Apostolic Visitation Update

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. 

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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 

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8 years 5 months ago
Joe, On the contrary, the fewer orders that clamor for women's ordination, refuse to wear habits, decline to submit to the Holy See, etc. we have, the more attractive religious life will become to young women. We can see this today, where the youngest, most vibrant, and fastest growing orders are those that don the habit and lead a far more traditional life - just look at groups such as the Nashville Dominicans, the Sisters of Life, and more. They are all so young! Their numbers of novices swell each year!
8 years 6 months ago
I think the previous commentors should take a serious look at what it is they condemn these women religious for doing?  Since when does an oath of fidelity to non-defenitive teachings amount to fostering communion or unity?  I agree with the women religious, it is about power, power of the patriarchy over the women, their bodies, and their thoughts.  I also submit that it is not motivated by Love, from the Vatican, it is about reigning in the female religious of North America.  And the case for ordination of women cannot be closed so long as the people ask for it.  It is theologically sound, that the voice of the faithful has power too.  A pope does not have unlimited power.  And, neither pope has spoken ex cathedra.  Think about that before you post.
8 years 6 months ago
I really don't think it's a matter of men trying to "control" what women do and think. The Apostolic Visitor is a woman, for goodness sake! If this was an investigation into men's communities there would be the same requirements in terms of taking a making a profession of faith. I'm sure the courageous women who founded these communities so many years ago would have taken an oath of fidelity to the Church in a heartbeat. It's so disappointing that there appear to be some women religious who are so committed to viewing their relationship with the Church in terms of conflict, rather than communion. This visitation is a wonderful opportunity for women religious to grow in their faith and their capacity to love and dialogue, and instead some of them seem determined to adopt a closed off, defensive posture. You can sense the fear and apprehension in their comments. Please Sisters, consider that God is calling you out of a spirit of fear and into a new season of openness to the Holy Spirit! Openness to the Spirit and to change is a risk, but it's worth it.
8 years 6 months ago
I fail to have much sympathy for religious who do not wish to take an oath of loyalty to the Holy See and yet wish to serve as part of its visitation.  As Catholics, and especially religious, we are all called to obedience.  This is especially true of those who will directly represent the Holy Father. Some sisters state that the requirement ''would narrow ranks of potential applicants, making the teams less representative of U.S. women religious today.''  Which religious would not be represented?  Those who do not express loyalty to the Holy See?  I should hope that they are excluded from a visitation! As for Sister Beth Rindler, she was a supporter of Father Bourgeois who got himself excommunicated ''ordaining'' women.  It is exactly because of sisters like her that a visitation is so badly needed. Finally, it should be remembered that while not the case in 1989, the case for the ordination of women was closed by Pope John Paul II and reaffirmed by Benedict XVI.   We should all pray for the success of the visitation and for those convents that will be examined.
8 years 6 months ago
I am also concerned about the all-negative press this visitation is creating.  My husband has just begun deaconate formation, and my own thinking about women priests and homosexuals is shifting.  I am a long-time liberal, brought up as a democrat, and want to live my life accepting all the people around me.  That the church's position is so well formed and absolute on these issues came as a surprise to me, and that the reasons for their position, attested to down through 2000 years of church history, is based on the idea that God made men and women to work a certain way.  He made the family to work a certain way.  It's just that I saw especially openness to homosexual persons as a part of inclusiveness, since between consenting adults no one is hurt.  These are not my personal issues.  These issues are pastoral issues.  For people who do have these issues, they are things to be worked through with their pastor.  I am heterosexual, I do not want to be a priest or even a deacon.  We must pray, pray, pray for all those involved, for the Holy Spirit to enlighten us, for Mary to walk with us, for Jesus to show us what is his truth.  I have been reading JPII's Theology of the Body.  If this is the belief of the church, it must be taught, we must be catechized.  I want to understand.  I am willing to understand.  I am open to understanding, but it has come as a huge surprise to me, a caring Catholic Christian with a big heart.
