Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Some Strong Words From Sr Joan Chittister, Plus Cardinal Levada On....Product Identity?

According to Cardinal Levada, Sr Joan is one of those LCWR types which is not on board with his version of  CDF 'product identity'.

I came across this interview with Sr Joan Chittister on Huffington Post in an article written by Paul Brandeis Raushenbush. Mr Raushenbush has been mentored by Sr Joan and also worked and studied with other LCWR members at Union Theological Seminary. His view of the LCWR/CDF clash  is uniquely informative since his is a protestant perspective.  Sr Joan pulls no punches, but then when  a person reaches a certain age in life, it's kind of pointless to beat around the bush.

On the CDF side of things, Cardinal Levada gave a rather aggressive and none to flattering assessment to NCR's John Allen after Tuesday's meeting at the Vatican with LCWR leaders Sr Janet Mock and Sr Pat Farrell.  There was something about 'dialogue of the deaf', Bernie Law not being involved at all, irritation that Fr Charles Curran had been a speaker and the Barbara Marx Hubbard was to be this year, and this observational gem: ""Too many people crossing the LCWR screen, who are supposedly representing the Catholic church, aren't representing the church with any reasonable sense of product identity," Levada said. Hmm product identity?  He also more or less stated the LCWR could easily be replaced by some other Vatican appointed umbrella organization and that should the LCWR incorporate under secular law the Vatican would have nothing to do with them.  All in all his assessment was not a particularly believable presentation of the Vatican's willingness to dialogue. Unless dialogue means we tell you what your product identity is and they you go sell it.  Anyway here's Sr Joan.

So what is this all about Sister Joan?
"Well it is a hostile take over, there's no doubt about that. They're 'cleaning up the church' -- everything but themselves." (touche')

One of the speculations is that the crackdown has its roots in the nun's support for President Obama's health care bill.
I don't know about that for sure, but it seems like it may have been a turning point. It [the nun's position] was a model of thinking Catholic, thinking through this thing and coming up with another approach. There are other ways to impact the issue you care about.
Part of it, whether they know it or not, is a strong demonstration of the whole male/female aspect of every question. Sit down and shut up. Daddy knows best. We will tell you what to think, we will tell you what to do -- what would a woman know? (Really, what would a woman know about the female reproductive system if men didn't tell us?)

How are the Sisters are holding up?
There is prayer and fasting going on for the sake of the LCWA officers. We want to give them all the support we can. The sisters are mightily concerned, but they know there is no substance to these accusations. For instance, to talk about radical feminism when you don't have a clue as to what it is -- it is very embarrassing. Because the people who do know what it is sit back and say What?. It's bizarre.

There is a serious power play going on. It seems like they could take over.
Yes. Theoretically they can do it. If you were ranking the departments of the Curia, the CDF would be the ultimate department -- from which there is no official appeal.
No doubt that it is serious, but it's also putting people in a corner that nobody should. And not these people [in CDF]. And the lay people know that. If there is integrity left in this church it is in the people who are ministry on the streets.

Which are the nuns.
Yes. (Not just the nuns, there are good priests, good brothers, and whole lot of good laity.)

Say this plays out -- do you ever think about leaving the church?
I don't seek to do that, I'm a Catholic, born and bred, I have learned that the tradition and the institution have often been at odds in the history of the Catholic Church.
The church has always converted slowly. The last time their sins were pointed out it took them 400 years to say that Martin Luther was right and that they shouldn't have been selling relics and that maybe people could read the scriptures in their own language and read the word of Jesus themselves.
It was the same thing. 'We tell you what to think about scriptures, because you will destroy the sacred word. You won't understand it. You'll destroy it.' We got through that. God willing we will get through this.
My fear is not the people who organize to leave the church, it is the amount of disillusionment and depression that is out there because of the church itself.
Everybody talks about how the Pope wants a smaller, purer church. Well, they talked about that in the 16th century. And they got it -- they lost half of Europe. Now they are losing Ireland, Austria, the American church is teetering. You have people who love their faith but cannot support these acts by the institution.

