Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church


Another Mystery on the Front Lawn

August 6th, 2011, Promulgated by Hopefull

It’s a Mystery, but here are six clues.  We’re trying to figure out “What happened?”  What do you think?

Clue #1:  Check out the list of dissenters from the teaching of the Catholic Church, and notice a Sister Joan Chittister on marked as a dissenting speaker for her support of the ordination of women, feminist theology, Call to Action, and as a frequent contributor to the National Catholic Reporter dissident periodical.  On the dissidents’  list she keeps company with Frs. Charles Curran and Richard McBrien, retired Bishop Weakland, Cardinal Mahoney, and VP Biden…..among many others.

Clue #2:  LifeSite News Interview (LSN) with the Dissident nun Sister Joan Chittister (JC)  contains such gems as the following exchange on Feb. 15, 2010 when she was in Canada to deliver a Lenten mission for Canada’s National Catholic Broadcasting Council (NCBC):

  • LSN: Okay. So you don’t have a stand on contraception?
  • JC: Well, I’m a nun. And I, I mean, I believe that – in the first place, the Church is not opposed to birth control. The Church is great on arithmetic, they just have a problem with chemistry…..
  • LSN: Okay. Where do you stand on something like the woman’s right to choose?
  • JC: I believe that that’s – let’s put it this way. I’m opposed to abortion. I have no problem with that whatsoever.  I would never see abortion as a birth control method of choice. But having said that, I would never condemn a woman who finds herself in the position where she believes that, or her doctor believes that, abortion is the only answer for her at that moment. My problem lies in the fact that we make it an absolute.
  • LSN: Would …you think that the fact that you are questioning Church teaching on these things, would that present a problem for you presenting on a Catholic program?
  • JC: Well, you see, I’m more concerned about your questions than I am about my presentation. Because you’re obviously not – you aren’t even interested in the program.  What you’re trying to do is to create some situation where a program on spiritual development in the 21st century is questionable.  And I’m not happy about that at this moment. I consider it bad journalism in the first place, because you didn’t call about the program. So I don’t know how to answer you….. I just think it’s irresponsible.  If I said to you, now you’re a journalist … The reason I want to know that is you’re a journalist, and can you really present those questions objectively if you’re writing a story?  More at:

Clue #3:  LifeSiteNews carried the story of the Detroit Archbishop issuing a warning against a dissident conference in Detroit.  … On June 7, 2011 Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit sent out a second warning to clergy and Catholics in his flock against participating in an upcoming conference in his diocese, organized by a group of dissident Catholics, including groups that promote the normalization of homosexuality, abortion, and other liberal issues.

“All of the invited keynote speakers have manifested dissent from Catholic teachings or support for dissenters,” says a question/answer statement from the diocese posted on its website.  “Keynote speakers include: Hans Kung, a dissenting theologian priest who had his authority to teach rescinded by the Church; Dr. Jeanette Rodriguez, a board member of the group Catholics for Choice which rejects Church teaching on the immorality of abortion; Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who as Former Lieutenant Governor of Maryland publicly opposed Church teaching on abortion and chastised American bishops for pushing to make abortion illegal; and Sr. Joan Chittister, an open advocate of women’s ordination…”  More can be found at

Clue #4:     Stella Maris Retreat and Renewal Center  sponsored a retreat  July 3-9, 2011 called: “In Search of Belief” Retreat Presented by Sister Carolyn Gorny-Kopkowski, OSB based on the Book by Sister Joan Chittester [sic], OSB….  Presenter, Sister Carolyn Gorny-Kopkowski, OSB, is the director of spirituality program for the Erie Benedictines.  For $435 you could have participated. The Stella Maris literature states that Sr. Carolyn has facilitated many retreats and days of reflection since 1983, and has served on the leadership team of the Erie Unit of Church Women United, an ecumenical international organization for 12 years. See more information at:

Clue #5:  Recent announcements in some DoR parish bulletins:   MERCY PRAYER CENTER RETREAT EVENT:  The Center at 65 Highland Avenue in Rochester will be offering a Guided Retreat titled “In Her Own Words” on Monday, August 15th, at 7 p.m. through Saturday, August 20th after Brunch. The Facilitator will be Sr. Carolyn Gorny-Kopkowski, OSB, and the retreat will be based on the book of Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, titled “In Her Own Words.”   Come to learn how ordinary life can become an extraordinary adventure!  ….The resident fee is $375/commuter fee $300.  See more online at

Clue #6:  This above program has disappeared from the MercyPrayer Center offerings.  Was it cancelled?  Oversubscribed?  Why?  Is there more here than meets the eye?  Or just another run-of the mill dissenter on stage in the Diocese of Rochester?  But we rest assured that like an unwanted dandelion in the front lawn each spring, that Sr. Chittister will pop up again soon, and hopefully get blown off.

