Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

Media and nuns colluding in deception, says expert: Vatican’s reform no David and Goliath battle

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
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ROME, April 25, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Despite few in the western world having seen any in the last four decades, the image of the nun as the sweet, selfless and courageous “bride of Christ” is remarkably enduring. And according to U.S. Catholic author, researcher and expert on Catholic religious life in the U.S. Donna Steichen, this “classic” and noble image is now being used knowingly by the LCWR sisters and their supporters as a means of generating public sympathy in their fight with the Vatican.

Last week the media and the “progressive” end of the Catholic Church reacted with outrage to the announcement by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) is to be reformed after a doctrinal investigation found that their focus had turned more towards radical feminist politics than their Catholic religious foundations.

The picture being manufactured by sympathetic media, including the Washington Post, Huffington Post, and Independent, closely following the lead of the National Catholic Reporter and America, the two main organs of the extreme Catholic left in the U.S., is that of an epic struggle between a tyrannical, overbearing, “out of touch,” Vatican, and a group of plucky, underdog sisters, fighting a guerilla battle for intellectual and moral liberty: a theme one Catholic blogging wag has described as an endless recap of the plot to Star Wars.

That this shopworn theme is a deliberate falsehood, Steichen says, is what Catholics should first understand when reading either the secular mainstream coverage of the affair or the sisters’ own comments.

“This spin,” she said, “is omnipresent, always interesting, and often unintentionally comic. But however maliciously intended, I think it contains an element of nostalgia. It proves the irresistible attraction of goodness. Not even the liberal mainstream media can fail to see its beauty.”

Dressed in a flowing habit and devoting her life to educating children and building hospitals, or gliding serenely down spotless convent hallways and singing Gregorian chant in Latin: the classic image of the nun is less stereotype than it is archetype, a cultural icon of everything good and holy and true, and it is as much beloved by media as it is by Catholics.

Steichen told LSN that the only trouble with this picture is that the “good sisters” made in the image of this archetype are mostly an artifact of U.S. history and are now nearly extinct. LCWR represents about 80 percent of the 57,000 religious sisters in the U.S., with an average age of 74 and climbing. With the exception of a handful of young, deliberately faithful, countercultural, and largely recently-founded communities, the LCWR nuns and sisters have abandoned not only the habit that symbolized their devotion, but the faith that defined it, she said.

Donna Steichen spent 10 years researching feminism in the Catholic Church, and particularly in the Catholic religious life since the close of the Second Vatican Council in 1965. The result was what many consider the definitive book on the political and philosophical origins of the collapse of the U.S. religious life, entitled Ungodly rage: The Hidden Face of Catholic Feminisim,” published by Ignatius Press in 1991.

The religious core of Catholic sisterhoods was replaced decades ago, she told LSN, by an extreme left political ideology manifested in a feminism that has grown increasingly radical and bizarre, and in recent years, infused with New Age and occult practices that have nothing to do with Catholicism.

Starting in the 1960s and ‘70s the sisters leaped on the bandwagon of the broader social and sexual revolution, attending workshops in the Human Potential Movement and “alternative” spirituality, taking classes in Marxist theory, abandoning their customs as well as the habit, and taking up the mantras of the Esalen Institute and, most significantly, of academic feminism.

Even worse, the sisters then took these ideologies and practices and started feeding them through the conduits of their educational institutions to infect the mainstream of Catholic Church in the U.S. The result, Steichen said, has been “the suffering of innocent people, in injustice, lost faith, and collapsed institutions.”

The Vatican’s attempt at reform is 40 years overdue, but unlikely to rescue either LCWR or the communities it represents from impending extinction, she said. The good news is what sounds like bad news: “It is evident to all observers that the feminist contingent of women religious is indeed dying out, what with that mean age of 74.”

But just what is so bad about feminism? One lady commenting on last week’s LSN story about the Vatican’s doctrinal assessment accused Cardinal Levada of outright lies: “HOW could a nun be an extreme liberal feminist? It doesn’t seem likely.”

“The misunderstanding arises from failure to define the term ‘feminism,’” Steichen said. “Feminists themselves avoid clearly defining it, so the general public accepts the rosy impression cultivated by advocates in media and academia; that the term simply means recognition that women are full and equal members of the human race who can do anything men can do.”

