“Religious” Sisters not liking Vatican Scrutiny, Go Figure!

The uncloistered sisters are being checked out and they don’t like it. While I’ve only met a few religious sisters, based on my interactions with one of them, her lack of orthodoxy in word and deed, I’m not surprised these women are worried. My guess is that the sisters who wear habits are more orthodox than these folks.

In this article, the Church is characterized as misogynistic and distrustful of religious sisters not under direct, ecclesiastic control; my understanding is that the orders are authorized by a Bishop to begin with and said Bishop has control. What am I missing here? Religious sisters are supposed to be religious, are they not? One would expect an order of Catholic Religious to follow the teachings of the Magisterium, no? Or am I just being silly?

If you’re Catholic, and dissent from Church teachings, if you publicly oppose church teachings, if you’re involved with new age disciplines to which the Church is opposed, why do you say you’re Catholic?

bobby knightI think this is a Bobby Knight thing. You know, he went for years and years, yelling at players, swearing, throwing chairs, etc. and suddenly, the behavior that was accepted and condoned for all that time was inappropriate and he got canned.

I don’t mean to excuse these women for straying from true Catholic teaching, but rather to explain why they’re upset; they got away with it for a long time and don’t think it’s fair that Pope Benedict wants Catholic religious sisters to actually be Catholic. And religious. But he does. Isn’t that just like a Pope?


Vatican Scrutiny Makes U.S. Sisters Uneasy

Uncloistered Religious Communities Questioned About Doctrine, Discipline

By Eric Gorski

Associated Press

Saturday, August 8, 2009

A Vatican-ordered investigation into Roman Catholic sisters in the United States, shrouded in mystery when it was announced seven months ago, is shaping up to be a tough examination of whether women’s religious communities have strayed too far from church teaching.

The review “is intended as a constructive assessment and an expression of genuine concern for the quality of the life” of about 59,000 U.S. Catholic religious sisters, according to a Vatican working paper delivered in the past few days to leaders of 341 religious congregations.

But parts of the document seem to validate concerns expressed privately by some sisters that they’re about to be dressed down or accused of being unfaithful to the church. The report, for example, asks religious communities to describe “the process for responding to sisters who dissent publicly or privately from the authoritative teaching of the Church.”

The investigation is focused on members of women’s religious communities, or sisters. These are women who do social work, teach, work in hospitals and do other humanitarian work of the church. The investigation is not looking at cloistered communities, or nuns.

The report confirms suspicions that the Vatican is concerned about a drift to the left on doctrine, seeking answers about “the soundness of doctrine held and taught” by the women.

Other questions explore whether sisters take part in Mass daily and whether they follow the church’s rules when they take part in liturgies. Church officials expect consistency in how rites and services are performed, with approved translations and Masses presided over by a priest.

The study, called an apostolic visitation, goes beyond fidelity to church teaching, with questions about efforts to promote vocations and management of finances.

Francine Cardman, associate professor of historical theology and church history at Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry, said it isn’t clear why these questions are being asked now in the United States.

She said the inquiry should be seen “as part of a much older tradition of misogyny in the church and especially distrust of women who are not directly and submissively under male, ecclesiastical control.”

Conservative Catholics have long complained that the majority of sisters in the United States have grown too liberal and flout church teaching. Some have taken provocative stands, advocating for female priests or challenging church teaching against abortion rights or same-sex marriage.

After Vatican II, many sisters embraced Catholic teaching against war and nuclear weapons and for workers’ rights, shed their habits and traditional roles as teachers or hospital workers and took up social activism.

More recently, a group of more tradition-minded women’s religious orders have emerged, with members who dress in habits, emphasize fidelity to Rome and focus on education, health care and social work.

The Vatican is concerned about sisters’ shrinking and aging ranks. The number in the United States declined from 173,865 in 1965 to 79,876 in 2000, according to Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. The average age of a member of a women’s religious community was between 65 and 70 in 1999.

