After Investigation, Some Communities of Women Religious Corrected by The Vatican
One thing is clear: sisters need to refocus their communities on the founding charisms or original purpose of their orders
The reform comes in light of a hardened defiance of the groups' leaders against Catholic morality in areas of family life and human sexuality and is meant to ensure the groups fidelity to Catholic teaching in areas including abortion, euthanasia, women's ordination and homosexuality. According to the Vatican, such deviations from Catholic teaching have provoked a crisis "characterized by a diminution of the fundamental Christological center and focus of religious consecration."
A picture worth a thousand words
HAMILTON,Ontario (Catholic Online) - The Vatican has recently initiated a major reform of the association of women's religious congregations, Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). The LCWR, a Maryland-based umbrella group that claims about 1,500 leaders of U.S. women's communities as members, represents about 80 percent of the country's 57,000 women religious.
The reform comes in light of a hardened defiance of the groups leaders against Catholic morality in areas of family life and human sexuality and is meant to ensure the groups fidelity to Catholic teaching in areas including abortion, euthanasia, women's ordination and homosexuality. According to the Vatican, such deviations from Catholic teaching have provoked a crisis "characterized by a
diminution of the fundamental Christological center and focus of religious consecration."
Catholic News Service reports that "the announcement from the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith came in an eight-page 'doctrinal assessment,' based on an investigation that Bishop Blair began on behalf of the Vatican in April 2008. That investigation led the doctrinal congregation to conclude, in January 2011, that 'the current doctrinal and pastoral situation of LCWR is grave and a matter of serious concern, also given the influence the LCWR exercises on religious congregation in other parts of the world.'"
While we often hear about the present day priest shortage, few seem aware that in Canada, the U.S. and Western Europe, nuns are vanishing at an alarming rate. A recent study by the U. S. National Religious Vocation Conference found the number of nuns in the United States had fallen a
stunning 66% over the past four decades. In Canada, there are 19,000 nuns, down 54% from 42,000 in 1975.
Indeed, at the beginning of the sixties, Quebec was the region of the world with the highest number of women religious in relation to the population. Today, all sociologists agree that
unless there is a reversal of the present trend, women's religious life as we have known it will be only a memory in Canada.
Pope Benedict XVI has reduced the problem mainly to a certain "radical feminism" that has crept into women's religious orders causing an identity crisis among active orders and congregations. Women religious, the pope says, have turned away from theology and sought liberation in psychologists and psychoanalysts who can only say at most how the forces of the mind
function but not why and to what purpose.
After Vatican II, religious communities began every kind of reform imaginable: abandonment of the religious habit, degrees at secular universities, insertion into secular professions, a massive reliance on every type of "specialist". Not surprisingly, modern secular values were often uncritically adopted and the concept of "love of neighbor" was soon replaced by that of "social welfare".
In the process Christianity gradually became reduced to an ideology of doing. Pope John Paul II later warned against this minimalist approach saying that the true leaders are those who are "profoundly rooted in contemplation and prayer. Ours is a time of continual movement which often leads to restlessness, with the risk of 'doing for the sake of doing'. We must resist this temptation by trying to be, before trying to do."
Not surprisingly, cloistered contemplative orders are under no such Vatican scrutiny. This is because they have withstood very well due to the fact that they are more sheltered from the Zeitgeist, and because they are characterized by a clear and unalterable aim: praise of God, prayer,
virginity and separation from the world as an eschatological sign. Their wonderful capacity to give love, help, solace, warmth and solidarity did not give way to the economistic, and trade-union mentality of the "profession ".
We are at a point now when religious life in the Catholic Church should be presenting an alternative to the dominant culture of death, of violence and of abuse, rather than mirroring it. Hopefully the new reform remedy this.
One thing is clear: sisters need to refocus their communities on the founding charisms or original purpose of their orders. They also need, as a remedy against radical feminism, Mary whose mystery was inserted into the mystery of the Church at Vatican II making her a focal point for the
equilibrium and completeness of the Catholic Faith.
When one recognizes the place assigned to Mary by dogma and tradition, one becomes more solidly rooted in authentic Christology. As both a Jewish girl and mother of the Messiah, Mary also binds together, in a living and indissoluble way, the old and the new People of God. She is, as it were, the connecting link without which the Faith (as is happening today) runs the risk of losing its balance by either forsaking the New Testament for the Old or dispensing with the Old.
Finally, according to her destiny as Virgin and Mother, Mary continues to project a light upon that which the Creator intended for women in every age.
Mary is the one who rendered silence and seclusion fruitful. She is the one who did not fear to stand under the Cross. As a creature of courage and obedience she was and will always remain an example to which every Christian man and woman should look.
Mr. Paul Kokoski holds a BA in philosophy from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. He is a freelance writer who resides in Hamilton. His articles have been published in several journals including, Homiletic and Pastoral Review, and New Oxford Review.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Nuns, sisters, religious women, LCWR, Reform, contemplatives, monastery, Paul Kokoski
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