Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sister X's Letter on the Vatican Visitation- Part 4

This is part 4 of my look at a lengthy article written by an anonymous nun, regarding the Vatican's upcoming visitation to the US. If you haven't read the first three parts you may want to scroll down and start at part 1 so that it makes a bit more sense. Again the article will be in black and my comments will be in pink.

"The assumption seems to be that in putting aside our habits and moving out of parish convents, we somehow misplaced our true charism. I can tell you that this view of vowed religious women is nothing more than caricature." I can say that if it is a caricature it's a caricature that the views expressed in this article seem to embody pretty well, particularly when she bashes the idea of a man doing an investigation that involves women, simply because he would never be able to understand a woman (her view, not mine). "I admire my community’s practical innovations since taking up the call of the council to adapt our ministry and community life to the needs of our times, to renew our spiritual life, and to follow Christ by retrieving the charism of our founder. Since I entered religious life, my community has continued to serve the church in our traditional ministries while encouraging a flowering of new initiatives that, I am sure, would have delighted our founder." I do wonder what her founder would think of the many controversial stances that they have taken. I think she's probably be shocked and maybe even a bit disgusted.

"Several months ago, a well-regarded U.S. bishop remarked to a gathering of clergy and laity that he understood his ordination as bishop as a mandate to carry out the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. He sensed that there has been a pulling-back from such efforts, and lamented the retreat, asserting that if he ever had to make a choice between carrying out this mandate and being obedient to Rome, “I would resign.” In light of his remarks, one wonders whether the “quality of life” question about women religious is best understood as part of a battle among the bishops over the implementation of Vatican II. Is control over the lifestyle, dress, work-sphere, and public voice of women religious a matter of which side wins?" Did Vatican II say that female ordination was okay? No. Did Vatican II say that homosexual relationships were okay? No again. Hmmm... Did Vatican II say that supporting abortion was okay if it meant other people would have health care? Nope, I can't say that it did. I don't think it's following "Vatican II ideas" that are getting the sisters into trouble. I would be interested in seeing what who the "well-regarded" bishop who made that statement was and hear or read the actual quote of what was said.

"As Sandra Schneiders wrote in the National Catholic Reporter, two theological visions of church and religious life exist within the documents of Vatican II." I would think that if two theological visions of the Church and more particularly religious life existed within the pages of the documents of Vatican II we would do the thing Catholics have done for centuries and look to the Church for guidance. While I am all for learning all that we can and studying theology (I am married to a theologian) it seems that when we come to a conclusion that differs from the Church's stance it is time to humbly submit. "The council’s statement on the renewal of religious life can be read through the lens of Lumen gentium (church as institution, fortress, and witness to a godless world) or through Gaudium et spes (church as people of God, a pilgrim church uniting believers in the ministry of relieving suffering and promoting the kingdom of God). The tension between “leaving the world” and “embracing the world” inevitably creates conflicts over how vowed religious life should be organized. Right now, Rome seems partial to the worldview of Lumen gentium, and that bias raises the need for a theological dialogue in which women religious explain why and how they discarded the habit, embraced new ministries, and yet managed to preserve a faithful spiritual life even when they lived outside the walls of a convent building." The problem isn't that they lived outside the convent walls. The problem is that they embraced the secular norms of the outside world, particularly radical feminism and now belief that it is the absolute truth, over and above anything that the Vatican teaches. In fact, their warped world view tells them that as a Church led by men, the Vatican can't know much of anything anyway...

"I am proud of my community’s support for members who went back to school for higher degrees and began doing new kinds of work." Going back to school and doing new kinds of work isn't the problem, in fact it is wonderful that these orders have tried to make the world a better place. Unfortunately it seems they may have lost track of the religion that they were grounded in along the way. "Reflecting the call of the council, the LCWR’s sense of religious commitment is shaped by dialogue with the world and its political systems. For almost three decades, the organization’s public resolutions have reflected a focus on issues addressed by U.S. bishops: universal access to health care and economic justice for all; protection of refugees and immigrants; opposition to war-making, the death penalty, and apartheid; promotion of the human rights of women; revocation of debt for poor countries; and care for the environment. For the member communities of LCWR, vows include taking public stands on social and political issues; the group’s Web site broadcasts its mission “to advocate against poverty, racism, powerlessness, or any other form of violence or oppression.”"

"An exhibit sponsored by the LCWR, and currently traveling across the United States under the title “Women and Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America,” honors Catholic sisters and their contributions to national life and culture. The exhibit chronicles a nearly two-hundred-year period in which vowed women came to this country and built motherhouses, hospitals, schools, orphanages, and training centers. Attracting new members, they became embedded in the fabric of American society, defining Catholic life while ministering and supporting the growth of the church over many decades of service." "Ministering and supporting the growth of the church" certainly is different from attacking the Church and insisting it's out of date and old fashioned. "Are the cardinals and bishops who suggested the visitation and investigation interested in this rich history, and in women’s thoughts about their vocational commitment? These bishops want to know why things aren’t the way they used to be, but they don’t seem to want to hear the answer from religious women." They don't want to hear the answer at all. They want to see the truth of what's going on within these orders in the US. If there isn't anything wrong, then why all the worries about them coming in the first place?

"Perhaps there exists a basic problem of communication. Perhaps the personal and interpretive language women religious speak to each other is not sufficiently “Vaticanese.” The theological worldview of women has evolved in ways that bishops may not understand, let alone accept." The "theological worldview of women" as separate from the "theological worldview of Catholics?" These two things are only opposed if we take a radical view, rejecting our God given femininity and insisting that being viewed as "the same" as men, is the only possible option. "When I entered religious life after Vatican II, it was already taken for granted in sister-formation that the traditional language and categories of theology, mysticism, and spirituality were not adequate to express and account for the development of the person within religious life. Traditionally, of course, women religious often described themselves as “brides of Christ.” Today, however, thanks to what we have learned from modern scriptural scholarship and the work of feminist Christian thinkers about the role of women in the early church, women religious have sought to reclaim their historical roles alongside “the twelve” as followers of Jesus, community leaders, and missionaries." I'm just waiting for her to tell us that women were ordained back then. It seems that that is the direction she's headed in. By the way can "feminist Christian thinkers" rethink history and change "the role of women in the early church?" "Our directors introduced us to the basics of religious life: union with God in prayer, identity with the church, Scripture, the vows, mission and apostolate, community life. But we also read sociology, psychology, and literature. Along with our Vatican II documents and the Jerusalem Bible, we read Jung, historical novels, and poetry." I hope we're not ranking historical novels on the same level as the Bible here? "Our retreats included the Psalms, but also meditative films about nature. There was a great effort to integrate our spiritual life with “real life.”" Perhaps they've been a bit too successful here. "We came to identify ourselves with Mary, whom Jesus himself called “woman” in John’s Gospel, and with Mary Magdalene, the first witness of the Resurrection; or with one of the healed women in the Gospel who goes out and tells others about her life-changing experience, and attracts others to come to Jesus too. It was a process that has served me and many others well, enabling women religious to create a whole body of self-explanatory narrative, reflection, and theological analysis." Maybe it was too self-centered. Maybe it placed so much emphasis on self that the idea of submitting, which wasn't fashionable in the changing secular culture anyway, was swept conveniently away.

Now it's off to bed. Hopefully I can finish this up with part 5 in the morning. This article was even longer than I realized when I read through it the first few times!

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