree. Intellectual freedom is presumed. Outcomes are not predetermined.The bishops, however, are completely unlikely to see the subject matter of religious life in this way at all. They are far more likely to regard the academy with suspicion than with trust, to regard intellectual freedom as a very secondary value, and to prize above all the coherence of the community which they (at least nominally) govern. The bishops are not altogether zany to rank internal Church coherence higher than individual freedom or the liberty of religious communities. It's their lookout, so to speak, and to expect them to do otherwise isn't altogether reasonable. There are situations -- and this may be one of them -- where that pressure must be resisted. But it ought to be understood, just as the sisters' actions ought to be understood, and not merely despised.Alas, the remedies of skeptical review, condemnation, and control from outside, all falling with a heavy hand, seem likely to fracture the situation further rather than pull people together.

Studebaker --Can't you even imagine that someone might have a different conception of "the Church" from your conception? If you can, can't you also imagine that a person leaving the Church might do so because she/he has concludee that it is not really the Church established by Jesus?. In other words, can't you imagine someone leaving because her/his conscience (such as it is) demands it? Sr, Brink sees the Madison nuns as being precisely in such a situation, Do you think, unlike Sr. Brink, that the Madison nuns *shouldn't* have left? As I remember, you have more than once counseled people here on this blog to leave the Church (as they understand it). So what's the difference between you and Sr. Brink?

Gerelyn --Speaking of magazines, if you know a bishop (or don't know a bishop) send him a subscription to Commonweal :-)

cant you also imagine that a person leaving the Church might do so because she/he has concludee that it is not really the Church established by Jesus?.As I said, I certainly can imagine those people's beliefs. What I can't imagine is the confusion experienced by people who seem not to understand why the Church itself might disagree with those beliefs.

Do you think, unlike Sr. Brink, that the Madison nuns *shouldnt* have left? Right, without knowing more about the situation, I think they should have had a more thorough conversion to their original vows. As I remember, you have more than once counseled people here on this blog to leave the Church (as they understand it). So whats the difference between you and Sr. Brink?Um, not exactly. I did wonder whether two people who described the Church in terms reserved for a false religion were Catholic; one never replied, and the other seemed indignant that I would even dare to imply that she didn't belong to a religion founded on lies. Oh well. Anyway, I'm not telling them to leave, and if they left, I certainly wouldn't speak about their decision in envious tones (there's a distinction from Brink for you).

If my parent was an alcoholic child abusing pervert with an inflated ego, I'd speak of that person in very harsh terms.I couldn't "unparent" them, however--the blood kinship can't be eliminated. I also distinguish words of harsh contempt for those who have hijacked the Church and words directed at Mother Church herself.

I think that the most effective way to respond to those who have left the Church (and this is a key point for the New Evangelisation) is with love, concern, and empathy.Sr Brink has admirably expressed that love, concern and empathy which is at the centre of our Catholic faith.They will know we are Christians by our love.God Bless

I don't know if the readers of this blog are aware, but Bishop Morlino of the Madison Diocese refused to allow any priest to say Mass for the Benedictine sisters of Madison because they did not see eye-to-eye. I am not offering an apologia for that community's decisions, but I do believe that the lesson of the split is that it takes two to make it happen -- and the bishop who plays hardball certainly shares responsibility for what takes place. By the way, this is happening all over the place, and not with religious women only. I've heard of numerous Catholic communities recently in the US. They have been springing up, unaffiliated with Rome, in response to the policies and leadership priorities of the current regime in the Vatican.

Rita, I wonder whether you're confusing the timeline there; you seem to say that the bishop playing hardball led to the sisters' abandonment of the Catholic faith. The articles I've seen indicate that it was only after the nuns formally petitioned to abandon the Church that Bishop Morlino instructed that Catholic mass no longer be held there. Robert Morlino of Madison wished the women well, but is cautious about the future of the monastery. "Such experimental endeavors can bear great fruit for the Church, such as the monastery at Taiz (France)," he wrote in a June 26 letter to his priests. "But there are very few other success stories worldwide, and thus our prayers and good wishes are all the more important."The bishop approved the changes, but he requested that the monastery no longer have Catholic Mass celebrated at the center and that the Eucharist no longer be reserved in the chapel.

