Home/Rod Dreher/Pope Francis’s Vatican Rebukes Liberal Nuns

Pope Francis’s Vatican Rebukes Liberal Nuns

Score one for the people who say Francis is about changing style, not substance. His doctrine chief laid into the liberal American nuns yesterday, speaking bluntly to them about their New Agery. Excerpt from Cardinal Müller’s remarks:

An example may help at this point. It saddens me to learn that you have decided to give the Outstanding Leadership Award during this year’s Assembly to a theologian criticized by the Bishops of the United States because of the gravity of the doctrinal errors in that theologian’s writings. This is a decision that will be seen as a rather open provocation against the Holy See and the Doctrinal Assessment. Not only that, but it further alienates the LCWR from the Bishops as well.

I realize I am speaking rather bluntly about this, but I do so out of an awareness that there is no other interpretive lens, within and outside the Church, through which the decision to confer this honor will be viewed.

Let me address a second objection, namely that the findings of the Doctrinal Assessment are unsubstantiated. The phrase in the Doctrinal Assessment most often cited as overreaching or unsubstantiated is when it talks about religious moving beyond the Church or even beyond Jesus. Yes, this is hard language and I can imagine it sounded harsh in the ears of thousands of faithful religious. I regret that, because the last thing in the world the Congregation would want to do is call into question the eloquent, even prophetic witness of so many faithful religious women. And yet, the issues raised in the Assessment are so central and so foundational, there is no other way of discussing them except as constituting a movement away from the ecclesial center of faith in Christ Jesus the Lord.

For the last several years, the Congregation has been following with increasing concern a focalizing of attention within the LCWR around the concept of Conscious Evolution. Since Barbara Marx Hubbard addressed the Assembly on this topic two years ago, every issue of your newsletter has discussed Conscious Evolution in some way. Issues of Occasional Papershave been devoted to it. We have even seen some religious Institutes modify their directional statements to incorporate concepts and undeveloped terms from Conscious Evolution.

Again, I apologize if this seems blunt, but what I must say is too important to dress up in flowery language. The fundamental theses of Conscious Evolution are opposed to Christian Revelation and, when taken unreflectively, lead almost necessarily to fundamental errors regarding the omnipotence of God, the Incarnation of Christ, the reality of Original Sin, the necessity of salvation and the definitive nature of the salvific action of Christ in the Paschal Mystery.

My concern is whether such an intense focus on new ideas such as Conscious Evolution has robbed religious of the ability truly to sentire cum Ecclesia. To phrase it as a question, do the many religious listening to addresses on this topic or reading expositions of it even hear the divergences from the Christian faith present?

Translation: Are you nuns so far gone into the New Age that you don’t even recognize how un-Christian these strange new doctrines you embrace are? 

The cardinal continues:

Conscious Evolution does not offer anything which will nourish religious life as a privileged and prophetic witness rooted in Christ revealing divine love to a wounded world. It does not present the treasure beyond price for which new generations of young women will leave all to follow Christ. The Gospel does! Selfless service to the poor and marginalized in the name of Jesus Christ does!

Good for Cardinal Müller. Good for Pope Francis. Here, by the way, is a blog post from 2012 by Thomas McDonald in which he quotes Barbara Marx Hubbard at length. Remember, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), the liberal nuns’ group being criticized by the Vatican, structured its entire annual conference around Hubbard’s philosophy. Here is part of Hubbard’s teaching of “Conscious Evolution”:

Sri Aurobindo named the human being with this ability, the gnostic being; Teilhard de Chardin called it the ultra person; and I have selected the name, universal human and universal humanity. This type of human is a quantum jump beyond the species Homo sapiens. It is a new species that is incubating in millions now.

This is a Naissance; this is new for Earth — but it is not new for the universe. The name universal human is good because it connotes the reality that we are entering the phase of universal life.

Although we may never know what really happened, we do know that the story told in the Gospels is that Jesus’ resurrection was a first demonstration of what I call the post-human universal person. We are told that he did not 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.

As a gobsmacked McDonald put it: “Folks, that’s not merely crazy: that’s weapons-grade crazy.” And the American nuns made this stuff the theme of their 2012 national meeting. Is there any wonder that the Vatican moved against them? The only wonder is that it took so long. Watch the video above of Barbara Marx Hubbard philosophizing her way down the rabbit hole.

UPDATE: Edward Hamilton comments:

After following the link to the fuller excerpt of Hubbard’s comments, I’m floored. How did I miss this the first time around? Even by the standards of Rod’s blog, which is a reliable source of outrage porn for crunchy traditionalists, this is top decile material. The noosphere? Quantum computing? Nanotechnology? Zero point energy? Reverse aging? It’s like the whole speech was written by some kind of computer algorithm devoted to data-mining derivative science fiction novels from the last 15 years.

I’m skeptical that this individual’s communication can even pass the Turing test, and yet she’s the philosophical guru for an organization representing 80% of American nuns. How on earth can the Catholic Church remain in a state of stubborn schism with Protestantism — with the Orthodox, for Nicea’s sake! — when they’re already a large enough tent to support an entire circus ring devoted to dimestore-grade Scientology ripoffs? Conversely, how is it that all the hard-edged atheists who inveigh passionately against that insidious Right-Wing War on Science can’t spare a tithe of their fury to denounce this platter of pseudoscientific world salad?

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

leave a comment

Latest Articles