The review "is intended as a constructive assessment and an expression of genuine concern for the quality of the life" of roughly 59,000 U.S. Catholic sisters, according to a Vatican working paper delivered in the past few days to leaders of 341 religious congregations that describes the scope in new detail.
But the nature of some questions in the document seems 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 communities of sisters to lay out "the process for responding to sisters who dissent publicly or privately from the authoritative teaching of the Church."
It also confirms suspicions that the Vatican is concerned over a drift to the left on doctrine, seeking answers about "the soundness of doctrine held and taught" by the women.
Still other questions explore whether sisters take part in Mass daily, or whether they follow the church's rules when they take part in liturgies. Church officials expect consistency in how rites and services are celebrated, with approved translations and Masses presided over by a priest.
The study, called an apostolic visitation, casts a net beyond fidelity to church teaching, with questions also covering efforts to promote vocations and management of finances.
I don't think it's a surprise to those of us who were taught by these sisters. Many of them became activists after Vatican II and promoted liberal thought such as women being ordained as priests, support for abortion, and gay rights.
However, some women want to continue to make it out about Big Bad Men:
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 U.S.
But she said the focus on doctrine puts it in the context of establishing a "correct" and exclusive interpretation of the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s and of women's religious communities.
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."
Misogyny? Are you kidding me? This said of a Church that has elevated a woman to such a high place in their doctrine that she is called Our Lady? Holy Mother? A woman who at the mention of her name in the liturgy, we either kneel or bow our head?
I'm still learning about our Blessed Virgin Mary and wrapping my mind around her identity, God's ordained plan for her, and the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception and Assumption. But I will happily say this: I challenge any, any - of these sourpuss, hippie throw-backs to find any other church on the planet that loves women the way the Catholic Church does. Look how we treat our saints - and there are plenty of women saints as there are men.
Women are revered for their calling as mothers and wives. Women saints are revered for their holiness. And if you look at those saints closely, not one (at least by my recollection) insisted upon being ordained as a priest or recognized as being "important." But lo and behold, God elevates the humble.
Which brings me to this point: anyone - either man or woman, who continues to push for their "rights" and their desire to be recognized; has not understood the Kingdom of God. They are clueless. The Kingdom of God is not partitioned into territories. It isn't a democracy. It isn't a "Boy's Club," either. It is a radical call to a life of self-denial, and that denial starts with our own desire to be somebody.
I wonder what sort of vows these sisters took, and if they included such thoughts.