Hey, Media: Give it up for the faithful nuns!

From the Catholic League site, these comments by Bill Donohue:

Aside from Deacon Greg Kandra, the Catholic News Agency, and EWTN, both the religious and secular media—including the Catholic media—have failed to report an important story that deserves wide attention: on New Year’s Day, 11 Anglican nuns from the Community of St. Mary the Virgin in England entered the Catholic Church. Moreover, a sister from another order of Anglican nuns joined with them to form a new Catholic order, the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The 12 sisters were received wearing their black habits, the signature color of their new Benedictine order. William Oddie, a prominent English writer and broadcaster (himself a convert), described the scene: “Here was a pristine, freshly minted Catholic community, fizzing with new life and (unlike, I fear, most Catholic sisters these days) wearing full habits….I had feared they might be received in lay clothes, only being clothed in their habits once the new community had been formally established, but there was no nonsense of that kind.”

The sisters will spend the next six weeks with a Benedictine community, learning the contours of the normative order. After that they will live a life of poverty in service to the Lord. “This historic event (I don’t think it’s too much to call it that),” says Oddie, “is a sign of great hope for the future of the Catholic Church in England.”

So why isn’t this “historic event” being publicized? Imagine the media reaction if on New Year’s Day 12 renegade Anglican nuns had held a press conference in their street clothes announcing their intent to join a dissident Catholic order so they can press for gay marriage and women priests! It would have been front-page news. And had they rented an oversized luxury bus to haul them around town, that would have been world news. But because these are humble orthodox nuns, who eschew media gimmicks, there is a news blackout.

Donohue’s question is, I’m certain, rhetorical. He knows quite well, of course, that most reporters, however decent they might be or unbiased they seek to be, see the Church, Church authority, and orthodox Catholics through secular, reactionary glasses (as the GetReligion site documents on a daily basis). The vast majority of journalists are either puzzled, confused, or annoyed by Catholics who not only take Church teaching seriously, but dedicate themselves to living it in both private and public. Add the additional wrinkles, so to speak, of religious life combined with conversion, and I’m sure the level of cognitive dissonance for many reporters is simply overwhelming.

But put a couple of “social justice” sisters on a bus and have them bash on politicians who think a bit of budgetary restraint might be in order, and you’d think CNN (and Co.) was the Catholic News Network. Another great example is the coverage of the CDF’s directive that LCWR leadership address longstanding failures to uphold and teach Catholic doctrine and morality. Which is why CWR published articles such as this one, clarifying the issues and making clear this wasn’t a case of “bad bishops attacking good sisters”, as it was consistently “reported”.

With that said, here is the opening of Dr. Oddie’s January 2nd column:

I have had, as we all have, many good moments in my life as a Catholic (greatly outweighing the inevitable bad ones); but yesterday was one of the very best. Have I ever, I try to recall, had such a vivid sense of how glorious it is to be a Catholic, of the transcendent splendour of the Catholic life? Probably, but I wonder if any liturgy ever passed off with such an exultant sense of joyful celebration? I am referring, as some of you who read my last post may have surmised, to the reception of 11 sisters led by their mother Superior (all the active ones) now formerly of the Community of St Mary the Virgin in Wantage, into the Catholic Church, and their formal erection (joined by another former Anglican sister who had already been received) as a new community by the Ordinary of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, Mgr Keith Newton.

They were received wearing their habits; but the habits looked different; it turned out that that was because the sisters, having now adopted the rule of St Benedict, had adopted the traditional wimple of the Benedictine order, and their habits were now black, not blue (two of the remaining CSMV sisters had come in their blue habits to support them, and were seated in the pew behind). There was something unexpectedly moving about the formal document erecting the brand new community, who will be known as the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary (SBVM), despite its being couched in the unlovely bureaucratic language apparently beloved of canon lawyers; it was solemnly proclaimed by the Ordinary (who was wearing the most splendid baroque mitre I have ever seen, very tall indeed, and suitably impressive he looked in it): but the formal document brought home what had happened. Here was a pristine, freshly minted Catholic community, fizzing with new life and (unlike, I fear, most Catholic sisters these days) wearing full habits, based on their old ones but adapted to their new Benedictine lives. I had feared they might be received in lay clothes, only being clothed in their habits once the new community had been formally established, but there was no nonsense of that kind. An intrinsic part of their habit is still the rosary, which hangs at their sides, and each rosary was blessed and individually copiously sprinkled with holy water by Mgr Newton.

Read it all on the Catholic Herald site.

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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.