More On Assessment

Jack Smith really gets out in front on certain stories, and the CDF assessment is one of them. Today he posts on a piece that gives insight as to why the institution is nervous.

I commented there, and I stand by my premise that this investigation is potentially scandalous–both ways.

Liam offers sensible commentary on yesterday’s thread. I would like to add some more commentary, though I have no guarantee of sensibility.

Laurie Brink’s post-Christian exploration is interesting. No doubt some will find it troubling. Others will see it as a weapon for the culture wars, evidence as it were, to confirm what has already been judged. Personally, I find it full of material for discernment. It brings up many questions, one above the others. If women are looking beyond the Church, and beyond Christ, why would that be?

It is easy to blame conditions outside the Church: the sexual revolution, the influence of non-Christian religions, the devil, getting up on the wrong side of the bed, insufficient medication for the problem this presents. Catholic tradition would also suggest we look to ourselves, to a personal examination of conscience, and scour our thoughts and acts for blame. Jack Smith doesn’t care for the tone taken by the mendicant sisters toward the neo-contemplatives, but I’ve heard a lot of bile directed at religious sisters. It’s come from pastors, lay people, other religious, and naturally the culture at large. At times it can be cruel and juvenile–not unlike middle school, but none of the perpetrators are pre-adolescents.

My first reaction to this is being strongly bothered. An authentic investigation would move open-mindedly, willing to trace roots of the problem across the Church where women religious have suffered mistreatment, injustice, and even rape at the hands of men. A pastor, a shepherd, would be interested in watching, discerning, and gaining the whole picture. Maybe that will happen. I would be overjoyed to see it.

The challenge is that the CDF operates outside the realm of pastors and shepherds. Liam is correct to point out the medicant tradition as moving beyond Benedict. Not unlike the movement of a bureaucrratic Curia beyond the bishops. If the LCWR is in trouble or troublesome for suggesting a movement beyond Christ, what of any other Catholic movement into that-which-is-not-Christ? One might argue the Inquisition and its daughter organization is not traceable to Christ. Now there’s no question that individuals within the CDF began as Christians, being baptized, and were set on the path to orders. But at one point in Church history, doctrinal questions were addressed by bishops of dioceses, shepherds who had their hands on the staff at the service of particular flocks. One might posit that lots of aspects of the Church are post-Christian and post-Jesus in the sense that arrogance and narcissism come to the fore once once-good people lose perspective.

Lots of questions, all around, I would say.

One thing to watch on the blogosphere, something I would hope the CDF considers. Let’s consider the reaction not of commentariats–we know the extremes are going to be batspit drooling over this–but of the bloggers. It will be interesting to see if a mob scene, complete with cyber-pitchforks and torches, forms and what kinds of things they will say.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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3 Responses to More On Assessment

  1. Jim McK says:

    Presuming good faith on the part of the Vatican, it is possible that an inquiry into the reception of doctrine will actually teach them something about what they are teaching. They will hear where their doctrine does not gibe with the faith of committed religious, and seek answers why.

    With that caveat out of the way, I found Laurie Brinks’ presentation quite interesting. In the classic form of religious life, it shows people being called out from their comforts to serve God. Echoing back to Hebrews 11, it shows a community who has no earthly home, but seeks a heavenly home as it wanders through our desert.

    Whether this is an inspired movement remains to be seen. And it is not yet known if the investigation is like the intransigence that hindered the mendicants, or later imprisoned St John of the Cross, etc. There are plenty of examples of success and failure among reformers and intransigents alike.

    What will serve the church is if everyone can work together to hear God’s voice more clearly, rather than adopt defensive postures in approaching one another.

  2. Jack Smith says:

    As to the question of jurisdiction, the LCWR is an organization originally representing Institutes of Pontifical Right. So, the local bishop doesn’t have authority here. According to their history page, they were formed at the request of the Congregation for Religious:

    http://www.lcwr.org/lcwraboutus/history.htm

    Also, and I don’t have a reference handy, I believe the organization itself has a constitution chartered by the Congregation.

    There is no doubt about the mistreatment of religious women by the hierarchy from the very time of their arrival on our shores. I’m sure that history plays in to the situation they are in today – however you might characterize it.

  3. Tony says:

    As one sister described it, “I was rooted in the story of Jesus, and it remains at my core, but I’ve also moved beyond Jesus.” The Jesus narrative is not the only or the most important narrative for these women.

    Moved beyond Jesus?!?!?! These women are no longer members of a Catholic religious order. It’s time for them to disband, and follow whatever neo-pagan path upon which they have set themselves.

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