Cardinal Rode: Religious Life in "Crisis"

On Feb. 2, Pope Benedict XVI, in his homily marking this year's World Day for Consecrated Life, praised the commitment of men and women in religious orders.  "Each one of you," said the Holy Father, referring to men and women religious, "has approached [Christ] as the source of pure and faithful love, a love so great and beautiful as to merit all, in fact, more than our all, because a whole life is not enough to return what Christ is and what he has done for us. But you approached him, and every day you approach him, also to be helped in the opportune moment and in the hour of trial."

Two days later, Cardinal Franc Rode (pictured at right), prefect of the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life, which is carrying out the apostolic visitation of women religious in this country, has said that religious orders are in "crisis," because of their abandonment of traditional practices.  Here is the story, in full, from CNS:


Vatican official says religious orders are in modern 'crisis'

Catholic News Service.   VATICAN CITY -- By John Thavis.  A top Vatican official said religious orders today are in a "crisis" caused in part by the adoption of a secularist mentality and the abandonment of traditional practices.  Cardinal Franc Rode, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, said the problems go deeper than the drastic drop in the numbers of religious men and women.  "The crisis experienced by certain religious communities, especially in Western Europe and North America, reflects the more profound crisis of European and American society. All this has dried up the sources that for centuries have nourished consecrated and missionary life in the church," Cardinal Rode said in a talk delivered Feb. 3 in Naples, Italy.

"The secularized culture has penetrated into the minds and hearts of some consecrated persons and some communities, where it is seen as an opening to modernity and a way of approaching the contemporary world," he said.  Cardinal Rode said the decline in the numbers of men and women religious became precipitous after the Second Vatican Council, which he described as a period "rich in experimentation but poor in robust and convincing mission."  Faced with an aging membership and fewer vocations, many religious orders have turned to "foreign vocations" in places like Africa, India and the Philippines, the cardinal said. He said the orders need to remember that quality of vocations is more important than quantity.

"It is easy, in situations of crisis, to turn to deceptive and damaging shortcuts, or attempt to lower the criteria and parameters for admission to consecrated life and the course of initial and permanent formation," he said.  In any case, he said, "big numbers are not indispensable" for religious orders to prove their validity. It's more important today, he said, that religious orders "overcome the egocentrism in which institutes are often closed, and open themselves to joint projects with other institutes, local churches and lay faithful."

Cardinal Rode, a 75-year-old Slovenian, is overseeing a Vatican-ordered apostolic visitation of institutes for women religious in the United States to find out why the numbers of their members have decreased during the past 40 years and to look at the quality of life in the communities.  He spoke Feb. 3 to a conference on religious life sponsored by the Archdiocese of Naples. The Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, published the main portions of his text.

Cardinal Rode said it was undoubtedly more difficult today for all religious orders to find young people who are willing to break away from the superficial contemporary culture and show a capacity for commitment and sacrifice. Unless this is dealt with in formation programs, he said, religious orders will produce members who lack dedication and are likely to drift away.

The challenge, however, should not be seen strictly in negative terms, he said. The present moment, he said, can help religious orders better define themselves as "alternatives to the dominant culture, which is a culture of death, of violence and of abuse," and make it clear that their mission is to joyfully witness life and hope, in the example of Christ.  --CNS

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Mary Wood
8 years 11 months ago
''Foreign vocations'' in a Universal Church?  Why not, pray?
Quantity compromises quality?  The number of members of the College of Cardinals has grown since the Second Vatican Council.  You can always recruit another Cardinal, but sometimes it can be very difficult to recruit a novice.
Crisis?  Who's in charge of the church of God?  God himself, not a man decked in lace and a scarlet train.
Jim McCrea
8 years 11 months ago
I think Cardinal Franc Rode is in crisis.
8 years 11 months ago
Said the Cardinal: God blesses fidelity while he “opposes the proud".
8 years 11 months ago
Sister:"Who's in charge of the church of God? God himself, not a man decked in lace and a scarlet train". Note Bene: Apostolic Succession, remember?
8 years 11 months ago
The Cappa Magna

The cappa magna (literally, "great cape") is a voluminous ecclesiastical garment with a long train, proper to cardinals, bishops, and certain other honorary prelates. No longer mandatory (and therefore rare), the cappa magna was never abolished and still appears in the Ceremonial of Bishops. Ordinarily scarlet for cardinals and purple for bishops, the garment dates to the first millennium and its train has varied in length over the ages. Traditionally, one can distinguish between the normal (or "summer") cappa magna, and the "winter" version, which has the upper portion covered in white fur. The latest regulations abolished the winter version, although the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem still uses it (supposedly because of delicate rules that forbid him from changing anything since the last treaties were signed with the famously contentious other Christians of the Holy Land).

