By The The Pope’s Fool News Service
December 17, 2014
VATICAN CITY (TPF) — The day after the Vatican released the long-awaited “Final Report on the Apostolic Visitation of Institutes of Women Religious in the United States of America,” the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) has released its own apostolic report, assessing the job performance of the U.S. Bishops.
Commenting on the report, LCWR chapter-head Sr. Mary Immaculata O’Finian O’Toole said that unlike the Vatican’s report, which took six years to prepare, cost 1.1 million dollars, and is only 12 pages long, the LCWR report only cost about $25 and was put together by volunteers in a day.
“As you will see, the contents of our report on the bishops reflect information that is patently obvious even to the most casual observer. We put it together last night after attending yesterday’s press conference on the Vatican report.” Sr. O’Toole also mentioned that while she was pleased with the generally gracious tone of the Vatican report, she was surprised by its lack of substance. “God knows what they were doing with all that time and all that money,” she said. “That 1.1 million dollars would have made a nice contribution to the Retirement Fund for Religious. But at least the hierarchy spared the Church yet another public relations disaster, which typically happens when they go after the nuns.”
Turning to the contents of the LCWR’s apostolic report on the U.S. Bishops, Sr. O’Toole said that it “captures and summarizes what any reasonably sentient Catholic knows about the American bishops.” The report expresses gratefulness for the role that bishops play in the ongoing operation of the Church by keeping the wheels of bureaucracy turning. But it points out that bishops, unlike nuns, have not shaken off the structures of autocracy as the primary mechanism of governing the Church. “It has been almost fifty years since the close of Vatican II,” said Sr. O’Toole. “That’s almost two generations. In that time, orders of religious women have significantly evolved their governance structures, while the bishops still rule under the old model of the 18th century royal court. Of course,” she continued, “I expect that is what terrifies the bishops the most, and is what generated the visitation in the first place. The Church is still run as an autocracy, with a very distinct power structure,” she explained. “One is obsequious to one’s superiors and demanding of obedience from one’s subordinates. The thought of people actually having dialog, of letting the power of faith-based rational ideas shape the path forward, of admitting that the path forward might be unknown, of trusting the process rather than controlling the outcome—this presents an existential threat to autocrats that has got to send them screaming into the night. We send a frightening message by presenting a living model of how the Church could operate if it so desired.”
Sr. O’Toole says that she hopes the U.S. bishops will respond fully, honestly, and in a collaborative fashion to the LCWR report, even though she realizes it will be met with apprehension and suspicion by some bishops, which would be a painful disappointment. She thinks the report offers a great opportunity for respectful and fruitful dialogue going forward. “I hope they are willing,” she said, “But I am not holding my breath.”