Vatican Still Investigating 15 Female Religious Communities in U.S.

News: Investigations
by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  •  June 15, 2016   

Sisters must explain "ambiguities" in doctrine they profess and their manner of living it

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VATICAN ( - The Vatican is summoning superiors to Rome from approximately 15 female religious communities in the United States as a follow-up to its six-year investigation launched in 2008. Although the Vatican's initial investigation was closed in December 2014 involving 341 female orders comprised of 50,000 women religious, the Holy See has singled out these remaining communities for further inquiry.

Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, the prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, the dicastery that conducted the initial investigations, clarified on Tuesday,

What we are doing now is when we concluded the visitation in the United States ... there remained some congregations [with whom] we had to speak, have dialogue with, on some points. We have already spoken now with — I think — four or five. We have to speak still with another 10 or so.

One such community still under investigation is the Sisters of Loretto in Kentucky. President of the community Sr. Pearl McGivney,wrote June 1 to members that she has been called to Rome October 18 to discuss five "areas of concern."

The Vatican wrote to McGivney in April, inviting her to Rome so she could explain "some points" involving certain "ambiguities" in the community's adherence to Catholic doctrine and its manner of living religious life.

One member of the community, Sr. Jeannine Gramick, was a former member of the School of Sisters of Notre Dame. Prior to her joining the Loretto sisters, Gramick was censored by the Vatican in 1984 for cofounding New Ways Ministry, an advocacy group for dissident pro-LGBT Catholics.

Cardinal Aviz acknowledged that some female religious communities in the United States have expressed frustration over the original investigations and ensuing apostolic visitations.

We know the problems with the beginning of the visitation. Before was not good. I would say [the follow-up] is being done with more attention because before, it would have been easy to have an unnecessary rift. Truly, it is not necessary.

There are roughly 500,000 Catholic women religious worldwide, 10 percent of whom reside in the United States.


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