Tuesday, November 3, 2009

What Do We Have Here?

As just reported on the National Catholic Reporter, the bishops of California have come out in support of the LCWR.
California bishops offer support to U.S. women religious
Tom Fox, National Catholic Reporter, 11/03/09
The California bishops voted last week to pass a statement of support on behalf of U.S. women religious who are facing a Vatican investigation.

Word of the support came in a letter dated Nov. 2 written by Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony

In the letter addressed “Dear Sisters” the cardinal writes:
“We are all aware of the special anxieties which surround our women religious these days,” wrote Mahony, “and I am writing to offer you my prayers of gratitude and my support for all of your members. The bishops of California met last week and passed a statement of support for all of you, and I am pleased to send a copy of that statement to you.”

He praises “the historical presence” of women religious in California beginning back in the 1800s. “I can honestly state that there would not exist our Catholic schools, hospitals, and social service outreach apostolates without you.”

The cardinal goes on to write that women religious in Los Angeles “opened the first hospital, established the first schools, and provided the first social services to those most in need.” He added that our “church’s history of outreach after the example of Jesus Christ and the Gospels would not exist today without your initiatives and creativity.” (It's not just the historical outreach which wouldn't exist, it's also the current outreach.)

He ended his letter reassuring women religious “of my continuing prayers and support.”


Is this a sign that some bishops actually do understand the American church is more than it's Republican wing? Hmmm. I wonder if this makes Cardinal Mahony a 'self-described' Catholic, or is it just a nice attempt to defuse some anxiety until the proverbial hits the oscillator. I certainly hope and pray it's the real deal because this would definitely send a message to some American Cardinals and one Archbishop in Rome, and since it's coming under Mahony's name, I wouldn't be surprised if it wasn't indeed a message.
Mother Angelica is most assuredly not going to be pleased that her least favorite Cardinal has approved this one.


  1. Is this guy ready to wash feet? Sure looks like it!

    Amen to Foot-Washing Cardinals!

  2. That's wild. I was going to use of photo of Cardinal Mahony washing the feet of parishoners--of both sexes. Now I think I should have. Unfortunately it wasn't a very good photo, and the one I used is fairly striking.

  3. It's about time the sisters got some positive recognition. I am sick of hearing the self-appointed guardians of Catholic orthodoxy bad-mouth sisters who don't fit their pre-Vatican II ideal of what a sister is supposed to be.

  4. khughes1963:

    For whatever reason, when I do my hospital "Communion Ministry" - many people assume I'm a nun. I wear no habit of course. I certainly seek to bear the Presence within me and to allow that to flow to all those I meet. So there must be "something" that people see or feel, which has led to this assumption. (Full disclosure: many of my patients have also thought I was a former nun... so it's not just in one place that this misunderstanding has occurred.)

    But I write about this as a means of underscoring that there is no special dress which bears God's Presence or witnesses to God's Love. That the nuns who are currently under investigation have succeeded in creating a sense among the laity that they are there to serve and witness through their lives (and not through a "habit") is obviously so manifest to God's people. Particularly God's people "in need" - recipients of God's "Servant Love".

    There must be others who've had a similar experience to mine. It demonstrates, without a doubt, that the orders who serve in a hidden way (looking like anyone!) are powerfully appreciated and understood by the laity. This is in contrast to those whose "dress" (I'm thinking of Cardinals and the Pope) distances them from people, creates exclusionary boundaries, is so outside what Jesus demanded of his servants.

    We need to find ways to demonstrate how powerfully these Sisters embody the Gospel. So much so, that their numbers are assumed to be larger - because many of us are assumed to be Sisters too!

  5. Some of the lowerarchy are eminently (pun intended) practical. They realize that without the work of sisters and other women, their little boyz club would fall flat on it's ass. Without the overwhelming attendance of women at the average parish's masses, there would be no problem of a priest shortage as very few would be needed.

    Jim McCrea

  6. TheraP-agreed, your spirit reflects the love of God within, and your attire does not need to show any special status. As an example of attire that distances the hierarchy and the laity, it's hard to beat the example Cardinal Franc Rodé gave when he was in his full cappa magna attire. I am irritated with the assumptions made among conservative Catholics (admittedly from comments at NCR and on some blogs) that there is something wrong with the majority of American sisters or that they are breaking the church's rules or that if the hierarchy would just bring them under Vatican control somehow vocations would sprout like mushrooms after the rain. The conflicts between religious and the hierarchy are admittedly not new, as there are accounts of conflicts between founders of religious orders and American bishops. As an example of this, I am thinking of Mother Mary Frances Clarke, the foundress of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and her conflicts with the local bishop. Nowadays, it takes the form of attacks on modernity and feminism. The sisters' lives show that you can serve God and be an example of what you can achieve in academics and the sciences.

  7. khughs1963:

    Think of John of the Cross who was put in prison! Many mystics were called heretics. Jesus is a prime example of someone maligned for not hewing to the party line.

    Yes, the "cardinal" in all his mating season finery!

  8. Really appreciate your comments TheraP and KHughes. What kills me is why it is so hard for conservatives to factor in the demographic changes. The upswing in vocations in the fifties and sixties were products of the post war baby boom. Those numbers will never be reproduced, habits or no habits, cloister or no cloister.

    The real issue is why so many priests and religious left, and that can be placed directly at the feet of an aging Paul VI and Pope John Paul the Great.