Friday, December 17, 2010


Pictures are worth a thousand words

Real TV's "Vortex" can find the host being rather shrill and angry. He seems to find his energy in anger, so I 'm reluctant even to link him to my blog. But if you can get through the anger and resentment of the presentation, I think you will actually discover the bottom line that has true validity. It is the "clericalism" of some female religious orders.

Clericalism when it is applied to the clergy, refers to the the abuse of or the promotion of a privileged lifestyle with no accountability to those who are served, meaning the laity. What no lay person could get away with at home or on the job, the clergy in some of the most egregious acts they commit are given a pass and seem to think they deserve it, have a right to it.

For the most part, clergy have acknowledged this dark tradition in the priesthood and have been striving to overcome it, although it will always be with us to a certain extent.

What this video that I link shows is that within a minority of very liberal religious orders, most of which are on the verge of collapse anyway, there is a mentality of being above everyone else and not accountable to anyone, whether the laity or the hierarchy of the Church.

The most manipulative aspect of this feminine clericalism is the claim that "their anger and hurt" is not appreciated or acknowledged.

No one and certainly not I, begrudge or berate the religious orders of the past that opened schools and staffed them, opened hospitals and staff them, promoted vocations not only to their religious orders but in a very profound and special way to the priesthood. But that style of religious order in those who have undergone what is called a "post Vatican II" reorientation is long gone. Some of the more notoriously liberal religious orders of today are a mere shadow of their former self and the glorious days of being the backbone of the Church and more influential on generations of laity than any pope, bishop or priest ever was.

Today hospitals are being closed, schools are being closed and those that are open are too expensive for those who need them the most. There should be some righteous anger over this and prayer that new religious orders can recover what was lost and that there will be a new springtime of renewal for those orders that have the potential for it.



Paul M. Young said...

He said what the rest of us thought. God save us from the forces of evil within the Church!

Anonymous said...

wow... it was cathartic - in a sad, sad, way - to watch this & hear someone publicly express what 30+ years of liberation theology, radical feminism & a 'I'm OK, You're OK' Me generation has done to the state of the Catholic Church in America (and beyond). The shame of it is that the host does not also lay it out there about male clericalism as well as this is really the root of the issue. When men fail to lead, women fail to follow, creating their own paths of power. So, ultimately, I believe that it is the failure of men - Brothers, Priests, Bishops & beyond - that has led to much of what we are seeing in many female religious orders. It is very sad & grieves me that most images of Sisterhood in my generation are of pantsuits & blazers with lapels. But is that any more disturbing than Priests in jeans & turtlenecks or greetings of 'peace from Pete' at Mass instead of 'Christ's peace from Fr Peter'? When men lead, women will follow. If we truly believe this is the design of the Church, then it is time for our men - our brothers & husbands, our Priests & our Bishops, to lead us to Christ. It will be when this happens that we will see both female religious orders & the laity move in the direction of Jesus. _pgal

A. N. Historian said...

Mr. "Real"Catholic is a heretic, a Feeneyite, and therefore is dangerous to the Faith. He wrongly translates "Extra ecclesiam nulla salus" as "Outside the Catholic Church there is no salvation." (This is but ONE of his errors.) The slavishly accruate translation is "Outside the Church there is no salvation." For a proper understanding of "Extra ecclesiam" see "Dominus Iesus."

Religious orders of men and women have bee founded, thrived, declined, and ceased to exist through the last 1500+ years. Only a very few - Franciscans, Benedictines, Jesuits, Doninicans and a handful of others, have lasted more than 300 years. The idea that an oder, once founded, lasts forever, is unhistorical.

The reasons for their decline and disappearance are as varied as the apostolates of the orders themselves.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

A N Historian, I appreciate your insights and certainly you are correct about religious orders coming and going. We are in that cycle now with many of the orders. What puzzles me and many others who indeed appreciate what these religious orders have accomplished and I was taught by two of the largest, is that they almost have a death wish in terms of the path they chose that was so alien to the very spirit of their "community" and the teachings of the church and they thought themselves to be on the cutting edge of renewal rather than on the abyss of extinction. That's the sad part in the most recent phenomenon of this cycle you so aptly describe.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if there is not a great danger in wandering so close to God? There is a great battle raging about Him and we are very, very weak creatures. The Litany of Humility is on the wall next to my desk at work, God knows I need it. I have to travel into the Gospels through Wisdom and Ezekiel, and back out through the Acts and Revelations.

My sins of arrogance are so great I can only feel pity for the sisters and horror at the legacy they leave. There, but for the grace God, go I.


Anonymous said...

Are there any nuns on this blog? What do they think of this? I would be embarrased if I was them.