What happened to Vatican II?
Good question, somebody hijacked it when we weren't looking. Maybe this is the moment that we all decide what happened to Vatican II. Clearly there is an element of the institution that wants Vatican II destroyed, eliminated. That's because it makes the whole church, the church. For the very first time in history, Vatican II made being laity a vocation, and the laity have taken that seriously. So they are standing up in the streets to say what the church needs to study and make a decision

It's tricky, I'm a Protestant writing about this because I feel so strongly about supporting my mentors, but many will criticize me because I am not Catholic.
We are all Christians in this together, what happens to this church does affect you as a Christian. It will affect the way others see Christians around the world. We are not in this alone The laity are being very clear about that, not just because they have loved Sisters or see the work they are doing, because they know that this is damaging the church.
The whole notion that you would suppress thought and call that Catholic, call that Christian, call that a witness to adult ministry in an adult world is impossible to compute. Write this as a Christian. Don't absent yourself here, I need you.

Well, a lot of us are concerned and not sure what to do when someone holds all the trump cards.
Oh, there is no doubt about it; people may be destroyed here. And there may be people who want them destroyed. They either want thinking adults in the church who bring their own experience of the Holy Spirit to every question -- with great respect for the institution, ironically, or they don't. (It's kind of obvious they don't want independent thinking adults of any sort-lay, religious, or clerical.)

I assume you saw the critique on Sister Margaret Fawley's book?
Oh, I can't tell you what that did to me. But that woman is so bright, and so precise. Her responses are superb; she said: "I never said I was producing Catholic doctrine. I'm a theologian, thinking through these issues. "
When you want to make all your thinkers parrots, puppets, don't talk to me about your respect for the Holy Spirit.


I think it would be worth watching if Sr Joan Chittister debated Cardinal Levada.  Neither one pulls any punches or shirks in their defense of their own positions. We'd need a good moderator though, someone who could keep the debate fair and entertaining.  Maybe Stephen Colbert, ...well, maybe not.  Anyway, doesn't look like there is going to be much dialogue unless Archbishop Sartain goes a little rogue and a little outside the product identity plan of Cardinal Levada and the prayers and fasting of the LCWR shakes up a whole lot of spirit.  In the meantime, the CDF may rue the day the riled up the American laity, because Sr Joan is quite right about this, there is a lot of "disillusionment and depression that is out there because of the church itself".


  1. More "us vs. them"?

    Gotta love that 1960s peace and love!

    1. I guess you love that 1560's imperial command and control.

    2. Sensus Fidelium vs. sensus hierarchium

    3. How about united striving for comprehension?

      Or, are Catholics of an older generation more enthused by dialogue as conflict?

  2. Ya got that right Colleen and Sister Joan.... "there is a lot of "disillusionment and depression that is out there because of the church itself".

    The "product" of the institution via Cardinal Levada is wreaking havoc in just about every area of our lives. The lack of thinking creates the politics that is seeping into the culture like a disease and depressing to the psyche and to political & economic systems throughout the world. The institution breeds ignorance by tyranny and it all does truly trickle down to the least. The institutional Church leadership breeds hopelessness and deadens the life of the Church.

    I would add also the word dismay perhaps to the affect the current Church leadership has on all its members and in every Christian denomination.

    "When you want to make all your thinkers parrots, puppets, don't talk to me about your respect for the Holy Spirit." Amen, Sister Joan !!


    1. I'm still trying to comprehend why the LCWR has to take the approach and emphasis of the USCCB on abortion, birth control, and gay marriage. I guess it's not just teaching that counts anymore it's how you prioritize your time and effort around those teachings. Abortion and gay marriage are now our signature teachings for our product identity. Where does Jesus teach this in the Gospels as his prime teachings?

      Maybe the LCWR just doesn't want to practice fetal idolatry or civil discrimination. That must make them radical feminists.

  3. I suppose any female that has a different point of view, perspective, religious experience, awareness & compassion than the narrow focused USCCB CEO bosses on any of their current self-proclaimed identity products, that such women would be considered a counter-product and labeled, rejected & banned radical feminists.

    The USCCB from their board room only gives orders from their King/Pope. It does not conceive of a bigger picture. There is only their picture. Idolatry of their own products.

    The label is to the USCCB affixed to such women and I suppose it is a name-calling by the USCCB and is supposed to be an attack and put women back in their place in a subordinate position as mere clerks to their highnesses, even if she is a genius and more thoughtful and compassionate and Christ-centered than the label manufacturers and catholic identity canning distributors of such products going to the market/public square.

