Less Investigation, More Reconciliation?

In our August 1-8 issue, America ran a current comment, "A New Tone in Rome," about how Archbishop João Bráz de Aviz, as the new head of the Roman congregation that oversees religious life, has begun to address the mistrust and confrontational attitudes that accompanied the recent study of women religious in the United States.

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, secretary of the same congregation, has continued to help this situation with a refreshingly frank interview with Catholic News Service on August 10. In assessing the report on an official visitation of religious women’s orders begun in 2009 by Cardinal Franc Rodé, then prefect of that congregation, he spoke of the need "to rebuild a relationship of trust with the women [religious]."

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The report is still in draft stage, and Archbishop Tobin is considering letting women religious leaders from the United States who work in Rome to serve as consultants to the congregation before its report is finalized. This would be part of his effort to undo harm done when some "unscrupulous canonical advisors" generated fear that the congregation would impose new leadership on some orders or suppress them entirely.

Many of the congregations found that the study was not as negative as they had feared, and Archbishop Tobin noted that many women religious in the U.S. are recognizing a growing need for reconciliation among various groups of sisters. Still, the suspicion generated simply by initiating this investigation, which studied only women religious in the United States, lingers and calls for healing so that the life and work of these great women can continue to bless the church.

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