Moving beyond the Church?, Part 1: “What is Eucharist for me?”

Posted in A Report on the Sinsinawa Dominicans Today

Moving beyond the Church?, Part 1: “What is Eucharist for me?”

This article is a chapter from the 2013 book A Report on the Sinsinawa Dominicans Today by Elizabeth Durack. The entire book is online in both HTML and PDF, or may be purchased very inexpensively in print form via

The relationship between the Church and the Eucharist is one of profound intimacy and mystery. “Christ is the head of the body, the Church,” says Saint Paul, and the consecrated bread and wine of the Eucharist also is the Body of Christ–His true and living presence, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. The Second Vatican Council speaks famously of the Eucharist as the “fount and apex of the whole Christian life.” The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church explains that “As often as the sacrifice of the cross in which Christ our Passover was sacrificed, is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried on, and, in the sacrament of the eucharistic bread, the unity of all believers who form one body in Christ is both expressed and brought about.”

(To reduce the confusion of those readers unfamiliar with Catholic terminology, I want to note: both the consecrated sacramental species of bread and wine, and the Mass liturgy which is the re-presentation in an unbloody manner of the one sacrifice of Christ at Calvary, may be referred to as the Eucharist.)

Among the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa, there is a range of beliefs about the Eucharist, and among a few, a scandalous openness to redefining the Eucharist and the other Sacraments. Some also participate in alternative “feminist liturgies,” belief in the possibility of “women priests” is near-universal among these sisters, contrary to Catholic teaching. Their reasons seem rooted in radical feminist “liberation theology”–and regarding the impact of feminism on liturgy, see also my separate articles on the Sinsinawa Dominican sisters’ attachment to giving homilies at Mass contrary to liturgical and canon law, and their apparently widespread substitution of a feminist prayer book, Dominican Praise, instead of the Liturgy of the Hours. Although those things are serious, these matters pertaining to the Eucharist are far more serious.

One particular instigator of discussions based on open-ended questioning on the meaning of the Eucharist, and broaching the topic of redefining it, is Sister Donna Quinn, about whom I have also written an extended article. In 1998, the Dallas Morning News ran a story about women religious who “did something they believed could get them excommunicated. They held a Eucharist without a priest.” Without a priest it is not actually the Eucharist, and Sinsinawa Dominican Sister Donna Quinn, a longtime feminist activist who had participated in the very first “Women’s Ordination Conference” back in 1976, was among those who told the journalist she does not use the word Mass for the gatherings of this kind organized by the radical feminist coalition group Women-Church Convergence, of which she was spokeswoman. Though, maybe it should be noted, many Sinsinawa Dominican sisters far more often call the Mass “Liturgy” or “Eucharist” and do not seem to use the word “Mass” very often–I am not sure why, but even they have commented that this is the case. Sister Donna spoke carefully:

“‘We call it a liturgy,” said Chicago nun Sister Donna Quinn, referring to women-led services that include bread and wine but not the traditional words of a Mass. “If women think of this as Eucharist, it is; and if they do not think of it as Eucharist, it isn’t. I think it’s in the heart of the women who participate.”

Such services have been held publicly in Chicago, Minneapolis and Milwaukee this year. Next year, the sponsoring group, Women Church Convergence, plans to hold services in three other cities.

“We’d like women across the country to continue to light these fires,” said Sister Quinn, spokeswoman for the coalition of 35 liberal Catholic groups.

According to the article, most participants in such services also attend parish Mass.

The LCWR knows of some Sisters’ estrangement from the Church and the Eucharist–but seems not to care?

