Thursday, 5 March 2009

Traddie picture of the (occasional) day: religious life update...

I thought it was probably about time for a bit of an update on things to do with religious life, and there is quite a bit happening at the moment!

Franciscans of the Immaculate

First, the good news. Latin Mass Magazine has an article picked up by a number of blogs on the Franciscans of the Immaculate (the sisters are pictured above, and we are having a 'The Larch' moment here), a post-Vatican II order who sound very traditional, and have now adopted the 1962 Office and Mass. The order includes friars, active and contemplative sisters, and tertiaries who live in community. They have monasteries in a number of countries, including England and the States. You can read more about them from their website here.

Feral nuns beware!

And now for the mixed news! The good news side of it is that the Vatican has announced an Apostolic Visitation of US active women's communities. The situation in many women's monasteries in the US (as in most countries including Australia) has long been a disaster, with new age feminist sisters into goddess worship and all sorts of weird practices.

The announcement of a Visitation to look into the situation was exceptionally well managed - they even had a website up and running in time for the announcement. And in a very good tactical first, the Visitor is a woman, Mother Clare Millea.

None of which has, of course, stopped the predicable reaction from the rabid 'religious', exemplified by Sr Sandra Schneiders, whose email on the subject has been published by the National Catholic Reporter and is now doing the rounds of the blogs. It is full of the kind of bile you would expect, but perhaps the bright side of it is that they aren't actually even claiming to be monastics any more - rather they are a 'new form of religious life', which she dubs 'ministerial religious'....oh clericalism, where is thy sting?

The Legion of Christ

The clearly bad news story of the last few weeks have been the revelations about the evil and deceptive nature of the Legion's founder, Fr Marciel.

I know nothing about the Legion really other than what I have read, and seeing the danger signs in hindsight is all very well. The Legion has a reputation for orthodoxy. All the same the Order's website (which I gather is being rapidly edited!) and general modus operandi appear to suggest an excessive focus on the founder, and an excessively narrow view of religious obedience. One story even claimed that priests in their seminaries were prohibited from reading spiritual works other than his. Even more telling I think, the Legion has, I gather, an allergy to what one writer described as 'small t traditions' - and even prohibited its priests from attending or celebrating the TLM. Hmm...

At this stage the Order's response to the various revelations seems deeply inadequate, and its future seems uncertain. But it has certainly sparked a fascinating debate (well, to those of us with an interest in these things anyway!)on the role of the founder of a religious order, what Vatican approval of a charism means, and much more. The best reading on the subject comes I think from Diogenes and Dr Edward Peters. Presumably more still to come....Keep an eye on American Papist for full coverage.

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