8 years 6 months ago
The Pope need not speak ex cathedra to make a teaching definitive; he may speak through the ordinary magisterium which Pope John Paull II did.  Speak to canon lawyers and they will tell you that this is a closed issue.    Also, need I remind you that the Vatican is sending women to visit the convents.  Visitations are a necessary and important tradition of Catholic religious life.  This is not warfare, and this spirit of conflict with the Church is most unfortunate.   We should be praying for a productive visitation and for the wonderful women religious who have given their lives to service of God in His Church.
8 years 6 months ago
With all of the yelping going on it demonstrates to me that the visitation was needed and even more that it will be effective. And good luck on that ordination of women thingee.
8 years 6 months ago
I am all for feminism and empowering women. In the interest of feminism, however, I think it is important that we call a spade a spade (after all, battles should be wisely picked). How is this an instance of opression? I would think to come to that conclusion we must either concede to a vast male heirarchical conspiracy whose project is the opression of "the female" because I can find no direct evidence of such opression. Am I wrong? Are we really talking about what is effectively the Da Vinci Code here? In any case, this hubbub about ignoring ex cathedra talk seems to not be in line with Pope Paul VI's Lumen Gentium (25) (a Vatican II document, nonetheless).  I always found the life of Religious appealing (and in part converted to the RC Church because the rest of laity construed their relationship with God in a similar manner) because of the striking, moving similarity to Mary's "yes." It is about wanting to submit. I wouldn't have an objection to taking these oaths and I don't really understand why any other Catholic should either.
8 years 6 months ago
JF should hurry and pray for the ''wonderful women religious'' while they are still around. Having been marginalized for so long and used as cheap labor for our Catholic Schools, it seems that they have finally come to realize their second class citizenship and are voting with their feet. Unless and until the Church hierachy and the Pope redefine the role of women in Catholicism and recognize that the tradition of an all-male priesthood merely reflects the Vatican view of the inferior status of women, future Apostolic Visitations will have little to visit.
8 years 6 months ago
Simply put these women religious have committed their lives and spirit to the church. I praise them. I trust them. I believe in their vows. I see no added value to an oath. I want our dedicated best and brightest to think freely and boldly. Our church is a strong church and has depended on strong men and women to guide, lead and identify strengths and weaknesses. Contol and terror are not positive traits. Some interviewed women religious did not want thier names printed. How unfortunate for the church! Intimidation was method od the inquisition. We as a people of God can talk to one another with love in our hearts.
8 years 6 months ago
I am also concerned about the all-negative press this visitation is creating.  My husband has just begun deaconate formation, and my own thinking about women priests and homosexuals is shifting.  I am a long-time liberal, brought up as a democrat, and want to live my life accepting all the people around me.  That the church's position is so well formed and absolute on these issues came as a surprise to me, and that the reasons for their position, attested to down through 2000 years of church history, is based on the idea that God made men and women to work a certain way.  He made the family to work a certain way.  It's just that I saw especially openness to homosexual persons as a part of inclusiveness, since between consenting adults no one is hurt.  These are not my personal issues.  These issues are pastoral issues.  For people who do have these issues, they are things to be worked through with their pastor.  I am heterosexual, I do not want to be a priest or even a deacon.  We must pray, pray, pray for all those involved, for the Holy Spirit to enlighten us, for Mary to walk with us, for Jesus to show us what is his truth.  I have been reading JPII's Theology of the Body.  If this is the belief of the church, it must be taught, we must be catechized.  I want to understand.  I am willing to understand.  I am open to understanding, but it has come as a huge surprise to me, a caring Catholic Christian with a big heart.
8 years 6 months ago
There is no theological reason why women cannot be cardinals. We had  lay cardinals for hundreds of years and the last one died about 160 years ago. The greatest of all was a layman. If we wish to listen to the Spirit in conclave and out, at least h1Balf the cardinals should be women, starting yesterday.
8 years 6 months ago
