Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sister X's Letter on the Vatican Visitation- Part 3

Here is part 3 of Sister X's letter and my responses (in pink). If you haven't read the first part scroll down two posts (it'll make much more sense that way!).

"In early August, the Vatican made available the twelve-page Instrumentum laboris that outlined the visitation process. The document’s provisions are not reassuring. For instance, no women representatives of American congregations are slated to speak to Cardinal Rodé; nor will any be allowed to read a draft of the report submitted to him by the appointed “visitator,” Mother Mary Clare Millea, ACSJ. Thus, no congregational president will have the chance to qualify the report’s evaluation or dispute its conclusions—or even to see a list of the American cardinals and bishops who recommended the study in the first place." Possibly because we're past the point where excuses for this type of behavior would be helpful. This is an investigation, not a time to sit and listen while representatives justify their stance of female ordination. Members of these groups have been blatantly disobeying Church teachings while claiming to be devoted members of the Church. Yet they seem to have a hard time seeing why this is problematic. They have proven that they a) can't or won't fix things on their own and b) are willing to make excuses all day long, justifying their stances which go against the Church's teachings, while blasting the Church's leadership. "Such secrecy does not create a climate in which the church’s pastoral outreach can be effectively communicated; and one suspects that Rome’s interventions will hardly promote vocations to women’s religious communities." At least they aren't promoting actions which lead to a mandatory excommunication (like female ordination). I can't see how promoting the sort of behavior that leads to excommunication would help with vocations either. Maybe that's why so many young women who are discerning religious life are sticking to the stricter orders.

"There are other concerns. Being a pontifical institute, rather than a diocesan congregation, carries the privilege of self-governance, which protects women religious from a local bishop’s intrusion into their internal life and governance. Or, it’s supposed to. Ominously, the visitation initiative calls for a willingness on the part of visitation team members to make a public profession of faith and take an oath of fidelity to the Apostolic See." Imagine that. I'm a bit confused. In what warped world is "a public profession of faith" in the same sentence as "ominously?" It seems to me that that is something that we do every single week. Yet, somehow that becomes sinister and threatening in Sister X's mind? "The visitation decree instructs the apostolic visitator to “seek information from those diocesan bishops” where the sisters’ “general houses, provincial houses, and centers of initial formation are located.” That reinforces the suspicion that some diocesan bishops, still trying to reclaim the moral authority lost in the sexual-abuse scandals, want to assert personal and jurisdictional authority over women religious. Some women’s communities, to be honest, also worry about designs bishops might have on appropriating their properties." Because taking over convents would totally help the bishops "reclaim the moral authority lost in the sexual-abuse scandals." I have to say that while I was reading this article the logic, at times, made me wonder if it was farce. Can Sister X really believe the things she is writing, or is this just someone making fun of the ridiculousness of the extreme feminists who still claim to be members of the Church? Sadly, I think the writer is sincere.

"The inquisitorial spirit behind the current initiative contrasts sharply with that taken by Pope John Paul II in the early 1980s, documented in Religious Life in the U.S. Church: The New Dialogue (1984). Then, the pope asked bishops to assist in a process aimed at strengthening and encouraging religious life for women. The purpose was to widen a dialogue between U.S. religious and U.S. bishops, and between members of U.S. religious communities and the church as a whole." Twenty-nine years ago you didn't see nuns on TV saying that abortion really wasn't a problem... so it appears that the problem with these groups has grown (or at least they've become more vocal about it. "It was a credible effort to help create a greater sense of communion in the church surrounding the role of vowed women and men. This was an era when many women religious participated in cross-congregational discussions in a sincere effort to reach out to their bishops and to the church as a whole; in that context, an invitation to dialogue by John Paul II was heard and responded to with gratitude and candor. Today, the Vatican’s interest in American women alone has the feel—at best—of an examination." They wouldn't have to worry about "an examination" if they had been following the Church's teachings rather than loudly proclaiming their own radical beliefs at every turn. "Any pastoral invitation to dialogue in the current visitation has largely been compromised by Cardinal Levada’s simultaneous investigation of the LCWR’s doctrinal orthodoxy." The lack of orthodoxy in these orders is why there's a problem and why there's an investigation going on.

"The plain fact is: Since the early 1980s the Vatican has not seemed interested in hearing what women religious themselves think about the quality of life in their own communities. This lack of interest puzzles and disappoints. These women are members of congregations that have taught in Catholic grade schools and high schools, academies and colleges. They are the sisters who staffed hospitals and still sponsor health-care systems throughout the United States; who have pooled millions of dollars in sisterly commitment to relieve homelessness; who have formed national coalitions, partnering with local and national government, to provide and manage low-cost housing projects." There's no doubt that the women within these orders have worked hard and have done some wonderfully amazing things in their communities. Sadly, that doesn't excuse their vocal rejection of Church teachings, while still representing themselves as representatives of the Church.

"These are the same women religious who for years have asked the laity—begged is really the word—to contribute to the Retirement Fund for Religious, a national effort to shore up religious communities’ inadequate retirement funds. This effort is needed because nuns have been woefully underpaid by parishes and dioceses, and received no pensions as teachers in Catholic parish schools; their subsidized housing evaporated decades ago, as pastors found alternative uses for convents. When thinking about women religious, Catholics often assume that “the church is taking care of them.” I have to remind people that there is no check in the mail from the Vatican or from local bishops to women religious. Residences and medical care for retired priests are taken care of by dioceses. Religious communities are on their own. Sisters who served in diocesan ministries still must provide for their own retirement and medical coverage." This is truly sad and should be addressed. Maybe it will be when they look at the standard of living. Of course Sister X probably wouldn't believe that anything positive could possibly come from this investigation...

"Instead of extending a helping hand, however, Rome evidently wants the minds and hearts of American sisters to be retested for orthodoxy." It's not as if this is without cause. "It’s not lifelong fidelity to the church that matters, but conformity of mind to current formulations of doctrine, formulations that theologians and even bishops have not reached a consensus on." No, actually it is lifelong fidelity to Christ and His Church that matters. The problem is that the very vocal feminists that have gotten this group into trouble have spent their time trying to shape the Church (and even God) into their own mold. "Why demand such uniformity of opinion from the LCWR, which is not a theological organization?" You represent yourself as Catholic to the world. You have said again and again that your members are teachers. How then can it be difficult to understand why the Church would want to have a say in what you're teaching in it's name? "Why is Rome demanding submission from women religious to church teachings that honestly perplex most Catholics?" Most Catholics don't claim to be members of religious orders that represent the Church. Then again, many lay Catholics have realized that the Church was given the authority to lead us and, while we may not understand every decision, we submit to it's wisdom and rest content in the knowledge that the gates of Hell will not prevail against Christ's Church.

When I was first converting there were many issues that I struggled with. I found over time that when I submitted to the Church's teaching prayerfully the problems that I had would often resolve themselves. The same teachings that were so difficult in the beginning became sources of joy later on. As long as I pridefully insisted that I was right I couldn't find peace, and could really only keep repeating that I thought the Church was wrong while I was right, without really being able to explain why. Pride is a powerful tool that Satan uses to keep us from doing what is right. Submission to God's will as expressed through His Church on Earth is not always easy, but can bring with it an amazing peace, along with the knowledge that we are doing what is right.

Thus ends Part 3. More to come. This article is long!

No comments:

Post a Comment

I love comments and I read every single comment that comes in (and I try to respond when the little ones aren't distracting me to the point that it's impossible!). Please show kindness to each other and our family in the comment box. After all, we're all real people on the other side of the screen!