Do you have some information that the sequence of events was the other way around?

See also this from the Diocese: seems their choice to move in this non-Catholic direction was in the works for a number of years, at least since 1992 according to their website. During Bishop Morlinos tenure, there were several meetings and conversations between the sisters and the bishop. There seemed to be a cordial dialogue taking place on a variety of issues and therefore it was a surprise when the two remaining sisters advised the bishop that they had been granted a release, by Rome, from their vows as Benedictine Sisters, in 2006. While Bishop Morlino was surprised, he was in no way unfriendly toward their desire to start a non-Catholic ecumenical community. He did however ask that they not reserve the Holy Eucharist or have Mass celebrated on site, so as not to cause confusion. Many people had visited St. Benedicts Monastery over the years and the bishop felt it would take time for people to understand that it was no longer a Roman Catholic institution. They understood the bishops position and agreed to follow his directive for the sake of those who might be confused by the change.

Describing this as the bishop playing "hardball" is an overstatement, but saying that it happened merely "because they did not see eye-to-eye" is an understatement.

Stuart,The part about not seeing eye to eye was humor. I would take the accounts of "amicable conversations" and the like with a grain of salt. You cannot expect the statement on the Madison Diocese website to put the matter in any light which reflects unfavorably on the bishop. These are sanitized accounts. And since when has ecumenism required release from Catholic vows, or the absence of the sacraments?

Rita and Studebaker --So the Madison nuns have NOT left the Church, they have only given up their canonical status? In other words they are still officially Catholics, having even petitioned Rome to release them from their canonical status. But their bishop says they "are going in the direction" which is out of the Church, and so he refuses them Mass at their monastery? Even though he approves o Taize'?And this is behavior which tends to heresy in Sr. Brink? I'd say Rome and her bishop have much too vivid imaginations. The nuns are being investigated for what they *might* do, and what they might do is not even against Church law!

Stuart,You asked if I have any information about the sequence being reversed. Yes, actually, I do, although I am not close to the situation. Personal conversations with people who lived and worked there, and what I observed while on retreat there give me a somewhat closer view than you get from published accounts. Like all complex situations, it can't be neatly drawn as "they left the Catholic faith / then the bishop forbade eucharist." I think the bishop was not going to tolerate anomalies. If he had, the group would still be Catholic at its core, with a few differences because they admitted non-Catholics to their monastic community.

Claire, thanks for that news story. When I was there, the nun who was a Presbyterian minister preached. That's what I meant by anomalies. I did not know that they now have a non-Catholic Eucharist. The boundary was crossed there, for sure.

Claire --Thanks for the site. Even if the nuns don't call their service "Mass", I don't think messing with the Mass is a good idea, even when the ritual cries out for some changes. (SOME changes.) It's too easy to lose the essence of the ritual, as happened with the Lutherans, though maybe some Anglicans kept it at least for a while. So we really do need some sort of oversight to preserve the essential form. It's just a pity that the Curia and this pope are so deaf to the needs of the faithful.

Bp. Morlino had something to do with why some local catholics were disaffected as Claire's link mentions. He has had a stormy history in Madison. His political statements at Masses, threats of "serious consequences" to priests who disagree, and importation of traditionalist priests from a Spanish order are examples of activities that were divisive. See A paid protest ad appeared in the local paper in 2008. Morlino supporters responded later. In context, an anomaly around Madison like the the Holy Wisdom Monastery is not surprising to me.

Anyone or group who tangles with Morlino is OK with me. Maybe I'll direct a few buck their way.I'm originally from the Diocese of Madison have seen close up, and via friends still imprisoned there, the damage that his kind of clericalist autocrat can do.As the parishioners of St. Mary's in Platteville about being Morlino-ized.

Having just discovered the "church in the 21st century" website, this weekend I poked around and found and watched a webcast of a talk given by Fr. K. in January 2003. the last part of his talk, he proposes possible directions going forward. He bases his suggestions on canon law, citing 19th century canon laws governing the removal of priests and, he infers, also of bishops: a priest or a bishop should be removed either when he becomes incapacitated (by some accident or illness) and is unable to do his work, or when he is so hated by his people that he is ineffective. That is a legitimate reason to remove him, even when the hate itself is unwarranted. Could that law apply to Bp Morlino? Is he "odious" enough?

