The National Catholic Review
The Vatican's assessment of the L.C.W.R. offers an opportunity for discernment and collaboration.
Image

The city of Memphis was ravaged by a series of yellow fever epidemics in 1873, 1878 and 1879, the aftermath of which touches the city even today. Growing up there, I often rode the public bus, and I became aware at an early age that sisters, brothers and priests were allowed to ride at no cost. During those dreadful epidemics, as thousands of citizens died or fled to healthier climes, Catholic religious stayed put. More than 50 sisters and 25 priests died of yellow fever while caring for victims of the disease, and in gratitude the city offered free bus rides to religious for many years thereafter. Such heroism inspired me as a boy growing up in a city whose population was less than 3 percent Catholic.

The history of the Catholic Church in Washington State, my new home, is likewise filled with similarly inspiring chapters, chief among them the pioneer courage and faith of consecrated women. Their story was repeated again and again across the United States, and perhaps nowhere else in the world have women religious had the impact they have had in this country.

Catholic explorers, immigrants, settlers, Native Americans, converts, sisters, brothers and priests faced daunting challenges in the early days: few resources, primitive transportation, disease, extreme weather, racism and language barriers. I am moved every time I read about the establishment of hospitals, schools, orphanages and monasteries in the Pacific Northwest. For the most part, these institutions were the inspiration and work of religious women, who responded to God’s call to serve his beloved people, no matter their religion, culture, language or way of life.

The Contemplative Life

Quite simply, these religious women evangelized. They lived the life of Jesus Christ; they introduced others to him; they taught the truth; they loved; they healed; they cared for the outcast; and most importantly, they prayed. The histories of our early years chronicle the sacrifice offered by religious women to build the foundation of the church in this part of the world, and embedded in each story is a life of prayer. Prayer makes witness to Christ possible and credible.

The superior of a monastery of cloistered nuns in Veracruz, Mexico, once told me something that deeply impressed me, for what it meant both to their form of consecrated life and to all others. I repeat it here in Spanish, because she chose her words carefully: "La vida contemplativa es nuestro modo d’estar en la iglesia, con la iglesia, y para la iglesia." "The contemplative life is our way of being in the church, with the church and for the church."

By her careful phrasing, Madre Esperanza was indicating that the contemplative life is the path to which God calls them to give themselves in sacrifice to him for the good of the church. It is how they are evangelized and how they evangelize.

By extension, all women and men in consecrated life have been called by God to a vocation that is their way of being in the church, with the church and for the church. Their ministries span a wide spectrum. Called and given to Christ, they are consecrated by him as unique and indispensable witnesses of divine love in the world. Their prayer and apostolates feed and strengthen many.

One of the great Catholic pioneers of the Pacific Northwest was Mother Joseph (Pariseau) of the Sacred Heart, a Sister of Providence. After a 6,000-mile journey from Montreal, she arrived in Fort Vancouver, Wash., with four other sisters on Dec. 8, 1856. Under her leadership, more than 30 hospitals, schools and homes for the elderly, sick and orphans were opened. She was one of the northwest’s first architects, and I have prayed in pews designed by her skilled hands. Love for Jesus consumed her; religious consecration defined her; prayer grounded her and gave her hope in the face of countless obstacles.

The state of Washington recognized her singular contribution when, in 1980, it named her one of our state’s two representatives in the National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol. Her sculpture was created by Felix de Weldon, who also sculpted the U.S. Marine Corps Memorial commemorating the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima. In 1999, her birthday, April 16, received annual designation by the Washington State legislature as Mother Joseph Day.

Christian Witness

Mother Joseph was just one among many heroic Catholic witnesses to the Gospel in the United States. A monument across the street from St. Matthew Cathedral in Washington, D.C., for example, offers tribute to the sacrifices of more than 600 sisters from 12 religious congregations who served on battlefields and in hospitals during the Civil War. Erected in 1924, the monument reads, “They comforted the dying, nursed the wounded, carried hope to the imprisoned, gave in His name a drink of water to the thirsty.” By their Christian witness, they helped erase the scourge of anti-Catholicism that had blighted our country for many years after its founding. Few know the inspirational story of Sister Ignatia Gavin, a Sister of Charity of St. Augustine, who was influential in the early history of Alcoholics Anonymous and helped transform the medical view of alcoholism from moral failure to treatable disease.