The inquiry is being directed by Mother Mary Clare Millea, superior general of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a relatively conservative order whose members wear habits, unlike many U.S. sisters.

Millea has held meetings with heads of religious communities. Next, the superiors will be given detailed questionnaires to be completed in the fall.

The questionnaires will be followed by visits to selected congregations starting next year, and the process will conclude with a confidential report from Millea to the Vatican.

A spokeswoman for the apostolic visitation’s Connecticut-based office said that Millea was not available for an interview and that the group’s letter to the religious orders would stand as its statement.

Source: The Washington Post


11 Responses to “Religious” Sisters not liking Vatican Scrutiny, Go Figure!

  1. Tyler says:

    Sorry Sisters…We don’t play “Feminist-Marxist Witches of Apostate-wick” in Christianity. We obey Christ. Time for you to obey or face the consequences.

  2. thefrenchchick says:

    I like that the apostolic visitations are also questioning efforts to promote vocations and management of finances. When the sisters left their traditional job of teaching to lay persons, it really has made helping kids listen to God’s call difficult. And having just received the expense report from my own local CCW, I really appreciate knowing that the donations I have given them were well used. We deserve the same from them.

    And why did they choose not to continue in teaching and health care after Vatican II? It would have seemed to me that social activism could have been done by a portion of the sisters in each order and responsibilities rotated yearly if teaching and health care were so tedious.

    Thank God for the tradition minded sisters. I don’t believe that sisters have to wear habits to be religious. I do believe that they have to follow the teachings of the Church. Thank you Pope Benedict, for making this happen.

  3. diane says:

    My guess is that the sisters who wear habits are more orthodox than these folks.

    Ya think? ;)

  4. Terry says:

    Having been a Roman Catholic Sister in the United States, I feel I have some insight into this situation.

    After Vatican II, people’s eyes were opened to the many ways God could be served, in love and compassion. Coincidentally, around this times, non-religious realized this also, and fewer and fewer people sought to become teaching religious. So, more lay teachers had to be hired. Many teaching congregations are mandated by their rule, to teach the poor, so they didn’t want to raise tuition a lot. As the economy changed, it soon became impossible to maintain the schools. Many congregations even had to sell them, along with the property where their mother houses and homes for aging sisters were. In these cases, the old and infirm sisters had to be sent to other communities, away from all they knew and all the people they loved.

    Still, the sisters needed places to live, so they got together in groups of 4 or 6 and rented houses. They also needed to earn the money to pay rent and buy food. Bishops do not help sisters financially, especially, if the congregation is a Papal congregation. The sisters work with the bishop, but are totally on their own, and are not actually under his “rule”.

    This is a case where generous, loving, women have responded to teachings of the church (Vatican II) and have used their courage and creativity to find a way to still serve humanity. Just because this pope is ultra conservative, and does not follow Vatican II, doesn’t mean that the Sisters are wrong. They are the ones who have actually gone out and done the work of the church. They are the ones who are actually with the people. They are the ones who are, also, poor.

    Nothing is static if it is alive. Things change.

  5. Nan says:

    Terry, You’re painting Pope Benedict XVI in a scandalous light; to say he doesn’t follow Vatican II is a scandal. He follows all church teachings, but VII does not exist in a vacuum and did not abrogate all previous church councils.

    Pope Benedict XVI, whose name and title you can’t even bring yourself to use, is attempting to rein in the atrocities committed under the “spirit of Vatican II” banner.

    I’m sure the examination of the “religious” sisters will bring the correct result.

  6. thefrenchchick says:

    I also must respond to Terry’s comment. The school that I went to was not owned by the sisters who taught there, it was owned by our parish. The sisters who taught there were paid and the parish raised tuition as needed to cover the expense of running a school. When my oldest child attended, tuition was raised by $100 per student per year that she was there (1st-4th grade). Yet we haven’t had religious sisters teaching our children at that school since my brother finished 6th grade there back in the late seventies.

