KANSAS CITY, August 23, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Kansas-based National Catholic Reporter (NCR), the U.S.’s most notorious dissenting Catholic newspapers, has been granted $2.3 million to cover religious sisters, including the ongoing conflict between the Vatican and the far-left Leadership Conference of Women Religious.
The money comes from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Catholic News Agency reports today, in a grant intended to create “a global sisters’ net.”
In a policy paper dated February this year, Brad Myers, senior program officer, wrote that sisters are a central interest to the Foundation, having taught Conrad Hilton in his childhood.
“The idea is a website devoted to the coverage of Catholic sisters globally,” Myers told CNA. “Initially our focus is going to be on issues facing Catholic sisters in the United States and Africa. Ultimately we do have global ambitions. We have stronger networks between these two countries, so that’s where we’ll start.”
The Foundation has already granted NCR $150,000 for a one-year grant in late 2011, to “assist with the planning for a project” for sisters.
Myers said that the Hilton Foundation “does not take a position on the controversy between the Vatican and the leadership conference.”
“This grant is just not related to the current issues related to the doctrinal assessment of the LCWR,” he said.
Although CNA said it did not receive a response to its request for comment from NCR, the paper recently launched a full section of its website dedicated to detailing LCWR’s grievances against the Vatican.
In January 2013, Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City criticized NCR for consistently taking positions “against authentic Church teaching and leadership.” He said the agency’s perspectives “have not changed trajectory” since October 1968.
Bishop Finn said that the paper should cease to call itself “Catholic” due to its persistent hostility to foundational Catholic teachings and determined promotion of the socialist political agenda.
NCR has promoted “the ordination of women” and been “insistent [about] undermining of Church teaching on artificial contraception and sexual morality in general, lionizing dissident theologies while rejecting established Magisterial teaching, and a litany of other issues,” Bishop Finn said in a column in the diocesan newspaper.
He added that he had received continual complaints about NCR’s misrepresentation of Catholicism from concerned Catholics since his arrival in the diocese.
NCR has been the main organ through which the LCWR’s open war with the Vatican has been conducted.
CNA said that Myers “declined to comment on whether or not the newspaper’s history enables it to reliably cover Catholic issues.”
“For the most part, we’re looking to improve the support systems among religious life among women. Our approach is to look at ways to make the systems work better for all women religious,” Myers said.
The Conrad N. Hilton Fund for Sisters has been funded with nearly $200 million and has made almost 10,000 grants to various communities over 26 years.
Though the Foundation’s policy paper admits that “the number of sisters worldwide is declining,” it says they “still make tremendous contributions to human development through their spiritual witness and service to those in need.”
The Hilton Foundation’s policy paper was enthusiastic about religious sisters in general, saying, “They are recognized as resourceful and efficient agents of human development, with hundreds of thousands of sisters around the world educating students, serving the vulnerable, standing with the oppressed, promoting peace, and advocating for justice.”
The policy paper made no mention of any interest in helping sisters further the religious or spiritual ends for which all Catholic religious orders are founded.
The Foundation’s policy paper goes on to say that a major obstacle for sisters in the “global north” is the ability to attract and keep new members. Indeed, the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) has tracked the steady decline in the numbers of women religious around the world from a 1965 peak of 1,004,304 to 721,935 this year.
In the U.S., these numbers were 179,954 in 1965 to 51,247 this year, with a median age of 76, according to the study commissioned by National Religious Vocation Conference.
Religious orders are merging and selling off properties; most of them have long since relinquished control of the charitable institutions their predecessors founded – schools and hospitals, nursing homes and care of the poor – to the state.
LCWR, the largest umbrella organization of religious sisters in the U.S., is still under scrutiny by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith over the doctrinal issues outlined in a document published during the pontificate of Benedict XVI, in April 2012 that ordered a comprehensive reform of the organization.
LCWR includes about 1,500 leaders of U.S. women's religious communities, representing about 80 percent of the country’s 57,000 women religious and has the highest average age for its members.
In sharp contrast, the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, (CMSWR) founded in the 1990s to give a voice to those religious who wished to maintain their traditional devotion to Catholicism, have retained traditions like communal living and distinctive habits. The group represents just over 100 religious communities and 10,000 members.
The median age of nuns and sisters in CMSWR communities is about 60, and only 15 percent of those women joining CMSWR communities are over 40.
Some 43 percent of CMSWR institutes had at least five novices, compared with nine percent of the LCWR institutes.