Women Religious Not Complying With Vatican Study"There's been almost universal resistance, we are saying 'enough'"
The vast majority of U.S. women religious are not complying with a Vatican request to answer questions in a document of inquiry that is part of a three-year study of the congregations. Leaders of congregations, instead, are leaving questions unanswered or sending in letters or copies of their communities' constitutions.
"There's been almost universal resistance," said one women religious familiar with the responses compiled by the congregation leaders. "We are saying 'enough!' In my 40 years in religious life I have never seen such unanimity.Many women, instead of filling out the forms, replied by sending in copies of their Vatican -approved orders' religious constitutions. A religious order's constitution states its rationale, purpose and mission. (Because after all, that's what the Vatican needs as the yardstick of measurement. Forget about Catholic identity - these women religious constitutions trump everything, such as loyalty to the Magisterium or the the Catechism of the Catholic Church.)
The Vatican initiated the study in January, saying its purpose is to determine the quality of life in religious communities, given the decline in vocations in recent decades. From the outset, the women have complained they were never consulted before Vatican officials announced the investigation and there is no transparency in the process. Some have called the effort demeaning and intrusive. (And I'm sure if they were consulted, they would have responded with kindness and full cooperation. I suppose somewhere along the way to their "communities," they forgot that they were accountable to a higher authority. And besides, if individual women religious communities were contacted while others weren't, we would have been hearing the high screech of outrage from those who were targeted. It's obviously a better choice to do an 'across-the-board' evaluation of all women religious. Nothing like fairness!)
By contrast, according to the source, congregations representing, by far, the greater majority of women religious decided not to comply and answered only a few, or none, of the questions. Many of the 340 U.S. apostolic congregation heads instead sent letters to Millea stating that what they were sending was what the Vatican was looking for. (Um. No. The Vatican is looking for answers to their questions. All the questions. Otherwise, they wouldn't have asked.)"Cover letters [to Millea] have been respectful and kind," one woman, familiar with the responses, told NCR. "Many of the letters have essentially said that what we have to say about ourselves has already been said in our religious constitutions." (Back to their constitutions. Get the feeling that they have some issues with the Magisterium?)
The Vatican questionnaire is divided into three parts. Part A attempts to collect quantifiable information about such things as membership, numbers, living arrangements, health, and retirement conditions. Part B and Part C (bottom of Part B) aim to gather detailed information about community governance practices, vocation efforts, spiritual and liturgical practices, ministry and finances. (An interesting side note: The Vatican withdrew several questions from Part C that asked for individual ages of the women, assets belonging to the congregation and recent financial statements. In light of this situation, I think that's not a good idea. [mantilla nod to Cathy of Alex and Vincenzo] Now, looking at Part B, I'm wondering if they're constitutions fully cover the areas of vocation efforts, and spiritual and liturgical practices. Somehow, I doubt it.)
Several women religious said that, in discerning their responses to the questionnaire which they felt were intrusive, there emerged a new sense of identity and resolve. One said that for years women religious have focused on the needs of others. This time they had to focus on themselves. (Let me see - the Vatican asks questions, which if one were faithful to the Magisterium, should prove to be no problem, why would you feel those questions are intrusive?)
She said women religious have been virtually unanimous in spirit that they have been living out their missions, as directed by the gospels and by the Second Vatican Council, which called upon religious communities to go out in the world to work among the poor and to build more just and peaceful structures. (Whew. This is where I have to start to put duct-tape over my head to keep it from exploding. "Build more just and peaceful structures" raises several questions: 1) Is not the Vatican a 'just and peaceful structure?' 2) Did Vatican II specifically issue a mandate for the Roman Catholic Church to go out and build new structures? and 3) Who has defined what a 'just and peaceful structure' is to be? The Vatican? Marxism? Hinduism? Marianne Williamson?)
She explained that in the process church prelates lost the control over women religious congregations they once had. She said many women religious believe the investigation is part of an effort to regain that control. (Alright. This is just getting downright funny. "Lost control?" Let me see if I can explain it in their terms. You have a commune. Everyone shares everything. Then there's a small group of people who want to move away to Gary, Indiana because they feel "called" to serve there. The commune sends them there with their blessing, expecting to still maintain a relationship. Team Gary-Indy group takes the commune manifesto with them, promising to stay true to it. Years go by. Suddenly, the commune realizes that Team Gary-Indy has gone off the deep end and became a training ground for clown terrorists. They are concerned. They send out an investigative team who promptly gets pummeled by water balloons. Is it an issue of "lost control" or rather, staying true to the commune's manifesto, which is the identifying image to the rest of the world? You make the call.)