Sister Laurie Brink remains one of the youngest of the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters. She was “thirtysomething” when she wrote in the February 18, 2000 National Catholic Reporter about how social justice figures such as Mother Teresa, Dorothy Day, and Archbishop Oscar Romero shaped her Catholic Faith, and it seems to have been the social zeal of sisters that drew her into religious life. However, she admits “I often feel uncomfortable talking about church issues with some of our sisters who are in their 50s and early 60s. It’s not simply an age difference but a cultural generation difference.” But with some of these older sisters, the divide is clearly something deeper still–there are those among them who don’t attend their local parish Mass regularly. Sister Laurie wrote:

I can only imagine the power and energy many of my religious sisters must have felt in the ’60s and ’70s. Hope and possibility freed them from arcane rules and imbued them with a spirit of adventure. I have sat at their feet and listened with awe and wondered what it would have been like to be so hopeful; to believe the “seed theology’ — the old was dying, the new springing forth; to trust that the spirit of Vatican II had the power to unsettle centuries of encrusted hierarchy. […]

But these sisters who have so inspired my vocation are the very ones with whom I cannot talk. A recent encounter will illustrate. A group of us were having dinner and attempting to discuss church issues. I said I didn’t understand why some of our sisters were estranged from the church, sometimes choosing not to attend the local parish. A sister in her late 50s who has spent much of her religious life working in a parish responded, “You’re not honoring my anger.” I said it wasn’t a matter of honor or respect. I simply did not understand it and felt overwhelmed by it.

Sister Laurie Brink was the only sister mentioned by name in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s 2012 Doctrinal Assessment for the Leadership Conference of Women Religious:

Addresses given during LCWR annual Assemblies manifest problematic statements and serious theological, even doctrinal errors. The Cardinal offered as an example specific passages of Sr. Laurie Brink’s address about some Religious “moving beyond the Church” or even beyond Jesus. This is a challenge not only to core Catholic beliefs; such a rejection of faith is also serious source of scandal and is incompatible with religious life. Such unacceptable positions routinely go unchallenged by the LCWR, which  should provide resources for member Congregations to foster an ecclesial vision of religious life, thus helping to correct an erroneous vision of the  Catholic faith as an important exercise of charity. Some might see in Sr. Brink’s analysis a phenomenological snapshot of religious life today. But Pastors of the Church should also see in it a cry for help.

Although Sister Laurie’s 2007 LCWR Assembly address was genuinely extremely radical and troubling, her words in 2000 in NCR make one wonder if “a cry for help” may indeed have been part of her intent.

Some sisters felt affronted by what they felt were “unsubstantiated accusations” in the LCWR doctrinal assessment. In particular, not all the sisters thought of themselves as “radical feminists.” However, some very much did see themselves in the CDF’s assessment. Sister Clare Wagner wrote on the Sisinawa email discussion list SinsinOP:

The phrase “unsubstantiated accusations” gave me pause and cause me to wince. That is because for myself, many religious and LCWR members the “accusations” are not “unsubstantiated.”
We do support Network.
We talk about and look toward the choice of ordination for women.
We are at odds with some of the teachings on human sexuality.
We are radical feminists who oppose patriarchal domination.
We do at times challenge positions taken by bishops.
We do not agree to “submission of intellect and will.”
We differ with the magisterium on ecclesiology.
We accept the Systems Thinking Handbook.

Sister Clare Wagner tells the truth when she says: “The accusations ARE substantiated.” After Sister Ann Marie Mongoven objected that not all this was equally true of everyone, and for instance did not see herself as a radical feminist but “just a plain old hardworking feminist” who hoped “that the Church will remain whole and relevant as the Body of Christ on earth,” Sister Clare edited herself: “I’m happy to change the we to some. I thought I covered that in an earlier sentence,however I must not have been clear. I realize all do not embrace the ‘accusations’ I named.”

