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The Decay of Progressivist Women Religious

Marian T. Horvat


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America,  November 23, 2009

In the picture above, a swarm of white-haired women descend on New Orleans, carrying placards and shouting slogans to preserve the Louisiana wetlands. They are winding around the riverfront to a prayer service at Woldeberg Park. The battalion – over 800 strong – is composed of women, most of them old, who are short-cropped and in casual pants and tennis shoes. One could almost say they are wearing a kind of uniform of the modern world.

These sisters are attending a meeting of their organization, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in New Orleans in August of 2009. The LCWR claims to gather more than 1,500 members representing 90% of the 59,000 women religious in the United States.

As one can read on the large banner they carry, they are religious women. Yes, spouses of Our Lord Jesus Christ who, for love of Him, supposedly abandon the world. However, the nuns in the photo reveal no recollection in their faces, no dignity in their bearing, no modesty in their clothing. Their strained smiles at times are obfuscated by bitter expressions of revolt. They appear as a flagrant contradiction between what they should be and what they actually are.

LCWR nuns 02

Clearly masculine bearings...

LCWR nuns 03

A few are still looking for a middle road...
Besides their lack of dignity, we note a clear feminist tendency in their dress and demeanor. Almost all wear pants, and some have assumed such masculine attitudes that it can be difficult to distinguish whether they are men or women (for example, see the two sisters in the center of the photo at right).

A nun in a full habit expresses her rejection of the fashions of the world to follow Our Lord. Nonetheless, unlike these modern sisters, she does not lose her femininity. In a certain way, it is enhanced, because her way of being typifies what is most noble in women – purity, goodness, warmth, generosity, refinement and self-sacrifice. This nobility of spirit does not shine in the women we are seeing.

In the next picture at right, we find the bulk of the sisters sitting on the ground, listening to talks about the importance of rebuilding Lousiana’s wetlands. A few sisters who still wear partial habits stand. I have pity for these women, who try to find a middle road between the Vatican II spirit and the hallowed path of Tradition.

Don’t they understand that there is no via media? Their very presence at the demonstration, standing in solidarity alongside their companions, is already an acquiescence to the program of radical feminism and global ecology. As one can see, ecology has been added to the leftist agenda of these progressivist nuns.

To complete the profile of a Vatican II nun, we would have to include sympathy for Liberation Theology, leftist social work and a Buddhist-style spirituality.

What is the future of the LCWR? Some are claiming that the current Vatican investigation into women religious in the United States is an attempt to either do away with it or stifle its spirit. I don’t believe either will be a result of the investigation. In a recent interview with National Catholic Reporter, apostolic visitator Mother Mary Clare Millea emphasized the visitations are non-confrontational and conducted in the spirit of openness and dialogue. She noted with satisfaction that, after some initial distrust and misunderstandings were overcome, there was an almost 100% response to Phase One, the questionnaire.

The LCWR is doomed to die, I believe, not by a Vatican decree but, rather, by a natural death. Look at the age of its members. The LCWR says it does not track information on the median age of its member communities and pretends not to be concerned about such numbers. But it is clear to anyone with eyes in the head that its members are aging and dying.

A new tendency sprouts

In 1992, in protest against the subversive agenda of the LCWR, some religious superiors broke off and founded The Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR). Its sisters – whose median age is 35 and whose numbers are growing – wear an identifiable habit and live in convents.

CMSWR nuns

'Conservative' nuns at a CMSWR conference in September 2009
The CMSWR was canonically approved in 1995, thus making the U.S. the only country in the world with two recognized organizations for women religious.

I don’t think that this conservative tendency is leading to an authentic return to Tradition. By the fruits collected so far, it appears to be just following the ‘reform of the reform’ pathway – with no outright rejection of the errors of Vatican II, just a more conservative way to present them.

The only conclusion I can reach here is that the main message of Vatican II - religious life should adapt to the world to attract people, especially young people - was a failure. It is attracting no one. The youth interested in religious life are attracted to Tradition - or its sham “conservative” counterpart. Those who followed the Council, like the nuns pictured in the first part of this article, are outdated, dying of old age and ridiculed by those who still have a bit of Catholic sense.

Posted February 26, 2010


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