The following comes from a Dec. 4 article in the Detroit Free Press.
On at least one front, the Vatican’s perceived war against America’s Catholic nuns may have reached a peace settlement.
On Dec. 16 at the Vatican, top Catholic church officials and three American nuns, including one from Michigan, will hold a press conference to publicly reveal the final report of a five-year investigation of congregations of Catholic sisters in the U.S., the Rev. Thomas Rosica, a Vatican spokesman told the Free Press.
The inquiry of nuns, known as an Apostolic Visitation, sparked a vast outcry by many American Catholics, who viewed it as an attack on the workhorses of the Catholic church, the women who taught and ministered to generations of Catholics and help run parishes and social outreach programs to society’s poor and marginalized.
Rosica, president of Windsor’s Assumption University, said he could not divulge contents of the report, but said it should allay the fears of many Catholic sisters about the investigation.
“It will hopefully be a very positive message for women religious in the United States,” Rosica said Tuesday, after he spoke at Detroit’s Catholic Cristo Rey High School, where he received hundreds of letters from students inviting Pope Francis to visit Detroit in 2015.
The investigation began in 2009 during the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI when the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life sent teams to mother houses across the country, including the Adrian Dominicans in southeastern Michigan, to quiz them about their practices and beliefs.
“There were a lot of unfounded fears,” about the process, said Rosica. He said the report will be made public online and that he expects the Vatican’s communication office to formally announce next week about the Dec. 16 conference.
Also on Tuesday, the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life sent out invitations to representatives of American sisters based in Rome for the Dec. 16 conference.
The investigation’s conclusion coincides with a declaration by Pope Francis last week declaring the opening of the Year of Consecrated Life, to put a special emphasis on those who become nuns, priests and brothers.
Still left unresolved, however, is another Vatican controversy involving American nuns.
The Apostolic Visitation report is separate from the ongoing controversy regarding another Vatican office’s censure of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), an organization representing the leaders of many progressive congregations of nuns who’ve been criticized for not doing enough to promote Catholic teachings against gay marriage, contraception and abortion.
“I have nothing to say” about the LCWR, said Rosica, who will help conduct the Dec. 16 announcement. “It’s a completely different office.”
But issues surrounding the LCWR controversy can’t help but be in observers’ minds when the Vatican holds its press conference on Dec. 16. That’s because of the American nuns who will be at the Vatican to participate.
The press conference will include Sister Sharon Holland, who helps lead the Monroe-based Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) congregation. But Holland is also the current president of the LCWR, and is dealing with a Vatican-appointed panel of bishops empowered now to vet the LCWR’s writings and speakers at future gatherings.
Holland has experience as a Vatican insider. A church canon lawyer, Holland was one of the highest-ranking women at the Vatican, beginning work in 1988 at the same office which ordered the Apostolic Visitation shortly after she retired in 2009. As a section leader in the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Holland counseled orders of priests, nuns and missionaries on church law. Holland declined Wednesday to comment.
Holland will be joined at the Vatican press conference, said Rosica, by Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, who leads the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious. Donovan’s organization represents leaders of more traditional congregations and has not clashed with the Vatican. In Michigan, some members congregations include the Felician Sisters of Livonia and the Religious Sisters of Mercy in Alma.
Mother Mary Clare Millea, who led the Apostolic Visitation inquiry for the Vatican, also will be present, said Rosica….
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