Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Archbishop Joseph Tobin: The hurt and anger of Catholic women religious must be heard.

A number of leaders of women’s congregations have said to me that they’ve been surprised by the depth of anger and hurt that exists among the sisters. I think that can’t be ignored. It has to be addressed, it’s a sign of the times. - Archbishop Tobin
[Editor's note:  I'm terribly sorry that I initially confused Archbishop Joseph Tobin with Bishop Thomas Tobin of Rhode Island.  Big mistake.  My sincere apologies.  I began this post noting that American Catholics seem to be rather fond of Bishop Tobin (as they should be) - known as he is for doing and saying all the right things as regards the hot button issues of the day, such as denying Holy Communion to pro-choice Catholic politicians and so on...  all the while I was thinking Bishop Tobin was the same Archbishop in Rome interviewed by the NCR.  Gratefully a reader corrected my mistake.  Within my commentary, I wondered 'out loud' how more conservative and traditional Catholics would react to the Archbishop's sympathies with American women religious:  Asking, "I wonder how he will fare with the critics of post-Vatican II women religious now after he recommends giving them an official ear and say in response to the Apostolic visitation now underway?"  Evidently some of my readers thought this post dealt with RI Bishop Tobin as well, I can't apologize enough for the mistake.  That said, I certainly found out what all of you think.  Looks like most everyone is hurt and angry about something these days.] 
I posted last Sunday concerning the needs facing women religious because of dwindling numbers and the cost of caring for the aged and infirm sisters who remain.  I spoke favorably of the sister who talked to us about it before Mass began.  (Nota Bene as they say - last Sunday's sister fundraiser making the request for donations - was authorized to solicit for donations by the local ordinary of the diocese wherein she is situated.)  Anyway - at least two readers of this blog were not especially pleased that I seemed to be supporting liberal nuns. 
One must avoid being 'disrespectful of what women religious in America have accomplished'.
Archbishop Tobin seems to be in favor of dialogue and listening to others, rather than shouting them down and penalizing them into submission.  From John Allen at NCR:
Rome must acknowledge the “depth of anger and hurt” provoked by a visitation of American nuns, the Vatican’s number two official for religious life has said, saying it illustrates the need for a “strategy of reconciliation” with women religious.

Archbishop Joseph Tobin, Secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, said that he does not expect any “punitive” fallout from the visitation, and that before any decisions are made, women’s communities should have a chance to know the results and to respond.
That addresses a central concern of many women religious, who have objected to what some perceive as the secrecy of the process. Tobin said that as a matter of “justice and charity,” he will “strongly advocate” for feedback and a right of reply. - Vatican must hear the 'anger and hurt' of American nuns
Let's wait and see what the Roman Catholic bloggersterium decides...  They seem to be liking their bishops prostrating themselves in the dust on the steps of Cathedrals, perhaps some sort of public, humiliating penance for recalcitrant women religious would bring salvation back to the U.S.? 



  1. while honoring the selfless service of these nuns, what's wrong with an apostolic visitation? are they above such a thing? no! the seminaries sure weren't.

  2. I don't think the problem is with the apostolic visitation itself. There are some troubling factors, such as the secrecy mentioned in the post. I understand that confidentiality has to be respected; the visitors are talking to individual nuns, who might not speak their minds freely if they thought they would be quoted. But surely there is a way to make the findings public without naming names.
    Where I work we have a lot of audits. Part of that process is that the results of the audit are on record. If there were problems, corrective actions have to be implemented. I realize religious life isn't the same as an industry, but still, shouldn't some transparency be expected?
    The visitation is a large expenditure of time, effort, and money. If the religious orders of women and the rest of the Church are to derive any benefit from it, the results need to be published.

  3. I'd like to see the comments of Fr. Z's and Rorate Caeli's blogs if they post this article.

  4. For fifty years this group within Apostolic Women Religious communities (and some but not many contemplative monasteries) have had "carte blanche" in practically EVERY aspect of their lives. It is been a disaster. And is anyone listening or observing?
    It's the faithful sisters who have persevered through all kinds of insanity and doo-doo; and still, they remain, sentinels before the Lord, doing the works of mercy and education, faithful to vows made many, many years ago. God bless them and give them perseverance.
    As for the rest?
    Anger? For what? Finally realizing the chickens have come home to roost? What about the anger of the "faithful sisters" who have been treated like garbage and traitors.
    And hurt?
    What about the sisters who begged to wear their community's habit, live in common, observe the traditional religious life and were laughed at, manipulated, marginalized, made to look 'pscho' and generally ignored or placed under punitive measures (ever so passive-aggressive, however!)...how much hurt do you think is there?
    I just hope this Arch. isn't going to try to neutralize the explosion that has been building and needs to happen...it will be messy but just like lancing a boil, the immense relief and beginning of healing can take place.

