Vatican to Release Report on U.S. Nuns Investigation

7542756After 5 years, the Vatican has announced it will make public the investigation of U.S. Catholic sisters that has so disturbed American Catholics and others around the world.

In 2013, I wrote in Sojourners:

“Even as Pope Francis washed the feet of women on Holy Thursday—a papal first—he reaffirmed in April the highly controversial interrogation and hostile takeover, initiated under his predecessor, of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), an organization representing the majority of U.S. Catholic sisters. On Holy Thursday in the juvenile detention center in Rome, Pope Francis explained the important symbolism of the foot washing. ‘It means, “I am at your service,”‘ he said to the youth. What an opportunity the pope has to extend this same gesture to Catholic nuns in the U.S.”

Some say Pope Francis was not properly informed about the unfolding process with U.S. Catholic sisters. Others say his inclination was not to overturn what was started by his predecessor. But all of his public acts indicated that open, positive, respectful conversation with women religious is something he deeply desires and knows that he needs.

Perhaps, in advance of Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. next autumn, this tide too is turning. Here’s an excerpt from the Detroit Free Press:

On at least one front, the Vatican’s perceived war against America’s Catholic nuns may have reached a peace settlement.

On Dec. 16 at the Vatican, top Catholic church officials and three American nuns, including one from Michigan, will hold a press conference to publicly reveal the final report of a five-year investigation of congregations of Catholic sisters in the U.S., the Rev. Thomas Rosica, a Vatican spokesman told the Free Press.

The inquiry of nuns, known as an Apostolic Visitation, sparked a vast outcry by many American Catholics, who viewed it as an attack on the workhorses of the Catholic church, the women who taught and ministered to generations of Catholics and help run parishes and social outreach programs to society’s poor and marginalized.

Rosica, president of Windsor’s Assumption University, said he could not divulge contents of the report, but said it should allay the fears of many Catholic sisters about the investigation.

“It will hopefully be a very positive message for women religious in the United States,” Rosica said Tuesday, after he spoke at Detroit’s Catholic Cristo Rey High School, where he received hundreds of letters from students inviting Pope Francis to visit Detroit in 2015. …

Read the rest of the article here.

‘Shaping Our Future’: Church of England Leads on Climate Change

UK climate changeIn a recent post Outlook Good: The Shifting Sands of Young Evangelicals and Climate Change, I cited as study that shows how important it is for religious leaders to lead well on climate change issues.

In that light, I was heartened to see a release this week on how the Church of England is asserting itself on environmental issues.

The ‘third sector’ [civil society], including the Church of England, has a crucial role to play in using its voice to increase public demand for government action to make low carbon options available and attractive to the public, the Church said in a press release today.

Government and third sectors will work together over the next five years to tackle key environmental issues such as climate change and sustainable development, according to the vision set out in Shaping Our Future, a new report published this month.

Government and UK civil society and religious organizations have agreed on a joint mission statement for a 5 year plan:

“The third sector shapes the future by mobilizing and inspiring others to tackle climate change and maximizing the social, economic and environmental opportunities of action.”

Stephen Hale, writing in the Third Sector foreword to the Shaping Our Future report, says:

The future is what we make it. The third sector provides the voice for society’s ambitions about the kind of world we want to live in, and has been the engine of progressive change. We secured the right to vote for women, and have won many battles in the struggle for equality and human rights, and against poverty and injustice. Climate change is now the most pressing of the challenges facing humanity. … Climate change is not simply an environmental issue. It profoundly threatens many other causes that the sector holds dear. It threatens the struggle to defeat poverty and inequality in the UK and globally. It threatens our health, our local environment, the cohesion of our communities, and the struggle for peace and security. For all these reasons and more, it is above all an issue of social justice. A step change in our response to this threat is in our interests, and a moral imperative. The transition to a low-carbon economy and society also provides some specific opportunities for the sector; to create resilient communities, new jobs, sustainable public services and a better quality of life. It’s time to seize them.

Of course, making social change from inside the power structure always needs a multi-pronged approach. While the Church of England is working with the government to inspire society toward a lower carbon diet, the Church must also be applying effective shareholder pressure to the mining and oil companies where the C of  E holds massive investments.