Sister Joan Chittister standing with Holy Mother Church?

Someone please help me out here! Thanks!

A conflict in our community has caused local activist Catholic women to cite Sister Joan Chittister to prove certain “wrongs” that they believe the Catholic Church has perpetuated in our city and around the world.

I have been involved with this conflict for the past several months, with several opinion pieces published in the local newspaper, and many Catholics from my parish and others, as well as Protestants, praising my calm and logical responses to these activists.

When I read their latest article this morning, my “Spidey Sense” was alerted. I get the feeling that this Sister is not in good standing with the Catholic Church, but I can’t find any articles online other than blogs and opinions from conservative Catholics and even Evangelical Protestants about Sister Chittister’s stands on various issues.

So I might be wrong about her. I certainly don’t want to write a response to the activist’s article without knowing the facts.

Is Sister Chittister still in good standing with the Catholic Church? Should we give heed and honor to what she says and writes?

Or is she, as I suspect, a dissident who is spreading mis-truths and half-truths about the Catholic Church?

Thanks for any information, links, or advice! I think it’s important for a WOMAN (like me!) to respond to these activist women. I honestly don’t think it will change their minds, but it will help other Catholics in the community, as well as our very active Evangelical Protestant population (which is where I was before converting to Catholicism) to know the truth.

She has not been censured or excommunicated, if that’s what you are asking.

Not if it contradicts Church teaching.

Many would characterize her that way.


The place I’ve read most about her is on Fr. Z’s blog. I’m sure you could just google her name and the word “controversy” and get lots of stuff like this:
Here’s a different example than the one I posted earlier that was misleading:

Just one example of how sister Joan sows confusion:

Being in “good standing” with the Church, as in not being disciplined or censured, or whatever, is a really low bar; religious or clergy are rarely disciplined for their public comments nowadays. Just because an individual has not been disciplined does not mean their views and opinions are not dangerous, or even heretical.

As for Sister Joan - avoid her and her views. She has a history of making statments that are not in accord with Church teaching.


I just want to note that the headline is a bit misleading. Sister Joan herself is not a gay theologian or a lesbian poet. The headline could be interpreted as describing her that way.

She is however a super-liberal who constantly pushes for controversial changes in the Church.

I would suggest the OP simply focus on pointing out the Church’s official positions and the reasoning behind those positions, and leave Sister Joan out except for making clear that she is not an official voice of the Church and often takes positions contrary to Church doctrine.


She is no more, and no less, a spokesperson for the Church than other Catholics. She is often cited as “prominent”, as if media coverage gives her, or the Kardashians, more wisdom and authority.

The reason she is “prominent” is because she supports the media point of view. They contact her for quotes, not because they want to learn anything, but because they know her quotes will express their POV.

There are prolife sisters and laity that are not prominent. The media won’t call them, and won’t return their calls.


Yes, she appears on so many talk shows that non-Catholics and even some Catholics might think she’s an official mouthpiece of the Church or has some authority outside her order. Non-Catholics also don’t understand that members of religious orders often push boundaries in this way and get away with it.

Besides espousing the popular secular view, she’s also controversial. Media love to feature controversial people because they get a big reaction both positive and negative from the public.

I think the article is being a little unfair to Sr. Joan. They imply that she is pro-abortion even though she never actually says that in the quote they took from her.

And she does have a point. If you’re going to be against abortion, it is also just to support programs that aid families who choose life.

My biggest problem with Sr. Joan’s comments is that they perpetuate the baseless accusation that people who are against abortion are only pro-birth and don’t care about the mother or the kids after they’re born. I have only met one or two people who actually have that mindset. The vast majority of pro-lifers care deeply about both.


She’s just using an attention-grabbing argument to push her social justice tax platform.

And because you do present well reasoned responses, I know @peeps would not go so far as to “attack the person” instead of the message.

I read some of her writing about her early days in the convent. I am sure she is a unique individual, but she has a lot in common with what I call the Lost Generation. These were mostly sisters, but also priests and laity who grew up before V2, then had an awakening, a new consciousness in the 1960s. This was not much caused by the Council itself, but by the culture itself, and reading authors such as Teillard de Chardin. The secular media became the new Liturgy of the Hours.

Sister Joan, and others, has expressed some good ideas, but always the same good ideas already pushed by the media.

The massive convents in my area that are most compatible with Sr Joan have been turned into virtual nursing homes, with 3 to 5 percent still in some kind of ministry outside.

There is another thread about Fr Richard Rohr, O.F.M.
His liberal branch of Franciscans seems compatible with his (and Sr Joan’s) teaching. They are merging 6 US provinces into 1.


I agree, she is very, very typical of the clergy and religious who were ordained or entered religious life between about the late 50s and the early 1980s.
I grew up with these people teaching everywhere, sometimes in leadership roles.
I did not react to it well and have to fight my bias on that point when I see and hear from one of them.
I have to give Sister credit for remaining a Sister. Many of these folks quit when it became apparent that the Church was not going to change as much as they wanted it to.

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Some quit for the reasons you gave. Others quit because their convent was secularized. Still others had other reasons.

Spiritual writers have always warned against “the World”. This advice has been largely forgotten on religious life, and among laity.


This seems a rather frightening thread… OP, are you asking people to validate your belief that you’re more Catholic than Sister Joan?


The reason she is prominent is because her sisters have in the past elected her as prioress, and because leaders of religious communities once elected her as their president. This means she has been supported by people who know her, and presumably expresses a vision they acknowledge and support.

She is not some isolated person in a cave whose reputation was created by the media, as you seem to imply. She might “support the media point of view” (I doubt it) but that is at most what maintains her prominence. It is not what made her prominent.

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I didn’t get that impression from Peeps. She doesn’t generally attack people, she just wondered about a sister who is expressing many views that seem unorthodox. Peeps is also a convert and didn’t grow up seeing dissident Catholic clergy and religious all over the place like us cradles did.


Prominent Catholics who seemingly espouse views at odds with the church seem really weird to this convert too. In my mind it’s like a McDonald’s executive who would speak about how unhealthy fast food is. It makes no sense to me why the higher-ups don’t see the damage that the “rogues” are doing and rein them in.


She seems to have a way of demonizing a group of people, typically faithful Catholics, and then taking on the victim label when she is criticized.


That seems to be the standard playbook for certain groups within the Church.

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