(following in the vein of Fr. Z, my comments and emphasis)
A recent development in the Vatican's investigation of U.S. nuns has the sisters and their supporters breathing a little easier. (I'm surprised, since the average age is somewhere near 85, so breathing easy must be a relative concept.)
Archbishop Joseph Tobin, an American who acknowledges the investigation has caused "anger and hurt" among U.S. nuns, has been named secretary of the Vatican panel conducting the investigation.
Tobin, who grew up in Detroit, has said he will work to heal any rifts between American sisters and the Catholic hierarchy in Rome. He also hopes to lift a shroud of secrecy surrounding the probe.
"We're very excited by his appointment," said Sister Mary Ann Flannery, director of the Jesuit Retreat House in Parma. "He's coming from an American culture that believes you have a right to defend yourself, a right to have your voice heard."
The investigation, officially known as an "apostolic visitation," is meant to "look into the quality of life" in sisters' religious communities, according to the Vatican.
Currently, the investigative reports are to be kept confidential and turned over to the Vatican panel. Not even the nuns will be allowed to see them. (And nor should they, until the findings are complete. How is the integrity kept if the investigation is publicized?)
"That is so offensive," said Flannery. "We basically don't trust any of this." (So what....this isn't a democracy, Sister.)
But Tobin, who took over his new position in September, said in an interview this month with National Catholic Reporter, a biweekly newspaper in Washington, D.C., that he will work to make the investigation more transparent.
He told the newspaper he will "strongly advocate" for the rights of nuns to know the findings of the investigation and to respond to them.
"I'm hoping he will be allowed to fulfill his goal of working for more transparency," said Flannery. "I hope no power [in Rome] finds a way to stifle his voice." (Of course you don't Sister, you want to be able to muddy the waters and promote your outdated and anti-Catholic views)
The investigation, begun in December 2008 and to continue until the end of next year, has been criticized by many U.S. Catholics who see it as oppressive and unnecessary. (US Catholics may have an issue with it, but ironically, most Catholics in America don't have any issue with it....see the difference?)
The critics believe it's a way for Rome to rein in U.S. nuns because they are regarded by church hierarchy as too independent and generally too liberal on social issues. (Mainly, because they are too liberal and act too independently...)
Many sisters answered the call of the church's Second Vatican Council, which, more than 40 years ago, encouraged (??) social activism, freedom of expression and conscience and respect for other religions. (Nowhere does Vatican Council II state that, NO WHERE!!!!)
They shed their habits, rolled up their sleeves and took their works of mercy to the streets, feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless and visiting the sick. Some moved out of convents and lived independently. (And in the process, lost their idenity, purpose and vocation)
Critics believe the hierarchy in Rome is trying to turn the clock back to a more conservative and traditional church. (NO, NO, NO....the Church is trying to be authentic to it's patrimony and authentic interpretation to Vatican Council II. Nothing more, nothing less. It is the Orders in question that are trying to reshape the Church in their own image....)
"The heart of the issue is not about nuns," said Sister Diana Culbertson, a retired professor of literature and Scripture at Kent State University. "It's about the interpretation of Vatican II. (YES) The current hierarchy of the church does not have the same interpretation of Vatican II as we do." (Imagine that....liberals not liking conservatives)
Culbertson, who refers to the investigation as the "nunquisition," said: "They see us as Marxist-feminist radicals. Rome has a picture of American nuns that doesn't correspond to the picture we have of ourselves.
"They want us in our place. But we don't make vows to the hierarchy. We make our vows to God." (ummmm.....since when?)
Though Culbertson welcomes the appointment of Tobin to the Vatican panel, she challenges his call for a "reconciliation" between the Vatican and U.S. nuns. (Notice a theme here?)
"Reconciliation suggests we both have something to apologize for," she said. "Nuns have no apologies to make." (Pride, pride, pride....I wonder whatever happened to their Chapter of Faults?)
The investigation was ordered by Cardinal Franc Rod (Do you hear the trumpet blasts) , the prefect of the Vatican panel. Tobin, as secretary, is in the No. 2 position on the panel.
Rod appointed Mother Mary Clare Millea (and the French horns?), superior of the Connecticut-based Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to carry out the investigation.
Millea has mobilized teams of investigators to visit and take notes in sisters' communities across the nation. Those conducting the investigation have declined to comment about it.
Earlier this month, five investigators spent five days at the Cleveland-based Sisters of the Congregation of St. Joseph.
"We weren't apprised of the reason for it or what they were looking for," said Gina Sullivan, spokeswoman for the congregation. "We still don't know what the outcome will be. Whether we will ever know remains to be seen."
Sullivan said the investigators were polite, gracious and well-received by the congregation. Investigators met with nuns in groups and individually.
A prepared statement by Sister Nancy Conway, head of the St. Joseph congregation, said, "We are hopeful that the Apostolic Visitation will offer an opportunity for the institutional Church to learn more about our spirituality and ministry, which our sisters have lived in fidelity to the spirit of our foundresses for more than 350 years."
One of the questions investigators ask, according to the Visitation's Web site, is: "What is the process for responding to sisters who dissent publicly from church teaching and discipline." (Is that a question or a statement?)
That question, says the Rev. Thomas Reese, a Jesuit theologian at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., shows what the inquiry really is all about -- the idea that nuns should not think for themselves or question church authority. (WOW...apparently Fr. Reese doesn't read much Newman)
Reese, an outspoken critic of the investigation, said the appointment of Tobin, a Redemptorist who had been the superior of his order, is "extraordinary."
"It's also extraordinary how he has been outspoken about the visitation," said Reese. "This guy has been forthrightly acknowledging that the visitation has upset people tremendously in the United States and that the Vatican has to respond. It's obvious he has heard the concerns."
Another Vatican panel is investigating the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an organization that represents 95 percent of the nation's 59,000 nuns.
The investigation, begun in spring 2009, is called a "doctrinal assessment of the activities and initiatives" of the leadership conference.
According to a letter the conference sent to its members announcing the assessment, the Vatican doesn't think nuns have adequately addressed three issues: Allowing only men to become priests; the idea that Jesus and the Catholic Church are central for achieving salvation; and "the problem of homosexuality."Officials of the conference, based in Silver Spring, Md., have declined to discuss details of the investigation. (Transparency Sisters, transparency)
However, Sister Annmarie Sanders, spokeswoman for the conference, said this month that leaders of her group have had no communication with the Vatican panel since April.
Asked whether she feels the nuns' conference is being kept in the dark regarding the investigation, Sanders said, "Very much so."
So, basically we can see a couple of themes. The nuns think of themselves as U.S. Nuns, as opposed to Nuns in America. This view is a very important one. As Catholic religious, they shouldn't care where they are located. They should be just as Catholic in the US as they would be in Peru, as they would in Italy. Catholicism comes first. To move away from that view is to undermine Catholicism. Catholicism is larger than any one nationality.
Just because Archbishop Tobin talks about transparency doesn't mean that everything will be put on the table. The process can be transparent and so can the findings once they are published.
Finally, I think that if the nuns in question look to the communities that are growing and are young, the question they should ask themselves is why are they growing? Why are The Nashville Dominicans growing and The Presentation Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary shrinking? The answer is in the article above...they understand allowing only men to become priests; the idea that Jesus and the Catholic Church are central for achieving salvation; and "the problem of homosexuality."