On whether to give honor to Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit–Part 2: Vow Formula

Posted in A Report on the Sinsinawa Dominicans Today

On whether to give honor to Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit–Part 2: Vow Formula

Is God literally or metaphorically Father?

Not only did the preference for de-gendered language for God contribute to leading the sisters away from praying the official prayer of the Church, the Divine Office, but many actually wanted to change most everything to remove male language, including their Constitutions and their vow formula.

In February of 2002, Sister Patty Caraher began a discussion on the Sinsinsawa Dominicans’ SinsinOP email discussion list:

Dears, Thanks to [Dominican Praise translation committee member] Mary Margaret [Pazdan] for her carefully presented paper on “alternative language” which prompted a wonderfully lively discussion at our supper table on The Trinity. We suggest that others might like to do the same. Also, do read the amazingly clear and beautifully written chapter on the Trinity in Elizabeth Johnson’s book She Who Is. We agree with Mary Margaret that we want the language about Trinity to be metaphorical; however, we want to move beyond Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Sister Ann Marie Mongoven responded with an extended reflection of her own. “We can no longer burden our imaginations with a deadly literalist understanding of God language. Vatican Council II released us from that burden,” she wrote. Vatican II discusses the fact that literary form or genre of a given text, original meaning in context, and other factors enter into how sacred Scripture is rightly understood; the Council however does not view individual readers as the arbiters of matters of such fundamental doctrinal importance as whether God is “Father” literally. The Vatican II Constitution on Divine Revelation says: “The task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office [magisterium] of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ.”

A few days later, one good and true soul spoke up for the Church’s point of view: Sister Francis Assisi Loughery.

For those pursuing the Naming God discussion, there is a beautiful section on the Blessed Trinity in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that you will find helpful: Chapter One, I Believe in God the Father, p. 54, #l9 and ff.; also p. 66 on The Holy Trinity in the Teaching of the Faith.

While you have this text in your hand, you might like to turn to p. 224 for the affirmation of the Church on “Outside the Church There Is No Salvation.” The Church still teaches this truth.

The Trinitarian names, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are not metaphors. (See St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I, q. 33, art. 2, ad 3: “In human nature the word is not a subsistence, and hence is not properly called begotten or son. But the divine Word is something subsistent in the divine nature; and hence He is properly and not metaphorically called Son, and His principle is called Father.” See also ibid., q. 33, a. 2; q. 13, art.. 3: “Whether Any Name Can Be Applied to God in Its Literal Sense?”) Et passim.

Sr. Francis Assisi, O.P.

The Aquinas references speak to the matter particularly strongly. But there was no response. A few days after that, Sister Kaye Ashe (in the very same vow class with Francis Assisi, but having been wholly won over to radical feminist thought, apparently by becoming friends with radical theologian Mary Daly while both Kaye and Francis Assisi were pursuing doctoral studies in Switzerland) weighed in on the topic: “I want to say thank you to Patty Caraher and Anne Marie Mongoven for their thoughtful reflections on the Trinity. They invite us to thought…. Those who would like a short version of Catherine Mowry LaCugna’s historical and theological development of the doctrine (with due consideration given to femininst concerns) could read her chapter in Freeing Theology: The Essentials of Theology in Feminist Perspective.”

The vow formula: to the honor of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit… or not?

It was several years later that the most astonishing discussion occurred.

Vow Formula as it was in 1889 Constitutions, substantially similar to the form in which it was given to the sisters by Father Mazzuchelli their founder

The Vow Formula as it appears in the 1889 Constitutions, substantially similar to the form in which it was given to the sisters by Father Mazzuchelli, their founder. “Congregation of the Most Holy Rosary” is the formal name of the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa.

Discussion over removing masculine language for God from the Constitutions, and particularly the vow formula, had been going on for years. The current version of the Constitutions of the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters was approved by the Holy See in 1990. According to the congregation’s history of the Vow Formula (lest there be any question, I do not have access to their intranet; I found a link to this), “Some limited changes in wording of the vow formula, ie. changes which depart from the text printed in the approved Constitution were permitted by Enactment 61 of the General Chapter of 1994 and now by Enactment 26 of the General Chapter 2000 which renewed Enactment 61.”

