Visitation of U.S. Nuns Proceeding Despite Some Resistance

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

Despite claims of “universal resistance” to the Vatican Visitation of U.S. nuns, the head of the investigation says the process is moving along just fine.

According to the Catholic News Agency (CNA), the dissident National Catholic Reporter claimed in a Nov. 24 article that an unnamed “informed source” who was “familiar with the congregation’s responses” said huge numbers of religious are refusing to answer Visitation questionnaires.

“There’s been almost universal resistance” the source said. “We are saying ‘enough!’ In my 40 years in religious life I have never seen such unanimity.”

However, this report appears to be an exaggeration. Sr. Kieran Foley, FSE, the Apostolic Visitation Office’s assistant for communications, told CNA that the office is definitely receiving completed questionnaires from superiors and is in the process of reviewing them.

“In a spirit of confidentiality, as I am sure you will understand, we are not at liberty to disclose how many we have received or from whom,” Sr. Foley told CNA. “While some of the congregations did send incomplete answers to the questionnaire, the Apostolic Visitation will be moving ahead as planned with the phases as described on the Apostolic Visitation web site, that is, at the completion of the data collection from the questionnaires (Phase 2), we will proceed to Phase 3, conducting selected on-site visits to congregations.”

Earlier last month, Cardinal Franc Rode, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, said he was pleased with response to Phase One of the visitation, which brought more than three-fourths of superior-generals to communicate their hopes and concerns to the head of the Visitation process, Mother Mary Clare Millea of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Phase Two, which is currently under way, has the major superiors responding to a questionnaire that will present a comprehensive profile of each institute’s “present reality and future outlook,” the cardinal explained.

The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) in Washington DC will provide an analysis of these responses.

“This report will be made public and should provide important information regarding likely future trends of religious life in the United States,” Cardinal Rodé said.

The dicastery “will formulate no conclusions or plan of action, if any, until the final report of the visitator has been evaluated,” he said.

“To date, I am encouraged by the efforts to identify the signs of hope, as well as concerns, within religious congregations in the United States, which are also likely to have implications elsewhere in the world,” the cardinal concluded. “I ask all people of good will to unite in prayer for the fruitful outcome of this effort to promote the Catholic identity and vibrancy of life of women religious.”

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