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BREAKING: Nuns investigate Vatican!

posted by David Gibson

Nuns with Guns.jpgOkay, that’s a joke. Actually, it’s the other way around. (You knew that, right?) But friends in the religious community have suggested that turning the tables might not be a bad idea.

The reason for the asperity is set out in this recent New York Times story by Laurie Goodstein about the Vatican’s double-barreled review of the bona fides of American women’s orders sets out the issues and the complaints very well. The story has drawn more than 400 comments to date, and has pinged around the blogosphere.

Nuns are often the butt of too many bad jokes, but the nuns did more than most to build and sustain the church in the United States, and to promote justice and Vatican II’s vision of the ancient church in a modern world. And so investigating women religious is going to draw some sharp reactions.

The first investigation was by Cardinal Franc Rode, head of the Vatican Congregation for the Institutes of Religious Life, which deals with religious orders. As Goodstein writes, in a speech in Massachusetts last year, Cardinal Rodé offered barbed criticism of some American nuns “who have opted for ways that take them outside” the church.

In response Sister Sandra M. Schneiders, professor emerita of New Testament and spirituality at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, in California, says the orders should politely decline to copperate with the investigation.

“They think of us as an ecclesiastical work force…Whereas we are religious, we’re living the life of total dedication to Christ, and out of that flows a profound concern for the good of all humanity. So our vision of our lives, and their vision of us as a work force, are just not on the same planet.”

 Sister Janice Farnham, a part-time professor of church history at Boston College, added: “Why are the U.S. sisters being singled out, when women religious in other countries are struggling with many issues about the quality of their lives, in the Church and in their societies?”

The second doctrinal inquiry, of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which covers 95 percent of women’s orders, was ordered by the head of the CDF, Cardinal William Levada. According to the Times story, Levada said “an investigation was warranted because it appeared that the organization had done little since it was warned eight years ago that it had failed to ‘promote’ the church’s teachings on three issues: the male-only priesthood, homosexuality and the primacy of the Roman Catholic Church as the means to salvation.”

Not a few in the U.S. church welcome the investgation, like the folks at Catholic World News. Jeff Mirius, the head of Trinity Communications, its parent company, said they were “admittedly happy to report that the Vatican’s Apostolic Visitation of female religious communities in the United States may actually have some teeth in it.” But he added:

“Of course the ultimate question is whether Rome will enforce its conclusions and/or dissolve the orders which resist.”

Sounds like the Darth Vader approach.



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Comments read comments(18)
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pagansister

posted July 5, 2009 at 1:26 pm


The Vatican has nothing else to do?



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Bob Nunz

posted July 5, 2009 at 2:26 pm


In the many coments at the Times on line, it’s interesting how often the notion of misogyny turened up.



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kenneth

posted July 5, 2009 at 2:52 pm


Hmmm, nuns doing things to remove themselves from the church (ie God’s grace). How many nuns have buggered young boys over the years or facilitated that crime by hundreds of men? The all-out obsession over rigid orthodoxy these days is a sign that the institution is imploding. The same pattern can be found in any end-stage dictatorship or cult, from Stalin to Jamestown. No one can be loyal enough, and those working hardest for the cause are even more suspect. They are starting to eat their own…..



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Frank Clyburn

posted July 5, 2009 at 3:51 pm


Interesting…. I’ll have to think about this one. I hope that my thinking includes Christ….



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Cindy

posted July 5, 2009 at 4:27 pm


I can’t fully articulate all the ways I’m offended by the current decision of the The Vatican.
Really.
I can’t seem to formulate another sentence without using the delete key so there it is.
I’m hugely offended.



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Mareczku

posted July 5, 2009 at 6:10 pm


Was the Vatican intrested in investigating religious orders when many nuns were exploited and many ended up in classrooms teaching over 50 childen with little respite and sometimes taking their agression and frustrations out on the students? Perhaps some of the men in the Vatican would like to return to those days when nuns in medieval habits were overworked and totally obedient to the male hierarchy. If the Vatican really care about the nuns perhaps they can start in Africa where many orders of nuns have worse problems. Some of the nuns there have to worry about their orders being dissolved if they resist the demand of their priests and bishops.



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JAB

posted July 5, 2009 at 7:44 pm


You’ve got to watch those women. They can be real rebels. If you don’t believe it, just ask the religious dictatorship in Iran.



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Your Name

posted July 6, 2009 at 8:36 am


As with any church or order or business or organization, if there are concerns about failure or resistance to comply with orthodoxy or the mission statement, there is going to be an investigation. Being under spiritual authority has its responsibilities, one of which is submission to those in authority over us. Nuns and preists alike are subject to that authority. We accept that authority because we know it comes from God and because we know that submission, obedience, authority and love go hand in hand. This is reflected in the relationship between the Father and the Son and is the foundation of any sucessful human relationship.