The last item on her above list has to do with the problematic way in which the sisters use mental models of “systems” they feel must be changed, for instance a common theme seen on SinsinOP is the idea that actions such as eschewing male language for God, and promoting “women’s ordination” (something the Church has no authority whatsoever for–it is not possible) are essential to “systemic change” to correct perceived inequality of women within the Catholic Church. As you will see below in real examples, a few sisters, Donna Quinn in particular, take this so far as to prefer not to include Holy Mass as a part of congregation events, because of the male priest–preferring instead a “feminist liturgy” designed by the sisters. The LCWR Systems Thinking Handbook which the CDF ordered to be withdrawn and revised, explains entirely uncritically:

Generally speaking the “Organic” mental model values chaos, connectedness, process, inclusivity, relationship, and a non-linear expression of authority. Some sisters, schooled in these theologies and situated within this mental model, believe that the celebration of Eucharist is so bound up with a church structure caught in negative aspects of the Western mind they can no longer participate with a sense of integrity.

Sister Donna Quinn, anti-Eucharist protester

The Sinsinawa Dominicans do normally include Holy Mass as part of the agenda of congregational gatherings, though during last year’s weekday Chapter meetings it was apparently one of several alternative spiritual activities (even Tai Chi) one could participate in during that time slot.

In recent years Sister Donna Quinn, famous for abortion rights activism, has continually advocated in favor of abortion rights and contraception to her sisters on the Sinsinawa Dominican email discussion list SinsinOP. But her militancy against the protection of natural human life is not all; a radically distorted feminism has also led her to agitate against the Eucharist, food for spiritual Life. She has also advocated repeatedly against Holy Mass, on the grounds that she feels offended that only a man can be a priest. During March, 2011 preparations for the Sinsinawa Dominicans’ General Chapter, Sister Donna wrote:

 Looking at the Agenda for Chapter I am violated by the continual use of
sexism through the use of the word Eucharist….We have a lot of educating to do in this Community by our Leadership when one of the first items covered is to hire a male priest to lead us in prayer every day.
I know I will be boycotting this time …

There was a substantial volume of responses to Sister Donna’s rejection of the Eucharist. Even though, sadly, few of today’s Sinsinawa Dominicans give assent to the infallible Catholic teaching that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women, most do value the Eucharist and some were quick to express disagreement with Sister Donna:

I really need to respond.  In my life, the Eucharist is mystery and gift beyond any consideration of any slight or offense.  Yes, I will rejoice when inequalities are righted in our church; but, in the meantime, I am unwilling to deprive myself and my community of the unfathomable benefit of the source and sign of our unity and life.

Another sister replies with an orthodox understanding of what the Eucharist is, and tries to reassure feminists by pointing out that sisters will be preaching the homily at these Masses during General Chapter,–though homilies by the non-ordained are not permitted under canon law:

Dear Sinsinopers, I believe that each time I participate in the Eucharist I commune with the sacramental Body of Christ, the resurrected Christ and the church, which is also the Body of Christ. I revel in this communion as it connects me with my brothers and sisters in every corner of the universe, as well as the person in the pew next to me. I am looking forward to our daily Eucharist together at chapter where one of our sisters will be breaking open the Word for us.

Another sister wrote in defense of the priest, an aged Dominican who has a close relationship with the sisters:

The wording “to hire a male priest” is offensive. In this case it refers to an actual person, a friend and fellow worker of some of us. Indeed, he’s our brother, who is not in any way responsible for the Vatican’s wrong-headed policies.

“What is Eucharist for me?”

In February of 2012, Sister Donna Quinn forwarded a Women-Church Convergence email to which she added the comment: “We surely do need a whole new theology of Eucharist…One of these days I will send to you the one I presented at our Women-Church Meeting in Minneapolis last October.  Donna Quinn.”

June 16, 2012, Sister Donna was similarly unhappy with the inclusion of the Eucharist in the schedule of another large Sinsinawa gathering known as Community Days, and her issue once again was that it chafed her that they would have “a male priest”. What she seems to be urging is replacing Sunday Mass (an obligation for Catholics) with a feminist liturgy. Her message is entitled “What is Eucharist for me?”

