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Sisters object to secrets of Vatican probe

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious has issued a statement [.PDF] objecting to the fact that church authorities will not disclose who has funded a Vatican investigation of women religious in the United States.Comments the apostolic visitator, Mother Mary Clare Millea, made to Catholic News Service on July 31 raised many more questions than they answered:

Mother Clare ... declined to discuss specifics related to the study's cost, including how it is being financed. She said, however, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is not funding the effort."Anyone who has contributed has not wanted their name to be publicized," she said. ... "We are welcoming the support of individual dioceses, individuals or groups who would be willing to help defray the expenses."

Nor would Mother Clare identify the bishops and others who developed the questions submitted to the religious orders. "We feel it's prudent to let them remain anonymous," CNS quoted her as saying.But actually, it would be prudent to have reasonable disclosure. The larger issue lurking here is the extent to which major donors wield outsized influence in the Catholic Church. That is a story that would really take off with the right opening.

About the Author

Paul Moses, a professor of journalism at Brooklyn College/CUNY, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York's Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015).



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"The larger issue lurking here is the extent to which major donors wield outsized influence in the Catholic Church. That is a story that would really take off with the right opening."Great reporting, Paul. Is this ever so important. Let's see who has the courage to pursue this.

I, too, hope that some prominent Catholic journalist will pursue this story, and blow the cover of those who are secretly able to manipulate Church officials with financial contributions. It strikes me as rather ironic that "bishops" have complained to the Vatican about the orthodoxy of American religious women, when they were, as a body, silent when so many of their priests were found to have molested our children. Where was the "Vatican visitation" for that horrendous issue? Further, I am deeply saddened, as a former religious, at the dead silence -- and I do mean "dead" -- of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM), the male counterpart to LCWR. Another irony: they are also facing serious recruitment problems and a rising mean age, and yet they are not being investigated. I see no support coming from them for their Sisters. Could it be that they see themselves more as priests than as religious men? As far as interiorizing and implementing Vatican II, the Sisters put them to shame.These are sad days, indeed, for the Church in America.

See the article by Sr. Sandra Schneiders on the National Catholic Reporter web site. If what she says is true, and I have no reason at present to doubt it, then the evidence of corruption in the hierarchy is appalling. Were the matters not so serious, one might be tempted to shrug off the "investigators" as bumblers. I find it hard to fathom how treating 60 to 80 year old dedicated, and often financially vulnerable, religious women who have contributed so much to the Church with such disdain and contempt can be called anything other than objectively grievously sinful on the part of all those cooperating with this inquisition.As Ken Lovasik says, where are the men religious, the priests and the bishops? Is this what is supposed to be evidence of thier "faithful leadership" of the People of God?

I do not understand the risks. How could a diocese possibly take the buildings or possessions of a religious community as a consequence of this visitation? I don't see the connection.

Bernard--There seem to be several articles by Schneiders over at NCR. At least, I think that's what my search results are telling me. Could you possibly provide a link to the one you're referring to? Thanks! believe that this is the article that Bernard Dauenhauer referred to.

Can donors influence the Vatican one asks? It has been reported by Jason Berry that A/B Laghi [of fond memory] turned down a new Mercedes when offered by Legionaries of Christ founder Marciel... However Cardinal Ronde, 'founder' of the US Religious sisters investigation accepted the previously turned down Mercedes....

I'm never good at sniffing out conspiracy theories in general (which undoubtedly means I would be mincemeat as a Vatican functionary) but I admit it never would have even occurred to me that the funds would come from anywhere other than the Holy See, if the Holy See is conducting the visitation (I question whether "investigation" is the right word, btw - it appears to me that "audit" or "inspection" might be more apt synonyms).The Mother in charge of the visitation seems to indicate that the Holy See is funding it, so is this just a question of whose budget this is coming out of?I do see that the Holy See receives donations from wealthy donors, and it seems likely that some of those donations could be earmarked for specific uses, but that's not necessarily nefarious. If the funds are received as a donation, presumably their use is controlled by the recipient?Or are there all sorts of documented instances of nefariousness in modern times that I'm just not aware of?

Donors and questioners anonymous. Almost sounds like a new 12-Step group. I don't know that I see a conspiracy theorist's playground here as much as an implicit endorsement of the Hermeneutic of Complaint. Thanks to the curia and the last two popes, we now openly encourage the kind of whining that has usually been confined to the worst of our parishes. Whoever said lay people had no power never endured the wrath of the aggrieved. And if it works for which group fries the fish or plants the flower bed, why wouldn't some people think they could run the universal church that way?

Ken Lovasik said:It strikes me as rather ironic that bishops have complained to the Vatican about the orthodoxy of American religious women, when they were, as a body, silent when so many of their priests were found to have molested our children. Ken what strikes me as ironic is how the Catholic left always returns to the same old theme of the priest-underage gay-sex crisis to justify corruption within its ranks. Without a doubt organizations of women religious on the left have undermined traditional Catholicism in this country and throughout the world for decades. Now you and the LCWR may disagree with the tenets of traditional catholic ecclesiology but you cannot honestly disagree that the vatican has a vested interest in how official entities within the church understand the Church to actually be and conduct themselves in due regard to that understanding--what is at issue is the salvation of souls, and eternal life. This being the case it is most reasonable and necessary for the Vatican to seek out, examine, and correct our wayward sisters in the LCWR before they do any more damage to themselves and others.

The Money is coming form orthodox Catholics the world over. I sent in my check-In memory of the Sisters of Mercy who taught me in High School. What a crew, most are all dead now.