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JF

posted July 6, 2009 at 10:23 am


First, it is insulting to a sister’s vocation to characterize it as exploitive. We all labor in the Lord’s vineyard and He is not exploitive.
Second, As Catholics we believe that the bishops receive their authority from Christ. If you do not believe that, then you cannot profess belief in the Catholic Faith since that is what everything is built upon. It is totally invalid to compare it to Iran from a Catholic point of view.
Finally, the Vatican is not singling out women religious in America. There are regular visitations all over the world. And, before the women religious were ever investigated over here, the seminaries had a visitation several years ago. It is meant to be helpful to the communities and help them regain their focus if necessary.
Let’s see what comes of this visitation and stop blasting it before it ever gets started. It would be much more constructive to pray for the women religious on both sides of the visitation.



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Mareczku

posted July 6, 2009 at 12:43 pm


I read about the horrible treatment of some nuns in Africa. I don’t know how true some of the stories are. Hopefully they were embellished but I don’t know the facts. If what was done to these nuns is true then I would not say that submission, obedience, authority and love go hand in hand in these circumstances. And if there is any truth in the way these nuns are treated then they are being exploited.



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Steve T

posted July 6, 2009 at 3:52 pm


JF, I do believe it is a witch hunt to reign in the females.
1. Male only priesthood by John Paul II was not ex cathedra, so the issue truly is open.
2. The gates of hell will not prevail.
3. Faith in God, not the Church, or an arugment.



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JF

posted July 6, 2009 at 5:03 pm


Was the visitation of the seminaries (all male) and the visitation of the Legion of Christ (mostly male) a witch hunt as well?
1) I’ve actually already argued this on another post. JP2 did not have to speak Ex Cathedra, which has only been done twice. He taught definitively and declared the matter closed, which it is. Those who do not believe me can consult a canon lawyer and will get the same news. It is part of the Ordinary Magisterium.
2) Yes, Jesus guaranteed that the Gates of Hell will not prevail against his Church. “And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” However, you just said in point three that you don’t have faith in the Church.
3) If you believe in God, but not the Church, then I don’t see why you concern yourself with the gender of priests or the visitation of convents which are church issues.



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JF

posted July 6, 2009 at 5:08 pm


Was the visitation of the seminaries (all male) and the visitation of the Legion of Christ (mostly male) a witch hunt as well?
1) I’ve actually already argued this on another post. JP2 did not have to speak Ex Cathedra, which has only been done twice. He taught definitively and declared the matter closed, which it is. Those who do not believe me can consult a canon lawyer and will get the same news. It is part of the Ordinary Magisterium.
2) Yes, Jesus guaranteed that the Gates of Hell will not prevail against his Church. “And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” However, you just said in point three that you don’t have faith in the Church.
3) If you believe in God, but not the Church, then I don’t see why you concern yourself with the gender of priests or the visitation of convents which are church issues.



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Steve T

posted July 6, 2009 at 7:33 pm


The church is made up of humans who are full of sin. That includes our hierarchy. You just want to argue. I am done with you.



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Your Name

posted July 7, 2009 at 10:16 am


Yes, what you say is true. I never claimed that the hierarchy or the humans in the Church are perfect, far from it. I just claimed that the Church was founded by Christ and quoted Jesus doing so. That belief is what the Catholic Church is based on.
I’m sorry that my defense of the Catholic Church offends you.



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Gerard Nadal

posted July 7, 2009 at 10:46 am


“Nuns are often the butt of too many bad jokes, but the nuns did more than most to build and sustain the church in the United States, and to promote justice and Vatican II’s vision of the ancient church in a modern world. And so investigating women religious is going to draw some sharp reactions.”
This is most certainly true. Women religious have been the back bone of the Church in America. The Vatican isn’t investigating those builders, most of whom are dead, the rest of which are pretty on in years. It’s investigating the women who came after them, who have sown rebellion and discord, who have done much to undo what those noble women who built the Church have done.
As one of those old nuns said one day, “We took in too many women who we shouldn’t have when the numbers began to decline, and kept them when we should have thrown them out.”
On the bright side, there are several traditional orders who have lots of young women entering, orders such as the Dominican Sisters of Nashville and in Ann Arbor, the Sisters of Life, etc.



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JF

posted July 7, 2009 at 2:06 pm


Well said, Gerald. And I might add, the sisters who are faithful to the Church’s teachings are having to turn applicants away for lack of space. Meanwhile, the dissenting orders are dying. I see this constantly as I travel around to various retreat houses and convents with fellow seminarians.
In the coming decades we will have fewer convents but they will be filled with faithful witnesses to Christ’s Church, and then the religious life will begin to flourish again.



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RP Burke

posted July 8, 2009 at 10:10 am


… there are several traditional orders who have lots of young women entering, orders such as the Dominican Sisters of Nashville and in Ann Arbor, the Sisters of Life, etc.
Wouldn’t it be more correct to say that they have SOME young women entering; “lots” is only in comparison to the major orders, which have nearly no young women entering.



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