For many Catholics in the United States, the experience of religious women is personal and profound. To say, “I was taught by the Mercies, or by the Holy Names Sisters, the Ursulines, the Franciscans, the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, the Carmelites, the Dominicans, the Benedictines,” is the equivalent of saying, “I was formed by...” Perhaps understanding little of the internal life of the sisters whose vocation was so influential in our rearing, we nonetheless experience its effects in a powerful, personal way. As congregations of women religious opened new apostolates to their members after the Second Vatican Council, Catholics in the United States continued to understand instinctively the crucial place of women religious at the heart of the church. As laity have accepted ministerial roles with increasing importance and in increasing numbers, they have maintained their appreciation for the evangelical witness—the witness of evangelization—of religious women.

In an address to catechists during the Great Jubilee Year, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger noted that the evangelical mission of the Church is all-encompassing, constant and crucial:

The Church always evangelizes and has never interrupted the path of evangelization. She celebrates the Eucharistic mystery every day, administers the sacraments, proclaims the Word of life—the Word of God—and commits herself to the causes of justice and charity. This evangelizing bears fruit. It gives light and joy; it reveals the path of life to many. Many others live, often unknowingly, in the light and the warmth that radiate from this permanent evangelization.

Consecrated women religious have contributed and continue to contribute in a unique and indispensable way to this uninterrupted, permanent, evangelical and missionary impulse of the universal church and its particular manifestation in the United States. Millions have lived, even unknowingly, in the light and warmth of Christ through their mission of Christian holiness, proclamation, justice, charity and the radiation of the word of truth who is the Lord Jesus.

Conflict as Opportunity

Through the years, there have been inevitable conflicts and misunderstandings between religious congregations and their bishops, between one congregation and another and among the members of individual congregations. They exist today as well. Disagreements regarding mission, apostolate, discipline, doctrine, style of life and personality have often been at the core of such conflicts. Each situation was an opportunity to seek reconciliation and collaboration at the heart of the church, in the communio that is God’s gift. Such a pivotal opportunity is now before us.

The recent call by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for the renewal of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious marks an important moment in the life of women religious in the United States, an important moment in living out communio. Precisely because the vocation to consecrated religious life remains significant and contemporary, and precisely because the impact of American sisters is profound and essential to the church’s mission of evangelization, this call for renewal holds particular prominence and deserves special care. According to a CDF statement, it supports the “essential charism of Religious which has been so obvious in the life and growth of the Catholic Church in the United States” and “arises out of a sincere concern for the life and witness of faith among women Religious in the United States in view of their important role of service of ecclesial communion.”

The “Doctrinal Assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious” outlines the central concerns. Officials of the CDF had first spoken personally of these concerns with L.C.W.R. leadership in 2008, and dialogue continued through the assessment conducted by Bishop Leonard P. Blair of Toledo. The Doctrinal Assessment acknowledges the praiseworthy emphasis by the L.C.W.R. on a number of vital areas of the church’s life, mission and social teaching but also notes lacunae and issues of doctrinal deficiency.

Given particular attention are L.C.W.R. General Assemblies, addresses and occasional papers. Though not intended to serve as theological treatises per se, some of these addresses and documents have theological undertones or implications not consistent with church teaching. Others have directly contradicted church teaching, and still others are not grounded in faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and redeemer. L.C.W.R. statements have often emphasized certain aspects of the church’s moral and social teaching while remaining silent about others, such as the inviolability of human life from the moment of conception to natural death. Assembly presentations have at times proposed models of religious life that are not in sync with the very nature of religious life.

The doctrinal assessment seeks to clarify and renew the LCWR’s crucial, “positive responsibility for the promotion of the faith and for providing its member Communities and the wider Catholic public with clear and persuasive positions in support of the Church’s vision of religious life.” Concomitant to this responsibility is the role of the L.C.W.R. in the doctrinal formation of religious superiors and formators. The important task of congregational leadership, which women religious accept at the discernment and vote of their fellow members, requires thorough spiritual, theological and human formation that is firmly grounded in Catholic teaching and tradition. The formation of new members, many of whom did not receive adequate catechesis as youth, requires a depth of theological and personal formation that previous generations had often received in their formative years. In its service to member congregations, the L.C.W.R. can play an irreplaceable role in formation, one that renews and strengthens those congregations and prepares them to receive and form new members.