The Closing Ritual on Sunday August 5 is a Eucharist.
Does this mean that we will be calling in an ordained male minister to lead us as we conclude our days together – sending
LCWR members to St. Louis and sending all of us to
go forth  to”explore the emerging Wisdom of God”
What is that Wisdom that is emerging….What are we learning…What are we teaching through Eucharist called sacrament….What kind of courage do we need for sharing with others after  these days… What changes do we need for our place in the world today.
I  would like to ask you to consider a gathering
on Sunday that will be for real and sybolically  lift up who we are
as builders of a Spirituality that our Daughters can understand
and that Leadership will courageously carry with them on the
streets they travel beyond the LCWR meeting.

Whereas the previous March quite a few people had objected to Donna’s words rejecting the Eucharist, this post “What is Eucharist for me?” drew out numerous attempts to articulate personal beliefs about the Eucharist. The adequacy or accuracy may be evaluated with the help of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which introduces the topic by quoting from Vatican II:

At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood. This he did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved Spouse, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet ‘in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us. (Sacrosanctum Concilium)

“The Eucharist is a celebratory meal with wine that lifts our spirits, even as it lifts up our pain.  It is a meal in which we are offered refreshment and sent forth to refresh others,” wrote Sister Ann Marie Mongoven, one of the first to respond to Sister Donna’s question. Sister Ann Marie objected to Donna’s repeated efforts to make the Mass a point of controversy: “If you want to divide us in this way, Donna, just remember that you are dividing us.  I think you speak division in the midst of our loving unity and one of our most significant gifts, a gift we certainly need now.”

But another sister who tends to be more radical quickly took Donna’s part: “With all respect for you, Anne, I totally disagree with your characterization of Donna’s request.  She ASKED us to CONSIDER.  I take that as inviting dialogue, which is a far cry from dividing us.”

Sister Kathleen Long, director of the Cuernavaca Center for Intercultural Dialogue in Mexico, said: “These are two good women with two different views.” Like Sister Donna, she was open to considering non-liturgical experiences to be “Eucharist,” and offered an example:

I don’t find the question about Sunday Eucharist divisive but courageous. Here in Mexico I was with many families today whose sons and daughters, sisters have been kidnapped, disappeared or murdered and the families are left with this agonizing pain in their bodies for life. Our eucharist today [ie, Sunday] was being together and entering into the agony and listening ritually to women share their pain. Then we, all 70 of us, Americans and Mexicans,  celebrated joyfully and had 3 cakes for Javier Sicilia as he is in the second year after his 22 yr old son was murdered- we recgnized father’s day with him and with Alfonso who lost his 23 yr old son last year also and with  others. This was my Eucharist today. Jesus was present and shared among us, with us. We gave each other the body and blood of Jesus.

In regards to the Sinsinawa “Community Days” gathering of sisters and lay Associates, Sister Kathleen suggests, “Perhaps we can abstain from the usual sunday mass as a sign of our indignation with our patriarchal church and the roman condemnations.” It is painful to read her attitude–remember, they are discussing the the Real Presence of Jesus and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass: “When will we be outraged enough to stop accepting the norm?”

Sister Mary Clemente Davlin, often a moderate voice of common sense, thought, “Maybe we need another ‘all women’ ceremony as well, at the end [of Community Days].  But depriving everyone of Mass to prove their loyalty to womanhood would be, I think, like forbidding sisters to contact their families in order to prove their loyalty to the sisterhood.”

Novices baking "Mound Bread", a probably 1950s era photo that appeared in the Winter, 1995 edition of the Sinsinawa ExCHANGE congregation magazine

Novices packaging Mound Bread in the bakery, a probably 1950s era photo that appeared in the Winter, 1975 edition of the Sinsinawa ExCHANGE congregation magazine

Sister Arturo Cranston, director of the Sinsinawa Dominicans’ girls summer camp Camp We-Ha-Kee, responded to this discussion by stating that she is “a Vatican II Catholic” and that “men in power at the Vatican” have intentionally thwarted the doctrines of the Council–as understood by her–so she, too, has questions about identity and membership and sees a distinction between “Church and church.” “Does my own personal integrity demand that I leave what I can have no discourse with? Create a more personally satisfying church community? Stay in place and grumble?  What??” She is open to different interpretations of what Eucharist is, but wants to tread with humility, feels some caution, and makes a most important distinction. Mound bread is cinnamon bread and other specialties baked by the sisters at Sinsinawa: “Pass the Mound bread around at our gatherings.  Jesus is there with us, but he is not in the bread as he is in Eucharist, his body.”