    A USCCB definition of "radical feminist" is one in which every women must agree with them, toe the narrow-minded line, or else it all equals insubordination.


  4. Brand loyalty is a marketing technique to peddle things that people don't really need to those who cannot afford them to begin with.

    So much for the One True Church.

  5. Product identity is the correct term. The Pope and bishops, in consultation with the most expensive consultants from the corporate world, look to have made a bottom line decision to re-brand the Catholic church.

    To avoid having to accept optional priestly celibacy, the hierarchy has rejected the idea of church as a national culture that embraces multitudes with widely varying faith and commitment. What we are seeing is a conscious decision to prune 80 or 90% of Catholics in first-world countries.

    The expectation is that they will end up with a small, fervently committed core that will contribute assets, children, and political foot soldiers. The end result, a sect more like the Hasidim than the Catholic Church of the last 40 or 50 years.

    In imitation of the Hasidim or Amish, I suspect that distinctive daily clothing for orthodox Catholics is not far off. Lay women may end up looking pretty much like members of the LCWR orders, and the men as ill-fitted imitators of "Mad Men".

    I suspect that the Bishops have done their homework and that this new church will take in more money than the old over a generation or so. If they're wrong, real estate in urban America is on the upswing right now. Long term, it's a pretty sure disaster. Just like in the corporate world.


  6. Product Identity: how reassuring! If you can't have vision or integrity, by all means, get some product identity. You can't make this stuff up!

  7. Talking of product identity:


    ## What this means in practice is that Irish clergy ought to be allowed to carry on molesting minors. The State must not be informed. To say othewise, is to persecute the Irish Church.

    The moral, which follows in strict logic, even if it is not drawn: Jesus is entirely in favour of the molestation of minors, and will be disappointed if the State cuts off the supply of young Catholics for clergy to molest. For if He is not, then the State has every right to end the immunity of the confessional. That immunity was necessary once - but now it is being used as a means of escaping punishment for great crimes. There is no moral defence of this, becaause it is in no way Christian to use the Sacraments to escape punishment. It is is an abuse, and to protect or defend an abuse is itself immoral.

  8. Rat there is a way out of this and that is that absolution will not be given unless the perpetrator 'confesses' to the police. Otherwise they will be reported by the confessor after a given period of time. I doubt this will ever be implemented and the clergy will fight tooth and nail for their legal exemption. I agree completely that it is in no way right to use the Sacraments to avoid criminal prosecution. The Church has made a fortune off of the Mafia and Drug Cartels doing exactly this kind of thing. It basically says secular punishment is a far second to 'supernatural' forgiveness.

    My mother,who was pretty traditional, refused to accept the Mafia death bed confession or the 'purchase' salvation plan. It really really angered her, just as it should have. She asked me what I thought about this once, and I said nobody asked God if He agreed. She laughed and laughed.

  9. A penance for absolution should always require the priest to report his conduct to the police. If this is not done no penance and the confessor is ethically obligated to protect children just as is any other professional. dennis

  10. If this is not done then the absolution is void. In the event that the priest does not report himself to the police, and the confessor does not report it, then just as in every other profession, the priest looses his facility to practice his trade when he is discovered. Any Bishop that ever again enables these actions by hiding them is automatically removed and losses his ability to function as clergy. This is the only way, or the sacrament of confession continues to be a dysfunctional event enabling some of the worst misbehavior initiated by men against children. This is not the Way of Christ or what He had in mind about confession and forgiveness.

  11. Product identity indeed. Used to be I could not conceive of a priest wanting to reduce the Faith to a brand name, or even a brand name vs. generic name. But they market prescription medicine these days so I guess it couldn't be too far a stretch to start marketing matters of Faith. And then there is is:


    From my perspective in computer support, this is won't work well in the long run. The Internet is meant to be dynamic and organic. Impose a static, centrally controlled authoritative model and you quickly become irrelevant. Every time you try to dominate from the top down, the data users go elsewhere for their info - because you've set up too many hoops for them to jump through to obtain/disseminate the data they want.

    But hey, it's only a $1M or so, and that's pocket change, right?

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