In one section of the CDF document, a double charge is made: first, that the leaders of religious women have spoken when they should have been silent, discussing subjects and envisioning possibilities that ought not to be mentioned; and second, that they have been silent when they should have spoken in support of Church teaching. I leave aside the first point and speak only to the second.A great difficulty arises when a person is required to speak in support of something she does not in fact believe in, and to encourage others to embrace what she herself holds at arm's length or further off. We have a rich vocabulary to describe people who do that, and scarcely one of the words is kind.Suppose a religious woman has a friend or a family member who is gay and who is also loving, fun, wonderful, and very dear to her. Must she believeand teach!that that person is "inherently disordered," a human mistake somehow unworthy to partake in the ordinary joys (and trials) of life?Or suppose she sincerely believes that artificial contraception is a genuine blessing in the modern world, and that the decision of the Vatican to proscribe it was a foolish error now obstinately clung to by men who dare not admit a mistake. Must she violate her own conscience and proclaim the opposite of what she believes?Or again, perhaps she finds it hard to believe that the selection pool from which Christ drew his apostles is a universal and eternal standard for Church leadership, rather than merely an artifact of unexamined cultural norms in a backwater of an empire that no longer exists. But still, she must put on a cheery face and affirm that males, males, males are the Lord's choice to run things. Or must she?Some people, including a few on this site, say that any Catholics who won't defend the whole caboodle of Church teaching should just stop calling themselves Catholic and buzz off. It is a jarring and unresponsive answer to women and men whose demonstrated love of the Church is undiminished by their doubts about its leadership.

For another cogent take on some of the roots of the situation in the church in general and applicable to the crackdown on LCWR: "The Loss of Effective Authority" by Vassar prof Michael McCarthy the BC Church in the 21st Century website: see several stories recently regarding US bishops discouraging priests and people from attending lectures by Bishop Geoff Robinson (retired, Sydney). Now this is a bishop in good standing who is asking the church to examine many of its viewpoints, esp with regard to sexuality. I dont have the specific references but you can Google. There was one in the NCR, at least. The culture of fear is at the root of the culture of death...this is precisely the type of machination that got Jesus crucified.

So the Madison nuns have NOT left the Church, they have only given up their canonical status? In other words they are still officially Catholics, having even petitioned Rome to release them from their canonical status. But their bishop says they are going in the direction which is out of the Church, and so he refuses them Mass at their monastery? "They" are not all Catholics, because they had for years been taking non-Catholic members. So the bottom line is that for whatever reason (whatever precipitated it), the congregation had lots of non-Catholics and the few Catholics left petitioned to no longer be nuns. AFTER that (contrary to what Rita's original post seemed to imply about the timeline), the local bishop said that they wouldn't have mass there any more. This is no more surprising than a Catholic bishop not having a regular mass at the local Baptist church.

"The bishops, however, are completely unlikely to see the subject matter of religious life in this way at all. They are far more likely to regard the academy with suspicion than with trust, to regard intellectual freedom as a very secondary value, and to prize above all the coherence of the community which they (at least nominally) govern. The bishops are not altogether zany to rank internal Church coherence higher than individual freedom or the liberty of religious communities. Its their lookout, so to speak, and to expect them to do otherwise isnt altogether reasonable. There are situations and this may be one of them where that pressure must be resisted. But it ought to be understood, just as the sisters actions ought to be understood, and not merely despised."Rita, thank you for this comment. It gets to something I've been reflecting a bit about: I would think that, even if the Holy See and women religious have a healthy and trusting relationship, there still would be a tension in the relationship. I think there is a certain tension between people in the church who are on the "front lines", and the stewards and administrators of the Catholic faith. Both dimensions are necessary, and they need to be where they are: religious sisters need to be helping actual people - to learn, to care for them, to walk with them in their suffering, and so on; and the CDF needs to be somewhat removed from that life in order to be effective in its mission.Parish priests, deacons and those in parish ministry live in the same tension with their bishop.The tension needn't be dysfunctional, and it can even be good. Those of us who are on the "front lines" need to be able to absorb the deposit of faith as best we can, bring it to those in need, and figure out how to apply it in the messy and contradictory situations of real life. And those who are removed from that human chaos and difficulty need to listen to those who are on the front line so they can understand the real-life challenges and questions that arise about the faith.But that sort of fruitfulness presupposes a healthy and trusting relationship. Cultivating it requires hard work, constant attention, good listening skills, good communication skills, a generous heart and a fair amount of empathy and imagination. Most of us are deficient in one or more of those areas.

