Letter to the Nuncio about Catholic Sisters

November 2, 2009 at 3:35 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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Lots of actions are being undertaken to support American Catholic sisters in face of the current Vatican investigations. If you wish, you can sign on to a National Catholic Reporter ad in support of the sisters, sponsored by Catholics Speak Out at the ever valiant Quixote Center in Washington (only $15!). Or you can add a letter to the ThankYouSister webpage. I’ve done both of these things and urge you to join me.

But I’ve also read that the single most effective thing we can do is write directly to the Vatican representative (“the Apostolic Nuncio”) in Washington. Personal letters count the most.  I am posting my letter to the current nuncio, Archbishop Sambi, for your information and perhaps as a model for your own letter:

Archbishop Pietro Sambi
Apostolic Nunciature
3339 Massachusetts Avenue NW,
Washington, DC 20008

Dear Archbishop Sambi:

I am writing concerning the current Vatican visitation of congregations of American Catholic sisters and investigation of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

I am a life-long Roman Catholic. My grandparents were Irish immigrants, utterly loyal to the church. I attended  Catholic schools and a Catholic college here in the US for fourteen years. I am an active member of Our Lady of Ransom Parish here in the Diocese of Brooklyn, to which I contribute $1200 a year, a fair amount in this part of the world. In addition, I earned a Ph.D. in Religion with a specialization in American Catholicism and am currently Research Professor of Catholic Studies at a seminary here in New York City.

I can say without hesitation that Catholic sisters were and still are the single greatest influence on my lifetime membership in the Catholic Church and on my decision to spend my life researching and teaching about the Church. In my experience, whatever concerns the Vatican may have about the “lifestyle” or “doctrinal irregularities” of American Catholic sisters pale in comparison to the witness to the Gospel that these women live out in their daily lives. I simply cannot imagine my life as a Catholic without their presence and example.

 I would also like to point out that after Vatican II these sisters who are now under investigation were precisely the ones who remained faithful to their vows by continuing as Catholic sisters. Of course, there’s nothing that the Vatican can do to the thousands and thousands of American Catholic women who left religious life. But you need to understand that it comes across as distinctly mean-spirited to go after the ones who remained faithful.

 Finally, I’d like to point out that Catholic sisters, unlike diocesan priests in this country, worked for decades without remuneration. A sister (now dead) who taught me in high school and with whom I remained in contact over the years told me that when she was the superior at my high school, in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the check from the Archdiocese for the sisters’ work was frequently late, and she was hard pressed to find the resources to feed the sisters until it arrived. This was in the early 1970s, long after middle-class American Catholics had stopped knowing what it was to be hungry. It’s hard to believe that in addition to this kind of treatment, American Catholic sisters are now being investigated.

 In summary, I would urge–indeed, beg–you, Archbishop, to do all that you can to see that the Catholic sisters who belong to American congregations currently being visited, and who are governed by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious now being investigated, are treated with gratitude and largesse, not with vindictiveness or mean-spiritedness.  Anything less will make the institutional Church look distinctly ungrateful for the lifetimes of service and devotion American Catholic sisters have given to Christ and the Church.


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  1. Good letter to the Nuncio, Marian. I’ll try to write one this week. It is utterly astonishing how busy life can become – but this is important. Thanks for the info and advice.
    Mary Anna


  2. Thanks for support


  3. Brava~
    Great letter – how many of us can start our letters with the same sentiments- ‘Irish- Catholic school for 16 years, active in our parishes
    and so very appreciative of the Women Religious in our lives’?

    There are legions of us – and so many are not aware of the Inquisition…

    Imitation being the highest form of flattery ~ I’ve taken a bit of your letter and placed it in my wordpress blog
    Blame it on the Boss in Roma~


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