Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Nuns - are they a force for good or....?

The nuns always laid on a welcoming
ceremony when the Bishop paid a visit
An American ex Nun has published a report stating that she believes that Vatican officials (and, presumably the Holy Father) are afraid of them, nuns, that is.

Too damn right they are! A US nun of the liberated feminist variety is enough to scare Attila the Hun.
The ex sister in question, Mary Johnson, claims that it is the lack of nunnish clothing ie a wimple and habit that makes the Cardinals jittery. It has become a sign that the woman in question is modern, liberal and not afraid to question authority.

I would have thought that all of those attributes would be classified in the 'bad' file.
Don't nuns take vows of poverty, obedience and chastity?

And humility must come under the poverty tag just as keeping oneself pure and free of rebellious thoughts and actions must come under chastity.

As for obedience - that went out of the window years ago.

H/T to Luke Coppen of The Catholic Herald for flagging this one up and also to Bloomberg who ran the story.

Here is an extract from Mary Johnson's article, my comments are in red.

Nuns in Street Clothing Shouldn’t Frighten Vatican: Mary Johnson

Almost 400 religious institutions throughout the U.S. were studied as part of this “apostolic visitation,” and a final, confidential report on the nuns’ activities was submitted to the Vatican in December.
Why investigate nuns? (Why? Because they were/are running riot in total disobedience to the Faith and a cause of great scandal) Because, Vatican officials said, they were concerned for the sisters’ welfare. But as a former nun -- I left the convent in 1997 after 20 years as a sister in New York, Rome, Washington and Winnipeg, Canada -- I know what the church leaders won’t publicly admit: American nuns frighten them.
I should qualify that remark: Not all U.S. nuns scare the Vatican. The Catholic hierarchy dotes on those who wear long habits with hanging rosaries, unquestioningly obedient nuns (Isn't that what nuns are supposed to be?) who staff Catholic institutions for less than it costs to employ laypeople. (This is not an employment opportunity, it's a vocation!)  But these conservative sisters, who are represented by the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, make up less than a tenth of the approximately 50,000 nuns in the U.S. The majority align themselves with the more liberal Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

Second Vatican Council

In 1965, when the Second Vatican Council issued a decree calling all nuns to renewal, most American sisters embarked on a demanding, often painful process of discernment and revitalization. (What? by discernment does she mean learning to apply make-up? And by revitalization, well what does she mean?) They tried on normal clothes, branched into new ministries (like what?) and abandoned traditions that kept members childishly (I was educated by nuns of the ultra traditional variety, Dominicans and others and childish is not a word I would have used about them) dependent on superiors.
Some sisters felt that renewal went too far; others thought it didn’t go far enough. The number of American nuns has shrunk by almost 75 percent since 1965 (Is there a message in that statistic?)  But those who remain have learned to listen to their consciences, (nice one, Sister, nothing like a bit of diminishment by appearing virtuous) make decisions collectively and, more audaciously, speak their minds -- even if it means opposing the Vatican.
To Rome, these liberal nuns are voices of dangerous dissent: (at last, a statement that one can agree with) Cardinal Franc Rode, who initiated the new investigation of American sisters, stated on Vatican radio two years ago that U.S. nuns display a suspect “secular mentality” and “feminist spirit.”
In 1976, at age 19, I joined Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, a traditional community of nuns. Liberal American sisters in polyester didn’t appeal to me; Mother Teresa’s mission to the poorest did. I didn’t realize the community would observe every Vatican decree as though it came directly from God. (Well, they do come direct from God - or have I missed something?)
I was told that the highest use of my intellect was its unquestioning surrender in obedience; my superiors would always tell me what God asked of me. Eventually, I came to see that the Missionaries of Charity’s anti-intellectualism (oooh!) and rigid separation from the world stunted our work and each sister’s development. Modern nuns’ encouragement of individuals’ gifts and responsibilities no longer seemed like egocentric selfishness -- it seemed like oxygen. (More like carbon monoxide)
Sometimes I think that if I had joined one of those modern communities, I might still be a nun. (What a stinger to end on, you've got to hand it to Sr Mary, she certainly knows how to damn with faint praise).


I did not particularly like the nuns of my childhood, most of them were harsh and severe. Conservative, even.
But they were all amazing examples of humility, obedience and, I am sure, chastity.
They reflected God's love, albeit in a somewhat direct manner. I do not view them through rose tinted glasses, they did have faults but, by and large, they were a good bunch.

They may have been obedient to Rome but there was nothing subservient about them; they challenged the Diocesan education authorities as a matter of course. They had to fight hard for every bit of kit and technology and every resource that was available.

They did not kow tow to the Archbishop or Cardinal of the time; I once witnessed the Headteacher nun giving Cardinal Heenan a real ear bashing for not featuring the school in one of Westminster's televised ceremonies.
He left the school a very chastened man but not before Sister Catherine had knelt to kiss the ring on his finger.

That's what I call a real nun.


  1. Interesting that the writer equates traditionalist with anti-intellectual. If I thought I had a vocation to an intellectual life as a religious, I wouldn't join an order devoted to serving the poor such as the Missionaries of Charity. The usual modernist problem of equating deep thought with doing what you like.

  2. My headmistress was a nun whose cold stare of disapproval could kill a stoat at 100 paces, let alone a priest or bishop. Fathers of the girls were putty in her presence. You didn't mess with her. She wore the full kit with giant Rosary hanging from her belt. She never raised her voice. She didn't have to. In her school she was the boss and everyone knew it. It was a great lesson in empowerment for her young charges.
    One of the first acts of a modernist bishop was to close down the school, along with two other convents in the town.

  3. We need so much a new Saint Theresa of Avila now!!!

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