But this is a bit of public relations sleight of hand, she said. “Feminism is an ideology, and it is designed to destroy the family as the basic unit of society.” That ideology, she said, encompasses an entire universal outlook that, once adopted by an individual, ultimately totally eclipses any religious notions about the nature of human life, sexuality, family, the purpose of the state and finally, the nature of God.

Anyone interested, Steichen said, in investigating the origins of academic and radical feminism have to look no further than the social writings of Freidrich Engels, colleague of Karl Marx, who wrote that ultimately, the communist view of the family as a sub-unit of the state, would overrule the traditional Judeo-Christian view. Its ugliest fruit, she said, is abortion, which the ideology regards as an absolute necessity to separate womanhood from motherhood.

Feminism, Steichen said, is “detestable” because it is “so demeaning of women.”

“It denies the value of their natural role, urging them to trade it for the shabby substitutes of paid participation in the work force.

“Religious feminism is worst of all, because it further demands that women cease to recognize God’s eternal order. Like [Planned Parenthood founder] Margaret Sanger, it commands women to serve ‘no Gods, no masters’. Which somehow comes to mean ‘except feminist ideology’.”

Steichen suggests that those who are outraged at the Vatican examine some of the speeches made by speakers at LCWR’s annual conferences, many of which are available on their website. These speakers were specifically cited in the CDF’s document as problematic. One, Sr. Laurie Brink, was particularly noted as flagrantly denying the Divinity of Christ when she gave the LCWR keynote address in 2007, telling the sisters that to maintain their “prophetic” place in society they needed to “go beyond” the Church and even “go beyond Jesus.”

The CDF, Steichen said, is echoing the long-deferred feelings of many U.S. Catholics when it noted that these types of statements, endorsed many times by LCWR, “is a challenge not only to core Catholic beliefs; such a rejection of faith is also a serious source of scandal and is incompatible with religious life.”

Set to offer the keynote address at this year’s assembly in August is Barbara Marx Hubbard, a New Age guru, who is scheduled to speak on the theme, “Mystery Unfolding: Leading in the Evolutionary Now”.

A sample of Marx Hubbard’s writing gives a flavour of what the LCWR is looking for in a speaker:

Although we may never know what really happened, we do know that the story told in the Gospels is that Jesus’ resurrection was a first demonstration of what I call the post-human universal person. We are told that he did not die. He made his transition, released his animal body, and reappeared in a new body at the next level of physicality to tell all of us that we would do what he did. The new person that he became had continuity of consciousness with his life as Jesus of Nazareth, an earthly life in which he had become fully human and fully divine. Jesus’ life stands as a model of the transition from Homo sapiens to Homo universalis.

Despite the evidence being available at the click of a mouse, Steichen said, a great many Catholics still refuse to believe that the nuns have gone so far off the deep end.

Asked whether the Vatican’s reform plans will have the desired effect, Steichen remains dubious. “Will this process ‘work’? As a matter of fact, I do not expect mass repentance and re-conversion. In my experience, repentance is rare among ideologues of religious feminism.

“And I would be more hopeful about the prospect of institutional reform if the implementation were to be directed from the Vatican, or if the bishops assigned to head the USCCB ‘reform’ were men with sterner reputations. We need to pray for everyone concerned.”

She noted, however, that the mere fact that the attempt is being made at last “serves important purposes.”

“After decades of leniency toward them, it puts the Church officially on record as condemning the errors of radical feminism, New Age monism, and general doctrinal defiance. It must succeed in warning Catholic educational and professional institutions and organizations to enforce doctrinal orthodoxy even from women in positions of power.

“If the attempt fails, their continued defiance will be so salient as to force the Vatican into further disciplinary action. In either case, it is another signal that the era of post-concilar upheaval is over.”

As for the prediction, made by the UK’s Independent, that Rome is facing a “PR disaster” with the reform attempt, Steichen said, “Hostile voices in media will do their best to make it so, but among faithful Catholics, it is more likely to be a PR triumph.

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Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
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Vatican pressing forward with reform of US feminist nuns: Cardinal Müller

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, says the Vatican is pressing forward with plans to reform the U.S.-based Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

In an interview published in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, the cardinal said that the reform of the LCWR, which was undertaken after an assessment of the group found serious doctrinal problems, will be carried out with the goal of helping them "rediscover their identity.”

