As we reported on this blog, the Vatican has announced that has scheduled an official "visitation" of women’s religious orders next year. Typically, "visitations" (and no, the term has nothing to do with Mary and Elizabeth) are undertaken to correct some kind of problematic situation in a diocese or religious order. (The recent visitation of seminaries and men’s religious orders, for example, was in response to the sexual abuse crisis.) Recently in the National Catholic Reporter, Sandra Schneiders, a member of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and professor at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, California, and the author of several fine books on religious life, has weighed in, with passionate language, with her concerns on NCR here.
"It is a hostile move," she writes, "and the conclusions are already in. It is meant to be intimidating. But I think if we believe in what we are doing (and I definitely do) we just have to be peacefully about our business, which is announcing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, fostering the Reign of God in this world."
In response, Elizabeth Scalia, aka "The Anchoress" has posted her equally passionate reply, now on First Things.
"Religious Life for women," she writes, "in the United States will be defined in the next few decades by those orders that manage to thrive in a world where the values of chastity, humility, and obedience are misunderstood. What is ’new’ and ’it’ at this moment in history–younger women taking back the habit and the breviary (even as they establish a variety of ministries in preaching, in the streets, hospitals, schools, retreat houses, and elsewhere) and expressing fealty to Rome is as counter-cultural and even radical as her [Schneiders’] now-establishment sisters used to be."
This is, to say the least, a lively argument. Check out both articles for two wildly differing views of women’s religious life.
James Martin, SJ