Why Is Benedict XVI in Rome Investigating U.S. Nuns? (Sister X's Letter) Part 1 & 2
Benedict XVI investigted Jon Sobrino and then silenced him. Now he is doing it to the nuns -- in order to silence them and then seized their properties -- which Opus Dei will use for its WORLD DOMINATION Agenda.
Why Is Rome Investigating U.S. Nuns? (Sister X's Letter) Pt.1
"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.
Thanks to recent Vatican actions, the LCWR has garnered a few headlines. 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. 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 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. Neither does it assess international congregations with members working in the United States whose central motherhouses are outside this country. 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.
Why are American sisters being singled out? 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? 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?
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.
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.
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. 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.
The implicit accusation underlying the doctrinal assessment of the LCWR is that its leaders are not Catholic enough in the church’s eyes. 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. 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...."
"... The threat of disciplinary action makes it difficult for women religious to speak out on this topic. That is why I am writing anonymously. I happen to trust my local bishop and thank my lucky stars for him. But what if a bishop from some other diocese, or an American cleric at the Vatican—or a bishop on a USCCB committee who wanted to make a show of doctrinal orthodoxy-decided to target me for what I have written? This has happened to other sisters. In the current climate, would my bishop be willing to violate the tacit norm that bishops “don’t criticize one another in public” by intervening to defend me? I don’t want to put him in such a position.
And that’s not the only worry. When a bishop wants to go after an individual sister—to “make an example of that nun”—he often has some Vatican office write a letter to the superior or the president of her congregation, pressuring the leadership to “do something.” The rule is judgment first, evidence later; and if the women in leadership don’t do something to punish the allegedly wayward sister, the Vatican will move against them. It’s a form of collective punishment, and the threat keeps rank-and-file women religious silent on controversial topics—such as the visitation. And so with a few notable exceptions, such as Sisters Joan Chittister, OSB, and Sandra Schneiders, IHM, the rank and file has been silent about the visitation since it began nine months ago. Members don’t want to say anything that will draw down the Vatican’s wrath on their leadership.
Cardinal Levada has delegated the work of doctrinal assessment of the LCWR to Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo, Ohio. Bishop Blair seems a genial man; yet his dissertation for his doctorate at the Angelicum in Rome was titled “Masculine and Feminine Symbolism in the Church: A Reappreciation of the Marian/Feminine Dimension.” I’m sorry, but I tend to get nervous when bishops start expatiating on the symbolism of the eternal feminine. Bishop Blair was also a member of a bishops’ committee that was scheduled to meet at the University of Notre Dame last year, but moved the meeting off campus to protest a performance of The Vagina Monologues. Suffice it to say, most bishops are good and well-meaning men; still, it is the rare bishop who has any real understanding of the lives women actually lead.
Let’s back up a bit and ask: Where did the impetus for the visitation and investigation originate? During a visit to Rome last April, several officers of the Leadership Conference put this question to Cardinal Franc Rodé, head of CICLSAL, and were informed that the initiative had been suggested by American members of the curia, some U.S. bishops, and some members of religious communities. Cardinal Rodé told LCWR officers that “concerns” had been expressed on issues ranging from living arrangements to the lack of new vocations to the public positions some women religious take on topics such as women’s ordination, homosexuality, and abortion.
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. 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.
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. 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..."