This Secular Psychologist Emptied Out This Massive Convent Long Before Katy Perry Bought It for Herself

By John Zmirak Published on April 18, 2016

There’s a lovely little complex in Los Angeles that used to be a convent, and the story of how it was emptied of nuns by foolish leaders following trendy secular ideas is a cautionary tale for every Christian.

Deeded to religious sisters by a devout Catholic businessman, the empty convent sits on eight acres of hilltop in the Los Feliz neighborhood with an exquisite view of the city, and is valued at $14.5 million. And now a judge has ruled that the property may be sold to singer Katy Perry, over the objections of several elderly sisters, who watched some of Perry’s videos and fought the Los Angeles archdiocese’s plan to sell her the property — going so far as to find an alternative purchaser and contest their own bishop in court. Those sisters have lost, and Perry will take possession of the property. As Fox News reports:

The Sisters of the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary have owned the property for more than 40 years, but they haven’t lived in the convent for several years. Only five sisters, who are in their 70s and 80s, remain, and their order has bickered with the archbishop for years on various issues.

This order wasn’t always a small band of elderly women. In fact, the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) were among the largest and most successful teaching orders in America at the time of the Second Vatican Council (1960-64).

Sisters-of-the-IHM-Hollywood-CA-1960's

IHM sisters gathered in Hollywood, CA, mid 1960s. Photo via raderfoundation.org

Their sudden collapse is a searing instance of how too many Catholics misread Vatican’s II message of renewal as a call to surrender to worldly, secular influences. A similar pattern of compromise, surrender and collapse is, sadly, the story of most “mainline” Protestant churches, as well. Their fate should be an object lesson in the dangers of watering down Christian doctrine in order to soften the “scandal” of faith in a secular age.

Keen to follow Vatican II’s call for religious orders to “renew” themselves, the IHM nuns interpreted this call differently from how the well-meaning bishops had intended it. In 1966, the order contracted with secular psychologist Carl Rogers to work with him and his teams of facilitators, engaging the sisters in the touchy-feely, “humanistic” therapy sessions which Rogers offered — the key to which was “values clarification,” whereby sisters would be encouraged to look within their emotions, instead of the doctrinal tenets which they had learned, for answers to ethical questions. William Coulson, one of the psychologists who worked with Rogers, came to deeply regret this experiment. As Coulson told Latin Mass magazine:

The IHMs had some 60 schools when we started; at the end, they had one. There were some 615 nuns when we began. Within a year after our first interventions, 300 of them were petitioning Rome to get out of their vows. They did not want to be under anyone’s authority, except the authority of their imperial inner selves. …

There’s a tragic book called Lesbian Nuns, Breaking Silence, which documents part of our effect on the IHMs and other orders that engaged in similar experiments in what we called “sensitivity” or “encounter” …

Sister Mary Benjamin got involved with us in the summer of ’66, and became the victim of a lesbian seduction. An older nun in the group, “freeing herself to be more expressive of who she really was internally,” decided that she wanted to make love with Sister Mary Benjamin. Well, Sister Mary Benjamin engaged in this; and then she was stricken with guilt, and wondered, to quote from her book, “Was I doing something wrong, was I doing something terrible? I talked to a priest—”

Unfortunately, we had talked to him first. “I talked to a priest,” she says, “who refused to pass judgment on my actions. He said it was up to me to decide if they were right or wrong. He opened a door, and I walked through the door, realizing I was on my own.”

The priest got confused about his role as a confessor. He thought it was personal, and he consulted himself and said, “I can’t pass judgment on you.” But that’s not what confession is. It is not about the priest as a person, making a decision for the client; rather it’s what God says. In fact, God has already judged on this matter. You are quite right to feel guilty about it. “Go thou and sin no more.” Instead he said she should decide.

Coulson notes that quite a number of the nuns who had gone through his therapy sessions soon “discovered” that they were lesbians, and either left the order to pursue relationships, or simply carried them on within the convent. Clearly not all of those nuns whom Coulson and Rogers treated belonged in the convent — especially not those who struggled with same-sex attraction. Religious orders had probably been too greedy for recruits in the 1940s and 50s, admitting people without proper screening, who really did not have the (quite rare) calling to poverty, chastity (1 Cor. 7: 8) and obedience. But there were countless faithful nuns who really did have callings, which were wrecked by their order’s reckless embrace of shallow secular thinking.

Dozens of other religious orders, male and female, unraveled as the therapeutic mentality displaced traditional spirituality, and tools for self-discipline such as physical mortification were thrown aside in favor of counseling. In 2006, The Linacre Institute published a study, After Asceticism: Sex, Prayer and Deviant Priests that showed how the sudden spike of sexual abuse of minors by priests coincided exactly with the abandonment of fasting (Jesus fasted in the desert) and other traditional means of practicing self-control.

Nuns streamed out of convents, and brothers out of monasteries. The once-full Christian Brothers’ quarters at my Catholic high school in Queens was completely empty by the time I enrolled, and was turned by the Diocese of Brooklyn into an annulment tribunal — the most “successful” on earth, with an almost 100 percent approval rate.

Those who are excited by calls to “modernize” and “liberate” believers from traditional Christian doctrines and disciplines should visit that haunted convent in Los Angeles, before Katy Perry moves in and sets up her sound stage. What they’ll hear won’t be prayers but crickets, the sounds of a spiritual desert which many mistook for the Promised Land.

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