Catholic Culture Solidarity
Catholic Culture Solidarity

Liberal visions of Catholicism: Kickstarter and the world's largest NGO

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Sep 01, 2014

When pundits set out to criticize the Catholic Church, they sometimes expose more about their own preconceptions than about the alleged failures of the hierarchy. Consider:

In a highly tendentious Time essay about tensions between the Vatican and American women religious, Jo Piazza begins with the accurate observation that American nuns are “dying out and not being replaced.” She then goes on to convey the impression that the sharp decline in the number of women religious is due to the Vatican’s unwillingness to accommodate feminists. Anyone acquainted with the reality of the situation knows that the religious orders bucking the downward trend—the ones that actually are attracting new vocations—are the ones most in tune with Vatican thinking, and least influenced by secular feminism. Piazza goes on to deliver these very revealing lines:

Many of the women who are nuns today joined the vocation because it was a way to become highly educated, travel the world and dedicate themselves to a higher good without being beholden to a husband or children.

Young women today can do that with a passport and a Kickstarter account.

If Piazza’s notion of what motivated older nuns is accurate, then the old mainstream religious orders deserve to die, and Kickstarter is a perfectly acceptable alternative. If a young woman’s only goal is the pursuit of some inchoate “higher good” (plus perhaps an aversion to husbands and children), religious consecration is not necessary. Piazza supports nuns because they do things that she wants done, not because they are nuns.

Meanwhile over at the Boston Globe, the appalling James Carroll—a priest who deserted his ministry, and has spent decades bashing the institution he once vowed to serve—argues for the abolition of the Vatican city-state. As is his wont, Carroll is careless with the facts. He builds his argument around the claim that the Vatican is shielding Jozef Wesolowski from criminal prosecution, when in fact the Vatican is planning to bring criminal charges against the defrocked archbishop—a development that a New York Times editorial recognized as an “encouraging sign.”

Like Piazza, Carroll knows what he wants the Church to do, and beyond that he has trouble conceiving any other reason for the Church’s existence. He writes:

Pope Francis has dismissed the idea of the church as an NGO, but perhaps that’s precisely what it should be: the largest NGO in the world, an institution whose only claim to power lies in its capacity to maintain the trust of those it represents and those it serves.

The world’s largest NGO? That’s an interesting concept—maybe a project for Kickstarter—but it’s not the Catholic Church.

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.

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  • Posted by: shrink - Sep. 01, 2014 3:59 PM ET USA

    Piazza started life as a gossip columnist, and it appears she hasn't deviated at all from that trajectory. But her opinion article you reference also demonstrates how completely debauched Time magazine has become. The simplest factual sed-contra to her article is found in the easily discoverable growing YOUTHFUL membership of the orthodox religious orders. The sisters Piazza lionizes are for the most part unfaithful, embittered leftists. The attractive nuns are faithful, joyful and obedient.