The Loss of Effective Authority by Vassar prof Michael McCarthy was quite good. It describes why we typically lack a healthy and trusting relationship with our bishops and how one might develop.

This thread started with Prof. Appleby and his "careful" presentation.(On other threads we've heard about those working inside Church establishments be they teachers, parish ministers, writers, etc, having to be "careful')That doesn't speak to nuturing trust and it underscores the fearfulness of policy makers.

For the Holy See and women religious to have a healthy and trusting relationship, one would think they would have to have a conversation, the very thing lacking in this organizational takeover. It is an exercise of control based on power. Because the CDF can, it does, with no prior dialog. It is a misuse of power as well as a misuse of language. That it could have been anticipated, given the mindset of the Curia, does not justify it. If two people/groups are authentically trying to communicate, they each recognize their unique points of view, are willing to look objectively at the nature of the situation, and are willing to work through to a resolution. Since reality is the context and common denominator and arbiter of the conversation, communication demands its mutual, respectful exploration. On the other hand, power relationships avoid reality; it is the only way they can be maintained. There is no shared reference to reality, no requirement to explore it and therefore no need for evidence and reason. Hence the lack of appreciation of context and the arbitrary cherry-picking of "wrongs." There is only the use of language as a tool to either dominate or be dominated. All true conversation leads to the possibility of change, but if change is not an option, then true conversation will not exist. As Josef Pieper describes it in his book Abuse of Language Abuse of Power, Then we are faced, in short, with the threat that communication as such decays, that public discourse becomes detached from the notions of truth and reality. ... Instead of genuine communication, there will exist something for which domination is too benign a term. On one side there will be a sham authority, unsupported by any intellectual superiority, and on the other a state of dependency.Arbitrary exercises of power are not what will take the Church successfully into the third millennium.

Jim P writes: "I would think that, even if the Holy See and women religious have a healthy and trusting relationship, there still would be a tension in the relationship."Yes I would agree, Jim, and I would add, it has been ever thus. From the nuns of Notre Dame de Troyes, who rioted when their rights were not respected by Urban IV in the appropriation of property in the thirteenth century, to St Angela Merici, who resisted attempts to enclose her new community according to the model of contemplative orders, and right up to today...How often I would hear it in convent kitchens, that there was tension between the convent and the rectory. Each was an authority in their own realm, and there were tensions, even though there could be cooperation and cheerful mutual support too! Dire injustices happened at times, adding to tensions. Some of these sisters had their convents sold from under their noses with no consultation, when the real estate was needed for some other purpose. Some nuns were fired from jobs at the whim of pastors or bishops. Structurally, they were under the thumb of male clergy, unless they lived apart in monastic installations. In many situations of conflict, one's religious superior was the only thing that stood between her and the arbitrary exercise of authority by the clergy. The thing is built into the system. It can be helped, but it can't be cured except by a wholesale change in the system.

Bur it is systemic change that is being fought now - not merely "in tension."The broad issue is the battle between the voices of those looking forward progressively in a pastoral context and those looking back butressed canonically.( An important poece within this is the status of women.)Question: whatever happened tp Bishop Tobin who was to soften the Rode approach>But last week the estimable cardinal R. has sounded off again on 'true' religious life.I also Sr. Ann Carey has been touted as an (the?) expert on relogious women here though it seems 80% might not see that.The propaganda wars on this are reving and it's not just tension.Meanwhile religion writers and professors. remember to be "careful" if you don't hew the party line.(BTW, I saw on line today a very sad letter from a young Carholic leaving the Church, despite his love of liturgy and Eucharist, and explaining to his parents that despite his friends in the Church community, the powers that be are not preaching the good news of Jesus.)With the huge numbers of ex catholics, you'd think battles and fortress mentality would be reconsidered.

