A couple of women growing marijuana in California have grabbed a lot of media attention lately, not so much for the pot thing but for what they wear: the garb of Catholic nuns.
But the women are not nuns, which they tell people. It’s part of the back story of how they became “Sister” Kate and “Sister” Darcy, a.k.a. Sisters of the Valley.
“The Sisters of the Valley are nuns who grow pot. Which is pretty amazing when you think about it, even if they aren’t really nuns,” wrote Wired.
“But the way they see it, if schools can call pizza a veggie, they can call themselves nuns.”
Media headlines, though, have referred to them as though they are Catholic religious women.
“These cannabis growing nuns answer to a higher power.”
“Meet the nuns relieving people’s pain with marijuana.”
That offends people like Sister Theresa Aletheia Noble, a self-described former atheist who recently took her first vows with the Daughters of Saint Paul.
Noble is a real nun. And she wants the pot “nuns” to give up their “schtick.”
They “are not nuns or religious sisters, they just dress up like they are and gain attention for that reason,” Noble recently wrote on the Catholic news website, Aleteia.
Noble pointed out the confusion created by stories like one from CNN that began with a reference to the Catholic church, implying that the “sisters” are followers.
“I can understand why the women in this group would see the beauty in our life,” wrote Noble.
“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.”
Noble’s blog posting elicited strong response from people who agreed with her — and others who suggested that she lighten up.
“Sister Theresa Aletheia, get over it. You don’t hold a monopoly on being a nun.”
“Would you tell a Buddhist nun to ‘get over’ hipsters wearing her traditional religious garb to promote their weed business?”
“Unfortunately, these fake ‘Nuns’ use Catholic symbols to promote their own agenda, and deliberately misrepresent themselves for their own selfish purposes. I think it’s a disgrace!”
“People can dress however they want. They don’t claim to be nuns.”
“Sister Kate” is Christine Meeusen, a Milwaukee native and divorced mother of three who wore a nun costume — a Halloween leftover — to an Occupy Wall Street protest five years ago.
“People didn’t care that I was a fake nun,” she told Racked. “They would just come to me with their problems and ask me to light a candle, say a prayer, or connect them to help.”
Religious women “do elicit amazing responses when we wear our habits in public, some of them negative, many positive,” blogged Noble, author of “The Prodigal You Love: Inviting Loved Ones Back to the Church.”
“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.”
Meeusen kept wearing the costume to protests, earning the media nickname “Sister Occupy.”
Last year she started a company to sell lotions, oils and other products made from cannabis. She called it Sisters of the Valley and hired “Sister” Darcy Johnson, 24, to help.
The women, who have thousands of followers on Facebook, wear nun habits wherever they go, like the big Hempcon medicinal marijuana show in February.
When people say they are not real nuns, “my answer is there are no nuns. They’re going extinct in this country,” Meeusen told Tech Insider, which dubbed the Sisters of the Valley the most “talked about women in the pot business.”
“If you look up what makes up a sister, there are five elements. ... We live together, we wear the same clothes, we take a vow of obedience to the moon cycles, we take a vow of chastity (which we don’t think requires celibacy), and a vow of ecology, which is a vow to do no harm while you’re making your medicine.”
The number of nuns in the United States has, in fact, been declining for several decades. The population is aging. More than 90 percent of the 58,000 nuns in the country have been 60 years or older for many years now, according to National Religious Vocation Conference data.
Meeusen was educated by Catholic nuns, from grade school through high school, according to The Daily Beast.
These days she’s got at least one praying for her.