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How the Vatican can restore trust among American nuns: just wait a bit

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Aug 22, 2011

While he was prefect of the Congregation for Religious, Cardinal Franc Rodé began an apostolic visitation of women's religious orders in the US, motivated by the concern that many communities had "simply acquiesced to the disappearance of religious life" while others were drifting away from the universal Church. But now Cardinal Rodé is gone, the Congregation for Religious is under new management. Today the new leadership concentrates on reassuring American women religious. The goal now, it seems, is not to have American religious communities that the Vatican can trust, but to have a Vatican that the women religious can trust.

In light of today's news headline on the disappearance of American nuns from traditional roles, one might ask what was wrong with Cardinal Rodé's diagnosis. When a leading woman religious feels that the most "courageous" option is to let her community die out...Well, that certainly looks a lot like acquiescence to the disappearance of religious life.

So why has the Vatican made a U-turn on the apostolic visitation? A cynic might suggest that the current laissez-faire policy is actually not incompatible with Cardinal Rodé's analysis. If the Vatican allows current trends to take their natural course, scores of religious orders will simply disappear. And those that remain will trust the Vatican. Because they always did. 



Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: - Aug. 24, 2011 12:15 PM ET USA

    But, what about the souls that are being led astray in the meantime?

  • Posted by: samuel.doucette1787 - Aug. 24, 2011 9:37 AM ET USA

    The Vatican's wisdom is born from being around for 2000 years. Our Church has outlasted tyrants from Justinian to Stalin, and similarly she will outlast rebellious religious. Their revolution has died; only the official pronunciation of death awaits.

  • Posted by: Bernadette - Aug. 23, 2011 8:51 PM ET USA

    Sorry, but Cardinal Rodé was absolutely correct when he was in the U.S. and gave that talk about religious life here in the U.S. Can't recall to whom or the date, but I did read his address and concurred with him TOTALLY! I don't care for the current attitude of appeasement toward these disobedient and recalcitrant sisters. Let them die out! They aren't Catholic anyway. What good are they doing for the Church? They're a bunch of self-centered, egotistical secular social workers.

  • Posted by: schndj2254 - Aug. 23, 2011 8:35 PM ET USA

    I love it when a plan comes together...