Jeanne - there is much I agree with in your comment of 4/23, 11:41 am. I would comment on a couple of things:You wrote, "On the other hand, power relationships avoid reality; it is the only way they can be maintained. There is no shared reference to reality, no requirement to explore it and therefore no need for evidence and reason. Hence the lack of appreciation of context and the arbitrary cherry-picking of wrongs. There is only the use of language as a tool to either dominate or be dominated."I am not entirely sure what you mean by "power relationships", but if reality is the basis for sound and fruitful communication, one of those realities surely is the reality of relationships of unequal power. They are unavoidable in any organization, and our lives are replete with them. Leaders cannot lead their organizations without having subordinates to execute their plans, and both the leaders and the subordinates need to figure out how to relate effectively in order to realize the leader's goals. On a personal level, I've had bosses with whom I've had wonderful relationships, where we could communicate openly, talk about the facts and evidence as they really are, and accomplish some very good things. (Needless to say, I've also had bosses where the relationship has been less than stellar). It is true, I believe, that in the absence of trust, the 'top dog' in the relationship is more likely to exert power nakedly if she perceives that it is the only way to realize her will. You wrote, "one would think they would have to have a conversation, the very thing lacking in this organizational takeover. It is an exercise of control based on power. Because the CDF can, it does, with no prior dialog."I would say that, in fairness, the possibility of dialogue has been there, although unavoidably it would be dialogue in an unequal-power relationship (think leader-subordinate). Once the visitation was launched, I don't think the Holy See was wrong to enlist an American woman religious to conduct the interviews and surveys. She seemed to hope for collaboration and cooperation. Those were opportunities for dialogue. That many women religious are reported to have returned the surveys uncompleted may have been a justifiable act of protest or defiance; but supposing the Holy See really was interested in constructive dialogue, how would those acts appear to them? Those acts were not conducive to a conversation.You wrote, "All true conversation leads to the possibility of change, but if change is not an option, then true conversation will not exist. "Perhaps that true conversation may yet take place, between Archbishop Sartain and the LCWR. But it may be worth noting that both parties need to be open to change. And in fact, change in the LCWR is precisely what the Holy See wants. That is the unequal-power reality of the relationship: the leader has determined that a subordinate organization needs to change. The parties need to try to find an effective and loving way of making that happen. I would add that this reality doesn't release the Holy See from its obligation to converse: to listen, and to be open to change on its part.

Studebaker: Taize is also an interfaith community but Rome approves of them...oh well. Double standards in the hierarchy fail to surprise me anymore. Jim Pauwels: While I understand and agree with your overall tone, I do know that at least one community under investigation simply sent in their Vatican-approved Constitutions in response to the survey questions, which they found to be intrusive and often irrelevant. I find it hard to imagine they were the only ones who took this approach. Second, the woman religious the CDF assigned, "Mother" Mary Millea (who is lock-step with Rode) represents a form and vision of religious life that is simply different from----and often opposed to----what the LCWR membership has determined that their lifestyle should be. They are canonically constituted communities approved bybthe Vatican; they are also mature adult women who have bothnthe right and responsibility to determine their own lifestyle. My understanding is that it was a group of women religious (likely from the CMSWR) meeting at Stonehill College who started the ball rolling and decided that these other Sisters "needed" to be investigated. Of course the Bishops responded positively, since these religious are seen to be on "the right side". The whole thing smacks of a big-time power-play; the fact that a woman religious conducted the investigation does not mean equality between the parties. Millea "represented" the bishops; right there the power was unequal. Additionally, both the initiation of the investigation AND the new actiona against LCWR were apparently total surprises to the communities/organization. If that is true, then we can be sure that the idea of real dialogue and consultation in a spirit of truly mutual respect was off the table. Call me a cynic, but I do not believe that dialogue is really what Sartain and his comrades are after here. They are looking to rein in women who scare them and who challenge their sexist, fortress/monarchy construal of the Church. The LCWR will either confirm or disband (since the canon lawyers have said that these seem to be the only alternatives). Either way, the powers-that-be win the battle. But the winner of the war----and it IS a war----is still TBD (thank God).

