Friday, January 28, 2011

So How Is That Apostolic Visitation of Women Religious Going, Anyway? #Catholic

I haven't heard much about the results of the apostolic visitation of women but caught an article about it yesterday. (How Is It Going? From Catholic World Report)

There doesn't seem to be any clear results given, yet, but then again, the on-site visitation phase was just completed in December 2010.

The article, written by Ann Carey who is the author of Sisters in Crisis: The Tragic Unraveling of Women’s Religious Communities, shows that there is still distrust on the side of the women religious. I found the question of confidentiality particularly interesting.

Evidently, some of the women religious superiors were grilling the sisters after the visitation group had left. (emphasis mine):

Nevertheless, sisters from various orders report that their leadership approached the visitation with a fear that was fed in part by the LCWR and other outspoken women religious, as well as misinformation in the media. This fear, in turn, caused anxiety among many grassroots sisters. So, too, did pre-visitation “informational meetings” that seemed more like indoctrination sessions; some sisters say they felt intimidated by their leadership, who warned sisters not to answer certain questions from the visitors, not to say anything negative about the order, and not to tell anyone about the visitation, even as their leaders continued to disparage the visitation publicly.

Likewise, some orders who received on-site visits also scheduled post-visit meetings for sisters to report what they said and heard during their appointments with visitors and to discuss how they felt about the visitation experience. One sister told this writer that these post-visit meetings, which were announced before her order’s visit, made her feel that sisters’ conversations with the visitors would not really be confidential if sisters were expected to report on them to their superiors.

Sister Elizabeth confirmed that a number of sisters from various institutes throughout the US contacted her for advice about whether they were free to absent themselves from pre- and post-visitation meetings scheduled by superiors and presented as mandatory. She said she had explained to these sisters the basic information on privacy and non-manifestation of conscience and suggested that if sisters felt they might face intimidation for not participating in the meetings, then it might be better for them to attend and to speak if it seemed truly necessary. If they did so, she told sisters to inform the apostolic visitation office confidentially about what had actually transpired.

The privacy of sisters who wished to talk to a visitor also was problematic for some sisters. The visitation office tried to ensure confidentiality for sisters, and feedback from those experiencing a visit has been overwhelmingly positive. However, in some instances, sisters reported that the identity of some sisters requesting an interview with a visitor was inadvertently revealed to an order’s leadership. Additionally, the other confidential methods for speaking with a visitor—via telephone or webcam or at an off-site interview—were not feasible for some sisters, particularly the elderly in nursing care or retirement facilities. The visitation office did, however, encourage letters from sisters, and many sisters took advantage of that method when they wanted to be absolutely certain their identity would not be revealed to superiors.

That, is very troubling.

If there are issues that need to be addressed, then truth must be told. The only thing these superiors accomplished was to guarantee that they looked guilty by trying to squelch the voices of some of their fellow sisters.

I can only imagine the inner turmoil some of these sisters must have experienced. Could you imagine being a part of a community that was going in some wacky direction, but you had no one to turn to? And finally, when someone from the Vatican was listening, you're told to not say anything incriminating?

Seriously, it makes me feel as though some of those women religious are like battered women. I know that may seem harsh, but think of the controlling factors that go into an abusive relationship. I wouldn't doubt that some of those sisters felt similar emotions to a woman who wanted to escape an unhealthy relationship.

This is where the ugly side of women emerges. It is not what God intended for women, but certainly is the strategy of the enemy. Gossiping, slander, control, intimidation -- all of these have been used by then enemy to wreak havoc in the sisterhood of women.

Why would a superior need to know what was talked about confidentially with an apostolic visitor? To control the outcome.

Plain and simple. And unfortunate. Continue to keep this whole process in prayer. Pray that the apostolic team is given grace and wisdom. Pray for hardened hearts to soften. And pray that the truth is revealed and that the Balm of Gilead would heal all wounds.

1 comment:

kkollwitz said...

Thanks for this post; I just ordered a used copy of Sisters in Crisis on Amazon for $4.16 including shipping.