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On the Frontier

One of the most progressive and most feminist religious orders in the U.S. Church is the Sisters of Loretto, about whom Arthur Jones has two lengthy and loving stories in the National Catholic Reporter (April 12). You’ve probably forgotten her by now, but the great spirit-of-Vatican-II warhorse of the Lorettines was Sr. Mary Luke Tobin (now 93). Jones hasn’t forgotten her. He also lets us know that if you want to be on the “frontier” of “innovation,” you join Loretto.

Sr. Maureen Fiedler did, transferring in from another order. We haven’t heard much about her lately. Her last big foray was trying to collect a million signatures some six years ago from U.S. Catholics for the “We Are Church Referendum,” which called for the ordination of women and “the primacy of conscience in deciding issues of sexual morality.” The Referendum was sponsored by, among others, Call to Action, Dignity USA, New Ways Ministry, Loretto Women’s Network, and even the pro-abortion Catholics for a Free Choice. Jones doesn’t mention the Referendum, but it’s worth mentioning, for to hear Jones tell it you’d think the Lorettines are just a bunch of nice ladies teaching children and doing good deeds. As for that Referendum, it gained 37,000 signatures. No need to reach for your calculator: That’s a mere 963,000 short of the goal.

Then there’s Sr. Jeannine Gramick, who recently joined Loretto after she was silenced by the Holy See for her “gay-positive” activities at New Ways Ministry. Here is one of her gems from a conference in Dayton, Ohio, in May 1998 (not quoted by Jones): “Homosexual activity…. could be a good conscience decision. The same message should be given to heterosexuals who want to have sex relations outside of marriage.” Given that Gramick is quite a cute chick, even at age 60, it almost sounds like a come-on.

Although Jones sings the praises of Loretto, let’s give him due credit, for he tells the naked truth about the vital signs of the Lorettines: “From a peak of some 1,200 sisters around 1960, there are some 340 today,” and “the median age of the 340-plus sisters is 77; there are six sisters under 50….”

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