Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sister X's Letter on the Vatican Visitation

I stumbled across this article the other day and while it is long it's also certainly worth reading, if only to see how far out there some of the religious orders in our country really have become (although the article itself does get a Sadie frown). It's written by an anonymous nun whose order belongs to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, who writes as Sister X. As I read through the article the first time I tried to silence the ongoing commentary in my head and the repeated internal exclamation of "are you really serious?" The sad truth is that she really is serious and while she is able to point fingers and make accusations about the Church and the Church leadership, she honestly seems to see nothing wrong with the direction many heterodox orders are taking. Here are some highlights and my commentary (in pink).

"I have been a religious sister for more than thirty years, part of a community that has been active in this country for over a century, and whose work centers on teaching and health care. Our order belongs to an umbrella organization, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), which represents 95 percent of U.S. Catholic women’s congregations." So we know where the article is coming from...

"Thanks to recent Vatican actions, the LCWR has garnered a few headlines." Really, it's thanks to the Vatican? I would think it was the result of the loudly proclaimed heterodox beliefs that are contrary to basic Church teachings that have been loudly proclaimed by the members of these orders. "In February the Vatican announced it would conduct a three-year 'visitation' to assess the 'quality of life' of American sisters. A month later, the president of LCWR received a letter from Cardinal William Levada, formerly archbishop of San Francisco and now head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), informing her that there would also be an investigation, or 'doctrinal assessment,' of the Leadership Conference itself." Thank goodness! "Certain problems, Levada explained, needed to be addressed. As it turns out, these have to do with the LCWR’s alleged failure to express sufficiently rigorous doctrinal compliance with several recent church documents. Evidently, the Vatican is concerned that the LCWR has not been forthcoming about the magisterium’s teachings regarding the ordination of women, the relation of the Catholic Church to non-Christian religions, and the 'intrinsically disordered'nature of homosexual acts." The use of quotation marks around "intrinsically disordered" says a lot. It says "I don't agree with this statement, but this is how the Church sees it." I also doubt that the main problem is that the LCWR hasn't been "forthcoming" in agreeing with the Vatican. The problem is the rather vocal disagreement on key issues that has come from members of the orders that belong to the LCWR.

"The Vatican’s visitation—conducted under the auspices of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (CICLSAL)—does not assess the “quality of life” of cloistered orders of Carmelites, Benedictines, Dominicans, or other communities devoted to the monastic contemplative life." Possibly because these problems haven't been as pervasive in other orders . "Neither does it assess international congregations with members working in the United States whose central motherhouses are outside this country." Again, it seems that the investigation is aimed at getting to the root of the problem rather then wasting time and resources on investigating orders who have been loyal to the teachings of the Church. "Rather, the visitation exclusively targets active women religious whose centers and houses of formation are in the United States—women educated here and trained for religious life here, women who work with major health-care and educational institutions in this country, and who collaborate with one another financially on ministerial projects such as peace and justice ministries." That is, the women religious who have vocally rejected basic Church teachings and have embraced the secular norms of the country that they were raised and educated in.

"Why are American sisters being singled out?" Is this an honest question, because the answer seems pretty simple to me. They are being singled out because many have pridefully rejected the teachings of the Magesterium and have encouraged others to do the same. "One widely shared area of concern, of course, is the dramatic drop in vocations in recent decades. Forty years ago, there were 180,000 vowed sisters across the country; today there are fewer than 60,000. Yet the number of priests has also dropped precipitously during the same period, leaving more than 10 percent of parishes without resident pastors. Why isn’t the priest shortage the subject of a visitation?" Because that isn't the reason the investigation is taking place and I have yet to read anything that claims that it is. "And during the same period U.S. bishops have presided over a sexual-abuse scandal that has cost the Catholic community more than $2 billion and the episcopacy much of its moral credibility. So why no visitation for the bishops?" It's sad when even Catholic religious fall back on this old, tired, over worn attack to show that there have been problems in the Church in the past.

"I want to offer my own view, as an ordinary member of a congregation that belongs to the LCWR, of what is happening to American sisters." This is where things get interesting. Sister X's own words, in defense of the LCWR, tell anyone who is willing to read the long winded article exactly why the Vatican needs to investigate these orders and shows that the problems are actually very real.

"Let me begin by saying that I want to believe in the good will of the institutional church. An essential part of my commitment to Christ is a belief in the holiness of the church; that is what I professed when I took my vows. For me, religious life outside the structure of the institutional church is hardly imaginable. I love the church. I love its vision of God, its Scriptures and sacraments, its heritage, its tradition of faithful change, its saints and thinkers. I believe in its mission and future." This reminds me of when someone says "No offense, but..." It's usually a sign that you're saying something that probably shouldn't be said. If you have to preface something with a statement about how genuine you are in your love for the thing you are about to attack, it's probably a good idea to give silence a go and think it over very carefully before you share your opinion. Of course, anonymity makes many people very bold.

"Yet my reaction to the visitation, and especially to the prospect of “doctrinal assessment,” contains more than a little skepticism. While I’m glad for a chance to “let Rome know the truth” about our lives and our devotion to Christ, I can’t help suspecting that those behind these initiatives are not primarily interested in the quality of my spiritual life. To put it bluntly, I feel that American women religious are being bullied." As the daughter of a high school administrator this reminds me of the students that got in trouble and then complained to their parents that they were being "picked on" by the teacher. "The fact that the visitation is apparently being paid for by anonymous donors, and that the leaders of our communities will not be permitted to see the investigative reports that issue from it, does not engender trust. And indeed, the dynamics of the visitation and investigation so far have been experienced by women religious as secretive, unfriendly, and one-sided." It seems that Sister X underestimates the seriousness of the problem (in fact, I doubt she believes that there is a problem at all).

"The implicit accusation underlying the doctrinal assessment of the LCWR is that its leaders are not Catholic enough in the church’s eyes." Actually I'd say that the reason for the doctrinal assessment is that these orders have been loudly speaking out against the Church's teachings for years. It's not that they are "not Catholic enough" it's that they aren't acting like they're Catholic at all. "Having lived, worked, and prayed with these women for decades, I find this suggestion both insulting and absurd—so absurd, in fact, that one wonders whether the investigation is actually meant to undermine confidence in women’s leadership of their own congregations." I would have hope that a lack of confidence would have come when the "women's leadership" started vocally going against the Church's teachings... "Canon law, as well as the constitutions of our congregations, ensures that vowed members can freely elect our own leaders, rather than have them imposed on the community by a bishop. Like those in other vowed religious congregations, I have acted on the belief that democratic governance of my community is ultimately guided by the Holy Spirit. In helping me choose our leadership, I have relied on my knowledge of my sisters’ gifts and my history of prayer and dependence on the Holy Spirit. Yet Cardinal Levada now informs me that the doctrinal integrity of those leaders is questionable." Unfortunately entire groups have turned from the truth of the Church in the past. It's lucky for our modern day heterodox Catholics that the penalties of the past don't apply today, although if you didn't know better you might get the impression from Sister X that nothing could be worse then the Church's current leadership.

To be continued...

Since this is such a long article I'm going to break this up into several posts. It's long, but it really does give you insight into what some of the radical feminists in the Church believe.

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