The fight over health care reform?
No, the fight over the Apostolic Visitation of Institutes of Women Religious in the United States.
That fight has been verbal in nature, but that does not mean it hasn't been more than a little testy. An example, from a recent NPR article:
"As women religious, we wouldn't believe that we've done anything to create the need for this," says Nancy Schreck, president of Sisters of St. Francis in Dubuque, Iowa. "It feels like an affront to us."
Schreck says the Vatican typically only launches this kind of inquiry when a group goes seriously astray. Even after the priest sex-abuse crisis, she notes, the Vatican refrained from investigating the priesthood or men's orders in the U.S., although it did conduct a visitation at seminaries. Schreck wonders if Rome is putting the sisters' behavior in the same category.
"I can't help but have some suspicion about where this is coming from and who's really behind it and what they're trying to do," she says.
Sister Schreck's deflective technique is one my four-year-old uses on a regular basis: "Why am I in trouble for hitting my sister? She called me a 'meany-head'! Why isn't she in trouble?" (Well, son, she is, but that's not the issue at hand, now is it?)
The piece, written by Barbara Bradley Hagerty, is titled, "America's Nuns Suspicious Of Vatican Probes". That title, needless to say, is misleading; it should be: "Some of America's Nuns Suspicious Of Apostolic Visitation." Or, "Some of America's Nuns Suspicious of Catholic Doctrine, Practice, and Devotion."
The piece is only partially correct in saying the focus is on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), as the apostolic visitiaton "is intended to comprehensively assess and encourage the growth of Catholic Institutes of women religious in the United States who engage in apostolic works." The LCWR has had enjoyed a nearly forty-year-long reign, representing about 90% of the women religious in the U.S. But its numbers are decreasing and, as Ann Carey explains in her recent CWR article, "Post-Christian Sisters," the Vatican has been working (slowly, but hopefully surely) to clean the LCWR house of dissent and heterodoxy: