Catholic Culture Solidarity
Catholic Culture Solidarity

The bogus popularity of the LCWR

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Aug 11, 2014

Back sometime around 1970, a mischievous pollster conducted a 3-question survey that conclusively demonstrated the ignorance of American voters. Similar polls have been taken several times since then, always with the same result. The three questions go like this:

  1. Are you satisfied or unsatisfied with the performance of your state legislature? The overwhelming majority of respondents are unsatisfied.
  2. Can you name your representative in the state legislature? Virtually no one can.
  3. Are you satisfied or unsatisfied with the performance of your representative in the state legislature? Here is the most interesting result of the survey. Although more than 90% of those polled are unhappy with the legislature as a whole, a rousing 90% or more report their confidence that their representative—whom only about 5% of them can name—is doing an excellent job.

That old survey came to mind as I read the Pew Research report that most American Catholics are satisfied with the leadership of women’s religious orders. How many Catholics can name the leader of any women’s religious order? How many know what those women are doing? At first glance, the Pew report suggests that the American public sides with the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) in its conflict with the Vatican. Read a little more carefully, and you realize that the survey proves absolutely nothing.

Novelist Mary Gordon really does support the LCWR, and in a recent essay for Harper’s she voiced her dissatisfaction with Pope Francis, who has continued the Vatican campaign to reform that body. Following up on that essay, she tells an interviewer “In America, the people who like the nuns are the liberals and they aren’t in the pews every Sunday.”

Exactly. Let me propose a different sort of 3-question poll.

  1. Do you attend Sunday Mass regularly?
  2. Are you familiar with the Vatican report that concluded “the current doctrinal and pastoral situation of LCWR is grave and a matter of serious concern?”
  3. Are you satisfied with the leadership of American women’s religious order?

Pose question #3 only to those who answered the first two questions affirmatively—that is, only to practicing Catholics who know what they’re talking about—and those results would be interesting.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

Sound Off! supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a current donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

Show 2 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Defender - Aug. 12, 2014 11:06 AM ET USA

    shrink: Wonder if they're Catholic though. The many LGBT-friendly churches in NYC, SF, etc, obviously haven't had their pastors explain to them what the Church teaches - either that or they're all celibate (if you believe that, I have a bridge in Brooklyn and San Francisco that I can sell you cheap).

  • Posted by: shrink - Aug. 11, 2014 3:18 PM ET USA

    Speaking of older nuns in nearly defunct religious groups, Gallup new agency just emailed me the most uptodate polling info: "LGBT Population in U.S. Significantly Less Religious" Who knew?