For those who are not familiar with the terminology, the Apostolic Visitation is Rome's way of checking into the functionality (or dysfunctionality) of U.S. convents. Many of our readers who are not Catholic may remember that our nuns did a "now you see us, now you don't" number on the world back in the 1960s. That's part of the reason for the Apostolic Visitation. For further backstory, I would invite one to read "Sisters in Crisis" by Ann Carey. Along with the habit disappearing, there was a whole lot more naughtiness going on. Ms. Carey's book will explain.
I can comment on the A.V. from a variety of perspectives, but I'll choose three: vocational discerner; vocational facilitator; and religious community foundress.
I grew up in a state which had four motherhouses. Out of charity, I shall not say which orders they are. I will say that I was very drawn to the one outside of my hometown, and almost cooed one day when I saw them. I was a mere child of perhaps 5 at the time. A number of months later, two sisters walked into our store wearing "civies," and my dad asked where their habits were. "We don't have to wear those costumes anymore!" said one sister who wore a bright pink polyester pantsuit. I was a Baptist at the time, but was filled with mortal dread when I heard her say that. For whatever reason, I thought it very disrespective of Jesus.
Once grown, and trying to find my own vocation after becoming Catholic, I was attracted to the cloisters because they had retained the habit. I could not believe how the active sisters had all not only dumped the habit, but became almost vicious when anyone asked about wearing one. (I only wish someone had told me about the Order of Hermits which had been resurrected with the promulgation of the new Code of Canon Law in 1983). I was also appalled at some of the active sisters' "religious practices." Some other discerners had dubbed such communities as "wild." We were talking then about how what they were doing disqualified them from being called "Catholic," but I will discuss that as a foundress.
Fast forward to 1988 when Cloister Outreach was founded. I had met other cloister discerners at the Jesu Caritas retreat at the St. Cecilia Dominican Motherhouse, the one orthodox community I had been able to find. Another fast forward to the present, and we now have a yahoo group for ex-nuns. A majority of them left after the changes of the Second Vatican Council.
I'll just tell their circumstances, and you can decide.
One woman came to our yahoo group stating a friend's name for the sake of our Cloisterite Hermits' prayers. The friend had been very messed up by her convent--"women's spirituality" which is euphemism for neo-paganism with feminism/lesbianism thrown in for bad measure. I told our hermits that in such cases, they are a spiritual coast guard, and this soul was out there clinging to the driftwood from the VatII misinterpretation disaster. Go out and get her.
I had also given the yahoo group a prompt: There you were wearing your habit, praying in Latin, and then. . ."
One said she was called up to the superior's table during dinner, and was asked to open a package. Girly jammies.
Another said she was confronted by her superior about which name she was going to go by--the one she had or her baptismal name. (The latter was the new trend). She chose her religious name, and the superior made her life a living $%^.
Yet another said she was sent to one of their South American convents where she fell ill. They put her under a pyramid, and performed ancient pagan rituals.
Then there's "Tsunami Carl" as we've come to call the experience because it literally wiped a convent and college off the map. Anyone remember the IHMs of California? I believe I have this correct when I say that the book, "Lesbian Nuns" recounts their demise.
Charisms have gone extinct due to the changes. This should be a clue that the wrong thing had been done, and the "reform of the reform" was long overdue. How many Franciscan Congregations were in existence at the time of the council? How many have had to merge with others these days due to lack of vocations? The number is actually very staggering.
One of the major reasons why we have a healthcare crisis is due to the massive exodus of religious sisters who once served the poor. A 500 bed hospital in downtown St Louis now stands empty--except one small wing being used as a nursing home. The infirmary which was once conducted by the Sisters of St. Mary of St. Louis is standing empty, also. And that's just St Louis.
One "updated" monastery which has not had any vocations asked for us to promote them. I asked them whether or not a postulant/novice would be badly treated if they asked to wear a veil. I have not heard from them.
Along the same lines are the elderly sisters who have written a priest-psychologist asking for help because their rights were being violated by the "updated" sisters.
IMHO, the Apostolic Visitation should have taken place 40 years ago. I think there was a classic breakdown of communication between males (the Vatican) and females (the nuns). Men read in headlines, women read in details. The conciliar documents were the headlines; the A.V. would have supplied the details. A sister in modified habit, letting the nuns know what was expected, should have been conducted. Instead, charlatans who fancied themselves as the rightful interpreters of the conciliar documents injected their own agendas into the mix. Look where we are now.
As a foundress, I think there are some insights I can lend. I had mentioned previously that some convents need to have "Catholic" yanked from their name. This would be necessary because our emerging charisms can't be called "Catholic" until we pass muster with our local bishop.
"Go back to the ideas of your founders" said the council. Okay, so the sisters did. And they argue that the founders wore civies.
I notice that of the 50 or so founders on our founders' yahoo groups, that everyone starts in plain clothes. There are stages that new foundations have to go through, and that's part of it--working in the apostolate in plain clothes. This is known as a lay association of the faithful. Everyone lives in their own homes, too, while the rule is being discerned. Had the sisters read further, they would have seen that that was only the beginning, and that everything evolved. Charisms evolve. Going back to the original intentions of the founders had nothing to do with neo-paganism and feminism/lesbianism or dumping the habit.
So, when Cardinal Suenens (sp?) suggested in "The Nun in the World" that the sisters go live on their own, it makes me wonder as to his motivation. Why did he say that?
Then we have the 40 year-old argument that the veil was a sign of male domination. Bunk. Women cover their heads to honor the angels. I know I do. It's called "covering" and it's making a comeback. Covering can actually save a woman from rape/attack. I know because I've been there.
Now that the chips are down, and the Visitation is knocking at their doors, the "wiggy" sisters are saying, "We were only following orders!" Careful, ladies, the SS guards said the same thing at the Neuremburg Trials. They weren't excused on those grounds, either. Either shape up or take exclaustration. May the Holy Ghost be your guide.