Another sister said the Eucharist, “yes, by a priest for now”, is central for her as a Catholic: “I need the Eucharist, it is a community celebration, and  life giving for me.  Other celebrations are fine but not instead of the Eucharist at Mass.”

Participation in the Mass

On June 29th, after the discussion of the Eucharist had wound down, Sister Donna posted an article from the dissident publication National Catholic Reporter on the 10-year anniversary of the invalid “ordination” of seven women on a boat in the Danube River, and attempted to get the conversation going again, shifting the focus now from discussion about whether Sunday Mass is necessary and whether something non-liturgical could be “Eucharist,” to the question of accepting as “Eucharist” liturgies celebrated by “Women priests” or other not-validly-ordained people. She wrote:

I put this on SinsinOP and ask the question again…..What is Eucharist for me?
Friends of mine who are in their twenties often say Let people do what they want to do I am conscious of that when talking with them about racism, contraception, same-sex relations, church, Eucharist  which is why I always write Eucharist for me…
Is Eucharist always within a canonically-approved Liturgy…..Is Eucharist with ordained women as noted below ….Is Eucharist part of a feminist sacramental system which happens in most circumstances surrounded by love ….or is Eucharist all of the above and then some ? ?
Donna Quinn

Just how broadly Sister Donna Quinn defines “Eucharist” is reflected in a 2002 talk she gave at Harvard Divinity School in which she stated, “[t]his gathering for me has been a Eucharistic celebration,” and in her words at a May, 2012 Planned Parenthood event in California, less than two months before the above “What is Eucharist to me” post on SinsinOP: “Today, I will walk away and say this has been Eucharist to me. I no longer need ordained people.”

This received only one reply, however it is one that leads me to want to get into some further explanation:

Donna, thank you for your e-mail and all the information about the ordained Women priests.  I have had many connections with six of them through CTA [the activist dissent group Call to Action]. And have spoken with two of the FIVE Women Bishops. I have great respect for these women who followed their conscience to a God-given call.[…]

[The issue of women’s ordination has less priority for me than it once did because of the late Bishop of Saginaw, MI] Kenneth Untener’s teaching on Eucharist.  Here are a few of the points he emphasized:  when the faith-community gathers we are all celebrants through our baptism;  At this time in our history the Catholic Tradition has one male Presider;  He asked the Directors of Adult Formation in his diocese to have adults in our teachings of Eucharist, have a copy of the Eucharist Prayer in their hands. Why? So they noted all the times “WE” was used, not “I”. The faith community “calls upon the Spirit” etc …. etc ….   So now, it does not matter to me who presides.

It has long been well known that promoters of “women’s ordination” rarely or never hold an orthodox understanding of the Sacrament of Holy Orders and its relationship to the Eucharist, and do not simply advocate for Orders to be conferred on women. This in itself the Church has no authority whatsoever to do, but the problem is even more extensive, “women’s ordination” promoters have a different, non-Catholic understanding of the nature of priestly ordination and tend not to consider it necessary for consecration of the Eucharist. For instance this belief seems to prevail at Holy Wisdom Monastery, a former-Catholic place with some Sinsinawa connections that will be mentioned later in this article, that has sometimes hosted “womenpriests” and Women’s Ordination Conference events. When I went there in February and asked one of the former Benedictine sisters where she goes to Mass, she said, “here.” The “eucharist” service there is lay-led. Other attendees have also insisted to me that it is the same as Mass. The local bishop explicitly states that it is not.