“Congregations have no more vocations and risk dying out," Müller said. "We have first of all tried to reduce hostility and tensions, partly thanks to Bishop Sartain whom we sent to negotiate with them; he is a very gentle man. We wish to stress that we are not misogynists, we are not women gobblers! Of course we have a different concept of religious life but we hope to help them rediscover their identity.”

Moreover, the cardinal said that problems specific to the LCWR are not a reflection of all the women religious in the US.

"We need to bear in mind that they do not represent all US nuns, but just a group of nuns who form part of an association,” Müller said.

“We have received many distressed letters from other nuns belonging to the same congregations, who are suffering a great deal because of the direction in which the LCWR is steering their mission.”

Cardinal Müller's remarks confirmed the assertion he and the Holy See’s delegate to the LCWR, Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle, made in an address to LCWR officials in Rome on April 30, that the theological drift the feminist nuns are taking constitutes a radical departure from the foundational theological concepts of Catholicism.

The Holy See “believes that the charismatic vitality of religious life can only flourish within the ecclesial faith of the Church,” Müller said in the address.

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“The LCWR, as a canonical entity dependent on the Holy See, has a profound obligation to the promotion of that faith as the essential foundation of religious life. Canonical status and ecclesial vision go hand-in-hand, and at this phase of the implementation of the Doctrinal Assessment, we are looking for a clearer expression of that ecclesial vision and more substantive signs of collaboration,” he stated.

The LCWR has openly defied the mandate of reform intended to bring their organization into line with basic Catholic doctrine on the nature of God, the Church, and sexual morality.

Among the CDF’s directives, to which LCWR has strenuously objected, is the requirement that “speakers and presenters at major programs” be approved by Archbishop Sartain. This, Müller has explained, was decided in order to “avoid difficult and embarrassing situations wherein speakers use an LCWR forum to advance positions at odds with the teaching of the Church.”

The LCWR has invited speakers to their Annual Assembly such as New Age guru Barbara Marx Hubbard, and Sr. Laurie Brink, who is particularly noted for flagrantly denying the Divinity of Christ and telling the sisters that to maintain their “prophetic” place in society they need to “go beyond” the Church and even “go beyond Jesus.”

In one of the first public statements of his pontificate, Pope Francis affirmed that the investigation and reform of the LCWR must continue.

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Brian Fisher

Birth mothers: real heroes of the pro-life movement

Brian Fisher
By Brian Fisher
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What does it mean to be brave? Is it the doctor who dedicates himself to improving the health of a third-world nation? Is it the woman who faces her third round of chemotherapy to fight the progression of cancer? Is it the teacher who forgoes the comforts of a suburban school to reach minorities in the inner city? All of these are examples of bravery demonstrated in exceedingly challenging circumstances. And our society longs for stories of bravery to inspire us and fill us with hope.

As someone who works day in and day out with those on the front lines of helping rescue babies from abortion, I’m no stranger to stories of bravery. I see courage every day in the eyes of the men and women who sacrifice their time and energy to help women facing unplanned pregnancies. I see it every time a young mom — despite being pressured by her parents or significant other to get an abortion — chooses LIFE. And perhaps more profoundly than in any other situation, I see it when an expectant mom with no relational support, job, or income chooses to place her baby for adoption rather than abort her son or daughter.

This was Nicky’s situation.

When Nicky found herself pregnant with her boyfriend’s child, her life was already in shambles. During her 26 years, Nicky had already given birth to and surrendered sole custody of a little girl, committed several felonies, lived in her car, lost several jobs, and barely subsisted on minimum wage. So when she met up with an old boyfriend, Brandon, Nicky believed she was being given a second chance at happiness. “Our first year together was beautiful. We were getting to know each other and deciding if we would stay together forever.” Unfortunately, a positive pregnancy test result changed everything.