Bob Nunz, Jim Pauwels: my understanding that this action is not related to the the visitation of individual religious communities initiated by Cardinal Rode - the report from that visitation is still under study in Rome.This action is the result of of a separate "doctrinal assessment" of the LCWR initiated by the CDF, as it says in the document it published."Subsequently, in a letter dated February 18, 2009, the CDF confirmed its decision to undertake a doctrinal Assessment of the LCWR and named Most Rev. Leonard Blair, Bishop of Toledo, as the CDFs Delegate for the Assessment"As I understand it, Archbishop Sartain's charge is to re-orient the LCWR, Network and the Resource Center, not the individual religious communities which are members of those organizations. LCWR is a membership organization. Individual religious communities are free to decide whether they want to be members or not. if Archbshop Sartain's changes make it seem less valuable to individual communities, they may decide to drop out, cooperate in other ways and pay for their members to attend conferences organized by other groups.

This whole tactic from the Vatican reminds me of the way that the Roman emperors, in particular, Diocletian, went after the Christians: Go after the leadership.My cynical take on this latest action is this:The communities who leave the LCWR in protest will find out that the results of their "visitation" results (which up to know have not been revealed) will be made public and they will be subject to a major "reining in".

STudebaker --Bp. Molino himself mentions Taize' with approval. I assume he knows that it has members of different faiths, including Catholics. So his condemnation of the Madison monastery rings hollow.

The white hot heat of many of these comments is really growing! Unfortunately, white hot heat produces very little progress.It strikes me that the history of the Church is filled with tensions between the centrifugal force of Rome and various "reform" elements. This history constantly shows initial concern from Rome, often resulting in a "silencing." Yet over time, these true reforms win out: Catherine of Siena, Dominic, Ignatius, and most recently, the theological reforms of the Second Vatican Council, while the false ones tend to wither. What has changed seems to be we have a different mentality: instead of trusting the slow work of the Spirit, we seem more eager to win the "war" (as one commenter has so intemperately put it), by taking to the barricades and the presses to demand and recriminate. Sad to see the white hot rhetoric of our larger culture seeping in more and more.

"my understanding that this action is not related to the the visitation of individual religious communities initiated by Cardinal Rode the report from that visitation is still under study in Rome."Hi, John, I see you may be right. The CDF document does seem to indicate in a couple of places that this action is coordinated with the visitation, so I had the impression that it was all more or less the same process. (for which, btw, I wish there was a better word; in my world, the Visitation is a feast day on the liturgical calendar and one of the mysteries of the rosary).

One missing element in the discussion of complex relations is leadership, not to be confused with formal authority. Last year, then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates spoke on leadership, an intensely human art that has been studied and practiced for millennia. He spoke to new US officers, not about how to go to sea and win when tested, but about leadership as a strength of purpose and belief in a cause that reaches out to others, touches their hearts and makes them eager to follow. In thinking about its place in present discussions, notice that nothing he describes is peculiar to the military, although they take it very seriously because of their mission and lives at stake. He gives a short primer for anyone burdened with important responsibilities and authority in an important cause. Where can it be found this month? (Wash Post 5/30/11 p.A21) Excerpt and link to speech at

Much earlier in this blog stream it was suggested that the Vatican (pejoratively speaking) would object to any women conducting investigations of its hierarchs.I happen to know this is in fact the case:When I served on the SF review board, Cardinal Levada told me personally this was the case after he returned from consultations at the CDF with then Cardinal Ratzinger concerning changes the Vatican demanded in the draft of the so called "Dallas Charter" [which was adopted by US bishops in the spring of 2002 in response to the burgeoning scandal of sexual abuse and exploitation by priests and bishops].One of Ratzinger's objections was that the membership of most review boards comprised women. The Vatican did not want any behavior by priests, and especially bishops, to be "supervised" by lay men, and especially women. The CDF wanted to avoid any appearance that women had any kind of "authority" over priests and especially bishops.Our consultation to Levada was that if this objection to the participation of women on review boards were ever to become publicly known, it would be a humiliating public disaster for the church, undercutting any credibility of the relatively nascent review boards. I advised Levada that the public would never understand or accept the Vatican's objection to women's participation.The CDF apparently accepted this consultation and subsequently dropped their objections.

