Jan. 23, 2018 in
Women religious — who are usually outside of political debates — have not been immune to Americans’ rancor. Stances congregations have held for decades or even centuries have become controversial in some circles.
Members of the Communicators for Women Religious have said their communities have lost donors because they stand with immigrants, for example. Others said former supporters had become detractors.
“That shouldn’t matter to anything we stand for,” Erie, Pennsylvania, Benedictine Sr. Linda Romey said. “We cannot compromise our values so that we keep donors. It’s our integrity we’re talking about.”
The situation is not new for the Erie Benedictines, she said.
“When the sisters began being more involved in issues locally, we lost donors,” Romey said. “So we try to have conversations to try to explain, try to help them understand where we’re coming from. If they can’t, you say ‘Sorry’ and ‘Maybe one day, you’ll change your mind,’ but it won’t change our stand.”
Explanations go a long way in smoothing relationships, she said.
“We need to say that if we’re following the Gospel, it means this, this and this. But we don’t always say why we do what we do,” Romey said. “No matter the consequences, if we’re going to follow Jesus, we have to act in this way. The people here in Erie know our stands and know we’ll continue to advocate for the poor, take part in peace marches and vigils and stand on the side of immigrants, women and the environment.”
One factor that may have complicated matters, she said, is that most members of congregations’ communications staff are now laypeople. And though they are professionals and good at what they do, it can be harder for a layperson to explain the motives of a vowed religious person, Romey said.