80-year-old Sister lashes out at Pope; boasts of support of abortion

Yesterday’s edition of MinnPost.com has an interview with Sister Bridget McDonald, a nearly 80-year-old sister who (along with two biological sisters) is a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.  The interview, about the recent CDF document about the LCWR leadership, is very revealing, but it doesn’t appear that Sister McDonald is fully aware of how readily she exposes the clueless, wrongheaded, rebellious, contradictory, and sometimes simply confused perspective that she and other dissenting sisters hold to and promote.

Here are a few excerpts from the interview, along with some of my “racist and sexist” commentary.

MinnPost: What are you hearing in your community about the decision?

Sister Brigid McDonald: Well, some are shocked that he would go that far, you know, to start using his power. To me, it is a misuse of power, a misuse of authority where he can step into religious communities and dictate how they should speak about these issues.

In short, she is apparently saying the Pope (and the entire magisterium) has no authority in the realm of faith and morals. That’s a clue. And a problem.

I think they are overstepping their jurisdiction to expect that nuns are going to think as they tell us to think. To me those issues are not spiritual issues; many of them are political issues and some, of course, are social justice issues. I think that our personal spiritual life, it is another matter and that is our private belief.

I can’t even begin to imagine what he could say or do that would change religious women’s beliefs. I don’t know how he plans to change that. That is of concern. That could be scary — what will he do to change our beliefs. You know, that scares me.

“They” vs. “nuns”. “They” vs. “our private belief”. “He” vs. “religious women’s beliefs”. “He” vs. “our beliefs”. This sort of language speaks volumes. I wonder: has she read the document? Is she aware there are certain Catholic beliefs that are not matters of “personal opinion”? Does she understand the basic structure of the Church and the nature of genuine authority? 

Other than control, I don’t know what his motivation is.

This is either clueless or disingenuous. Both options are disturbing.

I think it is pretty impossible for us to all change our beliefs on these issues to coincide with his beliefs. That sounds impossible.

It really is strange how Sister McDonald views this as Pope Benedict XVI making a personal attack on “us” (that is, women religious). I would even go so far to say it smacks of a sort of adolescent perspective of the nature of the Church, Church authority, and Church doctrine. To state the obvious, the points of concern addressed in the CDF document are not matters of the pope’s personal beliefs, but of perennial, traditional Church teaching regarding the nature of the Church, of Jesus Christ, of marriage and sexuality, and related matters. 

Why is he picking old nuns? More than half of us are over 75. We are almost an endangered species now. If he is trying to really change the church, he should start at the level with youth and talk to youth groups or something like that.

Oh my. Has she ever wondered, “Why are we an almost endangered species? Why are we not attracting young women when other orders are doing so?” As for the youth, perhaps Sister McDonald has not heard of World Youth Day. Or has not read the many talks and addresses given by Bl. John Paul II and Benedict XVI to and about the youth. Where has she been? What has she been doing? (We’ll find out in a moment.)

He should start with getting his priests together and try to help them through some of their problems. He should get after them for molestation.

Again, where has she been? This is embarrassing. But the next question and answer is simply scandalous:

MP: Somebody suggested to me that nuns in the past had enjoyed some latitude because you were thought to be powerless, and that in a strange way, this might be recognition that your ministry is powerful.

SBM: That is good insight. Because [before] we were just school teachers and we just had nice little kids in front of us, you know, and we just emptied bed pans in the nursing homes and in the hospitals. But now they are right, we are out there in the different movements. We help with the Occupy movement and the right-to-choice movements.

It is giving us more credibility in the public. Lots of times people will call and seek out our opinions about certain issues, where it never was that way when I entered the convent. After we taught school, we went home, and said our prayers and ate supper and did our lesson plans and went to bed. Now we are out there.

Wait a second: Maureen Dowd and Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times have told us how the nuns are out there working in schools, nursing homes, and hospitals—toiling away without any concerns for partisanship and petty politics. But Sister McDonald disagrees; she says that those tasks are of the past, for now she and others are helping anarchists and pro-abortion activists! And that exciting work, she insists, gives them “more credibility in the public”. In other words, she cares deeply about the opinions of those who support the Occupy Movement and “right-to-choice movements”, but she dislikes and spurns the teachings of the Church and the statements of the Pope and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. And yet she professes shock and confusion as to why the CDF (after several years of discussion and failed “dialogue”) has issued its recent statement. Amazing.

I see the bishops and priests don’t get updated in theology. They are still back, for an expression, with Noah’s ark.

Perhaps the most stunningly, um, stupid statement I’ve read this week. Unbelievably stupid. Not to mention rude, arrogant, and insulting. What she means, I suppose, is that bishops and priests are falling for the sort of “theology” she likes. 

I am suspicious of the motivation. I don’t think it is for the common good. They are trying to get us back, bring us back, as it was in the beginning and now as it will ever be, amen, or something like that. They want us back in the habits and being obedient. You don’t belong out here with social workers.

Being obedient, then, is beneath her? She would rather be a social worker advising women to have abortions than be a loyal daughter of the Church proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ? She answers that question in her concluding remark:

I really feel that Jesus would want us to go forward and to be out there where the people are in pain. I believe that about Jesus. I always say, Jesus never said worship me, he said follow me, so that is what I am trying to do.

And this after a section in which she talks about the many women religious who are wonderful theologians. Perhaps they could explain to Sister McDonald that since Jesus is God, he deserves our worship (I suspect that is why doubting Thomas exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” and fell at the feet of the risen Christ. Just a guess.) That since Jesus is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life”, he deserves our worship. That since the Son of God is the Alpha and the Omega, the creator of all things, he deserves our worship. But we only know the words of Jesus and the identity of Jesus because of his Church, which he founded for on the rock of Peter (Matt 16:16-20), which preserved the writings of the New Testament and which, guided by the Holy Spirit, defined the canon of the New Testament.

And so forth. One would hope an 80-year-old sister would be settled on these truths. That she apparently isn’t—and chafes against them—indicates, again, the necessity of the actions taken by the Church.

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About Carl E. Olson 1207 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.