While it has always been understood that the Holy Mass is indeed the prayer of the whole community offered on our behalf by the priest, terming everyone at Mass a “celebrant” is a bit of a nonsensical clericalization of the laity. We cannot all be the “presider.” The participation of the person in the pew in offering the Mass, nevertheless, did not begin with Vatican II’s advocacy of “full, conscious, and active participation,” on the contrary this participation is often far more profound and actually meaningful in the older explanations. Vatican II amplified an already ongoing call from the Church for increased vocal participation of the people, however that was not the only nor the most important meaning of “active participation.” My beat-up 1940 Father Stedman hand missal explains “How to ‘PARTICIPATE ACTIVELY’… first by offering the Divine Victim to the Eternal Father in union with the priest, your official representative; second, by offering yourself to the Eternal Father in union with the divine Victim. To be a co-offerer with the priest, you must have a sacrificial will, so as to make this twofold oblation of Christ and yourself.” This missal goes on to explain “your share in the priesthood”: though a lay person, “You have this sublime privilege by the grace of Baptism. You have not, indeed, the power of the ordained priest to change bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, but you can offer the Holy Sacrifice in union with the priest at the altar. This, then, is the meaning of the plea of the priest at the altar when he turns to the faithful in the pews and says aloud, ‘Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours, etc.'” I strongly do not want to misconstrue anyone, so I do not pretend to really know exactly what she meant, but if this sister’s interest was not as much in our active participation in the sacrifice of the Mass in the sense elaborated above, but what is implied by connecting it with alleged “women priests,” ie that everyone present is a concelebrant consecrating the Eucharist together,–this is simply not the truth, and Vatican II did not and could not change that.

Reference to the Mass as sacrifice, as it is clearly in Vatican II’s explanations (“At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood. This he did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages…”), is absent from the sisters’ discussion of these matters, and I have to wonder if this is part of why they have a sense that they are not participating fully. Sinsinawa Dominican Sister Albertus Magnus McGrath’s 1972 book What a Modern Catholic Believes About Women states that “The New Testament sacrifice is no longer the Judaic sacrifice of atonement, it is a sacrifice of thanks and praise.” Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, on the other hand, says “As often as the sacrifice of the cross in which Christ our Passover was sacrificed, is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried on…,” and the Vatican II  Constitution on the Liturgy, speaks of “the liturgy, ‘through which the work of our redemption is accomplished,’ most of all in the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist” and affirms that “in Christ ‘the perfect achievement of our reconciliation came forth, and the fullness of divine worship was given to us.'”

I have seen it said that the “liberation theology” point of view, which reinterprets Christianity in keeping with Marxist principles, tends to reinterpret the meaning of the Cross in such a way that it is to them no longer atonement for sin, but more straightforwardly a historical spectacle of oppression, the response to which is a commitment to class struggle and revolutionary praxis. In her book Feminism and Beyond, Sinsinawa Dominican Sister Loretta Dornisch paraphrases an El Salvadorian woman influenced by liberation theology, who expressed this type of view in a 1998 talk at Edgewood College: “If you do not help us to live, then Jesus is still dead in the tomb. If you help us to life, Jesus’ resurrection is reality.” I asked some friends what they thought of this statement, and all agreed this is not what Christians believe.

It is perhaps little wonder that liberationist praxis itself comes to be seen by some as actually a substitute for the Mass. Indeed, when Marxist-feminists see male priests as oppressors, rejection of Holy Mass and liberationist praxis can be one and the same. In Sister Loretta Dornisch’s Feminism and Beyond, she says “For some women in the Roman Catholic tradition, Eucharist which is linked only with male authority and patriarchal ritual was recognized as a contradiction of the good news of love…. As the foundations are questioned…. New foundations are called for….” This perspective is nowhere more in evidence than in Sister Donna Quinn’s claims that even the use of the term “Eucharist” is sexist, and her campaign for the exclusion of Holy Mass from Sinsinawa Dominican community events. Sister Donna likes to talk about the need to create a “feminist sacramental system.” If giving a pro-abortion-rights talk at a Planned Parenthood event is an example of “eucharist” in this system, then one fears to speculate who is being worshiped in the new religion.

