Although one might expect misleading articles regarding the Vatican rebuke of the LCWR (Leadership Council of Women Religious), which represents about 80% of America’s nuns, some of the outright lies the media is peddling are astonishing. For example, the Vatican has been accused of rebuking nuns for helping the poor by Nicholas Kristof, who has a history of playing fast and loose with facts.
The slander we are seeing from media organizations is purely political, but the facts of the matter demonstrate that spending so much political capital on the LCWR may be a foolish move on the part of the left.
First, the LCWR started to disintegrate back in the 1990s, when the left was culturally and demographically at its peak. A number of nuns, including many who were uncomfortable with the culture of lesbianism that prevailed in many convents, moved away to form another organization, known as the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR), which now represents about 20% of American nuns.
However, the numbers are a bit deceptive, as the LCWR is substantially older and more decrepit than the CMSWR. Many falsely assume that the left is always represented by the young, but people who were young in the 1960s are not young any longer, although they may imagine themselves so.
So, while the LCWR is aged 74 (!) on average, the CMSWR averages 60. This is a considerable difference, and adding to that difference is the fact that only a measly 9% of LCWR communities have any novices at all, whereas the number is closer to half of CMSWR communities. Clearly, the leftist nuns are a geriatric, fading force. Rather than promoting feminist theory and going toe-to-toe with the patriarchy (or caring for the sick and poor for that matter), they are in that stage of life where the nursing home is the more realistic scenario. It wouldn’t surprise me if half or more of the work done by LCWR nuns is taking care of other nuns. They are, for all intents and purposes, a spent force.
The culture of radical feminism that was so strong in convents back in the 1970s and 1980s has already started to turn around, and the Vatican is essentially just mopping up old problems so as to set an example for the fresh crop of sisters.
For example, one point of April’s rebuke of the LCWR reaches all the way back to 1977 to take the nuns to task for refusing to accept that the priesthood should be reserved for men:
…The Second Vatican Council clearly indicates that an authentic teaching of the Church calls for the religious submission of intellect and will, and is not limited to defined dogmas or “ex cathedra” statements (cf. “Lumen gentium,” 25). For example, the LCWR publicly expressed in 1977 its refusal to assent to the teaching of “Inter insigniores” on the reservation of priestly ordination to men. This public refusal has never been corrected…
Organizations like the Vatican, Imperial China, and other enormous bureaucracies, tend to move very slowly. They take the long-term view, aiming to survive over the centuries. Four-year terms mean little to them. Even life-long careers are rather insignificant in the grand scheme. Often, it is easier to wait for problems to simply die off before dealing with them.
This is where we can take some encouragement from the Vatican’s moves, and why I’ve devoted some attention to it. The Vatican has been eyeing developments in the US for decades, but until recently has only been taking a very measured approach. During the Cold War, there were far bigger fish to fry than some nuns acting out in the US, so those problems were ignored even while at their worst — generally in the 1970s and 80s, when they were the dedicated foot-soldiers of the feminist revolution.
Today, however, we are witnessing the culmination of a generation of radical feminists, and the LCWR nuns represent these women as well as anyone. And the truth of it is that they are aging, childless, dependent and about to lose their influence. None of the rants published by women like Maureen Dowd will change that. Maureen and her cohorts are, for all intents and purposes, the same as the LCWR nuns, which is why the screeching against the Vatican has been so loud and shrill. At this point the best they can do is fly into an impotent rage, and they are counting on that to lead them to eternal victory — the permanent feminist revolution envisioned by Gloria Steinem (who is nearly 80 herself). It won’t work. The Vatican will shrug it off. And that should lend some strength to our cause.
Well, ladies, it’s been quite a run. As I look back on the legions of fatherless children, the countless broken families, and the shameless exploitation of ordinary Americans, I can’t say there’s much to be happy about, but at least it looks like things are finally turning around.