1. For anyone interested in signing a petition in support of the Sisters: John: I find it hard to believe that the investigation and the current crackdown are simply two unrelated events. Please note that, according to the information in the above petition link, Benedict-Ratzinger signed the madate for the crackdown 13 months ago---while the investigation was still in progress. I am simply too cynical to believe that they are unrelated. Here is another link that also indicates some auspcious timing: Jeff Landry: my allusion to "battle" and "war" is simply another way (and a commonly used expression) of describing the same phenomena you mention. A few others come to mind, like the posthumous condemnation of Thomas Aquinas, the censure and lifelong house arrest of Galileo, and (one of my favorites) the burning of St Joan of Arc at the stake for heresy and witchcraft. The slow work of the Spirit, indeed. What IS different today is that global communication is instantaneous, the credibility of the hierarchical church has been damaged beyond repair (so reform is the only remedy), and "laity" are smarter about their faith than ever. If you feel that it is a virtue to wait and see while people are harmed by the power-hungry pretending to act in God's name, good for you. I will do what I can. Will Father Church win this battle? Probably. But "he" will not win the war.

Jerr, I think the rhetoric in play her eis reasopnable anbd assertions of "white heat" are yput (slanted) concoction.

I'm so happy to have been led, through some of the rather alarming things said about it, to read Laurie Brink's address for myself. She said "My hope as a relatively new member of Religious Life is that whatever direction our various congregations chooseDeath with Dignity and Grace, Acquiescence, Sojourning or Reconciliationthat we go there with authenticity and integrity. And that we go there together. Such a task may move us toward the margins, but most assuredly it will deepen our holiness." After reading more about her biblical scholarship, her work in the Holy Land, and her address, I see nothing objectionable or derogatory toward Rosary-praying traditionalists or anyone else in what she was saying. I'm gratified to see women religious are taking such great care in regards to the future direction of their orders. I thank them for all their many years of service, and hope the younger ones in their order will be given strength to weather these storms. May God bless their efforts.

"If you feel that it is a virtue to wait and see while people are harmed by the power-hungry pretending to act in Gods name, good for you. I will do what I can."All I modestly tried to suggest is that in light of the fact that we belong to a church in which none of us are own masters (to paraphrase the quote provided in another comment section by Fr. Imbelli), then it might challenge us to stop, listen and trust that perhaps others see something differently, and maybe even in ways that might lead me to see something new. You are certainly correct to point out many of the changed circumstances in our own times; I fear I'm not as certain as you that such amounts to "progress," i.e. the instantanous global communication often leads to swift condemnations.

"Jerr, I think the rhetoric in play her eis reasopnable anbd assertions of white heat are yput (slanted) concoction"Huh?

Jeff: I didnt say it was "progress," but simply that it really changes the dynamic. The ones who need a bit of help regarding "being one's own master" are the hierarchy. And wouldn't it be nice if the bishops and other hierarchs looked at the same history we are discussing and said to themselves, "Maybe we could learn from this..." ?? There is just too much arrogance and way too much fear. If Inhad a chance to see Benedict, I would say it to his face, without flinching.

Janet:" There is just too much arrogance and way too much fear."What do you know about this people? What are your sources of information? Do you read any languages besides English? Do you know anybody in Rome? Do you read any sources outside the progressive-Catholic echo-chamber? Do you know any bishops personally? Anybody who has worked at the Vatican? Have you met Catholics from other countries? Your self-confidence in judging people's intentions and your self-righteousness in issuing moral condemnations is somewhat disturbing, to be perfectly honest.

Carlo --First you ask Janet a number of question to determine, no doubt, whether or not she is qualified to make the assertions she has made. Then, without any answers from her, you *assume* that you know her answers, and accuse her of judging others and self-righteousness.Hmmm.

Ann:I honestly don't see your point. What "answers" am I assuming, exactly? My comment refers strictly to what has been said in a lost list of posts that everybody can read in this very blog. I read carefully all she wrote, I compared it with my own experience and knowledge, and I was disturbed. Not about her personally (obviously I do not know her) but about the facility with which she judges the intentions of people she does not really know, and some of whom I know very well. Would you like me to compile for you a list of quotes by Janet about the bishops etc. on which I based my comment?

Carlo: I know quite a lot more than you might suspect or assume. Let's leave it at that.