  5. Those religious orders of women provided a wonderful contribution to Catholics over the years. And they should be thanked and respected for that.

    Their time has passed and in twenty years many of those orders will no longer exist.

    The women who still have vocations don't want to be part of an order that eschews community and the religious habit.

    What they really need to be doing is preparing to downsize their facilities so that they can adequately finance the care of their order when nearly all of the members will be retired or requiring nursing care.

  6. A generation of children have been poisoned with their unfaithful books, opinions and rejection of truth.

    We finally get the Vatican to come and take a look-see, which is a miracle in an of itself and the sisters are upset about their infidelity being supervised and corrected?

    Cry me a river.


  7. Sorry, I don't think it as simple as the good traditional habit-wearing nuns vs the bad liberal feminist non-habit wearing ones (by their habits you shall know them, kind of like the old westerns where the good guys always wore white hats). I've known a few sisters for the better part of 45 years. For them, as for the rest of us, there has been a lot of water go under the bridge. I'm happy to say that I haven't known any who fit the caricature of the unfaithful truth-rejecting child-misleading harpies described in some of the comments.

  8. I visited some religious sisters who had among their foundresses those who had been marginalized and even IMPRISONED by their own "leadership", not allowed to leave to join the community forming which planned to preserve the original charism.

    When these "sisters" decided to embrace feminazism and "self-actualization" in place of their Lord and regular prayer, when they chose to embrace new teaching contrary to the advice in Hebrews to remain faithful to the constancy of God, some Sisters tried to leave in obedience to their original founder and charism...and were instead unlawfully detained.

    That's a fact, but it's not one that you'll find in the archives.

    Yes, there are those who remained faithful under the yoke of the changes their community embraced; they have been POW's for YEARS now and will forever wear the badge of unknown martyrdom.

    And there are those who wished they could have spoken but were not allowed to do so.

    Those with "deep anger" now are those in need of something other than religious life, for they left Our Lord long ago. Yes, they are in need; of deprogramming. Where was their sense of mercy and justice when they imprisoned their own Sisters?

  9. "I'm happy to say that I haven't known any who fit the caricature of the unfaithful truth-rejecting child-misleading harpies described in some of the comments."

    Hahah, I've known a lot of these "women" over the years too, and I've found most to be arrogant and out of control harpies.

    That's putting it mildly. If they want to embrace multi-culturalism, they have many options open to them, none of which happen to be Catholic.

    I've been steadily and perpetually angry about the poverty of the Catholic witness of female religious over the years.

    The word, "fraud" comes to mind when thinking of most I've met. It's rare that I meet one with any sincerity.

  10. Point of order here, Mr. Nelson.

    Your post is on the comments of Archbishop Joseph Tobin, but the person to whom you refer in your first paragraph, with its snide remark about 'hot button issues', is BISHOP (not Archbishop) THOMAS (not Joseph) Tobin of Providence (that's in Rhode Island, for anyone who skipped geography class). I can't speak for American Catholics, but we in the smallest state are indeed fond of our Bishop. Since your first paragraph is about him, and not the Archbishop, you might consider removing it.

    As to Archbishop Joseph Tobin's view of the visitation - big shrug. The visited orders will loudly express their anger and hurt, as they have been doing all along, whether or not they have the support of the number two official for religious life.

  11. Thanks very much for the correction Mrs. Rudd - my big mistake. My apologies for the very stupid mistake. I will correct it immediately.

  12. Phew, I was wondering if Bishop Tobin was hitting the sauce or something as this would be totally out of character. God Bless and protect Bishop Tobin of Providence! He has been a dynamo.

    Empathy that drives us to make provisions of food and shelter is an ordered dispensation of compassion.

