A pair of news items or blog posts crossed my desk in the past few days that ought to be of concern for progressive Catholics. The first is the Vatican’s investigation into US nuns, and the second is the news that a major Catholic reform group is nearly broke.
A New York Times article reports:
The Vatican is quietly conducting two sweeping investigations of American nuns, a development that has startled and dismayed nuns who fear they are the targets of a doctrinal inquisition.
[Many nuns] fear that the real motivation is to reel in American nuns who have reinterpreted their calling for the modern world.
Some sisters surmise that the Vatican and even some American bishops are trying to shift them back into living in convents, wearing habits or at least identifiable religious garb, ordering their schedules around daily prayers and working primarily in Roman Catholic institutions, like schools and hospitals.
A decade and a half ago, I was privileged to study at the St John’s School of Theology in Collegeville, Mn, a progressive Benedictine community. The students at the SOT typically belonged to one of three categories: a) candidates for the priesthood, b) nuns or other Catholic women, and c) protestants such as myself. Of these three groups, the male candidates for the priesthood were often the least serious students — a sweeping generalization, to be sure, and there were numerous priest candidates who were the exception to this rule. On the other hand, the female religious were usually more serious students, but an outsider could also see how they chafed at their secondary status.
The well known and publicized shortage of Catholic priests is a very real problem. But, the loss of the leadership of outstanding women is also very real. The Times article suggested that the number of nuns in the US has shrunk to 60,000 compared to 180,000 in 1965. Me thinks the Vatican’s investigation will hardly be received as a note of encouragement.
Secondly, Michael Paulson reports in the Articles of Faith blog out of Boston that Voice of the Faithful, a reform group formed in response to the sexual abuse crisis of the American priesthood, is out of funds.
The organization has had three goals — supporting abuse victims, supporting "priests of integrity,” and ‘to shape structural change within the Catholic Church.” That third goal has made it the subject of criticism from some conservatives, and its affiliates have been barred from meeting on church property in some dioceses.
Paulson reports that the VOTF has issued an urgent fund raising appeal. You may donate through the VOTF website.
But, a comment on the post probably reflects the attitude of many:
This is the most phoney [sic] of all of these groups… They ought to go and start their own church, the the [sic] 25,000 others who have dissented from Church teaching and authority. It is about control and trying to conform the faith to its own dissenting standards… the tragedy of the abuse crisis (and it was a crisis and wrong) gave it temporary cover. It is just a matter of time where VOTF will be another footnote in Church history, and thank God for that.