Saturday, May 05, 2012

"I don't have to think - with the Church - I'm Catholic."

The Kathleen Turner line, "I don't have to think, I'm Catholic" from the new go-straight-to-DVD film, The Perfect Family, may work better the way I wrote it: "I don't have to think with the Church, I'm Catholic" - better add "nun" to that as well.  Especially as it concerns more radical Catholic women religious like Sister Brigid McDonald, CSJ - one of the famous McDonald sisters shown above in that circle, back in the habit days.

The Four Sisters For Peace have been at it for years, some might say agitating for peace and justice, while others applaud them more as fearless activists for social change - both in and out of the Church.  I suppose they must be considered 'feminist nuns', especially now in view of one of the sisters criticism of 'Vatican intervention' in the LCWR.  Secular press reports the move as a political intervention, nevertheless it is clearly first and foremost a pastoral as well as doctrinal correction/intervention.  Regardless, the Holy See is well within its authority to step in - and perhaps long overdue.  Brigid McDonald doesn't like that, and says as much:
MinnPost: What are you hearing in your community about the decision?
Sister Brigid McDonald: Well, some are shocked that he would go that far, you know, to start using his power. To me, it is a misuse of power, a misuse of authority where he can step into religious communities and dictate how they should speak about these issues.
MP: When you say “he,” you are talking about Benedict?
SBM: Yes. I still call him Ratzinger. That fits him better. But that is just a personal bias.
I think they are overstepping their jurisdiction to expect that nuns are going to think as they tell us to think. To me those issues are not spiritual issues; many of them are political issues and some, of course, are social justice issues. I think that our personal spiritual life, it is another matter and that is our private belief.
I can't even begin to imagine what he could say or do that would change religious women's beliefs. I don't know how he plans to change that. That is of concern. That could be scary — what will he do to change our beliefs. You know, that scares me. - "Abuse of Power" - MinnPost

One of Sr. McDonald's real fears for herself and other religious may best be expressed in this statement:
"They want us back in the habits and being obedient. You don't belong out here with social workers." - Brigid McDonald 

One has to remember there is a long history there - not just with the McDonalds, or the Sisters of St. Joseph, or the other sisters who had been in the forefront of the Civil Rights battles of the 1960's.  These women religious did good back then, they labored in good faith, for that they are deserving of respect.  They marched for peace and justice, although some never stopped marching:  Out of the classrooms, out of the habit, and now some might say, out of the Church.

Locally at least, and probably nationally, the bishops might have intervened early on and prevented this.  However, the bishops gave them a long leash and often supported and praised their activism - even as it led to the disintegration of communal religious life.  Therefore, humanly speaking, one may at least understand the sisters anger over what they perceive as threats to their mission in the Church.  We must be honest however, and recognize some of their activities have gone against Church teaching, and therefore warrant correction. 

Correction can be painful.  Pray for these women not to lose faith.


  1. Terry,

    They were given a long leash for decades and yes now they are angry over this reaction but don't you think many of them lost Catholic faith long ago? I agree that they did much good in the 60s but more often than not the faith they hold is for the most part not the Catholic faith.

  2. Fr. Richard8:53 PM


    Sadly I agree many of them have already lost the Faith, if by Faith you mean the faith contained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The sadest thing of all is the truth from Jesus by their fruits you will know them- whatever good they may have done in the 60's for racial equality and helping some of the downcast- is now long gone- they are simply put old rebels who still act as if it is the late 60's or early 70's- as a pastor who had a crazy last assignment in which I was in "team ministry" with two liberal sisters- my tolerence for their lack of Catholic vision is zero- I pray that they repent before they leave this world but in the meantime it is way past time for Pope Benedict and the bishops to mark the line in the sand and surpress, yes I said surpress, the disobedient communities- with off course the option for any sisters who want to still live religious life as the Church envisions it based on the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience to the Magisterium a way to join another community or to re-form their own community under a new superior.

    1. Servus and Fr. Richard, I'm afraid many of them probably have abandoned the Faith of the Catechism and have been misled by new theology. . Doubtless they have been severely secularized. I've been praying for them.

      That BTW is pretty remarkable for me to say - since I have very bad memories of the CSJ's in my life - and I have only arrived where I am at today through continuous prayers of forgiveness for those in my past, and prayers for these women today. I ask God's grace and will to be done to their good. Charity hopes all things. We can only acquire charity through prayer and acts of good will, and it is a difficult road.

      Forgive me for acting as if I'm there already, I am not.

  3. Fr. Richard10:21 PM


    The Lord is working in your life in a good way-we can only pray the rebellous sisters open their hearts to the same grace- through this opportunity the Pope as the Vicar of Christ is giving them to re-evaluate what many of them have been doing over the last few decades- which is at odds with the Apostolic faith.

    1. Thanks Fr. - I hope they can see the Holy Father's sincere love and respect for them individually and as a religious body, and his desire that they be renewed and sanctified in their vocation. I'm always amazed that people think Pope Benedict XVI is uncaring or unloving or harsh.

  4. Fr. Richard10:51 PM

    Pope Benedict is probably the most loving man in the modern world in the sense of true love from the Lord- but you can only see that if you are willing to get out of the spiritual fog that envelops the same modern world, including many in the Church, he called it the dictatorship of relativism, which really in the end is self-will; I'm going to do it MY WAY baby- to quote an old song. Too many religious have bought into this mentality- not even realizing how far they have strayed from the narrow path of holy obedience to the Lord and His Church that speaks in His name. Again I say pray the chaplet of Divine Mercy for the Lord's help for us all to be docile to the Holy Spirit and transformed by Him in holiness.

  5. My emotions...are far too complitcated for me, even after all this time, to be able to pray for the religious sisters who taught me in Catholic boarding school and later, college, in the 60's, 70's....Only now, today, at my age, (59) can I see, head on, what Could Have been...just a Little self-lessness on their part...just a Little care...what woe Coulda, Woulda, maybe...been prevented, for me and my classmates. I do acknowledge a tie to them, and understanding of the culture at that time...but Such Very Basic teachings were just...not there. No One from my school Ever goes back, contacts any of them. 'nuff said.

  6. As I look at so many websites (of nuns and sisters), I occasionally look at the non-habited/social justice leaning ones - I don't write about them, but I look at them. I don't see anything horribly evil about not wearing a habit (I think it's counter-productive, but I'm not a Sister), and social justice, I'm for it. Who would be against it?

    But they are just as stuck as can be in another era. No one of my women friends talk about feminism - what?? Why would you talk about that? We're all deserving of the same care and respect as male humans beings - I never give it a thought. And things that might fall (very loosely) under feminism - domestic abuse or such - that is another subject entirely. No one (well, maybe really sick individuals) believes men should have a legal right to beat up their wives. Preposterous! Abortion rights is not a feminist issue, either.

    To be treated equally under the law, to be respected (as I earn respect), to be paid according to my abilities - if there are feminist issues, these are some of them.

    I never hear the word - I read it (sometimes on your blog).

    One actually interesting thing about some of these orders is their success in Africa (and other places), where many times you will see pictures of habited sisters - I don't know what they think about their international sisters. It is their only future, as far I can tell.


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