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15 Responses to “Another Mystery on the Front Lawn”

  1. avatar Raymond F. Rice says:


    The solution to the mystery is elementary, my dear Hopeful!!!Apathy, too expensive, plumbing difficulties, wouldn’t give DOR percentage of the take, or preempted by Bingo!!!!LOL

  2. avatar Raymond F. Rice says:

    Second great mystery!!!

    Why did Bishop Clark conduct Confirmation at Transfiguration parish this year and not require them to drive to the cathedral????

    hint #1: $$ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $
    hint #2: $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

  3. avatar JLo says:

    And regarding Sr. Joan Chittister, if Fr. Norm Tanck is your pastor, your weekly bulletin messages from him may contain references to her and her writings. Yep, thousands upon thousands of saints and billions upon billions of words from them and from Holy Mother Church’s treasury of teachings, and he chooses to put forth to the souls in his care a dissident “religious”. Yeah, there are amazing things going on in the DOR. God bless us all! +JMJ

  4. avatar JLo says:

    And BTW, back in April there was something in CF about a Gates-Chili women’s group studying the good sister, too. I wonder what ever came of that. +JMJ

  5. avatar Mike says:

    Some of the Mercy Prayer Center’s online newsletters tout this event. I found the following here

    Guided Retreat: “In Her Own Words”

    “Struggle requires us not simply to see Hope but to become Hope.” — Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB

    The presenter facilitates this retreat based on Sr. Joan’s book. Come to hear the philosophy of an international figure, a prophet of our time, and let her own words stir your imagination and call you forth to witness peace and justice for all.

    Come to pray, celebrate, and breathe with the words of Sr. Joan and see what resonates within you from the life she continues as seeker and bearer of Gospel values. Come to learn how ordinary life can become an extraordinary adventure! Opportunities for prayer/ritual, shared wisdom, creative activities.

    Time for personal solitude as well as presentations from this interactive experience.

    Facilitator: Sr. Carolyn Gorny-Kopkowski, OSB

    Fee: resident $375 / commuter $300

    Date & Time: Monday, August 15 at 7 p.m. to Saturday, August 20 after brunch

    “… a prophet for our time …”??? And here I thought prophets were supposed to speak for God.

  6. avatar Hopefull says:

    Nice find, Mike. I saw it was missing from the Srs. of Mercy website, but I forgot about their newsletter. But I must say that I am appalled at the opening paragraph of their newsletter from their Executive Director:

    “If there has been one single theme that has resonated through my first year as Executive Director it is CHANGE. We’ve spent the past year engaged in a strategic planning process that resulted in the development of a three year
    Strategic Plan which focuses on building our brand, growth of our programs and expansion of our outreach efforts.”

    “Building our brand?” Whatever happened to serving God, saving souls and teaching the young? BUILDING OUR BRAND? Oh, and don’t forget the new logo and eco-friendly paper. No wonder there seems to be little ability to distinguish the holy from the hole-y, let alone the hooey.

  7. avatar Gretchen says:

    Here in Corning our bulletin today devotes nearly 3 pages to the wisdom of Sr. Joan. Not online yet at, but look for it within a day or so. Written by our own Deacon Ray Defendorf. Here we go with Sr. Joan: “We can call God ‘rock of ages,’ ‘door of heaven,’ ‘key of David,’ ‘dove of peace,’ ‘tree of life,’ ‘father of the universe’ — but never, ever ‘mother,'” she said. “What can that possibly be but blatant sexism, as well as bad philosophy, heretical theology and an edited version of the Scriptures?”

    And this: “It’s not what sexism says about women that is sinful,” Sr. Chittister said. “It’s what sexism says about God that is heresy. Doesn’t sexism really imply that God is all-powerful, except when it comes to women, at which point, the God who could part the seas and draw water from a rock and raise the dead to life, is totally powerless to work as fully through a woman as through a man?”

  8. avatar annonymouse says:

    Sister Joan (and Deacon Ray Defendorf) would do well to refer to the Gospels, in which Our Lord Jesus called God “Father” and never “Mother.” Now perhaps revisionist feminist theologians would say that the Bible has been re-written to eliminate Jesus’ references to God the Mother, but I’m pretty sure there’s no evidence of that. Nope – it was simply “Abba” – which can’t be taken to mean Mama.

