You can't help but notice a headline that says: "Catholics face crisis over retired nuns." The presumed crisis is that these little old lady nuns are going to be out in the street because there will not be enough money to provide for them.
The article, unsurprisingly, is written with a biased slant, which makes me wonder whether the writer created a crisis on a slow news day.
Though billions of dollars have been salted away, there still remains an unfunded future liability of $8.7 billion for current nuns, priests and brothers in religious orders. The financial hole is projected by a consulting firm to exceed $20 billion by 2023.
A June survey by the church's National Religious Retirement Office, not yet released to the public, puts spending for retiree care at $926 million last year alone. That compares with a total of $499 million received over the last 18 years from annual special parish collections to aid retirees.
No citation is given for the billions of dollars that have been "salted away," the second paragraph sounds as if the fate of the retirees rest solely on the annual special parish collections.
The retirement realities far overshadow the burden from well-publicized sexual abuse cases, which have cost the American church more than $1 billion since 1950, with tens of millions of dollars in pending claims.
Gotta bring up the sex scandal.
Sisters, who make up 82 percent of retirees, are especially vulnerable.
Between 1965 and 2005, their numbers plummeted from 179,954 to 68,634, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University
The real tragedy is the drop in the numbers. EARTH NEEDS NUNS!!
But wait, have we found the agenda yet?
The problem is discussed in the new book "Double Crossed: Uncovering the Catholic Church's Betrayal of American Nuns" (Doubleday) by former New York Times religion editor Kenneth Briggs. The book's main theme is that church authorities vetoed sisters' hopes for dramatic changes that would provide more freedom and effective ministries in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council.
Briggs writes that the looming financial threat "sapped the creative energies of communities."
See?!?! It's all about the creative energies! A few more prayer labyrinths, a few more seminars in liturgical dance, a few more "Pagan-goddess-statue-disguised-as-archetype-of-Sophia-in-the-chapel" and the problem is solved. But those patriarchs in the Vatican have "double-crossed" the poor sisters. Fortunately, the scandal has been found by a former religion editor for the New York Times, always a friend of Catholicism (catch Mr. Briggs' book, Holy Siege, about the sex scandal).
Oh, now, how can I say that? Well, another article on the book offers more about the viewpoint of the author.
But traditionalists will doubtless dispute Briggs' claim that much of the disintegration "can be traced to the hierarchy's refusal to make good on the promise of renewal" that the world's bishops embraced at the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). Liberated nuns immediately launched an era of experimentation but then "a backlash against it from the hierarchy damaged many sisterhoods beyond repair."
If the men had only "trusted and encouraged these women to follow their own lights, perhaps sisters would have been better able to emerge with sufficient creativity, direction and morale to survive."
Their "own lights?!" How about following Jesus?
Conservatives pin the blame on assaults from feminism and secularism that undermined obedience, belief, cohesion and religious mission. They note the stability and growth in some cloistered houses and in activist orders loyal to the hierarchy such as Mother Teresa's celebrated Missionaries of Charity.
Briggs acknowledges this opposite scenario but brushes past it and largely features the reminiscences, opinions and newsworthy agitation from the liberal side.
Hmmmm . . . maybe those prayer labyrinths cost more than the sisters imagined and they are now feeling a little strapped for cash . . . and for what they perceive as their "rightful" place in the Church.
Any actual nuns weigh in? Yes.
But Sister Andree Fries, the 64-year-old executive director of the U.S. retirement office, disagrees.
She says "the impact is more minimal than one might think" because members of orders "are very much about mission" and not worrying about their future needs. Also, orders are "spending their future retirement money for current bills" — so they are not uncomfortable at the moment.
What about the projected multi-billion-dollar gap? "Is it a big number? Yes," Fries said. "Am I discouraged that we'll ever get there? I'm sobered, but not discouraged, because religious are can-do people."
Some religious orders are financially healthy, but Fries' office reckons that only 4 percent of current sisters are adequately funded for their retirement needs. Typically, the problem is worst in smaller orders.
I hope Mr. briggs' book does not discourage any person from donating to the various collections taken up for retired religious. We do owe many a debt of gratitude (Sr. Andrew Marie, pray for us) and should be generous.
But once again, this book seems to be an attack at the hierarchy of the Church veiled by the "pull-at-the-heartstrings" tactic of the idea of little old nuns eating cat food in their retirement. Because the public likes little old nuns, while little old priests are all likely to be child molesters.