“When I told him I was pregnant, Brandon sat down on the bed, looked me in the eyes, and told me to ‘get an abortion’.” Nicky says those three little words changed everything for her. “I became depressed living with someone who wanted his child ‘dealt with.’”  Like thousands of women every day, Nicky began searching online for information on abortion, hoping her boyfriend would eventually change his mind. Through our strategic marketing methods, Online for Life was able to guide Nicky to a life-affirming pregnancy center where she received grace-filled counsel. “The woman I sat with was beyond wonderful. She helped me to just breathe and ask God what to do….And so I did.”

Nicky left the pregnancy center that day with a new resolve to choose life for her child, even though she still wasn’t sure how she’d financially support a child. “I was alone with just $10 in my pocket…and without any type of plan for what I was going to do.” So Nicky relied on the support of the staff she met at the life-affirming pregnancy center. With their help and through a chain of fortunate events, Nicky was put in contact with the couple who would eventually become her daughter’s adoptive parents.

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After meeting this couple face to face and coming to terms with her own desperate situation, Nicky conceded that the best thing for her unborn child would be to place her in someone else’s loving home. She told Brandon about her plans and he agreed that adoption would give their child the best chance at a happy and secure future. He even returned home to help Nicky prepare for the birth of their child. “The weeks leading up to my delivery were filled with a mixture of laughter, tears, protectiveness and sadness,” Nicky recalls. But one sentiment continued to be shared with her. “Brave…so brave.” That’s what everyone from the life-affirming pregnancy center to the adoption agency to the birthing center kept calling Nicky. “The nurses kept coming up to me and telling me they were honored to care for and treat someone like me.” After several weeks of preparation, Nicky finally gave birth to a healthy baby girl, and she made the dreams of a couple from the other side of the country come true.

Nicky’s adoption story continues to be riddled with a strange combination of pain and joy. “I cry every day, but I know my baby, who came out of a very bad time, ended up being loved by people from across the country.” When asked what message she’d like to share with the world about her decision to give up her child for adoption, Nicky responds, The voice of the mother who gives up a baby for adoption isn’t heard. We need to change that.”

To learn more about Online for Life and how we’re helping to make stories like Nicky and her daughter’s story a possibility, please visit OnlineforLife.org.

Author, speaker, and business leader Brian Fisher is the President and Co-Founder of Online for Life, a transparent, metric-oriented, compassion-driven nonprofit organization dedicated to helping rescue babies and their families from abortion through technology and grace.

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New York farmers stop hosting weddings after $13,000 fine for declining lesbian ceremony

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By Dustin Siggins

New York farmers Robert and Cynthia Gifford, who were ordered last week to pay $13,000 for not hosting a same-sex "wedding," say they are closing that part of their operation.

"Going forward, the Giffords have decided to no longer host any wedding ceremonies on their farm, other than the ones already under contract," said Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) lawyer James Trainor. ADF represented the Giffords in their legal fight against New York's non-discrimination law.

Last week, the Giffords were ordered to pay a $10,000 fine to the state of New York and $3,000 in damages to a lesbian couple, Jennifer McCarthy and Melisa Erwin, who approached them in 2012 about hosting their "wedding." The Giffords, who are Roman Catholic, said their religious convictions would not let them host the ceremony, but that McCarthy and Erwin could hold their reception on their property.

Unbeknownst to the Giffords, the lesbian couple recorded the two-to-three minute conversation. After declining to hold the reception on the Giffords' farm, on which they live and rent property, the lesbian couple decided to make a formal complaint to the state's Division of Human Rights.

Eventually, Judge Migdalia Pares ruled that the Giffords' farm, Liberty Ridge Farm, constitutes a public accommodation because space is rented on the grounds and fees are collected from the public. The Giffords argued that because they live on the property with their children, they should be exempt from the state law, but Pares said that this does not mean their business is private.

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Trainor told TheBlaze that the Giffords' decision to end wedding ceremonies at Liberty Ridge “will hurt their business in the short run," but that was preferable to violating their religious beliefs.

“The Giffords serve all people with respect and care. They have hired homosexual employees and have hosted events for same-sex couples,” he said.

However, "since the state of New York has essentially compelled them to do all ceremonies or none at all, they have chosen the latter in order to stay true to their religious convictions," Trainor explained to LifeSiteNews. "No American should be forced by the government to choose between their livelihood and their faith, but that’s exactly the choice the state of New York has forced upon the Giffords."

"They will continue to host wedding receptions," said Trainor.

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