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Tuesday, the Vatican released the final report from the three-year apostolic visitation to U.S. women religious – and largely to praise. Many, both vowed religious and other lay people, celebrated the report’s conciliatory language, calling the document an olive branch and a step forward in mending the relationship between women’s congregations and the Vatican.
But the sentiment wasn’t universal.
“I was greatly offended, of course, by the original investigation into our lives from a group of men who purport to run the church and have no concept of equality for women,” said Dominican Sr. Donna Quinn, coordinator of the National Coalition of American Nuns – a feminist group that, among other things, has advocated for women’s ordination since 1969.
Quinn added that until a woman’s baptism grants her the same rights within the church as a man, she did not believe that any real olive branch had been extended.
“I’m wondering why there was no apology in the report from the men who seem to want to have all the power,” she said, echoing thoughts voiced by a number of Catholics, including former New York Times religion editor Ken Briggs, writing for NCRonline.org.
Quinn was also not alone in calling for the Vatican to apologize.
Writing for Global Sisters Report, Benedictine sister Joan Chittister said that by relegating the visitation to a friendly dialogue, the report denied “women religious the apology they deserve.”
Marian Ronan, a research professor of Catholic studies at New York Theological Seminary and author of Sister Trouble: The Vatican, The Bishops, and The Nuns agrees.
“The structure of the Catholic church is still quite unacceptable from the point of view of women,” she said. “The report isn’t doing away with that. It’s just a momentary uptick. Sisters can never be guaranteed decent treatment until the structure of the Catholic church is changed, and women actually have a voice.”
Like Chittister and Quinn, Ronan thinks the report should have included an apology for the visitation, though she’s aware that many sisters might disagree with the desire – sisters like Marcia Allen, president of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Concordia, Kan., and president-elect of the Leadership Council of Women Religious.
When Global Sisters Report spoke to Allen on Tuesday, following the visitation report’s release, she said asking for an apology would be akin to taking a step backward after a long, painful process.
“I think [the report] indicates an invitational stance, so to speak,” she said, “and I would certainly rather take advantage of that rather than ask for an apology.”
[Dawn Cherie Araujo is staff reporter for Global Sisters Report based in Kansas City, Mo. Follow her on Twitter @Dawn_Cherie.]