Vatican Orders Visitation of US Nuns. On December 22, 2008, Cardinal Franc Rode issued a decree establishing a two-year apostolic visitation of congregations of sisters in the United States. According to Catholic News Service, the goal is to “look into the quality of life” of US women religious and to find out why the numbers of women religious have decreased.  Some sisters expressed cautious hope that Rome may come to better understand US religious life.  Others were “concerned, even disgusted, that the Leadership Conference of Women Religious was ignored and kept out of the loop,” according to Margaret Thompson, a professor of history and women’s studies at Syracuse University in New York.  Tom Fox, editor of the National Catholic Reporter had this analysis:  “What we have here is one more attempted study of women by men, in this case a study by male clerics of women religious… So the study itself, by its very nature, points to a far larger elephant in the sanctuary. For the sake of fairness, next time let’s have our women religious study the quality of life of our male clerics. That’s a report many would read.” A website has been created about this visitation at
(from Catholic News Service, National Catholic Reporter and media reports)

New Jesuit Head Praises Liberation Theology.  Fr. Adolfo Nicolas Pachon recently described liberation theology as “a courageous and creative response to an unbearable sitution of injustice in Latin America” in an interview with a Spanish journal, El Periodico.  Fr. Nicolas, a Spaniard, worked in Asia before becoming Superior General of the Jesuits.  He sees Jesuits’ work as helping “the poor, the marginalized and the excluded,” and has said he is more interested in missionaries having “cultural dialogue with local people” than imposing doctrinal orthodoxy.  (The Tablet, 11/29/09)

Pope Praises Archaeological Study of Christian Origins.  On December 20, 2008, Pope Benedict praised the work of the Pontifical Institute of Christian Archaeology, noting that their task is to draw new meaning from ancient sites and artifacts. He cited in particular the importance of the institute’s work in Rome and its study of the architecture, topography, iconography and inscriptions of early Christian times.  Research of ancient monuments and artifacts allows society to “rediscover its roots and draw upon cultural and spiritual elements that can help it build a more human civilization today,” he said. (Catholic News Service, 12/20/08)

Nuns, Laity Support Bourgeois.  More than 100 nuns from 22 orders signed a letter to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in support of Fr. Roy Bourgeois. The letter was drafted by the National Coalition of American Nuns. Bourgeois, a Maryknoll priest best known for his prophetic work to close the School of the Americas, is under threat of excommunication for preaching at the illicit ordination of his friend and fellow justice advocate, Janice Sevre-Duszynska. The Women’s Ordination Conference gathered over 200 signatures on a petition supporting Bourgeois, and The Quixote Center sponsored a full-page sign on ad in the December 26th issue of the National Catholic Reporter.  FutureChurch is encouraging supporters to write the Apostolic Nuncio and the Vatican.  See for addresses and position statement.

Former Excommunicate Mary Ward Could Be Canonized?  January marked the 400th anniversary of Mary Ward’s two congregations, the Congregation of Jesus and the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Worldwide, thousands honored the woman who pioneered self-governing religious life for women.  As a result, churchmen forbade Mary Ward’s followers to claim her as their founder for nearly 300 years. Yet, recently the cause for her canonization has taken a major step forward, and Pope Benedict XVI, a former pupil of her sisters in Bavaria, has expressed warm admiration for her.  She once told her followers: “Real strength and courage consists in doing what one knows to be good in all circumstances in which we are placed, and in not letting ourselves be deterred from this by any opposition.” (The Tablet 1/29/09)

No more Tax Exemption for Empty Churches? Two school districts and two municipalities in the Diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania are appealing the tax-exempt status of 19 closed church properties in the Allentown/Bethlehem area.  The potential tax liability of just four of the churches is estimated at $40,000.


Focus on FutureChurch

Winter 2009


Archive of Past Articles