Additionally, the doctrinal assessment notes concern regarding liturgical practices and texts used in L.C.W.R. events and programs, adding that the Eucharist and Liturgy of the Hours should frame common liturgical prayer at conference-sponsored activities. Finally, the relationships between L.C.W.R. and organizations such as Network, Resource Center for Religious Institutes and New Ways Ministry were noted as areas of concern.

An Expression of Collaboration

The L.C.W.R., the Conference of Major Superiors of Men and the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious are unique in purpose, relationships and canonical standing. They exist as an expression of the collaboration between the Holy See, Superiors General and the local conference of bishops in support of consecrated life, as indicated by Canons 708 and 709.

In light of this distinctive reality, the doctrinal assessment calls for greater emphasis on both the relationship of the L.C.W.R. with the U.S.C.C.B. and the need to provide a sound doctrinal foundation so that “by combined effort they may work to achieve more fully the purpose of each institute (Canon 708).”

To that end, the Doctrinal Assessment calls for the appointment of an archbishop delegate, to be assisted by two bishops, to review, guide and approve, where necessary, the work of the L.C.W.R. It also asks that the USCCB establish a formal link with the archbishop delegate and the assistant delegate bishops. The delegate is to form an advisory team composed of women religious, bishops and other experts to assist in the work of implementation.

In his May 18 address to U.S. Bishops of Regions XIV, XV and the Eastern Rite, Pope Benedict XVI said:

I urge you to remain particularly close to the men and women in your local Churches who are committed to following Christ ever more perfectly by generously embracing the evangelical counsels. I wish to reaffirm my deep gratitude for the example of fidelity and self-sacrifice given by many consecrated women in your country, and to join them in praying that this moment of discernment will bear abundant spiritual fruit for the revitalization and strengthening of their communities in fidelity to Christ and the Church, as well as to their founding charisms. The urgent need in our own time for credible and attractive witnesses to the redemptive and transformative power of the Gospel makes it essential to recapture a sense of the sublime dignity and beauty of the consecrated life, to pray for religious vocations and to promote them actively, while strengthening existing channels for communication and cooperation, especially through the work of the Vicar or Delegate for Religious in each Diocese.

Recognizing the momentous and heroic contribution of women religious in the United States, having had the honor and joy of collaborating with thousands of religious in the dioceses I have served, and knowing the importance the L.C.W.R. holds for the vast majority of American religious congregations, I gladly accepted the appointment as archbishop delegate for the implementation of the doctrinal assessment. No one expects that such a sensitive task will be accomplished quickly or effortlessly, but by God’s grace and with mutual respect, patience and prayer it can be indeed accomplished for the good of all. Challenges larger than this have been met before, with renewal and even deeper faith the outcome.

Nearing death, Mother Joseph Pariseau wrote to her superior:

Please tell our worthy Father Superior that his wish for the union of my soul with Our Lord is being accomplished. Now more than ever I enjoy that total abandonment of my interests into His loving hands...

You know that I made my retreat. At the outset, scarcely was I in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament when, without expecting it, I was drawn into one of those heart to heart embraces, and was so submerged that I thought I would melt with love...

I must avow, Mother, that ever since my entry into religious life, I have made it a habit to pause before the chapel door whenever I pass it, and beg our Lord to hide me in His Divine Heart, and send a ray of light into mine. He has given me more than a ray; He has given me a flame, and made fruitful my striving for union.

Mother Joseph was a woman of extraordinary vision, strength and depth whose heart melted with love for Christ. The same flame lit by God in her heart continues to warm and illumine the United States through the hundreds of societies and institutes of consecrated religious women who reside at the heart of the church. Their particular way of being in, with and for the church—the fire of the Lord that lights their hearts and the union which joins their souls to his—are all expressions of the very communio that the task before us seeks to deepen.

Read a response from Christine Firer Hinze.

Most Rev. Peter Sartain is archbishop of Seattle.

