Vatican explains why it has ordered reform of US women religious
A distinctive aspect of ecclesial communion is allegiance of mind and heart to the Magisterium of the Church.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith has published an eight page document giving its reasons for ordering a root and branch reform of the US Leadership Conference of Women Religious.
DOCTRINAL ASSESSMENT OF THE LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE OF WOMEN RELIGIOUS
The context in which the current doctrinal Assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in the United States of America is best situated is articulated by Pope John Paul II in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation “Vita consecrata” of 1996.
Commenting on the genius of the charism of religious life in the Church, Pope John Paul says: “In founders and foundresses we see a constant and lively sense of the Church, which they manifest by their full participation in all aspects of the Church’s life, and in their ready obedience to the Bishops and especially to the Roman Pontiff.
Against this background of love towards Holy Church ‘the pillar and bulwark of truth’ (1 Tim 3:15), we readily understand… the full ecclesial communion which the Saints, founders and foundresses, have shared in diverse and often difficult times and circumstances.
They are examples which consecrated persons need constantly to recall if they are to resist the particularly strong centrifugal and disruptive forces at work today.
A distinctive aspect of ecclesial communion is allegiance of mind and heart to the Magisterium of the Bishops, an allegiance which must be lived honestly and clearly testified to before the People of God by all consecrated persons, especially those involved in theological research, teaching, publishing, catechesis and the use of the means of social communication.
Because consecrated persons have a special place in the Church, their attitude in this regard is of immense importance for the whole People of God” (n. 46).
The Holy See acknowledges with gratitude the great contribution of women Religious to the Church in the United States as seen particularly in the many schools, hospitals, and institutions of support for the poor which have been founded and staffed by Religious over the years.
Pope John Paul II expressed this gratitude well in his meeting with Religious from the United States in San Francisco on September 17, 1987, when he said: “I rejoice because of your deep love of the Church and your generous service to God’s people…
The extensive Catholic educational and health care systems, the highly developed network of social services in the Church – none of this would exist today, were it not for your highly motivated dedication and the dedication of those who have gone before you.
The spiritual vigor of so many Catholic people testifies to the efforts of generations of religious in this land. The history of the Church in this country is in large measure your history at the service of God’s people.” The renewal of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious which is the goal of this doctrinal Assessment is in support of this essential charism of Religious which has been so obvious in the life and growth of the Catholic Church in the United States.
While recognizing that this doctrinal Assessment concerns a particular conference of major superiors and therefore does not intend to offer judgment on the faith and life of Women Religious in the member Congregations which belong to that conference, nevertheless the Assessment reveals serious doctrinal problems which affect many in Consecrated Life.
On the doctrinal level, this crisis is characterized by a diminution of the fundamental Christological center and focus of religious consecration which leads, in turn, to a loss of a “constant and lively sense of the Church” among some Religious. The current doctrinal Assessment arises out of a sincere concern for the life of faith in some Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
It arises as well from a conviction that the work of any conference of major superiors of women Religious can and should be a fruitful means of addressing the contemporary situation and supporting religious life in its most “radical” sense – that is, in the faith in which it is rooted.
According to Canon Law, conferences of major superiors are an expression of the collaboration between the Holy See, Superiors General, and the local Conferences of Bishops in support of consecrated life.
The overarching concern of the doctrinal Assessment is, therefore, to assist the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in the United States in implementing an ecclesiology of communion founded on faith in Jesus Christ and the Church as the essential foundation for its important service to religious Communities and to all those in consecrated life.
To be continued.
Source: Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith- ICN