Thank God for the ones who have stayed true to their rules and are still a witness to discipline and poverty.

I think the comparison of nuns to terrorists is extreme. I think the ones in habit carrying rulers was pretty terrorist like too.

Gene said...

Ah, I think we have another manifestation of Our Dude of the Blog....A.N. Hysterian...I mean Historian, I agree that Voris is often over the top, but I understand his anger. Regarding the disappearance of orders, etc., I believe we are looking at a different phenomenon from the varied causes for decline of which you speak. Whatever internal conflicts, external persecutions, and what have you that may have caused dweclines in the past isn't the issue. The issue is that we live in a world, and a particular culture, that is more secular than ever before. The persecution of the Church in today's world, although not accompanied (yet) by physical violence, torture, and wholesale slaughter, faces a far motre subtle, dangerous, and pervasive enemy...the entire cultural/social milieu within which it lives and moves. The press, the media, marketing, Hollywood, and the laws of the various lands are at least indifferent and often actively hositile toward the Church..especially the Catholic Church. I do not see how anyone with any perception at all can doubt this.

Now, you in your various guises, seem to be of the attitude of "go with the flow" the Church must adapt. My concern and the concerns of many others on this Blog, as well as Mr. Voris, is that the Church is adapting to her own destruction. That is why we feel that an insistence on returning to some of the old ways and a renewed emphasis upon Catholic identity is crucial.

Nuns running around in street clothes, advocating contrarian causes, and generally p-----g against the wall are obnoxious, pitiful, and an embarrassment. So are your "hip" priests who sport tweeds and turtlenecks, act like the boy next door, engage in coquettish repartee with the women of the parish, and play Bob Fosse choreography with the Mass. Either your ilk just doesn't care that much about Catholic identity, or you are too damned angry and depressed to worry about any of it at all.

I was in Divinity School PhD program with your hip nuns and priests. Nuns coming to class in Jones of NY outfits, Aigner purses and shoes, wearing hundred dollar print scarves on their heads and carrying their dog eared copy of "Fear of Flying" under their arm. Yeah, right. I was there, Baby...I saw it all. Those were the ones who knew how to dress. The rest were too pitiful for words...frumpy looking skirts and sweaters and a ten pound wooden cross around their necks carved by some Woodstock refugee who is "getting back to the earth." Most of the Priests I met in grad school were pushing COCU, gay rights, and playing footsie with the coeds. Give me a break! If that is the Catholic Church you want, don't bring it around here.

A. N. Historian said...

Nuns in Street Clothes - Street Clothes are what habits were.

Anyone with any passing knowledge of history knows that NOW is not substantially worse than THEN. The Church has, since Day One, lived amidst a "secular" society. Try reading the Acts of the Apostles.

The Church is not called to be successful, but faithful. Adaptation is the one constant that has been present in the Church from, again, Day One. St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, Dorothy Day, John Courtney Murray, Yves Congar, etc etc etc all adapted.

I want the Catholic Church God wants. Not the Calvinist, manichean Church pinanv525 wants.

Gene said...

Ignotus, There is adaptation, and there is co-option and incorporation. The Church has adapted Her message and witness to various times and places. Her structures have remained fairly constant. I believe the structures themselves are threatened now.

I would argue that times are worse now than then. At some point, historical change that is merely quantitave and incidental becomes qualitative and fundamental. I think we have reached that point vis a vis the Church and society.

I agree that the Church's primary calling is not to be successful, rather to remain faithful. But, we are called to bear witness regarding the Church's enemies and detractors. So, we may become a "tiny remnant." However, remaining faithful may just include how we say the Mass, how we view vocations, and how we present ourselves as a Church to the culture. Plus, might not God grant a faithful Church a measure of "success" with regard to the fruits of her faithfulness. (see Pentecost)
There is a very good book that provides a framework for all this upheaval. You may have already read it, but it is one that lay people can also enjoy without a theological background: H. Richard Niebuhr, "Christ and Culture." It has been around a long time. Niebuhr is a neo-Prot, but his book is good.
Fr. Whoever you are, I doubt either of us will get exactly the Church we want, but your's seems a bit Pelagian and Lutheran. You do me an Calvinism is rapidly being subsumed by Augustine. The Bishop of Hippo is as close as a Catholic can get to Calvin. (LOL)

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

While it might be true that the habit of old was the street clothes of the women of the day, that is not entirely true. For many religious orders of women, it was the common clothes of mourning. But for women religious, the common clothes were uniform--women didn't wear different styles of what women wore on the street. There was uniformity and thus a "uniform" that then became known as a habit. Mother Teresa's habit is the sari of India, but all the nuns wear the same style and in the same way, they don't pick and choose from the various styles that are available in the Indian culture. So if American orders of women claim that the habit is the regular clothes of women today, then it should be uniform and modest. Somehow, the business suit of women on Wall Street falls short, maybe the uniform of an air line attendant, nurse, waitress would be best, but stylized and common and distinguishable from order to order.