    Using compassion to compromise whining women being supervised and disiplined to weed out the errors they're teaching to children and the community? That's a misappropriation of compassion.

    It's a little like calling for a point of order to offer empathy to a unibomber when he expresses the attention he's getting is hurting his feelings.

    What Joseph Tobin needs is to take a little ride on the Ebenezer Scrooge with a twist.

    If he wants to feel sorry, let the archangel Raphael show him the journey of one child's soul who was led to believe their sins were virtues and let away from the Sacrament of Confession and out of grace. Let him see how the choices the soul made in the muddled thinking that comes with rebellion led to choices that brought on depression, low self esteem, substance abuse, bad choices in friends. Let him see how holding onto a soul in this state instead of letting them crash and burn until they are led back to repentance derails the plans of God and ultimately may lead to that soul's sentence to Hell.

    If death comes to these women before they realize what they have done and are doing and they face their day of judgment unrepentent, let Joseph Tobin see what Christ meant when he said it would be better for these women if they were never born.

  13. A lot of the old orders are reaping what they sowed. They were disobedient and taught heresy to two generations of kids. I have no fondness for the pant suited pearl and perm wearing harpies. I support faithful orders only.

  14. The denigration of women religious that abounds in traddy circles angers me in deep places that few things reach.

  15. Carol - no one was more surprised than I was - I'm glad Mrs. Rudd set the record straight for Bishop Tobin's sake.

    I wonder however if this means Archbishop Tobin is a bad bishop because he seems sympathetic to the religious women under the eye of the visitation?

    I am working on a post about good Catholics and bad Catholics as it concerns private revelation, ecumenism, and now obviously bishops and priests. It may be too ambitious a project for this blog however.

  16. Terry, you say in the last paragraph of your post "let's wait and see what the Roman Catholic bloggersterium decides..."; well, you pretty much have your answer. They want to take the "recalcitrant" women religious and put them through the "sanitize, rinse and spin" cycle and hang them out to dry (since we don't burn people for heresy anymore). And I am frankly not understanding all the vitriol. Yes, we have highly publicized and bizarre cases such as the nun who volunteered as an escort at an abortion clinic (I believe she has left her order). That type of thing rightly deserves criticism. But for heaven's sake let's not lump all nuns who aren't your traditional types into that category. This little exchange has convinced me that the visitation will be a good thing, if for no other reason than that it is thorough and detailed, and we will find out that the world of women religious can't be neatly divided into just two groups; sheep and goats, wheat and tares, or whatever. Yes, they have broadened their horizons to include other things than teaching or nursing. So things such as running a homeless shelter or advocating for immigrants aren't legitimate ministries? They have been criticized for living in apartments and not convents. Maybe that is just good stewardship. As Ray pointed out, their facilities need to be downsized since they were built to house many more. Who says you can't have a community of two or three?
    And hopefully the visitation will also address the issues of bullying and harrassment, which certainly should have had no place among those calling themselves followers of Christ. If anyone was actually physically detained against her will, that is a criminal offense in most states.

  17. michael r.7:27 PM

    Thanks again, Melody. Sometimes I can't believe the scary, anti-Christian, vitriol leveled against women religious who have given their all to the Church. One of my own siblings happens to be one of these sisters. No, she isn't a cloistered nun, as I would like to have hoped for her; instead she followed her own call to something quite different, and has been serving the Church for nearly forty years.

  18. Terry,

    I know, perfectly understandable. It is important information to get out there nonetheless. I look forward to reading your thoughts about good Catholic bad Catholic -- etc. I am always enriched by reading your thoughts.


    What a beautiful name.

    How do you feel about mother who throws her own and all the neighborhood children over a cliff on her way to advocate for illegal immigrants? Can she be considered a good steward and minister of Christ?

    Nuns who were and are given the duty to support parents who equipped the intellects of Catholic children to know right from wrong, good from bad, sin from virtue - and they did exactly the opposite - they are in deeper doo doo with Christ than people who kidnap bodies of children and throw them over a cliff.

    It is an act of righteousness to inform them so they can do the right thin for their own soul and the souls of the children they're given charge of.

  19. Dear Mr. Nelson,

    By all means, undertake the project.

    I am certain the Holy Mother will ask her Son to provide the necessary graces.

    Que Dios te bendiga.



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