Monday, May 7, 2012

A Tale of Two Nuns

I'm sorry, but those days are over and the
toothpaste doesn't go back into the tube.
The poor lady is lucky that she didn't break 
her neck
Sunday was an interesting day.  I had to sit through commencement exercises where I saw several Sisters affiliated with LCWR led communities—Sisters of Mercy, Daughters of Charity. Dominicans of Peace—get their theology degrees.  And when I got home I had an email telling me that another Sister was leaving her congregation after almost 20 years.  This Sister—a very dedicated religious—belongs to a community affiliated with the Vatican coddled Congregation of Major Superiors of Women Religious.  She too had been educated by her congregation—an advanced degree in Business and summer school for Chinese and French.  The difference was that her congregation was educating her so that they could use her in some specific work they had in mind.  The other Sisters were educated to that they could develop intellectually and spiritually and bring those gifts to whatever ministries they found themselves in.  My friend decided to leave her religious order when she came to the conclusion—and this after two years of spiritual direction—that she was perceived no more than as a tool to be used in the work of the Congregation. Her spiritual welfare was not a concern for her superiors.  She was in a miserable assignment in a foreign country living with a group of Sisters who were all task-oriented rather than community oriented.  The mother superior was a rage-aholic whose passive aggressive behavior had caused two sisters to have a nervous breakdown.   They were there for the work and not for each other.  She came to see that her congregation runs a business more than embraces a mission.

And it is my experience that this is often the difference between the CMSWR and the LCWR affiliated congregations.  I am sure that there are many fine sisters in thye CMSWR congregations and many wise superiors but I have found that the some of the basic premises of how authority is exercised are unsound.  I don’t care that the Nashville Dominicans or the Alma Michigan Mercies or Dominicans of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist wear habits; I mention these three congregations specifically because I have encountered them directly and the Sisters whom I have met are good women but joyless.  They may be giddy at times—running bases or skipping rope in their long skirts—but I have found them to be utterly without the deep joy that I know in Trappistines (who wear habits),  Carmelites (who—for the most part—wear habits),  the School Sisters of Notre Dame, the Charities, the Mercies of the Americas and other groups who—for the most part—don’t wear habits.   

Of course the habit isn’t the issue—even Rome accedes to that.  The issue is the ability of the Sisters to chart their own futures—to discern the Will of God for them and their work—without external supervision from the hierarchy.   Rome says—for example—no women priests; case closed; Roma locuta est, causa finita est.  And the Sisters –who are in no position to ordain women and know that—say: well, we want to at least talk about it.  We have questions and we have competent theologians who can lead us in the discussion.  And you know—that is fair enough.  It is demeaning to tell educated and competent adults that there are areas off limits for discussion.   We are children of Mother Church, but adult children.  And if anyone thinks people are going fall in line just because a bishop says so—even the Pope—they are being simply delusional.  Those days are over.  On the side of the faithful there must be obedience—but on the side of the magisterium there must be an openness to dialogue.  And this is true not just with the Sisters and the Vatican, but with the laity and their relationship with their pastors, with their bishops, and even with the Holy See.  The challenge today isn’t to get people to obey blindly; it is to form them in our Christian and Catholic faith so that they can make sound decisions because decisions they are making and we can only give them the information and enter into the dialogue so that those decisions will be soundly rooted in Gospel values and Catholic Tradition.  Com’on guys—trust the Holy Spirit and hold the reins a bit less tightly.  There is nothing to fear—this is God’s Church.   

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