Saturday, May 22, 2010

Some Religious Sisters are Distancing Themselves from the Church (part 1)

Religious sisters seem to be in the news a lot recently.

1) On January 30th, 2009, an Apostolic Visitation of every group of religious sisters in the United States began. This process is explained in its three stages by Sr. Eva Maria Ackerman when she announced the visitation last year:

"The process, which is expected to take about two years to complete, has several stages. First, Mother Clare [appointed to head the visitation] will solicit voluntary input from the superiors general through inviting them to make personal contacts with her in Rome or in the United States. During the second stage, the major superiors in the United States will be asked for information such as statistics, activities and community practices. Selected on-site visits will be made during the third stage. During this time, the sisters will have an opportunity to share with the visitation teams their joys and hopes, challenges and concerns about their lives as women religious in the Church today. The final stage will be the compilation and delivery of a comprehensive and confidential review by Mother Clare to Cardinal Rodé."

Some groups of sisters are very upset by the visitation, seeing it as a crackdown by the Church which they perceive to be enforcing orthodoxy upon them. The interesting thing is that the Vatican conducts visitations ALL THE TIME, as in CONSTANTLY. The seminaries in the U.S. were just visited three years ago. No one complained then. The Vatican is on a rotating schedule of visiting seminaries, sisters, brothers, etc. throughout the world. In fact, I can't even find a record of the last time the U.S. sisters were visited, so needless to say, it has been a while. The time between U.S. seminary visits was something in the ballpark of 20 years.

During stage 2, Mother Clare had to actually ask the various heads of religious sisters for more cooperation as an alarming number had either failed to turn in the questionnaires or were incomplete in their answers. The process is now on stage 3 with the beginning of on site visitations. Let us pray that this continues to be the healthy process that the Church envisions it to be.

Mother Clare and the Visitation have a very helpful webpage where one can read the letters from the visitation to the various heads of women religious institutions. The webpage also has a very helpful FAQ. Check it out at

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