Goodness and Wisdom

Goodness and wisdom probably don’t head the list of qualities being looked for when an organization is appointing a new managing director or CEO, but they are the first  that Benedict requires of an abbot (RB 64.2). The abbot’s personal qualities, however, are not the starting-point for his second chapter on the appointment of a superior (he has already treated the subject once in chapter 2): he begins with the way in which an abbot should be appointed, either by the whole community acting unanimously in the fear of God, or by some smaller part of it endowed with better judgement (RB 64.1).

I find that encouraging. Benedict’s view of human nature is positive. The abbot is chosen from the community, and he trusts the community to have the very qualities he seeks in the abbot. Leadership, in Benedict’s view, is not merely at the service of the community, it is a kind of distillation of all that is good and true in the community itself.

It was helpful to be reminded of that in the light of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s statement on the U.S. Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). Clearly there is concern about some members and some attitudes and actions inconsistent with Catholic belief and practice, but it is by no means the wholescale condemnation some have suggested.

Personally, I dislike the whoops of glee that sound in some quarters whenever there is a suggestion that priests or religious are being given a rap over the knuckles. In my experience, most priests and religious believe what they profess and are truly doing their best to serve the Lord and his Church. As a nun myself, I can’t help wondering whether there are some U.S. religious whose morale will have been delivered a severe blow. What affects one affects all, and not always positively. Perhaps today we could pray for those U.S. nuns and sisters whose lives are an inspiration and encouragement to others, who are genuinely good and wise, as well as those who have lost sight of the obligations of their vocation. We all need grace, and never more so than when we seem to be under a cloud of another’s making.


9 thoughts on “Goodness and Wisdom”

  1. What is so sad about the report and actions against the Religious Orders in the USA is that their calls for Social Justice are being denigrated as being to militant or worse, heretical.

    This sounds and feels very much like the way that the Vatican sought to deal with ‘Liberation Theology’ in the Southern American countries a couple of decades ago. It’s heavy handed, insensitive and completely over the top.

    And it isn’t the end, further investigations in depth into individual communities are underway. If the issue is disobedience to Bishops, than perhaps the Vatican and the Bishops themselves need to look in a mirror to see how divisive and illiberal their actions have been over the past few years.

    Militant Catholicism isn’t a pretty thing, particularly when it’s driven by the House of Bishops of the USA. Somewhere in this equation, God’s love goes out of the window and is replaced by pure, man made, self-interest and preservation of the status quo.

    I understand that there are over 57,000 women religious isn the USA. There vocation and service should be celebrated, not denigrated.

    Prayers of course, but a lighter hand from the Vatican wouldn’t go amiss.

  2. As regards the LCWR, I suggest people read the actual ‘documents in the case’ which can be found here,, rather than the summaries published elsewhere, which tend to be a bit one-sided, both for and against.

    The CDF’s document concerning the LCWR should not be confused with the Apostolic Visitation of the active congregations of female religious in the U.S.A. which was concluded last year.

    • You have to click the document download links on the page I linked to, but you are quite right about the absence of nuns and sisters. Are we not the invisible part of the Church? 🙂

      • Sorry, Sister, you know me. I’m a bit old-school and believe a nun should look like a nun, not a nun dressed up like someone’s old aunt who’s been kept in the wardrobe for years and looks it!

        I know the habit can be a difficult thing to wear, and not always conducive to work in but for me, it’s more than just something nuns wear. It conveys something sublime, something holy and I immediately think of God. Dowdy clothes worn dowdily (I think I ‘ve just made up a new word!) conveys just that! 🙂
        (Why do I feel someone’s going to tear skin off my back for saying that……)

        • No, I will be gentle. Cucullus non facit monachum, but perhaps I should start telling laymen what they should wear! 🙂 Seriously, the female religious in the States need our prayer. I think they also deserve our appreciation of their fidelity and generosity, both now and in the past. Those who have not been faithful to what they have vowed are presumably a minority and, one way or another, will be checked. In the meantime, I am sad that the good name of many has been tarnished because of the faults of some.

  3. Terry, no skin stripping from me, but I can tell you that in our previous parish in Ontario, Sr. Jacqui (Sisters of St. Joseph) did not wear a habit, rather she dressed nicely, wore a symbol of her community on a chain ’round her neck. There was no way you would not recognize her holiness, devotion, compassion, commitment to serving. Those qualities shone through bright and clear! It was a privilege to know her, and she brought many new Catholics into the fold through RCIA. There is an old saying “clothes make the man”, but I would disagree in the case of a nun, yes, a nun “looks” like one in a habit, but it’s how they live out their vocation that counts the most.

  4. As for the “whoop of glee” when some people hear that religious, etc. are receiving a rap on the knuckles….as lay folk, we have been experiencing that ever since the abuse scandals broke the front pages. It has been the most difficult thing to defend the Catholic Church in the face of yet another news report, and yet we do defend, reminding the whooping/gleeful that the Church is bigger than those who do wrong, and the actions of a few bad apples do not reflect the devotion of the many and the good work they do. We need to keep in mind that those who take pleasure in the difficulties of others need our prayers, as they themselves are very troubled people.

  5. Sorry this is degenerating into a discussion about habits but I would just like to say that in the 70s we had a visitor to the school where I was teaching. She walked into the staff room, dressed in a smart suit but immediately I knew she was a sister. Up to that point I didn’t know a thing about her. I hadn’t even heard that a visitor was coming. I don’t think there is anything to be gained by making unpleasant comments about anyone’s appearance. What we forget is that the original religious habits were the ordinary dress of the common people of the day. Mary Ward, when she founded her congregation in the 17th (?) century never intended the sisters to wear a habit. It took centuries for her concept to be a reality because the male hierarchy wouldn’t sanction it.

Comments are closed.