Saturday, November 28, 2009
Discussion of the topic of the Apostlic Visitation of congregations of women religious in the U.S. can tempt one to side for or against based on the indefensible idea that one side (the women religious) stands for charism (= the Holy Spirit) and the other (the Holy See [aka "the Vatican"]) for authority (= authoritarianism or the like). The false dilemma must be avoided. Neither side is pure.
The triangulating insights of Eamon Duffy (in chapter 9, "Who Leads the Church?", of Faith of Our Fathers (2004)) seem helpful here: "In Pope Innocent [III], Francis, and Dominic, are embodied the three major forms of Christian leadership -- institutional, charismatic, intellectual; or, to put it in other terms, structure, spirit, theology -- the kingly, the priestly and the prophetic dimensions. The Church needs structure and order if it is to survive; it needs fire, ardour, heart, if it is not to become a prison for the spirit; it needs intellectual rigour and commitment to the truth if it is to have a gospel to preach. A Church in which one or the other of these elements dominated or was unchallenged by the others would be intolerable -- rule-bound, or in retreat from ordinary life, or with no truth to proclaim. Innocent III was the unquestioned head of the Church over which he presided, and both Francis and Dominic sought papal approval for their movements. But the papacy was the means of anchoring those movements within the Church, not their initiator or inspirer: the spiritual and intellectual leadership of the Church in the age of Innocent III lay in Assisi, Tolouse, and in the University of Paris, not in Rome."
The Holy See has asked women religious, most (though by no means all) of whom are members of congregations that are by any reasonable account members of congregations that are dwindling to the point of disappearing, voluntarily to answer some questions that pertain to the heart of their lives as individual religious, as congregations, and as corporate members of the Church. Is the refusal to answer the questions a demonstration of charism? Of vitality? What does it mean to be "self-defining religious agents?" See http://hancaquam.blogspot.com/2009/11/us-religious-women-closing-door-on.html Why won't the religious reveal the mean age of the members of the their respective congregations? What is the theology behind this lack of "transparency?" Surely it concerns the whole Church what the size and longevity of its institutional members are? Would Francis or Dominic defend the defiant, angry opting out a dialogue that the Holy See has asked (not demanded) to have with members of congregations already recognized by the Holy See?