Anonymous said...

OK - I am a woman sounding in here:

I do not want to see a butch woman with a crew cut in a pant suit & the only thing separating her from the many lesbians I know being the lapel pin on her blazer as the image of Sisterhood that draws me to Jesus!

As a woman in TODAY'S world, I am looking for FIERCE femininity - Nuns & Sisters who are PROUD to walk down the street & declare to the world that they ARE different & are living IN the world, not OF the world.

We live near a fast growing order of Dominican Sisters who are a clear presence in our Diocese; these are RADICAL women for Jesus, from their training & gifts to their clearly distinguishable HABIT, which is radical as well. There is no mistaking these Sisters for who they are & that DOES matter!

Dress of the day? NO WAY! I do not want Nuns or Sisters to look like Brittany Spears or Martha Stewart or professional business women.The laity can do that 24/7 & does.

What I DO want, as a radical Catholic lay woman living in a world that has compromised itself regarding just about everything that really matters, are Priests & Nuns who are PROUD to be different in who they are, how they live & YES - in how they dress as well!

So to "AN Historian" I would say, with all due respect - BULLCRAP!


Gene said...

pgal, Can you adopt me? LOL! You are so right on the money!

A year or so ago, Fr. had two Dominican Sisters come to St. Jo's for Lentem PREP. I can't remember her name, but the smaller of the two spoke for a long time. I sat there with chill bumps as she talked with passion and quiet eloquence about the love of Christ and how this love created the world, its creatures, man and woman, and how it fills the Church and ourselves through its "irrepressible, self-over-flowing desire to re-create God's love in everything." This was no schmaltsy "ya' gotta' have love" nonsense. It was hard core Augustinian theology that rolled off of her tongue with an ease that I couldn't mimic after 8 years of college and grad school in theology and philosophy and years of speaking about it. Her joy in Christ was so refreshing and contagious. I thought about the things she said for weeks...still do.

The loss of the nuns is one of the greatest and most disappointing losses of the Church since Vat II. That is largely why catechesis has suffered and vocations have suffered.

Anonymous said...

Whoa! Who left the window open? That's a breath of fresh air.

Then please support that order and let others know where it is so they can support it, too.


SqueekerLamb said...

I also heard that Nun speak last year, it was Advent, not Lent, I think. She was speaking about the Incarnation.
She had me in tears of joy and awe.

There is a grace that can only happen when one puts one's self aside and allows God to use you. Couple that with day structured around prayer and furhter with a consecration, and that is what you get!

If only we could be half as holy as her...

Sr Elizabeth said...

I am a Daughter of Charity, as many on this blog know. I have posted about my choice to wear a veil and about my community before. I have a lot to say about the state of religious life today, and maybe should start my own blog about it. One thing I would point out is: the small numbers of woman interested and entering religious life is found predominantely in English speaking countries and some more progresive European countries like France and Germany for example. Communities in Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe continue to thrive and are bursting at the seams.
In the United States, my community has seen a decline as most others, but we have not had an empty novitiate.
The habit I wear is with in the prescribed norms for this country...other countries wear something more native. No matter what we wear there are some common practises for all Daughters. With or without my veil my life is centered on my community and mission to serve Jesus in the poor where ever I am sent. Our charism is very solid and clear. Our life together is very simple, so that our attention can be on the mission of service to those living in poverty. While our habit may not be radical, our life style is radical in comparison to others.
I don't think the woman in my community have issues with their femininity...I don't think people who know us would say we have issues with the church or want to be priests, etc. While some sister might feel that way...she would keep it to herself.
We have more important issues in front of us and will speak out against injustice to the vulnerable.
I wish there was a clearer answer. I am happy for the communities that are experiencing the life new vocations bring. I can only live the life I am called to in fidelity and hope. I thank God I have been called to a community that has stayed faithful to its founder's spirit and that the community continues to grow all over the world.
An older sister in my community, reflecting on the lack of vocations said that certain age groups in certain countries will have to die out before relgious life will flourish is all part of the cycle of life.
Coming late to this converstaion, i can not respond to all the issues stated here. I am willing to respond to anything specific if anyone is interested...and would be interested to hear from other religious sisters, brothers or priests following this blog.

Anonymous said...

Sr Elizabeth, Your faith and works have been well placed. Criticism of religious orders or persons is a delicate issue because, of course, it paints with too broad a brush. Speaking only for myself my concerns with the condition of all religious persons is that it appears they are suffering in a lack of faith. For example, 'speaking out against injustice' can, and often does, make the divide permanent essentially excommunicating the powerful and disenfranchising the economically poor from owning their fate.

