Bp. Morlino bans 2 Dominican sisters from teaching, cites “New Ageism”

From the Wisconsin State Journal website:

Two longtime Madison nuns who lead an interfaith spirituality center have been banned by Madison Catholic Bishop Robert Morlino from holding workshops or providing spiritual direction or guidance at any Catholic churches in the 11-county diocese.

Sisters Maureen McDonnell and Lynn Lisbeth, both Sinsinawa Dominicans, have diverged too far from Catholic teaching, according to a confidential memo sent Nov. 27 to priests on behalf of Morlino. A copy of the memo was leaked to the State Journal.

Two other women connected to the interfaith center, called Wisdom’s Well, also have been banned as part of the same action.

The memo says Morlino has “grave concerns” about the women’s teachings, specifically that they “espouse certain views” flowing from such movements as “New Ageism” and “indifferentism.” The latter, according to the memo, is “the belief that no one religion or philosophy is superior to another.”

The women “may not share an authentic view of the Catholic Church’s approach to interreligious dialogue,” the memo said.

Brent King, a spokesman for the diocese, said three other potential parish guest speakers, all male, have been banned “in recent years.” The women are not prohibited from attending Mass or, if Catholic, from receiving communion, King said. Asked whether they could contribute to parish life in other ways, such as reading Bible passages from the pulpit or chairing a church committee, King said that would be up to individual priests.

The piece then states, “The action comes amid a papal crackdown on nuns. Earlier this year, the Vatican accused the most influential group of Catholic sisters in the U.S. of ‘serious doctrinal issues’ for not following Rome’s lead on topics such as the male-only priesthood and homosexuality.” Well, that’s one way of putting it, although it’s not a very helpful or accurate one. After all, the Eastern Orthodox have a male-only priesthood and believe homosexual acts to be sinful, and yet they don’t follow “‘Rome’s lead”. And do we really have to hear about how the pope has it in for nuns? Please.

Anyhow, the piece provides some background to the situation, including this about Wisdom’s Well:

The center’s website says it “serves to support those who desire to grow spiritually, seek inner wisdom, and yearn for a transformative spirituality.” Its mission statement says the center is “grounded in the Christian tradition, while embracing the wisdom found in other religious traditions.”

Along with the sisters, the third staff member is Beth O’Brien, a married mother of two and a religious layperson affiliated with the Benedictine community. She also is banned, as is Paula Hirschboeck, a philosophy professor at Edgewood College in Madison who helped found Wisdom’s Well but is no longer on its staff.

What is not mentioned is that Hirschboeck, who only recently left a leadership position at the center, has a decidedly problematic history, as her page on the center’s site details: 

After leaving religious life in 1989 it has been a great joy to rejoin the Sinsinawa Dominicans at Edgewood College and Wisdom’s Well.

After many years of study and practice I was lay ordained a Zen Buddhist in 2000 and joined the “Udumbara Order of Bodhisattva Chaplains” in 2001.  Many years of  practice in  wisdom and compassion  with my teacher, Diane Martin, Roshi, with the Udumbara Sangha in Evanston IL and with the Midwest Soto Zen Community in Madison are reaching a life’s culmination.  Currently I an studying for ordination as a Soto Zen priest in the lineage of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi and Danin Katagiri Roshi.  The anticipated date is April 4, 2010 which is exactly 40 years after my profession as a Dominican.  My Zen ministry blooms as an interspiritual tapestry, uniting contemplation and action for the liberation of all beings from suffering and the realization of our full humanity.

Which means, in short, that for almost a decade, Hirschboeck was a leader at the center after having been “ordained a Zen Buddhist” and spending much time studying with various Zen communities. In fact, her page says she has been a “practioner of Zen Buddhism for 25 years” and describes her as: “Teacher of Catholic mystical traditions, the divine feminine, ecospirituality as well as Zen Buddhism”. In addition, the center’s main page states, “Wisdom’s Well is dedicated to the work of interfaith spirituality by supporting contemplation in the midst of an active life and celebration of a sacred Earth Community.” That certainly qualifies for “new ageism”. The old saying is that “where there is smoke, there is fire”; in this case, it is more apt to say, “where there is fire, there is, well, fire.” 

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About Carl E. Olson 1217 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.