Thursday, July 2, 2009

Apostolic Visitation to Women Religious

The NY Times has a story on the 2 different visitations that the Vatican has ordered. Of course they play it up as the good freedom-loving sisters vs. the sinister Vatican who is running a secret inquisition. Once you get past the fluff, there are some interesting items. Here are a few of them.

Some sisters surmise that the Vatican and even some American bishops are trying to shift them back into living in convents, wearing habits or at least identifiable religious garb, ordering their schedules around daily prayers and working primarily in Roman Catholic institutions, like schools and hospitals.

“They think of us as an ecclesiastical work force,” said Sister Sandra M. Schneiders, professor emerita of New Testament and spirituality at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, in California. “Whereas we are religious, we’re living the life of total dedication to Christ, and out of that flows a profound concern for the good of all humanity. So our vision of our lives, and their vision of us as a work force, are just not on the same planet.”

This is just bad commentary on what the "Vatican" thinks. Yet, the planetary reference is probably pretty close to reality.

The investigation was ordered by Cardinal Franc Rodé, head of the Vatican office that deals with religious orders. In a speech in Massachusetts last year, Cardinal Rodé offered barbed criticism of some American nuns “who have opted for ways that take them outside” the church.

Given this backdrop, Sister Schneiders, the professor in Berkeley, urged her fellow sisters not to cooperate with the visitation, saying the investigators should be treated as “uninvited guests who should be received in the parlor, not given the run of the house.” She wrote this in a private e-mail message to a few friends, but it became public and was widely circulated.

Mother Clare said she was aware that some women’s institutes “weren’t happy” to hear of the visitation, but that so far about 55 percent had responded in person or in writing.

“It’s an opportunity for us to re-evaluate ourselves, to make our reality known and also to be challenged to live authentically who we say we are,” she said.

Each congregation of nuns will be evaluated based on how well they are “living in fidelity” both to their congregation’s own internal norms and constitution, and to the church’s guidelines for religious life, Mother Clare said. For instance, if a congregation’s stated mission is to serve youth, are the nuns doing that? If they do not live in a convent, are they attending Mass and keeping the sacraments? Are their superiors exercising adequate supervision?

“There’s no intention to make us all identical,” she said.

Too bad some sisters just won't see the reality of the need or what needs to change. For instance:
Besides these two investigations, another decree that affected some nuns was issued in March by the Committee on Doctrine of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The bishops said that Catholics should stop practicing Reiki, a healing therapy that is used in some Catholic hospitals and retreat centers, and which was enthusiastically adopted by many nuns. The bishops said Reiki is both unscientific and non-Christian.
Pray for these sisters.

1 comment:

JC said...

What struck me as particularly interesting about how this article was written is that they note that some of the nuns "are grateful that the Vatican is finally paying attention to their dwindling communities." They then fail to interview any of these nuns, yet manage to find a number of the "grumblers" whom they quote at length. I agree that we should pray for these sisters, but I would add that we should also pray for the two Investigations, that they may help to effect change--by which I mean a return to orthodoxy--in the various religious communities being investigated.