Reactions to nuns' apostolic visitation report
Reactions Tuesday to the final report on the apostolic visitation to U.S. sisters generally were as positive as the report itself. Following is a sampling from major media:
[Tuesday's] overwhelmingly positive report was cheered by the sisters themselves, dozens of whom swarmed the Vatican news conference announcing the results in a rare moment of women outnumbering men at the Vatican. ...
The report was most remarkable for what it didn't say, given the criticism of American religious life that prompted the Vatican under Pope Benedict XVI to launch the investigation in 2009.
There was no critique of the nuns, no demands that they shift their focus from social justice to emphasize Catholic teaching on abortion, no condemnation that a feminist, secular mentality had taken hold in their ranks.
Rather, while offering a sobering assessment of the difficult state of American congregations, the report praised the sisters' dedication and reaffirmed their calling in a reflection of the pastoral tone characteristic of history's first Jesuit pope.
- Nicole Winfield for The Associated Press
There's been so much transition [in the Vatican's leadership, including the appointment of Pope Francis, since the visitation got underway]. I would like to offer another sound bite. This experience has been a learning experience for the entire church.
- Sr. Carol Zinn, past president of LCWR, quoted in The Washington Post after the report's release
We still feel pretty hurt, bewildered, angry and betrayed. But what happened as a result of it is Catholic sisters came together and we're more connected. Out of the pain and hurt comes a greater sense of solidarity.
- Sr. Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK and leader of the Nuns on the Bus, quoted in The Washington Post before the report's release
It is not a document of blame or simplistic solutions. One can read the text and feel appreciated and trusted to carry on.
- Sr. Sharon Holland, president of the Leadership Council of Women Religious, quoted in Chicago Tribune
A massive, detailed Vatican-ordered investigation of U.S. communities of women religious ended with a call to the women themselves to continue discerning how best to live the Gospel in fidelity to their orders' founding ideals while facing steeply declining numbers and a rapidly aging membership.
Although initially seen by many religious and lay Catholics as a punitive measure, the apostolic visitation concluded with the publication Dec. 16 of a 5,000-word final report summarizing the problems and challenges the women themselves see in their communities and thanking them for their service to the church and to society, especially the poor.
- Cindy Wooden for Catholic News Service
Pope Francis celebrated Mass on Tuesday with some of the women and men in religious orders who were involved with the long investigative process. Mother [M. Clare] Millea said that Francis told them he knew that it was an "arduous experience," and said of the nuns in the United States, "Please give them all my blessing."
- Laurie Goodstein for The New York Times
No, the Vatican didn't really grade American nuns in their long-awaited report. But if they had, it might have been a high B.
- Lauren Markoe for Religion News Service
Catholic sisters in the United States can breathe a sigh of relief. The final report of the Vatican investigation of American women's religious orders, issued today, is a positive, sometimes adulatory, document, which praises the many contributions of women religious in this country. It takes a generous approach and includes none of the critiques that many American sisters feared when the Visitation was first announced in 2008.
- Jesuit Fr. James Martin for America magazine
In effect, the document represents a remarkably pacific ending to a process born amid upheaval and perceptions of a crackdown by the church's male-dominated power structure.
In 2009, the Vatican's top official for religious orders, commenting on the logic behind the investigation, complained of "a certain secularist mentality that has spread among these religious families, perhaps even a certain 'feminist' spirit." Such language fed expectations of tough moves from Rome to bring the nuns into line.
Instead, the process has wrapped up in what one veteran Vatican observer described as virtually a "love fest."
- John L. Allen Jr. for Crux