Interesting ... OW and the "invalidity" of Anglican orders together with the Creed and faith in the resurrection ... wonder if this betrays the purpose of the entire exercise ... Luis
8 years 6 months ago
The comments on this article demonstrate just how on-the-mark the current issue's editorial is regarding the polarization within the Church today.  As I tell my high school students when they question the issue of women's ordination: it doesn't matter what they want or I want or the cardinals or popes want. What matters is what God wants.  And to discern that, we all have to muster up a lost virtue, humility, and pray, pray, pray to know the will of God.  No easy task to be sure, but if we all took off our boxing gloves, got rid of our personal agendas, and really listened to each other and the Holy Spirit, I have the suspicion we'll get an answer.  In the meantime, we need to, in the words of Jesus, " be as innocent as doves, but as shrewd as serpents"  which means we continue to search diligently and humbly for the answer, but we don't let anyone walk all over us while we're doing so. 
8 years 6 months ago
JF said: ''The Pope need not speak ex cathedra to make a teaching definitive; he may speak through the ordinary magisterium which Pope John Paull II did.  Speak to canon lawyers and they will tell you that this is a closed issue.'' With all due respect, JP II did *not* speak through the ordinary magisterium.  There was no conclave of the world's bishops to agree on these issues. He was speaking only of his own (and possibly his advisors and the Curia) beliefs. With respect to the visitation itself, the supposed reason given was concern for declining numbers of vowed sisters.  However, there is no similar visitation of men's orders, whose numbers have also declined.  This, on top of the more recently announced investigation of the LCWR, makes it perfectly clear that this is all about power.
8 years 6 months ago
That's because an ecumenical council is the extraordinary magesterium not the ordinary magesterium.  Ex Cathedra is also extraordinary magesterium.  JPII did speak in the ordinary magesterium.  In my role as a seminarian, I have a lot of access to Canon Lawyers and there is concensus on this issue.   There are visitations of men's religious communities facing troubles.  The Legion of Christ is currently undergoing one.  In 2005 an there was an Apostolic Visitation of all US Catholic Seminaries, including mine.  This is standard and it is a great help to the priests and religious, as I can tell you from experience.  It has to do with the Vatican reaching out and helping the Faithful, not exerting power. 
8 years 6 months ago
You can't tell everyone to stop talking about the ordination of women and then invoke the ordinary magisterium, saying that nobody's discussing women's ordination and that's the ordinary magisterium at work under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Canon lawyers might agree that it somehow meets the legal definition of ''ordinary magisterium'' but that's just legal talk.  The truth ain't in there.  This discussion was squelched before it ever got off the ground and we need to have it.  It's not going away.  What are we afraid of?
8 years 3 months ago
There is a movement in the catholic church today that wants to return to pre-vatican two thinking. In rochester, ny there is a church and a priest that will denigrate sisters/nuns from the pulpit, and say that anyone who believes that women should be ordained is ''doing the devil's work.'' This priest goes on to insult women in general and gasps from the pews can be heard when he speaks. Unfortunately this priest has alot of followers who support this misogyny against women.
 
The church, remember had ''The Witches Hammer'' Malleus Maleficarum written in 1486 by Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger, two Inquiaitors of the catholic church. The sole purpose of this was to identify women as witches and kill them.  
 
I take no comfort in the fact that the Mother Mary Claire Millea is a woman. Plenty of women during the inquisition turned in other women as witches in order to gain favor and avoid prosecution by the catholic church. I pray for and sympathize with the American sisters/nuns. May God bless them and our church during this ''dark night'' of our church's history.
   

 
kerry daly
8 years 1 month ago
Who are you kidding? This so called apostolic visit is a thinly veiled attack on the Sisters. I must agree with the accurate, yet caustic, comment about 'cheap labor of the Catholic church.' The Old Boys network in Rome has been condesceding, abusive and manipulative toward the women who have been the backbone of the Church for centuries. There was a good reason the sisters were finally( circa 1968- after centuries of wearing a cumbersome habit)  allowed to 'kick the habit' and be allowed to blend into society. The naive comment about vocations abounding is positivley ludicrous.
If there were ever an event to cause an exodus of Catholics (who both honor and support the Sisters)  from the Church  - this egregious 'visit' is the catalyst.

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