Why Do Those Angry, Embittered Sisters Stay in the Church?

May 2000

According to Sr. Carolyn Osiek, women religious today stand metaphorically on Mount Nebo — the place where Moses was shown the Promised Land. Osiek’s Promised Land is that place toward which Vatican II supposedly pointed the Church, where “patriarchy” and “patterns of exclusion” are no more. But the reality, says Osiek, is that “patriarchal entrenchment in church structures” remains. Thus, says Osiek, “we are stuck…in a kind of bitterness, angry with the church for not changing as we had hoped,” and — this is quite poignant — “angry with the next generation [of women religious] because they often want [traditional] forms and ways of thinking that we rejected….” Still, Osiek is not giving up.

The above is from the National Catholic Reporter (Feb. 18), and the Reporter gives us a glimpse of what might be a generation gap among women religious. Osiek is “fifty-something,” and following her article is one by Sr. Laurie Brink, who is “thirty-something.” Now, Brink is not traditional (she is pictured with dangling earrings, she too favors “inclusivity,” and she preaches from the pulpit). But Brink is not angry with the Church, and she seems to personify what Osiek doesn’t like about younger sisters. Brink tells about a conversation she had with a sister in her 50s. Brink expressed her inability to understand why certain sisters feel so alienated from the Church. The sister replied indignantly, “You’re not honoring my anger.” Whoa! The conversation ended right there.

So why don’t the angry fifty-something sisters just leave and join the Episcopal Church? Probably because they know they have allies in high places, even in the College of Cardinals. (See our lead editorial.)

New Oxford Notes: May 2000

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