He is not the only Cardinal to wear a Cappa Magna.

8 years 11 months ago

Cardinal Rode has given his life to God, as a priest, for 50 years. Is it necessary to mock, belittle and degrade him? Are we to assume that he knows nothing about the nature of religious life? I would suggest he might be a better judge that we are. There is a reason that the Missionaries of Charity and contemplative orders thrive: they are rooted in sacrifice and prayer. The loss of active religious orders, who forgot this, has resulted in damage to the entire mystical Body of Christ.

Cardinal Rode may have thicker skin than we think. I don't know. Pope Paul the VI did not. He wept over the loss of devoted religious women in the US. My skin is thin. I cannot begin to tell you how it grieves my heart to see the teachings of the Catholic Church torn asunder at America Magazine. The righteous call for charity, and the cessation of ad hominem attacks, seem roused by America's disdain for orthodoxy. A correlative outrage is absent from the stage where dissidence rears it head.

I do not think the editors @ America Magazine understand that there are Catholics who are faithful to the Church, who struggle to carry their crosses ,everyday, in pain, and at great cost, out of their love for God, who are also wounded by the disrespect on display everyday at America Magazine. I submit these remarks in genuine good faith and ask that the editorial board consider them in this context.

Vince Killoran
8 years 11 months ago
My problem with Cardinal Rode's comments is that they fall back on the usual denunciations of the "superficial contemporary culture." It's code for a kind of religious politics by conservatives. This is a boiler-plate complaint by the Church heirachy since the early modern period.  Maybe that's why some contributors have noticed the Cardinal's dress and the setting of the photograph. It's like the cover photograph for a book on ultramontanism.
Rode claims he wants to find out why numbers have declined dramatically (actually, there are scholars who have studied this) but the main point of his talk is that he knows why  already.
I did like the end of the news article where the author mention's Rode's desire to make it clear that their mission is to joyfully witness life and hope, in the example of Christ. I think, however, that these religious women know this already.
Beth Cioffoletti
8 years 11 months ago
Cardinal Rodes appears to think that in order for the Church to survive and thrive, it must return to the pomp and ceremony of yesterday's Church.  Somehow, all this carefully scripted ritual is going to save us from the evils of modernity and secularism.  Rules and obedience to those rules.  Habits reflecting medieval styles of dress.
Hmmm.  I will agree with Cardinal Rodes and those seeking a return to the Church's past, that living in today's secular world is a spiritual challenge.  I am bombarded on all sides by flashy advertizements for pleasure, wealth, glamour.  God seems to be nowhere but in politician's speeches.
But I disagree with Cardinal Rodes that the way for the Church is to turn back.  I believe that the way for the Church is forward, into the unknown. 
The women religious who bravely took off their medieval garb and ventured out into the ghettos of their neighborhoods to serve were finding new ways to be nuns.  We could all follow their examples.
It may be that our very concept of what Church is, is already well into the process of changing in the hearts and souls of the Faithful.  There is no turning back now.  To some, this may appear as if the Church is "dwindling".  It's always disconcerting when things change (as they always are).  Perhaps we need to relax more, and trust the Holy Spirit.  The Church of the future will be very different from what we are used to.  It may not even be recognizable to us.  But I guarantee you, it is alive and well.
Just read some Schillebeeckx! :-)
Mary Wood
8 years 11 months ago
Re #4  Maria Byrd
Lk 7 : 25
New International Version (©1984)What did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear expensive clothes and indulge in luxury are in palaces.
8 years 11 months ago
Sr Mary Wood: the disappearance of self sacrifice, humility, obedience,prayer, habit,order, and silence, from many active orders, seems more worthy topics for discussion. Anger, self-will and self-idolatry do not yield fruit.


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