"Vatican II took us out of the ghettos and into ecology, feminism and justice in the world," she said. "The Vatican still has a difficult time accepting that." (I think the Vatican has a difficult time accepting that women religious have become Marxists. Social justice, class and gender warfare, and now the "new kid on the block," ecology - are all tools of Marxism to change our society, which is founded upon free choice. It's also important to note that Marxism also slams religious institutions and that Marxism is an atheist view of human liberation, which sounds more and more like what these women religious want.)
Some of the women interviewed by NCR cite an irony involved in the investigation. One said that it is "unlikely the Vatican wanted us to come out of this being more confident of our identity as self-defining religious agents, but that is exactly what has happened."
Another said: "At first, many women were asking, 'How do we respond? Then we were asking, 'How do we respond faithfully in keeping with our identity?' And soon we were asking, 'What is that identity?' " (Notice that no one is talking about Catholic identity?)
Several women said canon lawyers told the women they were not required to answer all the questions. Religious, unlike bishops, priests and deacons, who make up the clergy, are not officially part of the church's hierarchical structure. According to this reasoning, women religious are responsible to their congregation leadership and to their constitutions. (Okay. I admit this is an area that I do not understand. If women religious are not officially part of the church's hierarchical structure, what is the justification for jurisdiction over them? The Vatican must have some level of jurisdiction, otherwise they couldn't conduct the investigation. Somehow, though, I'm suspecting the Vatican has more authority over them than they want to admit.)
NCR contacted several canon lawyers consulted by women religious communities. These canon lawyers declined to be interviewed for this story. (Gee. A lawyer who doesn't want to talk to the press. Who'd have thunk it?)
All along, said one woman religious, the challenge has been to respond to the Vatican in a way that breaks a cycle of violence. (Are you kidding me? Violence?!) She said that the women religious communities have attempted to respond by using a language "devoid of the violence" they found in the Vatican questionnaire and within the wider study. She characterized the congregation responses as "creative and affirming," and part of an effort to set a positive example in "nonviolent resistance." (Oh. My. Gosh. This is that awful, convoluted pseudo-intellectual-speak they teach in universities. All the Vatican is doing is asking questions. Obviously, these women don't like being asked questions, but it's a huge stretch to say that the asking is "violent." That is just crazy-talk and I refuse to accept the premise.)
"On the one hand we didn't want to roll over and play dead," she said. "So the question was, "How do you step outside a violent framework and do something new?' That was the challenge that emerged." One congregation, she said, cited a U.S. bishops' statement concerning domestic abuse in its response letter to Millea. "The point is, there have to be more than two choices: Take the abuse and offer it up, or kill the abuser." (!!!!!)
Women religious, she said, are asking if there is a "Ghandian or Martin Luther King way" to deal with violence they felt is being one to them. (Ladies, the questions aren't violent. I'm sure they're straightforward. From Part B, question 1.F. "What are your hopes and concerns about the future of your religious institute in living its charism in the Church?" Wow. Get out the human chain protests. That question is just over the top.)
At issue, according to several women religious, is the role women religious are to play in the world today. As much as any other element in the church, women religious claim Vatican II's documents as a call go out in the world, loved and blessed by God, and to serve within it.
During the pontificates of Pope John Paul II and Benedict the XVI the hierarchy, many church observers say, has pulled back from these directives, seeing the world as a more hostile environment. They view the church as a bastion of light and love within this world and want the women religious to work more directly from within church structures. (The world is a more hostile place. If people can't see that, they're blind. With Islamofascists wanting to kill us, labor unions wanting to destroy nationalism and dismantle capitalist societies, and radical liberalism seeking to undermine traditional values in schools, universities, and institutions - I'd say yes, we're under attack. "We" being those who love freedom and God. So if the Vatican isn't peachy with a bunch of aging hippie-women marching to the drumbeat of those hostile groups, I say rock on, Papa Ben & Company. As far as I'm concerned, these women don't deserve to be affiliated in any way whatsoever with the Catholic Church. In fact, I think kicking them to the nearest multi-culti, diversity spiritual enterprise, like say, oh - I don't know, it's a stretch but let's just say the Unitarians - would really be a great idea and save the Vatican and us a lot of time and money.)
Well, I'm spent. I need to break for dinner but feel free to add your own thoughts. This investigation is revealing more and more how absolutely out-of-control these women are when it comes to being Catholic. I may add more thoughts later about the issue of submission, which I'm sure is a favorite topic for these types.