In 1993 or 1994, an edition of the Constitutions in a mauve binder had been produced which included the ecclesiastically-approved Constitutions in a left-hand column, and alternatives to texts in a right-hand column, including inclusive-language Scripture readings, and an alternative, gender-free vow formula “To the Honor of Almighty God and of the Blessed Virgin Mary…”, which the General Chapters of 1994 and 2000 apparently believed was canonically licit for the Prioress General to allow sisters to use, by means of dispensation, instead of the approved one. It seems, based on the messages on SinsinOP, that they were informed that this was problematic, but many felt strongly about it. One October, 2002 example: “My reading of history says that both our scriptures and theology are embedded in 5000 + years of patriarchy from which it is nigh impossible to extricate them. Thus, with the proposed deletion of the alternative language in the right hand column of the Constitution, we are left with a choice, which is offensive if not outright oppressive to some of us.” Moreover, “The task of rewriting the Constitution at this time seems futile given the ‘climate in Rome.'”

By late 2005 the congregation was informed, or came to understand unavoidably, that it was “not correct to include those passages in our Constitution as if they were a part of it. That is a canonical, legal issue.” However, this did not discourage the Constitution Committee from taking a survey in preparation for the 2006 General Chapter, on whether to rewrite the Constitution itself, and particularly the vow formula, “with attention to God language,” or to keep it the same. The sisters continued to ponder ways to circumvent the authority of the Sacred Congregation for Religious (CICLSAL):

If inclusion of alternative texts for the vow formula and Scriptural references in the Constitution requires approval from the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, is the real reason for eliminating these texts the pragmatic one of avoiding problems with CICLSAL, rather than a theological one? If the alternative wording of the vow formula were something like “To the honor of our Triune God and…,” wouldn’t that maintain the Trinitarian theology? Would printing the alternative texts in italics and submitting their inclusion to the vote of the General Chapter eliminate the need to get CICLSAL’s approval?

Some, however, appeared to understand: “Vow formula could be a mute [sic–ie, “moot”] point given the opinions of Canon Lawyers. Does not seem that dispensation is possible.” Prioress General Sister Toni Harris apparently thought it prudent to proceed in 2006 with a new printing of the Constitution, perhaps to reassure the Congregation for Religious. But this had nothing to do with accepting the vow formula in the Constitutions as the only option. Sister Kaye Ashe, a past Prioress General, explained:

You may remember that in the 1993 “mauve edition” of the Constitution we left this formula intact [ie, the traditional vow formula was included in the approved Constitution text, in the left-hand column], but partly in response to requests by new members, we offered an alternative which stated “To the honor of Almighty God, and of the Blessed Virgin Mary…” That alternative was removed in the latest 2006 loose-leaf edition of our Constitution. (see Toni Harris’s letter of March 2006.) After discussion at the Chapter a group proposed in Enactment 6 that we adopt a formula beginning “To the honor of God, and of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of the Blessed Dominic…,” pointing out, as I recall, that, in the Dominican tradition, this formula pre-dates that of our present Constitution, and suggesting that it takes into account “our study of the experience and expression of the mystery of God among us.” (Enactment 6)

The theory and belief of many within the congregation that the form “To the honor of Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…” could be dispensed by the Prioress General and substituted for another, in the same way that various other Constitutional observances could licitly be dispensed by her, was probably not well founded. The ancient Third Order Dominican Rule on which Father Samuel Mazzuchelli based their way of life includes provision that “The Director and the Prioress can dispense the Sisters from the abstinence, fast, and austerities… whenever for a legitimate and reasonable cause they shall deem it expedient.” Father Mazzuchelli certainly could not have foreseen a desire that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit be excluded from the vows and never would have considered that legitimate or reasonable; he simply saw it was sometimes necessary to adjust aspects of their way of life for practical reasons. He wrote in his 1860 commentary on the Rule of the Sisters of the Third Order of Saint Dominic:

There are, it is admitted, occasional dispensations needed, which should be granted with a degree of prudence, as not to permit them to continue when their causes are removed. In general, it will be better to dispense seldom or never, or, as the Rule says, “only for a legitimate and reasonable cause.” Superiors will weigh very well the import of these words before the least dispensation is granted, lest, after many illegitimate and unreasonable dispensations, nearly every vestige of regularity should disappear.

It is not conceivable that the Sacred Congregation for Religious would agree to the obviously ideological removal of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit from the vow formula. As for Father Mazzuchelli, he saw the Dominican sisters as inherently ordered toward “the well-grounded hope of that exceedingly great reward, the entire and eternal possession of God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.”

Sources of community reflection

This message was posted to the Sinsinawa Dominicans’ SinsinOP email discussion list in December of 2008:

In Enactment 3 from our 2006 General Chapter we committed ourselves to “explore together who God is for us:

* To learn from one another
* To deepen our relationship with God, with one another, and all creation; and
* To open ourselves to transformation for mission through theological reflection.”

