Women Religious: No Transparency Necessary

I have to say, I’ve been a little surprised by the reaction of many left-leaning Catholics to the Apostolic Visitation of women’s religious congregations. If history is any guide, whether inside the Church or outside, a resistance to third party scrutiny is not a sign of organizational vitality. This resistance is particularly odd in an ecclesiastical context, where one would have thought the bonds of communion between the Holy See and religious orders are fairly strong. Moreover, the reasons proffered for refusing to answer the questions range from unconvincing (‘they don’t understand us’) to the self-indulgently bizarre (‘Women religious…are asking if there is a “Ghandian or Martin Luther King way” to deal with violence they felt is being done to them’). In any case, I think it would be good to offer prayers on their behalf. There are clearly difficult issues here that need to be resolved; and it seems to me that the reaction to the Apostolic Visitation has gone a long way towards demonstrating the need for it in the first place.

13 Responses to Women Religious: No Transparency Necessary

  • Fairly strong? Recently declared saints like Mother Guerin and Mary McKillop had their share of battles with non-saintly bishops. Is it charitable to suggest some men were deeply envious of women and their apostoaltes?

    I agree with your comment on the statement in which Gandhi’s name was misspelled. I’m fine with women religious refusing cooperation in the way that was asked. Questions from Rome have already been withdrawn because they were inappropriate. But the damage seems to have been already done.

  • If the women in the LCWR were really spiritual and not Marxist liberal New Agers, then their objection(s) to the bishop(s) might be understandable. But as it is, the LCWR goes to great lengths to admonish us to save the whales and the rain forests, and act with pluralism, all the while ignoring the fact that Obamacare will murder millions of babies on the taxpayers dime. No – there’s no excuse for the liberal trash in the LCWR. These Marxists should repent or be purged from the Church.

  • Whoa, whoa, whoa. I read one comment and was startled, and then the next only to be startled all the more!

    To Todd: As far as I know, members of the LCWR are, by virtue of being religious communities of pontifical, rather than diocesan, right, directly responsible to the Vatican. These visitations are a normal, periodic thing. I was in seminary when we were visitated (lol). On one hand, it was a very big deal. Every single seminarian in the world was interviewed. A bishop met with me for 15-20 minutes and just wanted to hear whatever came to mind about the seminary. He asked some specific questions, too, ranging from the quality of the food and opportunities for exercise, to, shall we say, ones that offered opportunity for considerable more discomfort? They sat in on our classes and house Masses. They ate their meals with us and impressed me by their ability to listen and blend in. It was easy to forget that they are something like the modern equivalent of the Inquisition. The seminary I attended for 3 1/2 years before leaving (I am a layman) gave, as far as I could tell, no occasion for concern. Consequently, things went very smoothly and it was no big deal. Stonewalling makes no sense if there is nothing to hide.

    It’s not an invasion of privacy because there isn’t a right to call oneself Catholic publicly, use funds donated by the Catholic people, and then say, “Hey, how I operated as a Catholic is private.” That’s not a right – it’s a hypocritical self-contradiction.

    The second comment bothered me because of its eagerness to purge human beings made in the image and likeness of God. Excommunication, etc., is extraordinarily serious. The “good old days” aren’t coming back, and certainly not by that method. Things will only get harder and harder. What is happening, quietly around the edges, is that the Church is waking up. Not only are our bishops getting serious and our laypeople getting educated, but some folks who had naively strayed are starting to see the destruction wrought by ideologies they hold, and are second guessing themselves. There are bishops who could not bring themselves to mention contraception in the catechisms they wrote, who now write beautifully about the evils of such things. There are women religious who chucked their habits that now are rediscovering the rosary and the Holy Mass.

    Precisely because the Church and the world do not depend on me, I do not have to get angry about the things going on in them. Talk about purging usually comes from reddened faces, in my experience. Instead, I can take Jesus at his word (Mt 16:18) and (barring obvious malfeasance) trust those he has given us to govern.

    Paul, I enjoyed the “No Thanks, I Already Have a Messiah,” bumpersticker on your blog. Let’s follow Him, and not get too worked up about miscreants – God will take care of them.

  • The fact that groups representing 99% of women religious in the States (in the coverage I read anyway) are, at best, partially complying makes me want to see the questions for myself. I’d be much more comfortable judging this response if I knew more about what they were responding to.

  • Brett, the offensive and violent forms are here and here.

  • Is it charitable to suggest some men were deeply envious of women and their apostoaltes?

    Some years ago, I had a conversation with a member of the Congregation of St. Joseph. She said the median age in her order was 70 and that the number of women who had entered in 1961 and 1962 exceeded by a factor of two the number who had entered since 1970. Somehow I do not think that that is an apostolate of which ‘some men’ would be envious. (Given that the population of women religious has declined by two-thirds since 1965, I would doubt that the experience of the Congregation of St. Joseph is unusual).

    I agree with your comment on the statement in which Gandhi’s name was misspelled.

    ?

    I’m fine with women religious refusing cooperation in the way that was asked. Questions from Rome have already been withdrawn because they were inappropriate. But the damage seems to have been already done.

    If they had not accommodated these broads by excising the questions, you’d have accused them of rigidity.

  • Those forms that Rick linked to are no more offensive than a census form. Silly.

  • Wow. All you have to do is declare perfectly legitimate questions–that make you uncomfortable–to be “violent,” and you are not only justified in not answering, but you can feign moral superiority at being “above” such violence. And rather than look to the Church for your example of peace, you look outside. How telling is this response?

    People who defend the dying orders’ decision to disobey, how do you justify this defense? Since when is transparency a bad thing? When did their oaths of obedience become obsolete? Who thinks that any Catholic religious order has the right to deny any accountability to the institution to which it belongs?

  • Todd – Are you suggesting that the Apostolic Visitation is inappropriate? If so, I am curious about why.

    Paul – I think women religious are owed a great more respect than the type of derision your comment displays. Obviously, I don’t think they are beyond criticism, but caricaturing them as ‘Marxist New-Agers’ is unhelpful.

    Brett – It’s a good point; at same time, the forms don’t seem that offensive to me, and it’s surprising that a better explanation for the noncompliance has not been provided.

    Rick – Thanks for posting the questionnaires.

  • Todd – Are you suggesting that the Apostolic Visitation is inappropriate? If so, I am curious about why.

    He is suggesting that apostolic visitations should proceed at the discretion of those being visited, FWER. He is also suggesting that everything is ship-shape in and among women religious, and pay no attention to those actuarial tables.

  • …or those labyrinths, yoga centers, liturgical dance studios, etc, etc, etc.

  • The questionnaires are perfectly harmless. The tone is similar to that of an auditor going through the books.

    And…resistance to answering the questions raises the same eyebrows that would be raised by resistance to an audit.

  • Their resistance is even more disturbing in light of the questionaires. The first half (Part A) appears to have been composed by CARA, which does superb survey work for the Church (and is affiliated with Georgetown). It simply asks for statistics regarding postulants and currently vowed sisters. What, exactly, is the problem?

    The second set is slightly more personal, but hardly “violence” to their charism (or what’s left of it, given the resistance). What harm comes from an honest, transparent response?

    The only “violence” here is what the recalcitrant sisters are doing to the English language. Either they are part of the broader Church (and are thus accountable to her), or they are not. The passive-aggressive rebellion does not speak of a healthy relationship to the rest of us.

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