Comments

MARILYN SHERRY | 6/21/2012 - 1:19pm
I am very disappointed in my nuns, S.H.C.J.'s, who were great teachers before Vatican II but who left their raison d'etre after the Council.   They got out of habit,  changed their names ,left the Catholic schools where they had  earlier done so much for Catholicism in America.   Instead they changed their Constitution and the intent of their foundress Mother Cornelia Connolly.    So,   I am 100% in agreement with Rome's  actions on this LCWR subject and also think Archbishop Sartain,  who I have met, is a great bishop for the job.            Sincery,  Marilyn Sherry
DEBORAH TRUITT MS | 6/13/2012 - 6:33pm
We are watching, Father, particularly those of us in your Archdiocese.  There are many professional women like me (an attorney) who are not happy you have taken on this task.  I have heard nothing in the above that has encouraged me that you are going into this in any kind of real spirit of exchange, mutual respect or learning.  The Sisters you are targeting tend to be greatly admired amongst the laity, especially women, for their good works.
It is very difficult for those of us who are respected and treated equally in our professional and personal lives to continue to cleave to a Church that is all but blind to the importance of women and their voice in the modern Church.  I love the Church but this kind of attack has me, and all the other women I know like me, hanging on to our faith by our collective fingernails.
We are not powerless.  I will be very interested in dissecting, as an attorney, your handling of this matter.  How this is handled may make the difference in your being admired or reviled. 
You have the opportunity to do real good here, or great harm not only to the Sisters, but to the relationship many women have with the Church who are paying close attention to what you are doing.  I hope you keep this in mind when you go about your business.
Peter Meyers | 6/11/2012 - 3:54pm

Kudos to Dr. Christine Firer Hinze and to America for publishing her fine analysis.  I wish I felt as charitable toward the Vatican and its intervention.

Here are the definitions of "cultic" from Dictionary.com.  It is not high-falutin’ theological jargon, just plain ordinary English that reference to a dictionary would have cleared up for Mr. Mattingly and Ms. Koplin.


cult [kuhlt]  noun


1. a particular system of religious worship, especially with reference to its rites and ceremonies.


2. an instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing, especially as manifested by a body of admirers: the physical fitness cult.


3. the object of such devotion.


4. a group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc.

5. Sociology. a group having a sacred ideology and a set of rites centering around their sacred symbols.


I'd like to chime in also on what Ms. O'Neill pointed out about Saint Paul's prophesies against the practices and teachings of Saint Peter.  (Prophesies: inspired, sometimes public, utterances that express the will of God—not, in this context, fortune-telling!)  

Some Catholics don't like reference to the meeting of Peter, Paul, and James as the Council of Jerusalem, but it rightly deserves the title of the First Council of the Christian Church.  The reason some Catholics shy away from recognizing this as a Council is that after Peter and Paul had their say, it was James, the brother of the Lord, who had the final say; not the so-called first pope, who was overruled.  Such a title would have amazed our beloved Saint Peter as would the grandeur surrounding the Papacy!   

The Church of Jerusalem, it ought to be remembered, is the Mother Church of Christianity, not Rome.  It is almost certainly true that Peter and Paul suffered martyrdom at Rome; but Jesus suffered death and rose from the dead in Jerusalem.    


It seems a needless to worry over this.  The pope didn't even attend the Council of Nicea, whence comes our understanding of Jesus as true God and true man and His relationship to the Father; the recognition of Mary as the Mother of God, the Theotokas, and the adoption of the Nicene Creed (minus the Filioque), which is recited in Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, and many Protestant churches to this day.  The West added the "Felioque," that is, the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, where Nicea has the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father alone.  This vexed the Eastern Church no end and in a sense was a Western repudiation of the authority of the Council of Nicea.  It was the main excuse for the mutual excommunications of East and West, but, as always, the real causes were political, about power and greed.






If the sisters entered into this negotiation with Archbishop Sartain and his assistant bishops (his term, not mine—not associate or fellow bishops) and assume true openness on his part, they would be silly indeed; which of course, they are not.  The archbishop has but one thing on his agenda, and that is to bend the will of the sisters to complete conformity and uniformity with the pope’s power-down view of the Church.  It is about power and greed.  I think the archbishop has a tiger by the tail and doesn’t realize it yet; but he will.  And I believe he will fail.






If I have a word of wisdom for the sisters it is to remember what Lord Acton said in regard to the Vatican I declaration of Papal infallibility:  “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  Great men are almost always bad men . . . .   There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.”






Be wary, sisters.  Be very wary. 