On a DVD, a conversation has been prepared to engage us in responding to Enactment 3, as well as Enactment 6. In this conversation, Theresa Byrne, OP, Maggie Hopkins, OP, and Paula Hirschboeck responded to the following:

* Describe your present experience of God and/or how you first began to experience God and where that led you in your journey.
* How does your religious tradition [i.e., Roman Catholic, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian] affect your experience of God? Gender? Ministry? Age?
* One final word or idea before we close?

Enactment 6 asks that “in the context of our study of the experience and expression of the mystery of God among us and to express our rootedness in the Dominican tradition,” we consider adopting the following vow formula:

To the honor of God, and of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of Blessed Dominic, I, Sister _______, make my profession and promise obedience to God, to you, Sister _______, prioress of the Sinsinawa Dominican Congregation of the Most Holy Rosary of the Order of Preachers, and to your successors, according to the Rule of St.Augustine and the Constitution of the Sinsinawa Dominican Congregation of the Most Holy Rosary, even unto death.

The 40 minute DVD in question, On the Mystery of God, was meant to be a discussion-starter for local Sinsinawa Dominican groups; it showed Sisters Theresa Byrne and Maggie Hopkins, and former Sinsinawa Dominican and Edgewood College philosophy professor Paula Hirschboeck, who had been lay-ordained a Zen Buddhist priest in 2000 (and has more recently been ordained a Soto Zen priest), in conversation apparently regarding “images of God” and how God is spoken of, and the conversants’ experience of God. Buddhism is a non-theistic belief system. Hirschboeck seems to have continued to be involved with the community, its spirituality outreach initiatives, and other congregation activity long after leaving religious life in 1989, and even after her 2000 Buddhist “ordination,” for instance participating in 2001 on a congregation membership study committee commissioned by the General Council “to explore the meaning of member and its implications for present and emerging forms of relationship, and to communicate the results of this process to our next provincial chapters.” The DVD presentation, filmed in 2008, received praise on SinsinOP, including from Kaye Ashe, and a local “circle” of Sinsinawa Dominicans which said “We found the DVD to be a welcome catalyst to our own sharing about our God experiences and our response to vow formulas.” After another group viewing, a sister said “The content of their input and their delivery is certainly deserving of an academy award.” It was eventually viewed by “most people” within the congregation.

Around the same time, many Sinsinawa Dominicans were also doing a study of feminist theologian Sister Elizabeth Johnson’s book Quest for the Living God, which advocates alternative, non-masculine language for God, as well as panentheism, and was subsequently the subject of a 2011 critique by the US bishops (which upset some Sinsinawa Dominicans). “We have found it to be a growthful experience, especially in the increase of our vocabulary, ” wrote one Sinsinawa group studying Quest, which also however felt that the book does not address the issue it was presented by the congregation as being in regards to, namely, the fact that “we [ie, the sisters] have vastly different understandings of God.” The US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ doctrine committee concluded in its 2011 critique, “the language used in the book does not adequately express the faith of the Church.”

Besides these sources promoted to the whole community, a variety of other sources were cited on SinsinOP in late 2008 and early 2009 by individual sisters, as influencing or resonating with their thinking about the Trinity:

Other works by Elizabeth Johnson were often cited also. The works of feminist theologian Catherine Mowry LaCugna were cited by about half a dozen sisters. One added, “For me this work is also connected to the reassessment of Natural Law by people like Sally McFague as well as other disciplines.” McFague is a protestant ecofeminist and author of a book titled Metaphorical Theology.

Sister Joan Chittister’s dissent memoir Called to Question was cited by one sister, who was affected by Chittister’s quote of a Native American protestant social activist, Juanita Helphrey: “God is a cloud forming, an eagle soaring, a voice from the wilderness echoing through your ear.”

When a sister mentioned the bestselling novel The Shack, which she admits “is not a theological treatise,” others jumped in to say that had been on their minds too. “I’ve read it three times and circulated it to many folks, and have been making connections with our discussion of the Trinity,” said one. In The Shack, God the Father and God the Holy Spirit are represented by female characters.

