This is going to be quick. I’m reading a book compiled and edited by Donna Steichen (she of Ungody Rage fame) titled Prodigal Daughters: Catholic Women Come Home to the Church. Briefly: “In this memorable book, seventeen women of the Baby Boom generation tell their poignant personal stories of apostasy and repentance.” I’m only into the second story so far but man, everyone needs to read this book, especially women and those whose friends or family have difficulties with or have left the Church.
A passage struck me from this second story. Most of it is lifted straight from journal entries which the woman wrote while she was going through her gradual process of returning. It made me think about what’s going on with the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) right now, what with the bishops saying, “Hold up! We noticed you’re not just going off the rails, but have in fact been off the rails for quite some time now. Usually we wouldn’t say anything but we’ve cut waaaaaay back on the Kool-Aid so we’re concerned about this and are actually going to do something.”
Now apparently there are a lot of people out there who have a very wrong notion about what the bishops are objecting to and what they’re trying to fix. These people are evidently laboring under the impression that the bishops do not like that the nuns are right here on the front lines helping the poor, the sick, the addicted, and the imprisoned, or speaking out about human rights violations, or teaching kids in schools, or running food banks and soup kitchens; basically doing works of mercy and living out the social teachings of the Church. This is both false and foolish, but it makes a great stick with which to batter the bishops.
What the bishops are actually concerned about is exactly along the lines of what Juli Loesch Wiley, at the time an affiliate of Pax and the Erie Sisters of St. Benedict who, although a liberal in every other way, is a pro-life activist despite strong opposition, expresses in this journal entry:
Monday, August 8, 1983
In Erie, “peace” means Benedictines. “Feed the poor” means Benedictines, too. Srs. Augusta Hamel and Lynn Weissert power the food bank: fork lifts, refrigerated warehouses, tons of buns; Sr. Agnes is the food bank’s generalissimo; Pax started the soup kitchen nine years ago, and Mary Miller, who runs it now, so lovingly, and with so much respect for the sad, sodden, pocked, flawed, sour-smelling, appealing, scheming people who come there – Mary is becoming a Benedictine. The Mount has no lack of novices. The Erie O.S.B.s attract those who love those whom Jesus loved most.
So, peace and the poor. Sound priorities. And pro-life? Lord, these nuns are so overworked I don’t expect them to do anything for pro-life, really. A nod, a few rhetorical crumbs. They’d be amazed how little it would take. Just the widow’s mite – if their hearts were in it.
If they would just refrain from siding with the enemy.
What good is it to feed and clothe and shelter the whole world if you lose your soul… and help other people lose theirs?