 






 






 


stephanie McMillen-Sherry | 6/8/2012 - 12:09pm
I have enjoyed the comments by such very thoughtful and educated readers.  I am a simple woman who tends to stay out of controversies.  ( I just want my mass and communion with the blessed sacrement , thank you very much)  But this is frustrating me no end as a Mother of 4 daughters . I am frustrated by Sartain as his writing is so smooth politician.   I am distrustful of Levada( left in disgrace from a bankrupted Portland Or diocese for compensation to sex abuse victims) He and Law( former head of Boston archdiocese where it all started) are basically in exile in Rome to avoid more forced testimony in their roles of hiding sex abusers( Law instigated the investigation into the Nuns).  They are in charge of all of these investigations with Levada the head of the CDF.  Gag me.  There seems to be real concern with the LCWR's relationship to the 3 organizations mentioned in Sartains article.  One is pro gay, helping them reconcile their faith with their sexuality (New ways ministry).  Complicated and controversial  agreed. But is it really wrong to reach out to the marginalized?  Christ did. Network is a social justice organization run by the Nuns.  It is political so its aims run sideways with the Bishops aims.  The Bishops claim the only authentic voice of catholic opinion in the US and want them silenced. and the last one, resource center for religious institutes, is an organization that gives financial and legal guidance to women's orders and some men's orders. In my opinion the attack on that organization is all about money and who controls it with the added bonus of not allowing understanding of canon law by others who are not the Bishops to interfere with the Bishops aims and goals or to challenge them in any way. 
What ever real concerns are lost in the heavy handedness and inept communication that is misogynist in its approach.  I would of respected a more lazer like focus on specific instances that the magistrate finds to be in error.  That would have been respectful of women religious and their vocations. 
A tangled mess that is hurting my church.  I'm cranky.
I understand that I am probably showing my ignorance on a complicated issue but I think once in a while the powers that be need to know how the everyday common people perceive their actions.  So if my perceptions are not in fact what is really going on they have no one to blame but themselves.  The need to get to work to correct that.  This is one time I wouldn't mind being wrong.
Nancy O'Neill | 6/4/2012 - 12:54am
Archbishop Sartain may have fond memories of Sisters but he isn't listening to the Sisters of today.  Instead he robotically iterates the need for reform.  Nowhere in the article does he thoughtfully consider the viewpoints of the Sisters.  He just keep raising the ideal of the Sisters of the past.So much for communio!  It will take the intervention of the Holy Spirit to preserve the spirit of Vatican II and the supremacy of an informed conscience.  I am praying for the church to acknowledge the cultural influences that have shaped it.  It is tragic that so many women and married men have been unable to answer God's call to priesthood. 
Joan Carroll | 6/3/2012 - 8:27am
A spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down? I don't think so...
Patricia Freeburg | 6/3/2012 - 1:33am
My prayer is that Archbishop Sartain and leaders of LCWR are open to the Holy Spirit who breathes new life in ways unimagined by human beings.  As well as having a deep devotion to the Sacred Heart, Mother Joseph could have been a "Renaissance Woman" with her talents; architecture and carpentry, needlework, leadership, and complete trust in the Holy Spirit.  She was undaunted in her mission, traveling by steamer to the Northwest, and then on horseback through the Rockies, seeking donations from miners to build her schools,hospitals, and churches.  She welcomed orphans, and destitute women, as well as the sick and elderly.  She stood up for injustice, and was a leader ahead of her time.  I wonder how she would respond to this situation today?
Dan Hannula | 6/2/2012 - 9:26am
This is tuly a fascinating dynamic playing out.  It will be interesting, to say the least, to follow where it goes.  

Somehow whenever I read a new installment of this so-called "opportunity for discernment and collaboration" that the men have set up, I can't help recalling the words of Princess Leia to General Tarkin on the Death Star (Star Wars, Episode IV, A New Hope), Princess Leia: "The more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers."
Clare McGrath-Merkle | 6/1/2012 - 5:33pm
As a student of spirituality and religious identity, I was quite struck by the extended quote in the article referencing the admonishment of the Father Superior of Mother Joseph on her deathbed, and her subsequent defense. I believe this tableau illustrates well the clash of anthropologies under discussion, irrespective of the merits of the assessment. 

What is pictured is akin to the ritual of admonishment usually given a dying religious by his or her superior - that she or he repent of their sins and cling to the mercy of God.

This, in itself, is an efficacious and time-honored tradition. However, in light of the fact that the Father Superior urged specifically her "union with Christ," and that Mother Joseph felt the need to give proof of this union by way of proof of some kind of affective union belies its Jansenist origins. 

"Striving" for union and hiding in Jesus' heart are vestiges of an era when the central debate of Christendom was in what exactly consisted union with Christ - is it a total self-emptying and replacement by Christ Himself? Is it a moral striving after perfection and mystical and emotions spiritual states?

