The fake “Sisters of the Valley” and their patronizing attitude toward the religious sisters they impersonate
It’s a story that has made the rounds one too many times because it combines two things journalists love to cover, nuns and (insert sensational thing here).
But what is offensive about this particular story is that these women who call themselves “Sister” Darcy, “Sister” Rose and “Sister” Kate are not nuns or religious sisters; they just dress up like they are and gain attention for that reason.
Google “nuns” and “marijuana” and a growing list of news items appear.
Some articles have the decency to at least put the word “nun” in quotes, but then most, like this CNN article, manage to completely confuse readers with opening lines like this:
“The Catholic Church often teaches that there is redemption in suffering, but the spiritual Sisters of the Valley hope to alleviate suffering through a centuries-old tradition familiar to many cloisters and abbeys.”
In an article over at the Daily Beast, “Sister” Kate says that she first dressed like a nun as a joke for a protest. But she soon realized that “people came up to her often — confiding in her, asking for prayers, telling her that it made them feel better just to see that she was there.” After seeing people’s positive responses, Kate says she decided to continue dressing like a nun.
Religious women do elicit amazing responses when we wear our habits in public, some of them negative, many positive. But it is not what we wear that really evokes the response; it is who we are and who we live for. What we wear is just a symbol of our vows to God. But it is the actual vows that make us available to hear the prayers and the deep, private longings of the heart that we have the privilege of hearing when people share with us.
I can understand why the women in this group would see the beauty in our life. But, frankly, it’s wrong for them to give people the impression that they are something they are not and to accept people’s attention, vulnerability, and prayers as if they were women who have dedicated their lives to God and to his people.
Kate also reveals a patronizing attitude about religious sisters. In the same article she describes how she views religious:
“If there’s one bone she has to pick with the church, it’s the way that nuns, who she says do all the hard work, are made to be ‘subservient’ to the priests. ‘I always wanted to be a sister,’ she says. ‘But I couldn’t be in a sisterhood that wasn’t empowered.’”
Wow. So religious sisters aren’t “empowered” because we are “subservient” to priests? Why do some feminists not realize how patronizing they sound when they belittle the efforts of strong, creative women already working in the church, even as they insist that Catholic women need more “rights”?
The misunderstandings continue. In a television interview, Kate says, “We live together, we work together, we’re a bit socialistic; if you look up what makes a sister, those are the things.”
The Huffington Post restates this group’s clearly strange concept of religious life in their article on this group as if it were fact:
“Before we say anything else, Sister Kate and Sister Darcy are self-ordained nuns who created their own order. So, although they wear white robes and call themselves highly spiritual, they are not Catholic, nor are they abstinent or subordinate to any priest.”
There is just so much wrong there I am not even sure where to begin.
This entire situation is frustrating to me, but as I prayed about this, I realized that these women’s fascination with religious life is also evidence of the power of Catholicism. Even though these women have rejected almost everything about the Catholic faith, they are still clearly attracted to a sign in the Church that insists by its very existence that we are all meant for eternal life.
I’m sure you have people in your life who, like Kate, Rose and Darcy seem to have rejected the faith but still hold onto some of its signs and symbols. So many fallen-away Catholics still have an apparent longing for the beauty and mystery of Catholicism.
Shortly before he became Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Ratzinger wrote: “The only really effective apologia for Christianity comes down to two arguments, namely, the saints the Church has produced and the art which has grown in her womb.”
The marijuana “nuns” are attracted to the art of religious life, the beautiful, prophetic sign that religious women are in the Church. By becoming more holy, we all can be a part of the beauty of the Church, the shimmering light of Christ for others. We are all meant to be God’s greatest works of art, inviting others with the beauty of our souls to come back to the Church.
This piece probably won’t convince Kate, Rose and Darcy to stop impersonating women they don’t even seem to respect. But there are plenty of people like them in our immediate circles of friends and family who we can invite back to the beauty of our faith.
Sister Theresa Aletheia Noble, FSP, is the author of The Prodigal You Love: Inviting Loved Ones Back to the Church. She recently pronounced her first vows with the Daughters of Saint Paul. She blogs at Pursued by Truth.
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