.- Reaction to the Vaticanâs announced reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) took form on the social media site Twitter, where efforts to show support for religious sisters dueled with the group's critics.
Fr. James Martin, S.J., an editor for America magazine, launched a Twitter hashtag â#WhatSistersMeanToMeâ to show appreciation for all religious sisters on the microblogging site where 140-character text messages and popular tags can spread with rapidity.
âCatholic sisters teach me what it means to persevere without the benefit of institutional power,â he tweeted April 19.
âFraming things in that way, I thought, meant that people could show their gratitude for sisters, and read other messages of support, without being in any way negative. No need to be anti-Vatican or anti-bishop or anti-anything. Just pro-sister,â he said in an April 26 Washington Post column reflecting on what came next.
His comments brought in many appreciative tweets from those affected by religious sistersâ work in education, health care and spiritual direction.
They also drew a response from Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, a blogging priest who believes some LCWR defenders are ignoring the problems in the womenâs religious orders.
âThe upcoming reform of the leadership of the LCWR is not about the Holy See or American bishops being mad at under-appreciated women who built and ran hospitals, schools, and orphanages,â he said April 24.
âThe reform is not about their backing this or that political horse.â
âThe reform is about the fact, the FACT, that many of the women religious in leadership positions over several decades embrace and still actively propagate a radical feminism to such a degree that they now promote, as part of their systems and power structures, unnatural acts between people of the same sex and the killing of babies within, and even mostly out of, the womb.â
Fr. Zuhlsdorf encouraged his readers to use the â#WhatSistersMeanToMeâ Twitter hashtag to note problems in the womenâs religious orders, such as sisters who advocate for abortion rights.
Fr. Martin said some critics of the LCWR were âvindictive, cruel, mockingâ on Twitter and flooded the hashtag with âsnotty comments about who were faithful sisters were and who were not.â
The spat follows the release of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faithâs assessment of the womenâs leadership conference, which has more than 1,500 member organizations representing 57,000 vowed religious.
The assessment found a doctrinal âcrisisâ within the organization. It called for a greater emphasis on the conferenceâs relationship with the U.S. bishopsâ conference and on the need to provide âa sound doctrinal foundation in the faith of the Church.â
The Twitter initiative also prompted some to criticize the Catholic hierarchy.
Although Fr. Martin said he did not intend his effort to be âanti-Vatican or anti-bishop,â the Huffington Postâs report on his initiative depicted it as a response to the Vatican âcracking downâ on the LCWR.
Commenters at the Huffington Post also took a dim view of Vatican action. While many voiced appreciation for religious sisters, many also responded to Fr. Martinâs initiative by criticizing the bishops as oppressive and anti-woman. One self-described Catholic commenter attacked Mother Teresa, claiming she was primarily motivated by âmoney and power.â