The alternative doxologies of Dominican Praise also, unsurprisingly, were cited as possibilities: “What would be the possibility of using one of the doxology formulas found in the Dominican Praise Office book for the vow formula? The the honor of almighty God: Creator, Redeemer, and Holy Spirit… or :Creator, Christ, and Spirit…”

Opinions about the truth

I feel that the SinsinOP mailing list discussion which this congregation-wide study and reflection spawned at the beginning of 2009 certainly vindicates the USCCB’s concern over Quest For the Living God. As you will see, the conversation gives an eye-opening look at the beliefs behind some sisters’ continual chafing against basic Christian language of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The discussion seems not to have been entirely theoretical, but it appears one or more sisters had already been permitted to make their vows according to alternative formulas, probably based on the theory that the prioress general has the prerogative to dispense from the form given in the Constitutions. A Sister who was professed in 1983 stated in January of 2009: “As someone who made Profession in ‘recent times,’ I recall using the divine reference: ‘To the honor of our Gracious God…’ If there was a Triune reference it would have probably been: Creator, Redeemer and Holy Spirit.” Another post clarified that “Our Congregation allowed this twenty-five years ago when R[…] took her vows, but then went back to the original formula.” The rationale for departure from the form of the vows was apparently based on the provision in the congregation’s Constitutions for the superior to dispense from certain observances of the Constitution:

Since in the Dominican tradition the observance of law is seen in relation to attaining a desired goal, dispensation from the law has a positive meaning for us and can be sued freely for good cause. Those who are given personal authority can dispense individuals and communities from certain obligations for a limited time for the good of persons and their mission. (Constitution, #46)

The prioress of the congregation…has the authority to dispense for cause a sister or community or a whole province from particular constitutional observances. (Statutes, Chapter Four, I)

Whether dispensing from naming God as Father and Son in the vow formula because of feminist objection is a legitimate exercise of this, is a good question. It certainly seems like it would be difficult if not impossible to make a case that a religious distancing herself from something so basic to the Christian Faith would be “for the good of persons and their mission.”

Some weren’t attached to whether the language Father, Son and Holy Spirit was retained, or not, as long as the language reflected the Trinity. They often made reference to recent feminist theologians as having influenced this perspective:

I would be passionate about keeping a Trinitarian image, not moving from a Christian to a Deist position. It was very helpful to me to study again the article by Elizabeth Johnson Trinity, To Let the Symbol Sing Again. It was in Theology Today, October 1997, Volume 54, Number 3. What metaphor we use to express the inexpressible mystery of Trinity is not as important to me as that we express the mystery in some way. [Dec 26, 2008]

But among the first responses in December 2008 and January 2009 are several unconflicted statements of Christian belief. These sisters did not have to think about what language to use instead of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, because they lovingly accepted what they had received from Christian tradition. Many thought Father, Son, and Holy Spirit was important, and gave sound reasons, while some still felt it would be “patriarchal” to take it “literally,” such as this Dec 27, 2008 message by 1966-1967 Prioress General Sister Marie Amanda Allard, which I dare to quote at length because it made many good points and five sisters responded in agreement:

  1. The basic tenet of our Christian faith is the Trinity. We call ourselves Christian because Jesus Christ is the second person of the Trinity. All major religions believe in God. Only Christians believe in the Trinity.
  2. The entire New Testament is based on the Trinity.
  3. We were baptized in the name of the Trinity and our vows are a further carrying out of our baptismal promises in our Dominican vocation.
  4. How many times in our lives have we blessed ourselves with the sign of the cross, “In the name of the Father….” And prayed as Jesus taught us “Our Father, who are in heaven, hallowed be your name…”?
  5. Our Sinsinawa Constitution begins with the words: The life of the Trinity is the source of mission.
  6. The vow formula given to us by Father Samuel Mazzuchelli contained the traditional Trinitarian wording.

Therefore, my request is that we not change our present vow formula but rather think and study so as to understand more deeply the importance of the Trinitarian inclusion and distinguish between a literal meaning approach, leading to the patriarchal perspective and theological meaning approach, leading to a relational perspective.

In the first week of January, the radical feminist sisters spoke up. Sister Donna Quinn, who was one of those who was persuaded that (for instance because of reservation of priestly ordination to men alone) the Church believes women are “not in the image of God” as much as men, wrote that “This topic is very difficult for me to write about because it feels like it invades the very heart and soul of our Sisters who pray to God from the depths of their being.” She wanted “words [that] would embrace all of creation” and proposed that the vow formula should begin “In the Image of God I ( fill in your name )…”.