    And Vatican II was a clarification of the Catechism of the Catholic Church so that lay people could understand what the church teaches, not a whole new teaching. Pope Benedict XVI does follow Vatican II because the teachings of the Catholic Church never changed. We add and we clarify, but the Church is constant.

  7. Fran says:

    The comments thus far are interesting, to say the least! The visit from a Vatical representative is a good time for the Communities to let it be known that as far back as the 1980’s, Religious Sisters were begging in the streets of New York for money for food! And many communities are now in very bad financial straits, due to aging women, old Motherhouses and other institutions that have been condemned and now allowed to be lived in. Thus, many of these women are in county Nursing Homes and institutions on welfare and the “green” card. How many people know this??? After all their years of dedication to parochial schools, hospitals, orphanages, parish ministries, this is how they end up? And the last thing a Bishop wants in his diocese is a community of bankrupt women! I know there is a collection every year in the Church for the Retirement Fund for Religious. In beginnning it was just for Women Religious, but when the totals were in the 30 millions, the orders of men asked to be inclued, even though the men’s communities of much better financially than the women’s communities. By the way, the collection comes nowhere near what is needed to provided for care for aging religious women.
    This is only 1 topic, but an important topic for people to know.

  8. Fran says:

    a correction for the above”…NOT allowed to be lived in”.

  9. Nan says:


    Do you have any citations? Even here on the interwebs, we expect more specific information. You have not provided the name of an order that was begging on the streets or specifics of orders who have not been able to do any work to sustain themselves or attract any donors to fix their motherhouses.

    Welfare is provided at subsistence amounts to the able-bodied, not to the aged and infirm. One would expect the aged and infirm to be in a county institution paid for by Medicare and Medicaid. In fact, even people with homesteads and a living spouse may be in under these programs, which will then put a lien on the property so the debt may be repaid upon sale of home.

    Green card? You know that’s the alien work document, right? So it has no bearing on the nursing homes and those who are in them. All it means is that the person has the right to work in the US.

    Isn’t it true that some orders charisms is to depend solely on alms?

    In my Archdiocese, we have several active, traditional orders that depend solely on donations. I just gave money to the Little Sisters of the Poor, whose Founder, Jeanne Jugan is to be Canonized in Oct. They’ve been here over 100 years and are doing just fine, as are those for whom they care. The cloistered orders seem to be doing just fine too.

    My understanding is that the communities of bankrupt women are the ones that trampled on church teaching, divested themselves of their habits and are unable to attract new postulants and new donations. Oh, wait, these are the ones under investigation to find out if they’re really Catholic.

    I have to say, between the lack of citations and expectation that we don’t know the difference between welfare and medicare, combined with your lack of knowledge on what exactly a green card is, detract from your credibility.

  10. Nan says:

    Rock on, French Chick! The attribution of the schools to the religious order passed me by as I’m the product of a secular education. I guess there were no religious sisters to teach because so many bailed out in the 60’s an 70’s. I thought that perpetual religious vows were forever, but I guess forever is relative.

    Terry’s e-mail address is pagan in nature so we can consider the source. I would guess that she isn’t likely to have been a religious sister, thus the erroneous information.

  11. Jenn says:

    First of all, folks, there is a long history of religious begging for food, etc. Remember the mendicant orders? Though primarily Franciscan and Domninican, many orders have, thoughtout time begged on the street for sustenance.

    Secondly, and as someone who was there, in religious life in the 80s and 90s, the biggest problem with the orders who are “having problems” with authority (IMHO) is that they stopped caring about living their own charisms as they were called and gifted by the Holy Spirit and started caring about keeping up with Sister Mary Jones. Once you take your eyes off the prize, you’re done. I can, sadly yet honestly say, that this is the story of my own lost vocation.

    And what better way to get communication started, going, have reconciliation and resolution (if both sides are really dedicated to it), it can happen. However, the Vatican holds the final say. If you don’t believe that, then you need to go somehwere else; you arn’t a Roman Catholic.

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