The Vatican has confirmed it will release its report on the state of women religious in the United States later this month, following up on the apostolic visitation that concluded in January 2012. “It’s true, it’s true…It’s the congregation that asked us to put this conference in the calendar.” Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, S.J., told CNA Dec. 4, confirming reports in the United States. The report, from the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, will concern the survey of women’s religious and their communities in the U.S. known as an apostolic visitation. Fr. Lombardi said that the congregation had requested a press conference on its report. The conference will take place Dec. 16. The visitation was launched in 2008 to examine the quality of religious communities across the U.S. It included meetings, questionnaires, and visits to about one quarter of the country’s religious communities. Mother Mary Clare Millea, the Connecticut-born Superior General of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, was the apostolic visitor who led the survey. “Although there are concerns in religious life that warrant support and attention, the enduring reality is one of fidelity, joy, and hope,” she said in January 2012. The visitation presented to religious communities several questions concerning religious orders’ vocation promotion, admission and formation policies, and fidelity to and expression of their vows. The reflections also asked respondents about their concerns for the future of their religious order. Some communities challenged the visitation’s mandate and chose not to provide the information it requested. The visitation’s working document proposed reflection questions for vowed religious to consider. These included questions about their order’s religious identity and spiritual and common life. The questions also addressed orders’ governance and financial administration. Mother Mary Clare Millea said that attention to the visitation “has resulted in a renewed appreciation for the role of religious in the Church and society and has increased dialogue and mutual awareness among the various communities in the United States.” There are over 52,000 women religious in the U.S., according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The apostolic visitation is distinct from an inquiry into the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, a canonically-approved body which has over 1,500 leaders of women religious communities as members. The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in April 2012 released a doctrinal assessment of the conference recommending “greater emphasis” on both the conference’s relationship with the U.S. bishops’ conference and on the need to provide “a sound doctrinal foundation in the faith of the Church.” The assessment found serious theological and doctrinal errors in presentations at the conference’s annual assemblies, including statements that constituted “a rejection of faith.” Some conference programs and presentations also contained “certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith” that risked distorting Catholic teaching on the divinity of Jesus Christ, the Holy Trinity, the Eucharist and the inspiration of Sacred Scripture.
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