Vatican Investigates Wayward American Nuns

(Remnant News Watch August 15, 2009)

Mark Alessio

"Apostolic visitors should be treated as uninvited guests who should be

received in the parlor, not given the run of the house."

 ...Sister Sandra Schneiders

(Posted 08/15/09
The Vatican is quietly conducting “two sweeping investigations of American nuns, a development that has startled and dismayed nuns who fear they are the targets of a doctrinal inquisition,” reports Laurie Goodstein of The New York Times (July 1, 2009):

In the last four decades since the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, many American nuns stopped wearing religious habits, left convents to live independently and went into new lines of work: academia and other professions, social and political advocacy and grass-roots organizations that serve the poor or promote spirituality. A few nuns have also been active in organizations that advocate changes in the church like ordaining women and married men as priests.

Some sisters surmise that the Vatican and even some American bishops are trying to shift them back into living in convents, wearing habits or at least identifiable religious garb, ordering their schedules around daily prayers and working primarily in Roman Catholic institutions, like schools and hospitals.

The investigations were ordered by Cardinal Franc Rodé, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, who has complained that some nuns in the United States “have opted for ways that take them outside” the Church. In his decree of December 22, 2008, Cardinal Rodé announced that the Apostolic Visitation would examine “the quality of life" at the general houses, provincial houses, and centers of initial formation of women religious in the United States (not included here are cloistered and contemplative orders).

 The visitation is being conducted by Mother Mary Clare Millea, an American nun living in Rome, who is the Superior General of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Mother Clare is meeting with the superiors general of women’s orders, preparing questionnaires for congregations of female religious and organizing visits to these congregations by a team of investigators. She will then prepare a confidential report, with recommendations, which she hopes to complete by mid 2011.

A second investigation (ordered by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith), running concurrently with the Apostolic Visitation, will deal with the “Leadership Conference of Women Religious,” an umbrella organization claiming some 1,500 members from about 95 percent of women’s religious orders. The “Leadership Conference of Women Religious” has failed to uphold Church teaching on the male-only priesthood, homosexuality and the primacy of the Roman Catholic Church as the means to salvation.

Comment: Imagine you’re a fox who has been ruling the hen house for the last 40 years, while the farmer ignores you. Imagine, then, that a new man buys the farm and actually sticks his head into the hen house to see what goes on in there. The fox would be, above all things, afraid.

So it goes with those turncoats who have dared to call themselves “sisters” over the past four decades, but have abandoned Christ, Mary and Church doctrine for the shiny baubles of worldly prestige, alternate “spirituality” and faux-“independence.” They are afraid ... as only the guilty can be.

In a private e-mail to friends (which became public and was quoted in the Times article), Sister Sandra M. Schneiders, professor emeritus of New Testament and Spirituality at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, California, advised that the investigators of the Apostolic Visitation should be treated as “uninvited guests who should be received in the parlor, not given the run of the house.”

 To appreciate fully the treacherous sentiments behind “Sister” Schneiders’ words, one need understand the import of an Apostolic Visitation. Unlike papal nuncios, who act in the capacity of diplomatic envoys, Apostolic Visitors are deputed to deal with emergencies or potential emergencies in the Church. Their nature is that of an ad hoc group, for they are assembled specifically to deal with the matter at hand. They will inspect the condition of the Church, or her religious orders, in a given locale and report back to the Holy See.

Through Apostolic Visitors, the Pope exercises his jurisdiction over the Universal Church. Therefore, those who would treat Apostolic Visitors as “uninvited guests who should be received in the parlor, not given the run of the house” not only express contempt for papal authority, they also make it quite clear that they have something to hide. Any intelligent Catholic who has NOT been living under a rock since the Second Vatican Council knows what that “something” is – a wholesale abandonment of Catholic belief, principles and doctrine. There are still many faithful nuns left here in America, but they are too often overshadowed by the pants-suit clad Valkyries spawned after Vatican II. And how these champions of nothing love their novelty: enneagrams, Wicca, “New Age” spirituality (which has actually gotten pretty old at this point), environmentalism, reiki (“alternative” healing), etc.

In her keynote address to the 2007 conference of the “Leadership Conference of Women Religious” (the bunch now being scrutinized by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith), “Sister” Laurie Brink, Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago, said:

When religious communities embraced the spirit of renewal in the 1970s, they took seriously that the world was no longer the enemy, that a sense of ecumenism required encountering the holy “other,” and that the God of Jesus might well be the God of Moses and the God of Mohammed .... As one sister described it, “I was rooted in the story of Jesus, and it remains at my core, but I’ve also moved beyond Jesus.” The Jesus narrative is not the only or the most important narrative for these women. They still hold up and reverence the values of the Gospel, but they also recognize that these same values are not solely the property of Christianity. Buddhism, Native American spirituality, Judaism, Islam and others hold similar tenets for right behavior within the community, right relationship with the earth and right relationship with the Divine. With these insights come a shattering or freeing realization—depending on where you stand. Jesus is not the only son of God. Salvation is not limited to Christians. Wisdom is found in the traditions of the Church as well as beyond it.

“Sister” Brink also noted how the aging population of nuns in America is not being offset by the number of novices, how retreat houses are closing, and how “Mother houses are facing serious financial straights, requiring the down-sizing and even selling of property.” In a remarkable display of honesty, she admits the following:

Not every congregation is giving up the ghost sort to speak. Some have attended to their reality and are making choices that a generation ago would have been anathema to their members. These groups are recognizing the changing atmosphere in the institutional Church, the reneging on the promises of Vatican II, and the seemingly conservative young adults interested in pursing a life of holiness through the profession of the evangelical counsels. They are taking seriously Pope John Paul II's call to pursue holiness first above all else. They are putting on the habit, or continuing to wear the habit with zest. They are renewing pious practices such as adoration and the Rosary. They are returning to the classroom.

Some would critique that they are the nostalgic portrait of a time now passed. But they are flourishing. Young adults are finding in these communities a living image of their romantic view of Religious Life. They are entering. And they are staying.

There it is, an answer to the “vocation crisis,” right from the horse’s mouth. No, it is not “moving beyond Christ.” It is not law degrees or environmental activism. It is, simply, “putting on the habit .... renewing pious practices such as adoration and the Rosary .... returning to the classroom.” Here is yet more proof as to the importance of today’s Traditionalist societies and orders.

Let us remember Sr. Mary Clare Millea, the Apostolic Visitation and the investigation undertaken by the CDF in our prayers. With the severe crippling of religious life sparked by the “Spirit of Vatican II,” and the attendant loss to the world of so many of those graces which were once won for mankind by the prayers of holy religious, this undertaking is sorely overdue.



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