This is what we are up against today!
This is a news report from a Tuscon newspaper: It is very telling:
Study of Catholic sisters focuses on religious role of women
By Patty Machelor
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 12.04.2009
A Vatican study of Roman Catholic sisters in the United States is discouraging and intrusive to some local women while others say it is a chance to emphasize good works and call more women to religious life.
The $1.1 million study — which some view as more of an investigation — includes hundreds of questions on the spiritual and personal lives of this country's 59,000 Catholic sisters. U.S. bishops are being asked to fund the three-year undertaking. Topics range from finances to attracting new members to nuns who dissent publicly from church teachings in such areas as civil disobedience and sexuality.
"We are closing schools and churches and they are asking the diocese to spend money on this type of thing?" said Sister Lil Mattingly, a Maryknoll Missioner who said she is speaking for herself and not as a Maryknoll. Mattingly said she has a hard time reconciling the wealth in Rome with funding problems here.
"We try very hard to review our own lives and how Jesus is calling us to live, but I'd like to call on Rome to work on that," she said.
The women being studied are those who work in "apostolic activities," as opposed to cloistered nuns who live in relative seclusion and lead lives of prayer and contemplation.
Tucson Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas said there are far more apostolic nuns than cloistered nuns in the U.S. today, which might be the reason for the Vatican's focus. He said the study is being done to "strengthen religious life, and to explore ways our religious communities in the United States can ... increase in numbers."
Sister Elizabeth Ohmann, a Franciscan nun who works for Humane Borders, believes there's a different reason the focus is on apostolic nuns.
"I think — and this is my opinion — that they are saying they believe it's the active communities that are really encouraging, say, women priests and are also upholding the rights of homosexuals and even homosexual marriage," she said.
Ohmann said some of her personal beliefs, and those of some of her fellow sisters, are not in keeping with what the church proclaims.
"Are we going contrary to Rome's teachings? I say, 'Yes, it is contrary to Rome's teachings.' But it is not contrary to my own conscience," she said.
Kicanas said the bishops are being invited to pay for the study, but it is not required. He doesn't know if they will help with the cost. The Diocese of Tucson filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2004.
The nun study was announced last January and written portions were due last week. Next, there will be on-site visitations to some congregations.
A Vatican-approved Web site on the study (www.apostolic visitation.org) includes information from Cardinal Franc Rodé on the reasons for the study.
"Like other vocations in the church, religious life has passed through challenging times," Rodé wrote. "Apostolic works have also changed significantly because of societal changes. These and other areas need to be better understood and assessed in order to safeguard and promote consecrated life in the United States."
Kicanas said people often react to inquiries like this with fear.
"There's always a level of trepidation that comes with a review and yet it has always been extremely beneficial," he said. "I think our religious communities will have an opportunity, through this study, to identify the significant contributions they have made to the mission of the church."
Laurie Olson, a local member of Call to Action, a national Catholic reform movement, said other Vatican studies have been conducted following a crisis or scandal, which is not the case this time.
"One can only conclude it's an attack on the sisters, that they are trying to rein them in in some fashion," she said. "It seems to be the pattern of the hierarchy, to attack and further diminish the role of women in the church."
Sister Rina Cappellazzo, the Tucson Diocese's vicar for religious, said the study is a chance to look at all the contributions nuns are making, and how things can be done better in the future.
"It's another review of who we are, what we do and why we do it," she said. "After any kind of study, there is a new direction, a clarified vision and sometimes you take a new direction."
She hopes the study will help attract more women to religious life. There are 194 sisters in the Diocese of Tucson.
"One of the things that we're hoping is that women will look at this and say, 'This is what I want to join. I want to be a part of this,' " she said.
Contact reporter Patty Machelor at 235-0308 or firstname.lastname@example.org