I’m sure that, by now, everyone has heard the arguments about the investigation of the Leadership Conference of Women’s Religious (LCWR) by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). Nationwide protests have occurred to “support the nuns.” And countless straw-man arguments have been made against the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. I’ve been reading and watching these things all over the interwebz… for instance, this video (as hosted on Crescat) where a very patient and awesome priest calmly debates with a rather erratic and emotional protester, or this recent post about an NPR interview.
Now, I’ll be quite honest. I’m not 100% sure why the CDF is investigating the LCWR. I am 95% sure that the investigation has been going on for some time (as per information I heard from I-don’t-remember-where-maybe-Fr.-Ted-in-that-Crescat-video but definitely someone who Knew Stuff). And I am 100% sure that, if the sisters are actually walking the straight-and-narrow, they have nothing to fear from the CDF. At all. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t any justification for governmental invasions of privacy or whatever–simply that the job of the CDF is to make sure that every organization who claims to be Catholic is actually true to the Truth. If they smell something funny or get reports of something illicit or immoral, they will investigate. Simple as that.
However, in this debate, there is a lot of vagueness, misunderstanding and, quite frankly, point-missing. My goal here is to add a little substance to the straw-man arguments and make them into flesh-and-blood people, if possible.
To begin: not all sisters are part of the LCWR. Father Ted in the above video says so himself. Having only had contact with Sisters of Saint Joseph, I can’t speak much on personal experience. Nevertheless, the LCWR does not represent “all the nuns.” (I won’t get into the difference between nuns and sisters, or how many “sisters” disparage “nuns” because “all they do is sit around and pray.” That’s a rant for another time.)
Something which constantly and inevitably comes up in these discussions is something to the effect of this: “But look at what the hierarchy did with all those pedophile priests back in the 60s through the 80s!” or whatever time period they so choose. I will never, ever justify the actions of these priests or the bishops who covered them up. Nor will I simply “explain it away” by blaming the culture of the time. Those men did horrible things. Nonetheless, the Church is a hospital for sinners, rather than a museum for saints. AND–let me just say this–pulling out the horrifically-abused “pedophile priest” argument in the midst of a conversation about whether or not the LCWR is actually in union with the teachings of the Church is an absolute non sequitur. It’s like discussing how Germany is saving Greece’s sorry butt economically and then having someone interject, “But the Nazis killed so many people in the Holocaust!” True? Yes. Horrible? Yes. Pertinent? No.
Another note: “the nuns” in the LCWR aren’t the only ones in the world feeding the poor. They’re not the only ones within the Catholic Church feeding the poor. Some of them don’t even feed the poor and instead work at fancy private pseudo-Catholic high schools teaching watered-down theology. Having seen my fair share of sisters who are rather “rah-rah” for “women’s leadership” (another rant for another time), I’d be inclined to say that sisters (more often nuns, who live in community) who keep a more humble profile and don’t feel the need to be in a “Leadership Conference” would be out and about doing charity work.
Basically, do your research. If you’re going to get upset about something, know what’s going on. Remember that the LCWR represents a portion of the female religious, not all of them. And please, keep your personal beefs and pet peeves with the Church within their relevant arguments. Galileo, pedophile priests, the Spanish Inquisition, and the Crusades all have their rightful places. For instance, discussions and debates about religious groups adhering to the Faith or about the validity of the Sacrament of Baptism under strange circumstances (I’m from Rochester, ’nuff said) are not those places.