This creates an atmosphere of mutual isolation that prevents both 'sides' from accepting the conditions of their own salvation. The powerful can be taught to use their power well and for good. The poor can learn the value of what they have to give. Both can learn to eschew resentment and self pity.

Finally, my question for all of us is why would anyone need to be Catholic, much less part of a religious order, if the execution of the faith is indiscernible from a political activist?


ghp95134 said...

Sr. Elizabeth,

I am pleased to read that you wear your Habit with veil. Even the most minimalist Habit (with veil) is a good sign. What distresses me are the religious who wear "street clothes" -- which show no discernable sign of their profession.

How am I to recognize a sister if she is in civvie clothes? Granted, even in civvies she is probably very dedicated and religious -- but .... where is the uniform? How can I tell that she is a Sister? And why would I want to know? Because I will show kindness more readily to a Habited sister than to a "social worker." (Please explain this to the sisters who chose to look like social workers... but perhaps they wouldn't care what I think.)

Uniforms are very important because they provide IMMEDIATE identification! How do I identify a police officer if he is undercover? How do I identify a priest if he is not wearing a cassock or clericals? I don't want to hunt around and ask, "Are you a [cop, priest, sister]? I was in the military for 20 years; but I don't think that fact has prejudiced my thinking (??); were we to go into combat wearing street clothes we would have fought just as well ... but uniforms give us means of BEING IDENTIFIED, as well as identifying various groups, and ... esprit, and pride in our uniform & mission, etc.

If I see two sisters -- one in civvy clothes, the other in Habit -- I identify more with the Habited sister and am more inclined to favor her over the other for charity, donations, etc. I'd rather deal with a sister than a "social worker."

Case in point: a few years back two Habited sisters were in front of me in a chocolate shop (Mrs. See's). I arranged with the salesperson to charge me for their purchases. I would definitely NOT have done that if they were in civvy clothes. The Sisters were very surprised and thankful ... and I was happy to help them, knowing they are of limited means.

Kind Regards,
--Guy Power

Gene said...

Our dress is an outer reflection of an inner condition. If I wear jeans and sloppy clothes to Mass when I have suits in the closet, that says something about my level of devotion and reverence for things Holy. If a woman wears seductive and revealing clothes to Mass, that says something about her motives and priorities (or, if she is a teen, it says something about the parents' understanding and judgement). If a soldier, sailor, Marine, or airman is "out of uniform" in public, it says something about his image of himself and the country he represents...clothes don't "make the man (woman)," they reveal him.

Nuns out of habit are sending a message, about themselves, the Church, and their attitude vis a vis the culture and society. Once again, I do not take nuns in street clothes nuns. They may be highly devout, dedicated, and all that, but so are many lay persons.

SqueekerLamb said...

I'm chiming in today being away from home on vacation.
Got to attend mass this am out of state. I walked in to see an elderly nun kneeling in prayer before mass. She was wearing a traditional black/white habit with veil. It made me smile! It was like a little present from God to see her there. (Which is my reaction whenever I see a Sister.)I thought at the moment, if she wasn't wearing a habit (with veil) how would I have known???
When religious wear a habit that is discernable as such to others, they are readily representing the Church, and not themselves.
Same is true for ALL uniforms.

This reminds me of a book I read before starting my business. It's titled the E-Myth. One point is that the owner and all employees should wear a uniform to identify themselves to customers and to don the identity of the business, not wear the identity of self.
My business is successful and I have always resisted the urgings of my employees to slack up on the uniform requirement.

When I was a child, the first time I learned of sisters going into street clothes i didn't like it. As a child I intuitively knew something was wrong.
The Sisters that look like laity argue that it allows them to get closer to the people they serve.
I have observed that they actually get diluted by those that they serve, instead of being a guiding lamp for those they serve.
They indeed may be very devout and religious, but they descending into serving themselves mostly, not the Church.
This is a worlwide phenomenon.
Just see what's happening in Australia. They got their first Saint on Oct 17, St. Mary MacKillop. But now the Josephites are in street clothes, dwindling in numbers, and have strayed from the charism of the foundress. there was a lot of online discussion about this in the weeks surrounding the canonization. As an aside, it seems that Australia has slipped down into be too much like a "little USA down under".
Nowadays, in the USA, it takes a degree of courage for a Sister to look like a Sister.
So, kudos to Sr. Elizabeth!

If I get to attend mass tomorrow am again, and if I see her there, I hope I get a chance to say Thank You to her for keeping her habit..didn't get a chance to this am..drats.