Janet:Good for you. In my experience, people who know things are very prudent in formulating sweeping judgments about large categories of people and complex institutions.

Indeed. Maybe you should let some of your contacts in Rome know this truth. There are lots of sweeps coming from that corner lately :)

Thanks to John Hayes for pointing out that CDF's role is different from the final "visitation" rteport.Nevertheless, it's been put forward that CDF got involved as a result of Rode at Stonehill.Also, there is some communication I would think inside Rome on issues that some think vital.I think Tom roberts piece on this at NCT today underscires how vital the event is and how it's another (big) step in tearing the Church apart to please the trads.

Appleby says a lot of good things about American women religious, but comparatively little about the LCWR. And honestly, quite a bit of what he says could be qualified. For example, he starts by making three points:* Women religious have largely built the American church* They have been faithful* They have gone about their heroic deeds quietlyI agree wholeheartedly with the first point. But it could be noted that much/most of the church-building in America happened before Vatican II, and the women who did this building are, for the most part, living in retirement homes or nursing homes now, or are already in heaven. Some left their orders. It just seems to me that this action from the CDF doesn't seem to have much if anything to do with those many decades of good and holy work (work which, btw, both the CDF and Cardinal Levada in his statement take pains to acknowledge). It does have to do with today's situation, which seems quite different to me. Can it fairly be said that women religious of the last thirty or forty years have built the American church? I hope I may raise that question without denigrating women religious' wonderful contemporary ministries in any way. But many women's orders, at least numerically, have been in decline since the 1960s. They have all but disappeared from schools. I don't know of any parishes around here that have convents on the parish grounds anymore. As I say, their situation for the last couple of generations has been very different than it was previously. Again, to note this is not to criticize the sisters. The world has changed, and they have done their best - and in many cases, it has been very good indeed - to adapt to that changing world. But as a whole, women religious in the US are many fewer and a good deal older than when most of us were in elementary school. I don't know how much credit today's women religious are entitled to for the great works of their predecessors (I truly don't know; I'm raising the question. At the very least, I would argue that today we live in the Age of the Laity in the Catholic church, and a big chunk of the laity, particularly those who are somewhat older, do owe a great deal of their vibrant faith to the formation they received from religious sisters. So the ministry of those predecessors does live on, in a sense).Regarding the second point: I don't doubt that many/most American women religious are role models of fidelity. But the CDF document and directives have been issued because the LCWR, allegedly, has *not* been adequately faithful at all times. Perhaps Mollie is right that the document doesn't cite an overwhelming load of evidence to support that accusation. But, in my own personal opinion, there isn't much in that document that doesn't at least sound plausible. Regarding the third point: again, I agree with Appleby that most women religious have quietly accomplished amazing things, and they deserve more gratitude from the church. Yet some religious sisters have also been spectacularly public in their dissent (e.g. Perhaps such items don't fairly characterize the LCWR or women religious as a whole. But this action is coming from Rome, which is halfway around the planet. From that distance, day-to-day, quiet good works are not always visible, and media splashes build impressions. The report itself notes that an LCWR statement from 1977(!) hasn't yet been retracted.

Carlo --My point was that: you begin with questions which show that you are *wondering* whether or not Janet is qualified to speak about the issue. (If you *did* know what her qualifications were, there would be no need for you to ask the questions.) But immediately after wondering about her qualifications you change your tune and tell us that her opinions are *not* based on sufficient knowledge. In other words, you are accusing her of making judgments without sufficient evidence when you yourself don't seem to be qualified to judge her judgments. Here we call that "the pot calling the kettle black".

Jim P. --You say that the current nuns are not the ones who built the Church. I must beg to differ. If I"m not mistaken, the median age of the current nuns is about 70 years old. That means that many were born roughly around, say, 1940, and that means many, many of them are very much among those who built the Church as it burgeoned after WW II, though, as you note, many of that generation have died.

Jim ==Sorry, I misread you. You grant that those who are left are among those who built the Church but are mostly retired or in nursing homes. Are they? If i'm not mistaken most are still active and no doubt vote for their leaders/superiors. My main point is that the leaders of LCWR are voted on by these women, and those leaders to a great extent represent those who built the Church.

Ann - it's a fair point.

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