NCR has been providing in-depth coverage of the ins and outs of the Apostolic Visitation of women's religious orders, which has already begun. Several sisters have already told me of their congregations' meeting with Mother Mary Claire Millea, the superior general of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Apostolic Visitator. Tom Fox's piece here included mention of the oath of fidelity required of those participating in the visitation, which has some sisters reacting strongly.
Here's an excerpt: "Most women religious interviewed for this article did not want to be quoted by name, fearing they would draw attention to their religious communities. Nearly all remained skeptical about the Vatican-mandated study. Several questioned the need for a profession of faith and an oath in order to be part of the visitation teams. The requirement, these women said, would narrow ranks of potential applicants, making the teams less representative of U.S. women religious today. For these women, the whole matter of fidelity oaths seemed to be adding salt into old wounds. At issue are gender and authority questions, which have a contentious church history in recent decades."
The actual letter from Mother Mary Claire Killea asking for names for the team is here. "Please note that all those who take part in the work of the Apostolic Visitation will be acting in the name of the Apostolic See. For this reason, they must be willing to make a public profession of faith and take an oath of fidelity to the Apostolic See."
Fox's piece continues:
"In June 1998, Pope John Paul II re-opened these issues in an apostolic letter, Ad Tuendam Fidem, enshrining into canon law the tougher 1989 profession of faith and loyalty oath. On that occasion, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, now Pope Benedict XVI, listed examples of non-definitive church teachings that need to be upheld as part of core Catholic teachings. Ratzinger’s commentary singled out the ban on women’s ordination and the invalidity of Anglican ordinations.
“The change in the wording was troubling to many theologians at the time the profession and oath were altered in 1989,” said Fr. James A. Coriden, canon law professor at Washington Theological Union. “It required not just a personal act of faith, but also to firmly accept and hold certain non-definitive teachings. This went way beyond a profession of faith. Theologically, it seemed at the time like an effort to deal with the issue of the ordination of women.”
Reacting to the news of the requested profession of faith, Franciscan Sister of the Poor Beth Rindler said: “It seems so obvious that the men in official positions within our church are attempting to control us as women. We are their subjects and we are to do as they tell us, even to what we can think.”"
James Martin, SJ