Sister Patty Caraher wrote from Atlanta, GA, with a revelation that a Christian must be saddened by: “I no longer relate to God as father or ever use the word ‘he’ when speaking about God.” She considered this detrimental because “Unfortunately, for many in our society, any ‘person’ word, especially the word ‘father’ has taken on a literal and therefore patricarchal meaning.” Instead, she endorsed “using the word ‘God’ instead of the Trinitarian formula” and also liked Sister Donna’s reference to “image of God.”

Another sister was in agreement with Patty and Donna, and pointed to a feminist re-interpretation of Jesus’ word “Abba” (“Daddy”).

…I agree with Patty who does not name her experience of the Holy in male terms. I like Donna’s term but would like some trinitarian form. For my prayer and for the prayer of our community here at the Dominican Center, the form “Source of our Being, Eternal Word and Holy Spirit” seems to fit. I especially like the name “Source of our Being” as (I learned from our Scripture classes at Santa Clara) that it is a more accurate translation of “Abba!”

Another sister who seemed to have an altered concept of basic Christian beliefs quoted Sr Elizabeth Johnson’s Quest for the Living God: “The intent of the trinitarian symbol is not to give literal information but to acclaim the God who saves and to lead us into this mystery.” She added, “On page 211 Johnson goes on to explain that the Greek word hypostasis origianally meant ‘a distinct manner of subsistence.’ It is not our concept of the term ‘person.'”

A sister whose preference was zealously in favor of using the words “Living God” said: “Something in me shrivels…. when I consider asking a woman for whom the long tradition of Trinitarian devotion is not meaningful to abandon words which express the deepest and most vibrant connection to her Sacred Source.” Sr Christina Heltsley, director of the St Francis Center in San Francisco, said:

I am thinking that to “force” someone to “vow”, “promise” or “proclaim” something she does not believe really invalidates the promise, or vow. Vows, I believe, are to be freely chosen and when one is forced to vow something that isn’t true for them…well, yes, I believe the freedom to choose to vow is somehow taken away and, like I said, invalidates in some way, the promise.

Does that for me then mean that I feel that my vow is invalidated? No, because 30 years ago, our thinking about God was different; mine was different and continues to evolve. Would I now, with the evolution in my thoughts/beliefs on God, vow using that same language- no, I would not.

Sister Anne Marie Mongoven, an intelligent woman, reflected at some length, and in conclusion rightly pointed out the Christological problems that arise from tampering with it:

I am fully aware of the patriarchcal nature of Father and Son and can understand why some of us do not want to use those words.[…]

The metaphor of Father, Son, and Spirit indicates intimacy and connects us in friendship to the Great Mystery , to one another and to all of creation. Perhaps we could use the metaphors of father and mother, but that creates Christological concerns even as it expresses sublime love.

A sister pointed out another doctrinal consideration about the alternative formulas: “I used to say “Creator, Son and Spirit” until someone pointed out to me that if we say the first Person is Creator it suggests that the other two are not and yet they are. All three Persons participate in the process of creation.” Another sister concurred: “The Mystery of the Trinity is an entity unto its self and needs to be an expression of the relationships to each other. Creator is a term that says who God the Creator is to us, not to the others in the Trinity.” Later in the discussion a sister who had been a language teacher for many years made a poignant and compelling claim for the necessity of speaking of Father and Son: “I do not talk to God as creature to mystery. That is much too cold a situation to give my life to. Neither can I give my life to a metaphor. The Son of God, Jesus, gave his life for me.”

Some felt that it was all right for a sister to write her own vow formula, but the prevailing view, both among those who wanted a change, and those who supported the traditional vow formula, was for uniformity. One of the latter said: “I cannot support any statement that meets one sister’s need for specific language over another. There ought to be some commonalities that define who we are. I don’t think that we have ever discussed how far individualism benefits or separates us as Dominicans of Sinsinawa.” An oft-cited option among the feminist sisters was to have vows refer to “Triune God;” one explained “while I don’t usually use the word ‘triune’ in my vernacular, this does name the facet of God that is in relationship. I no longer use Father, Son and Spirit as examples of this relationship.” Several spoke up for “Living God,” a Biblical phrase lately popularized by feminist theologian Sister Elizabeth Johnson. And many wanted simply “God,” as articulated by the Prioress General of the late 80’s, Sister Kaye Ashe:

After discussion at the Chapter a group proposed in Enactment 6 that we adopt a formula beginning “To the honor of God, and of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of the Blessed Dominic…,” pointing out, as I recall, that, in the Dominican tradition, this formula pre-dates that of our present Constitution, and suggesting that it takes into account “our study of the experience and expression of the mystery of God among us.” (Enactment 6)

I, personally, thought at the time that this was ingenious: saying simply “God” (as has been done, evidently, in the Dominican tradition for centuries) leaves room for multiple ways of imaging the profound mystery of vitality, love, creativity, truth, mercy, fecundity, and beauty that God represents and that refuses to be captured in any single image.