Jim P. --You want some conspiritorial speculation? I googled Mother Clair and found an article by Rocco that says that her tiny order is the favorite order of Cardinal Rigali. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, as they used to say.Mr. Flowerday --"Donors and questioners anonymous" gets first prize for this week's best new phrase. We'll see as the investigation progresses whether it should be called "Inquisition anonymous". No, we don't know yet whether Mother Claire will be a fair auditor. But, I guess we'll never know because her report will be anonymous.Witchhunt, impure and simple. The bishops need a scapegoat for the diminishing number of Cathollics, and the nuns are it. Shame, shame, shame.

Oops = that should have been, her report will not be published. Who, by the way, are the other nuns assisting in these interrogations?

In the Bible is says what is done in secret will be made known. Let us wait for God to reveal.

In a "Pilgrim in a Pilgrim Church," Bishop Weakland recalls how the Roman curialists look down on American Catholicism (Our silly more democratic notions?)They chided him on his lack of "docility':I'm sure that if we are all good children and obey the curia of Rode and his likes, we'd all be treated well!Bernard is right to be harsh.It's a typical old boys club condescendingly (and with mysogyny) saying fall in line and all will be well. Of course Rome has a vested interest in what happens out there , but to say operating like a poor excuse of modern goverance juistifies that behavior, and then drag the argument into the old left vs. right theology is less than insightful.(Might even smack of a clericalist defense.)From Weakland's book, it also goes without question that the super orthodox have special ears in Rome- such ears could well be greased with a nice goody like Rode got from Maciel.My view is that the Romanita sysytem that sees itself as "smooth" is continually more injurious than helpful to the Church, more backward than prospective, and more open to that awful kind of sytem that rewards its fawners , yes men and company men.

If this "visitation" were open and transparent, it wouldn't be Catholic, would it?Fr. W.T.C.: what has "undermined Catholicism" in this country is an educated laity. They no longer buy whatever they have been fed over the years hook, line and stinker. They ask questions and when the answers are not compelling, those answers tend to get ignored.What is left is a simpler, more believable, less Roman version of Catholicism that doesn't support hierarchial notions of who rules, who obeys, who pays and who decides who's in and who's out.

Speaking of whining and complaining, I'm sure the Bay Area wingnuts will be out in full force this Friday for the appearance of the Spawn of Satan:Fr. Thomas Reese at MHRFr. Thomas Reese, SJ is a Jesuit author and former editor of America, a weekly Catholic magazine. He is frequently quoted as an expert on Catholic issues. He will address the parish (Most Holy Redeemer) on Friday, August 21 at 7:30 PM. The topic is "Religion and Politics: what is forbidden, what is allowed, what is prudent." The talk will be followed by a question and answer period and a reception giving parishioners a chance to meet Fr. Reese. All are invited.

One possible anonymous donor is the wealthy (God, what an understatement!) Catholic hotelier and developer who donated $125,000 to support Proposition 8 that ended gay/lesbian marriage in California. In addition to various luxury properties, he also has $56.9 milion divided among nine bank accounts. Oh, yes, he's going through a divorce after (per the news report) 43 years, 8 months, 9 days of marriage. I gather his primary residence may be San Diego.See the story at news story (sorry, don't have link) reported that Bishop Salvatore Cordileone, while auxiliary bishop of San Diego, helped raise thousands of dollars in support of Proposition 8 in order to defend traditional marriage (and its sanctity, no doubt :) . Cordileone has been bishop of Oakland since May of this year.Any connection here?

Jimmy Mac, can you videotape Fr. Reese and post it on YouTube? I'd like to see it :)I read this morning about Sr. Sandra Schneiders's (really good) piece at NCR on the same page where I read about some female celebrity praying sucessfully for large breasts ..... women and relgion, almost makes you want to weep.

Thank you, Jimmy Mac!

"But it was in the area of fund-raising that Cordileone was most helpful..."Yup.

It sounds as if some of you are surprised by the fact that the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is inquiring about matters pertaining to Catholic Church Doctrine.

It sounds as if the CDF's practices and presuppositions are worth questioning. not much different in all things bur name from the old Holy Office.

Jimmy Mac: At least bring a few index cards with you to the Reese lecture. There should be a few items you'll want for the archives.

Anyone who has worked in a large organization knows that the home office will at some point have some questions to ask. The issue raised here is that it's being done the wrong way. The inquiry will lack credibility if there is a reasonable suspicion that it is funded by ideological opponents of the sisters. There needs to be greater transparency in church finances. That's not a liberal or conservative position, either. It's appropriate management. There's no cause to demonize anyone.

If there's an issue of undue influence or ideological opposition to good work by a large numbe rof religious, ther emay be cause to "demonize" or at leats harshly score someone (Cardinal Rode.e.g.)How are wrongs, if that's the case, in the Roman beauracracy to be corected when the sytem is (like many large sytems) heavily invested in self protection and promotion?The problem of secrecy especially ( if the issue of large donors who are anonymous influencing policy) needs much more investigation.

Susan:"At least bring a few index cards with you to the Reese lecture. There should be a few items youll want for the archives."I'm looking for a small tape recorder (anachronistic, that) that I haven't used in years. I'm sure the Holy Orthodox will do the same. We don't allow them or anyone to video anything such as this without prior permission, which very rarely is given. No policy on taping, however.Paul:The abject lack of transparency in this entire "Visitation" process (is that Latin for witch hunt?) is what has peed off most of the sisters that I know. It's a typical Vatican move and simply indicates that massive editing and ideological slanting will happen without any recourse to the source documents that are the results of any visits, conversations., etc.Until the Vatican learns that the Truth shall make you free, tthe results of heir "visitations" shrouded in secrecy and obfuscation will, at best, make good reserve stock for the outdoor privy.

UPDATE:The Tom Reese presentation went off without incident in front of about 100 people. He distributed his "Ten Recommendations" on how Catholics should deal with religion and politics. If anyone is interested in a copy, email me and I'll send the Reesealog to you.

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