Speaking to Vatican Radio on Tuesday, Cardinal Franc Rode shed more light on the reasons behind the ongoing apostolic visitation of female U.S. religious orders, saying that a “secularist mentality” and a “feminist spirit” evident in the communities were among the factors leading to the visitation.
The apostolic visitation was launched earlier this year with the stated aim of helping strengthen religious communities in the U.S., which are suffering from a sharp decline in vocations.
In his Tuesday interview with Vatican Radio, Cardinal Rode said “some criticism arrived from United States and an important representative of the U.S. Church warned me about certain irregularities or deficiencies in the lives of American women religious.”
Though Cardinal Rode did not say who the representative was, he also revealed the problems include “a certain secularist mentality that has spread among these religious families, perhaps even a certain 'feminist spirit.'”
“There a desire was manifested to take steps to find a remedy to this situation that many say is not as good as that of past decades,” Cardinal Rode explained to Vatican Radio.
Cardinal Rode also addressed the general criticisms of the visitations, specifically the belief that they are somehow fueled by mistrust of the women religious communities. “There are indeed misunderstandings,” he said, “as if it were an act of mistrust of the U.S. women religious congregations or as if it were a general criticism of their work. It is not about that.”
The prefect reiterated his earlier statement that the purpose of the visitation is “mainly to see the current situation of feminine consecrated life in the United States,” and that, “it is an obvious fact that the number of American women religious has dropped a lot, that their presence in schools, health and other social institutions is greatly diminished. The question then is: what are the causes for this decline in numbers and this much weaker presence in the Church and society in the United States?”
The apostolic visitations are currently in phase two of a four-phase process.