Saturday, May 22, 2010

Some Religious Sisters are Distancing Themselves from the Church (part 2)

Part 2 of this story involves the shocking break by some religious sisters from the teaching and leadership of the Bishops of the United States with regards to health care reform last month.

President Obama signed into legislation the Health Care Bill on March 23rd. In all of the last-minute back-room negotiations, including the unforgettable cave in by 9 "pro-life" democrats, a key to all of it was an 11th hour endorsement by Sister Carol Keehan, the leader of the CHA. The endorsement carried the signatures of numerous other leaders of Catholic Sisters from around the United States. In the wake of the endorsement it was often trumpeted that the signatures represented "60,000 Catholic Sisters" although that number has since been disputed heavily.

Regardless, Sister Keehan was one of 22 people invited by President Obama to the historic signing of the Bill, and she was given as a gift for her work on of the pens used to sign the Bill. Indeed, the support of Catholic Sisters was also trumpeted by Speaker Pelosi herself the night the bill passed the house as she rattled off a list of those to be thanked.

The problem with all of this is this is that the U.S. Bishops came out unanimously against the legislation. While the Bishops CONSTANTLY applauded the effort to insure every American, the Bishops said that the Bill in its form could not be supported. The bishops had two main concerns
1) The abortion language of the Bill
2) The fact that nothing was in the Bill to protect the consciences of Catholic health care workers and doctors (meaning nothing in the Bill protected the right of a Catholic doctor to NOT have to perform an abortion).

It is clear that every Catholic be reminded of a simple teaching of the Church: in each diocese the Bishop is the LONE INTERPRETER on decisions and issues involving faith and morals. I'll say it again - the LONE INTERPRETER. The actions of these sisters is thus unexplainable - you can't teach differently than your Bishop as a Catholic in the Church. If you want to endorse the Health Care Bill (certainly an issue which would fall under FAITH AND MORALS) then just do the honest thing and LEAVE the Church. Then you can endorse it all you want! But to stay in the Church, to claim to still be a religious sister in good standing with the Catholic Church, and to cause a GREAT deal of confusion among Catholics across the country, that, for me, evokes a passage from Matthew's Gospel which says that we should "beware of the false prophets who come in sheep's clothing..."

The argument made by many trying to rationalize or defend the decision of those religious sisters who signed the letter endorsing the bill was this - "The Bishops are old, out of touch, administrators who don't know the first thing about actual Christian charity or caring for the sick and vulnerable. The sisters, on the other hand, are on the front lines of the hospitals doing the work, seeing the sick, etc. It is their expertise that ought to be listened to here." What a dark, dark precedent that sets! The idea that the Holy Spirit would actually mislead the Bishops of this country, speaking in unison, is such an unfathomably dark proposition that it shutters me to think that some believe it. I also struggle to come up with a more anti-Catholic mindset than this one.

Let us pray for the religious sisters throughout our country (many were STRONGLY opposed to the Health Bill as it was signed) and let us pray for all those who are now thoroughly confused as to what exactly it means to be a Catholic today. Finally, let us pray for all of our Bishops who have the most unenviable task of trying to lead their flocks to Christ, even while some within the flock are pointing in the wrong direction.


  1. So... if you're in the process of discerning whether or not religious life is something you are being called to how can women find out if they're joining sisters who are not breaking away? How do you know? This doesn't instill a sense of safety if you're a woman considering and discerning at the moment... in fact, it's a right turn off.

    Is there a list of organizations of religious women's groups who have passed the visitations or who are on probation or who are not in alignment with the Vatican? I checked out the web site you referenced but didn't find detailed information.

  2. Oh ... one more thing... when writing in your blog post it would be helpful to provide links within the body of your writing.... it makes for an easier method of navigating through your blog allowing people to follow your thinking more clearly. I searched for a good half hour before actually finding the exact blog post you were referring to and it just kinda interrupted the thought process needed when reading through your posts.

    It's just helpful to put a link right in your blog posts as opposed to searching for the blog posts themselves you can simply high light the blog posts you're referencing.

    Often times if I make a reference to an old post I've done, especially if the blog post I'm references is a couple years old, I will link the old blog post with the new because there's just less confusion when that is done. It also makes for easier reading :)

    One more question... in light of your current observation, which is painting a pretty bad picture of women's religious group/organizations... would you encourage women to think about religious life? It kinda sorta makes me think that would be encouraging women towards joining a group of renegade women who are bitter because they can't be ordained in the church ... bitter and it shows me that while religious women take vows of obedience to whom are they vowing obedience to? Are they vowing obedience to a renegade religious organization or vowing obedience to the church and the Vatican?

    1. Absolutely I would encourage people to still consider a religious vocation, there are tons of great religious sisters out there. As far as a list, I can't really say. I think a good litmus test is whether or not they still wear the habit. There are lots of good sisters who don't wear it anymore, but typically, as a whole - if they aren't wearing habits they've started breaking from the Church. Also, I'd find a priest who you believe loves the Church and ask him for some good convents to visit in your area - and then I'd encourage to visit those convents and see. Do the do Raiki in their spare time, or do they pray - those kinds of things are worth checking out. You'll get the feel of a place pretty quickly