this explains a lot about the decline of many orders of sisters religious, they are no longer catholic
Again, waiting for my bowl of coffee to kick in, I did a little browsing on the website of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). They have posted information about their annual assemblies, including the texts of the presidential addresses and keynote speeches.
I read through several of the keynote speeches, and I noticed a couple of themes (that's what we Old Lit Teachers do--look for themes). Here's just a few in no particular order:
1. "Mission": all of the addresses I read (four of them) exhort the sisters to mission. But never the mission of the Church that we would recognize as evangelization, that is, the preaching and teaching of the gospel that Christ gave to the apostles. The mission the sisters are exhorted to take up is always, always some form of left-liberal social engineering disguised as caring for Earth or insuring access to adequate health for women.
2). Insularity: despite the exhortations to "mission," all of the addresses I read include broad descriptions of the history of women religious as a way of "situating" the experience of these women within their own "mission," in other words, they spend a lot of page space on talking to one another about one another's grand innovations after the VC2 and how these innovations are radically different from anything that's come before. There's quite a bit of self-congratulation here, along with laundry lists of excuses why their missions have failed to produce global results. The villian in their failures, by the way, is always the hierarchy. Big surprise.
3). "Prophetic": as a corollary to their mission and insularity, the addresses harp on how "prophetic" women religious are in these innovations. As far as I can tell, "prophetic" means whatever they want it to mean. It clearly does not mean what the Church means by the term. If the examples used are typical, "prophetic" means something like "doing what we please and then accusing the Church of being too traditional, oppressive, and isolated from the world for not following our lead." Beware self-anointed prophets!
4). "We missed out": probably the most interesting theme is what I will call the We Missed Out theme. This theme arises in several discussions of the scientific and technological revolutions of the 20th century. Apparently, this theme is meant to demonstrate the superiority of a modernist worldview over and against a wholly Christian worldview. But what arises is a kind of lament that these women have somehow missed out on the revolutions and long to stir one of their own so as to feel somehow prophetic. I've found a similar theme in recent court opinions allowing same-sex "marriage"--judges too young to have participated in the heady days of near absolute judicial power during the civil rights era of the 60's invent a place for themselves in legal history by making what laws they can from the bench. We want to shine. . .but a light we ourselves generate.
5). Futility: without exception the addresses I read painted depressing portraits of women religious as a tiny rebel band fighting the Sheriff of Rome. As part of the insularity painted by these addresses is a tragic sense of loss and the futility of their "mission" in the face of overwhelming authoritarian oppression by men. Apparently, we are to believe that women religious in the U.S. are guerrilla-fighters engaged in a war of attrition against the Church. Unfortunately for them, the attrition is all on their side. Rhetorically, these portraits serve an important purpose: by painting themselves as righteous rebels fighting a losing battle agaist the Man, the sisters are able to both continue their rebellion and justify their material failures all the while claiming moral victory. Neat, uh?
6). Jesus ain't the Way: also without exception the addresses forthrightly deny Jesus' own claim that he is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. As a way of undermining the Church's legitimate mission of evangelization, Jesus becomes just another good guy with a really cool message of pacificism, egalitarian communal life, and a feminist concern for eco-politics. In one address, delivered by Joan Chittister, the arrival of mosques in historically Christian lands is celebrated as a great advance for liberty and the pursuit of religious diversity. She argues that worrying about the decline in numbers of women religious is a "capitalist question" and holds that the the decimation of covents and monasteries after VC2 is a good sign for the Church! Apparently, the complete loss of a discernible Christian identity among some women religious is to be celebrated as a movement of the Holy Spirit and a great advance in human-spiritual evolution.
7). Monotonality: the addresses are uniformly written and delivered by women religious who tell the gathered sisters only what they wanted to hear. There were no addresses that seriously challenged any of the preconceived notions held dear by these women. Without exception. the meme's of "We Are the Future and Our Agenda is of God" is heard in terms of ecclesial revolution and theological dissent. Not one address challenged the sisters to rethink their assumptions along orthodox lines. Not one address asserted a theme, idea, theology, or political notion that would upset or stir the secular feminist pot these women are stewing in. Despite the constant harping on the need for a variety of voices to be heard in the Church and the desperate need for new ideas among God's people, these addresses repeated in predictable loops one stale feminist cliche after another. Ironically, the obstinate refusal to listen to different voices is routinely described as a failing characteristic of the male-dominated Church hierarchy!
8). New Stories: as a result of the We Missed Out theme, the addresses pull on recent developments in cosmology to construct "new stories" about creation, space-time, human evolution, and the role of consciousness in our pursuit of holiness. Of course, none of these new stories read like anything found in scripture, tradition, science, or Church teaching. In fact, the purpose of the new stories is to lay a narrative foundation for a particularly gnostic-feminist view of the human person that "frees" us from the confines of patriarchal thinking by re-situating the human race as just another evolved species living and dying in a vast cosmos. Routinely, the addresses privilege "new cosmologies" over and against our biblical narratives of creation and the end of space-time, and undermine God's Self-revelation in scripture. Rhetorically, the new cosmologies give the sisters a means of defying our Judeo-Christian tradition with the authority of modernist science. Unfortunately, their grasp of the scientific details of cosmology is woefully inadequate, leaving them to play with a pathetic parody of actual cosmological theories.
Let me point out here that the LCWR is a leadership conference. By no means am I attributing these themes or attitudes to all women religious in the congregations that participate in the LCWR. I know sisters in LCWR congregations who fret about the feminist turn of their communities and lament the loss of their Christian identity to trendy New Age gnosticism. Younger women religious aren't buying this anti-Church junk food, choosing instead to nourish themselves on the vast variety of legit Catholic traditions well within the generous range of orthodoxy. My fisking here is directed at the addresses themselves and what they tell us about what the LCWR is hearing and/or wants to hear. As anyone who's a member of a large organization knows: leadership is often way, way out in front of those they lead. . .sometimes too far out. I think this is certainly the case with the LCWR.
I could go on. . .but it's time for another bowl of coffee!