Notes from Across the Atlantic
Notes from Across the Atlantic

Notes from Across the Atlantic

David Mills FAITH Magazine July – August 2012

David Mills is Executive Editor of First Things magazine. We thank them for this syndicated piece.


Two views of the Vatican's correction of the Leadership Council for Women Religious, rather different.

Writing on the weblog of the New York Review of Books, Garry Wills: "Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle has taken control of the Conference, writing new laws for it, supplanting its leadership, and banning 'political' activity (which is what Rome calls social work). Women are not capable, in the Vatican's mind, of governing others or even themselves. Is it any wonder so many nuns have left the orders or avoided joining them? Who wants to be bullied?"

Writing on the website of National Review, George Weigel: The congregations are "dying. The years immediately following the Second Vatican Council saw a mass exodus from American convents; and in the four and a half decades since the Council concluded, American Catholic women's religious life in the LCWR congregations has suffered various forms of theological, spiritual, and behavioural meltdown." This being the case, he continues,

"young Catholic women have quite sensibly decided that, if they wish to do good works or be political activists while dressing like middle-class professionals and living in apartments, there is little reason to bind themselves, even in an attenuated way, to the classic vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience - each of which has undergone a radical reinterpretation in the LCWR congregations. So the LCWR orders are becoming greyer and greyer, to the point where their demise is, from a demographic point of view, merely a matter of time: perhaps a few decades down the road, absent truly radical renewal. (Meanwhile, the congregations of religious women that have retained the habit, a regular prayer life, and a commitment to Catholic orthodoxy are growing.)"


When the Vatican announced the expected results of its investigation of women's religious orders in the United States, the sisters of the LCWR and their supporters (Garry Wills clearly among them) reacted with shock - shock that anyone would think the sisters and the conference had any problems at all. It was all the Vatican's imagination.

We would like to think they were right, having as much affection and respect for nuns as anyone, but this set of nuns gives us reason to wonder. Their annual assembly, for example.

This year's, scheduled for August, and titled "Mystery Unfolding: Leading in the Evolutionary Now", features as the keynote speaker a Barbara Marx Hubbard. As unknown to you as she was to us, Hubbard runs the Foundation for Conscious Evolution and offers courses for those who want to be "Agents of Conscious Evolution". Her website features a poster of "the sacred story of creation", in which man moves from human life as it now is through "the wheel of co-creation" in which we "enter the cosmic mystery together" to something called "universal humanity" and on from there to "infinite potential."

What exactly this means is, as so often with such enterprises, a little vague, though breathlessly described. And admittedly, the long description of "conscious evolution" on her website invokes Jesus and St Paul in its defence.

This will give you an idea: "Although we may never know what really happened, we do know that the story told in the Gospels is that Jesus' resurrection was a:  demonstration of what I call the post-human universal person." The story tells us Jesus didn't 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.

One feels, reading this kind of cosmic dingbattery, that rather than evolving with these people one would rather hang out with the unevolving Yankees fans at the pub. (And I say that as a Red Sox fan.)

Anyway, this is the person our supposedly faithful Catholic nuns who only, according to Garry Wills, want to do good things like caring for the poor, if only that bullying, brutish, bad ol' Vatican would let them, have invited to lead them in their annual meeting.

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