On the Holy See’s Report on the Apostolic Visitation of Women Religious

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The Madison Catholic Herald has a Letter to the Editor from me this week, commenting on the recent release by the Congregation for Religious of a gently-worded report summarizing the Apostolic Visitation a few years back of all the women’s “active” religious congregations in the US. Women religious are diverse, there’s no possibility of a one size fits all assessment of all sisters. Individual communities, including the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa who received an in-person visitation team (and say it wasn’t a bad experience at all) will get an individualized report that won’t be public. This is likely to be oriented constructively toward helping the community.

The Congregation for Religious’ approach respects and appeals to the conscience of sisters and suggests to them that further conscience formation in keeping with the mind of the Church is in many cases needed. Hearts need softening and minds need opening to the teaching and guidance of the Church, if this is to happen. Unfortunately Sinsinawa’s dominant belief system has seemed to be consolidating around the “Universe Story”/”new cosmology”/”conscious evolution” ideology. The Church has repeatedly warned that this has become a serious problem in religious life, and that this new-age belief system is simply not reconcilable with the Christian faith.

The hand of the Church is outstretched to the sisters, inviting renewal of their “yes” to communion and what that entails.

Here’s my Catholic Herald letter:

To the editor:

I praise the document of the Congregation for Religious in Rome, released as a final report of the visitation of women’s religious congregations in the U.S.

I am not known for sugarcoating grave problems within Religious life — but kindness is the only way to go for the Church’s pastors. Some Religious congregations aren’t only on a demographic cliff, but teetering on the edge in terms of ecclesial communion, as the document alludes.

This report isn’t simply sugarcoated, it’s lovingly sugar-encased, smooth and pastel like Jordan almonds. The good almonds in the middle are positive encouragements to respect the difference between vowed members and associated laity (not blur the lines), have a prayer life in common with Mass at the center and practice of the sacraments, foster a Catholic understanding of Christ and creation (not the “Universe Story”), and so forth.

The document guides women Religious to form their conscience according to the mind of the Church, becoming wise experts in communion.

Let’s remember others also have a role: Sisters need relationships for their mission in Christ that are based on Catholic ties in the communion of the Church and Catholic truth that comes from Jesus, in whom is ultimate wholesome sweetness.

Elizabeth Durack, Madison

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