We are now as a Church returning to veils and grills, both gifts of the Islamic culture through medieval Spain. There is much to be said for a return to piety, but to hold forth union with Christ, whether personal or that of the communio of the Church as calling for some kind of moral rigorism, hiding and self-emptying is antithetical to the Christian walk much less to the vocation of a religious.

A retrieval of a right understanding of both union with Christ and of feminine leadership would assist to resolve this conflict of anthropologies. The witness of Mary could aid us in this effort. When the Mother of Christ was told she would give birth, she promptly made a hard journey in service to her cousin. When her Son was "lost" in a thoroughly hellenized Temple filled with child servants, she entered its sacred precincts where no woman was permitted, to get Him back. When all the apostles trembled in fear, she walked with Christ, stayed with Christ and then, after His Ascension, led the apostles and waited for the Spirit on Mount Zion as Moses had done before her. These feminine acts of leadership and active, bold service are signs of true union with Christ, and true communio. 





 
ROBERT KILLOREN | 6/1/2012 - 5:02pm

I continue to be dumbfounded that the Vatican and the bishops continue to hound the sisters in the midst of a thirty year scandal that won't go away.  It is almost as if they reckon one way to divert attention from themselves is to try to get the eyes of the laity targeted on the heretical ways of women religious in America. But that dog just won’t hunt. Despite the thousands of jokes about teaching sisters we all still tell, there is a great deal of respect and love for them among the laity. The people in the trenches know the sisters by the way they live out the Gospel in our midst – in the hospitals, in nursing homes, in caring for the oppressed and downtrodden. Frankly it seems to us that while the bishops talk the walk, the sisters walk the talk. While the bishops play the politics of abortion, the sisters are caring for young pregnant girls and for financially burdened women who don’t see how they can feed another mouth. 



Cody Serra | 6/1/2012 - 4:38pm
Just a few reflections on Bishop's Sartain response.
It is amazingly interesting to me how he spends 2/3 of the article praising sisters from the past and their work for God, in his own life experience and in history.

The comments on the Sisters now that caught my eye -I will paraphrase-, were two.

First, he indicates that some individuals of some religious orders may have expressed ideas not totally within the orthodoxy of the RCC. Generalizations from some individuals on some ocassions, are against any method of evaluation, secular of religious.

Second, he aludes to the Sisters' silence about some teachings of the RCC.  To this, I would reming us all in humility, that each one of us received from God certain gifts and talents. We have to use them to serve Him. I dare to say that the different orders center their service based on their founders' guidance and mission, using the same gifts and inspiration from God received by their founders. 

The religious sisters I knew in my South American country, who educated me and formed my character in a pre-Vatican II Church, did a pretty good job in opening my heart to God, but respecting the Spirit in my conscience. I understand that the Sisters in the USA, my second country by choice, have lived up, here and in the world, the Gospel of love and service to the needy in any area of life, with exemplary dedication. They did true evangelization.

Religious sisters are not ordained, they are lay women according to Canon Law. They have the God given right to follow their mission. They have the right to be silent about issues of the Catholic teaching, while working on other areas of the Gospel mandates. 
Let's respect their vocations, as individuals and as congregations, which are also receivers of the Holy Spirit, as we, all baptized people, are.
David Pasinski | 6/1/2012 - 7:42am
Bishop Sartain's article exalts the religious women of the past, but shows little respect for the religious women in the present. They are comfortable praising the saintliness and service of those who no longer pose a threat to the status quo or whose voices cannot still question authority. His well-written nod calls for "collaboration," which is a considerable softening and still means , "We collaborate. You listen." Some of the words may be right, but the melody is far different.
Professor Hinze outlines some of the major fault lines that, I believe, rest in "women's ways of knowing" (yet a helpful work, I think), the sense of what collaboration and a flattening out of authority has meant in women's communities since Vatican II, and the opposite directions that have moved the hierarchy and religious congregations in recent years. Fewer and fewer priests and bishops have been identified with any prophetic witness (arguably bracketing "abortion") while religious communities have entered into the marginated and unchurched parts of society ever more clearly and with fewer and fewer pronouncements. They are moving in opposite directions albeit from the same source and goal.
 The bishops will not listen as other so called "dialogue" has shown and this will be a real test for "men in black" who like the gold chains and pectoral crosses.