“Sowing seeds for a new church”

And why is someone who actively rejects the Holy Mass and repeatedly talks about wanting to institute a “feminist sacramental system,” who publicly promotes abortion rights and “same sex marriage,” allowed to continue calling herself a Catholic Dominican religious sister? This “feminist sacramental system” idea is promoted also by the radical dissent group Women-Church Convergence–a completely outrageous organization of which the Sinsinawa Women’s Network is a member.

Sinsinawa Dominican Sister Laurie Brink did the Catholic Church a service by publicly raising the issue of some sisters “estranged from the church, sometimes choosing not to attend the local parish,” of sisters “moving beyond the Church” and beyond Jesus. In the words of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Doctrinal Assessment for LCWR, “such a rejection of faith is also serious source of scandal and is incompatible with religious life.”

When I wrote to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious earlier this year to sadly bring to their attention as a cautionary tale another local scandal, Holy Wisdom Monastery, once a LCWR community of Benedictine sisters, now a non-Catholic breakway sect with lay-led (invalid) Sunday “eucharist,” that sometimes hosts “women priests”, I pleaded to LCWR: “I hope you will try to be the beneficial influence other Sisters need to stay lovingly united in the Eucharist and in the visible structure of the Church and to be faithful.” LCWR did not reply.

Among the Sinsinawa Domincan sisters who continued giving talks at the heretical, formerly-Catholic Holy Wisdom Monastery, were Sister Clare Wagner, whose response to the LCWR doctrinal assessment is quoted near the beginning of this article, Sister Lynn Lisbeth, and Sister Maureen McDonnell. Sister Clare (see also my review of her book Awakening to Prayer)  is a “Call to Action” dissent group member who wrote on SinsinOP in 2009, “I have resolved not to put energy into ‘church reform’ but rather into sowing seeds for a new church.” The latter two sisters were among the members of Wisdom’s Well Interfaith Spirituality Center, when Bishop Morlino directed all his priests that no Wisdom’s Well staff were approved to lead programs on Catholic premises; the prioress notified the press, leading to a Wisconsin State Journal article, and the Edgewood College community raised a big ruckus with letters to the editor in favor of the sisters, while back at Sinsinawa the pair were “greeted with a standing ovation, a very moving event that will linger with us. The three entertained long lines of sisters who wished to greet them and personally share their support.” The leadership claimed not to understand what the Bishop’s concerns were, despite the concerns being detailed in an extensive document detailing their New Ageism and religious indifferentism. This February, when a high profile event drew attention to the problem of sisters and priests continuing to participate in events at Holy Wisdom, the Diocese of Madison contacted religious and asked for them not to do formal engagements there, and since that time the Sinsinawa Dominicans seem to have finally stopped appearing on the Holy Wisdom schedule.

At least a small minority of Sinsinawa Dominicans appear to be gravely acting against the Communion of the Church, as evidenced by Sister Donna Quinn’s advocacy against having Holy Mass at congregation events and in favor of a new “feminist sacramental system,” and Sister Clare Wagner’s words about “sowing seeds for a new church” and her participation in some events at Holy Wisdom Monastery, a place that is actually a new breakaway church based on the radical feminist sisters’ post-Catholic belief system, and where the bishop had to forbid Mass to be celebrated, to prevent confusion. Other, more congregation-level concerns include the belief in the possibility of “women’s ordination,” which appears to be a majority belief within the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa. The congregation’s Sinsinawa Women’s Network is actually a member of the Women-Church Convergence, which agitates for “women’s ordination” and a “feminist sacramental system,” as well as revision of sexual morality, etc.

This article continues in Part 2 with a look at the Sinsinawa Dominicans’ discussions of their “relationship with the institutional Church” ->