    Since such writings of Sr. Joan (and being repeated by Deacon Ray) can only serve to create division and even anger, I’d say that they are diabolical.

    We are called to humility, and such writings serve only to elevate the self. I’m starting to see why, in the old days, nuns forsake their own names and took on saints names – i.e. Sister Mary Patrick, or Sister Mary Joseph. Mother Angelica’s order beautifully keeps up that tradition, with their nuns, brothers and priests.

  9. avatar Mike says:

    Ray Defendorf and I grew up around the corner from each other, attending St. Charles Borromeo and Aquinas as classmates. I know his early religious training – in school, anyway – was thoroughly orthodox because that’s what I got from many of the same nuns and priests.

    It would be interesting to find out when and why he went off the rails after we parted company as newly minted AQ grads in 1961.

  10. avatar Hopefull says:

    Liturgical Publications now has posted the All Saints Bulletin from August 7th and the article by Deacon Defendorf praising Sr. Joan Chittister, often seen as a heretical feminist gone wild, at the expense of souls and church. See for yourself what the Deacon has done to the good people in the pew:

  11. avatar Richard Thomas says:

    Whar a shamee. She is speaking on the feast of the Assumption. Mary, pray for her and all dissenters. Pray for us!

  12. avatar Raymond F. Rice says:

    My question is: if she is heretical (Sister Joan), why has the Vatican, with the Holy Father, not spoken out about her and her views?? Something this radical should be addressed so that the faithful will not be allowed to stray by reading her books or attending retreats with her writings as the theme.

  13. avatar brother of penance says:

    It is articles like this one that send me immediately to Ben’s recent post and Neil Young’s DON’T LET IT BRING YOU DOWN. No doubt Sr. Joan Chittister, presenters who support her works, and those who flock to their gatherings are enough to bring one down. But, by God’s grace we will not let it bring us down. We will seek God’s face, God’s Truth, and God’s comfort through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. We will be determined to pray and do penance for those who reject the Church’s teachings. We will strive to know what the Church teaches and look for opportunities to share, instruct and make disciples. We could reiterate Sr. Joan’s public dissent. We could continue to warn others about her, her published works, and Chittister friendly gatherings. Yet, for every time we do that we also could and should so widely spread the Church’s teachings that as soon as dissenters open their mouths, the faithful will recognize it for what it is. In the mean time, perhaps Sr. Joan Chittister’s name can be added to that growing list of those who “somehow in God’s Providence, men like Palumbos, Callan, McBrien, Clark etc etc are here to become the steps on the ladder that we by God’s grace are climbing to sainthood.” Can we say? SISTER JOAN, WE DO NOT RESONATE WITH YOUR (In her own)WORDS. WE BELIEVE THE WORDS OF JESUS CHRIST AS REVEALED TO HIS CHURCH AND PROCLAIMED TO THE WORLD THROUGH HIS BODY, THE CATHOLIC CHURCH. WE LOVE YOU, SISTER JOAN. WE FORGIVE YOU. WE ARE PRAYING FOR YOU AND WE THANK GOD FOR PROVIDENTIALLY HAVING PLACED YOU IN OUR LIVES, ANOTHER STEP ON THE LADDER TO OUR SAINTHOOD, LORD WILLING. GRACE AND PEACE TO YOU, SISTER JOAN.

  14. avatar Diane Harris says:

    I was shocked by what Deacon Ray Defendorf so blatantly wrote, and I have written a guest letter (which Gretchen posted) on the “Saving Our Parish” site: for any who might be interested in a bit of pushback on Sr. Joan Chittister.

    The Liturgical Publications website has the All Saints Parish Bulletin for August 7th, which contained the heretical writing. You could add comments here on Cleansing Fire, or add them to the Saving Our Parish blogsite. I think many more Catholics should move beyond caring only about their own parishes (as in ‘my church is still open so I won’t rock the boat’) to being more compassionate to the neighboring flock under wolf-attack.

    Further complaint could go to the deacon (Dean Condon) who is pastoral administrator in Corning, and to the diocese (Bishop Clark, Fr. Dan Condon and Fr. Hart) and to the Benedictine Order, and to Rome as well. As Paul so often reminded us, we must not tire in running the race.

  15. avatar Jim says:

    Jim M. here: In the August 14th bulletin, there is a picture and description of a recent Tridentine Mass celebrated a few weeks earlier, at St. Mary’s in Corning. Maybe the deacon’s trying to show that he can be open to conservative ideas as well…or maybe he was bombarded with criticism about his other recent articles.

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