Some claimed that the traditional, Christian-doctrine-based references to Father and Son needed to be removed, as a matter of adjusting to the present day. A local Sinsinawa group in the eastern US said:

[W]e all seemed to agree that while we have reverence for tradition, we felt that the formula having been handed down from Father Samuel and written in our Constitution as well, did not preclude our examining new language (consonant with the theology of the Trinity) to reflect the “sitz en laben,” the situation in which we presently live. One person made the observation that Father Samuel, himself, would probably understand the need to re-evaluate the wording, given the movement toward inclusivity of women within our Church.[… One sister stated] that she would not like to think of young women entering in the future who would look at the present wording and think that we were not attuned to the need for inclusive language on behalf of women.

Another sister commented, similarly, “I do not feel we live in times where using the traditional Trinitarian image for God is helpful or true to our reality at this moment. I believe learning to live with and love the diversity of images and allowing them is more reflective of where we are. ”

(Then, Sister Donna Quinn, trying to make a point that she finds “patriarchal” language very offensive, used the n-word as an example of a bigoted word that is really offensive and that we wouldn’t use, and there was a massive reaction of numerous sisters heartily offended by the word, and some of them were not mollified by level headed explanations by others, that she was not “using” the n-word.)

How to write constitutions acceptable both to Sinsinawa and to Rome?

An online survey was taken in May of 2009, which was more than likely the source of a statistic cited in October of 2010, that a slight majority, “54% of us want no change at this time.”

The congregation’s focus shifted more in earnest to preparation for the 2011 General Chapter meeting. By and by, there came to be a variety of ways in which the 1990 Constitutions no longer described the way of life of the Congregation (for instance, they effectively no longer had provinces, and they no longer had any canonical religious houses outside of Sinsinawa), and the Sinsinawa Dominicans saw a need for revising it; the General Chapter would approve new constitutions to be sent to Rome for approval. In the end, most local groups of sisters supported leaving the vow formula unchanged in the Constitution, but having the prioress and council grant dispensation to anyone who wanted to use different wording. The Atlanta group added a suggestion for including the feminist concerns but avoiding having to get approval: “with this issue and with the issue of our God language we believe that it’s important to have an addendum to the Constitution. This document would not need to go to Rome.” In the “Floribbean” region group, “Some affirm the suggestion that the revised Preface to the Constitution include ‘a brief reference to the ever evolving ways of understanding the Great Mystery of God in the Church as well as in our Congregation.'” In regards to the vow formula itself, they (and multiple other groups similarly) agreed with the Constitution Committee’s suggestion, but with “frustration,” about making “no changes at this time for pragmatic reasons–that is to make God language changes to the Constitution would mean it would need to be submitted to CICLSAL [the Congregation Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, in Rome]. ”

Sister Donna Quinn posted in November of 2010 asserting that being obliged to have male language for God is “bullying” and “offensive,” saying

[F]or those who are trying to create the new we are called Dominican Dispensations… I reread the Constitution and believe me there is more name-calling than in the Vow Formula that needs to be changed.[…]

Perhaps we need a statement to sign saying we disagree with the language but now we are feeling too disconnected to the Institutional Church to change it.and we don’t have the energy to bother with it. Either way it will still stand for the future to read about us

or maybe they will just call us the Dominican Dispensations…

At the April, 2011 General chapter, “The 32 edits suggested by the constitution committee were approved as well as the substantial changes in the text regarding General Chapter, Congregation Treasurer, Collaborative Relationships and Local Community.” The language for the vow formula was almost certainly not changed. This was submitted to Rome. In December of 2011, the congregation “received a response from Rome (The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life) regarding our constitution and they made three minor adjustments. We had some questions regarding one of their suggestions and are in the process of consulting a canon lawyer. ” The following February, “Mary Ellen has been in contact with Canon Lawyer Dan Ward, for some guidance in wording on some changes suggested by CICLSAL, the Office in Rome that gives final approval for our Constitution. These are changes in preferred wording, rather than substance, and changes that Council can make. We hope that these final details will bring us an approval soon!” To date, the new constitutions do not seem to have been approved yet.