Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The life and death of religious life

A fascinating article, in contrast to the currently ongoing Dominican Friars' Chapter meeting in Bogata, where, if I understand the Master General's document, self destruction (as seen by Fr. Groeschel) of the order continues unabated. I've included a couple quotes which caused me to chuckle, but... follow the link and read the whole thing!

The life and death of religious life
from First Things Magazine
(June/July 2007)

We have only to look at the offerings of retreat houses run by some religious congregations to discover how silly people intending to be serious can sometimes become.

Finally, strange as it may seem, the ideas of Marxism, a philosophy that did untold damage to the lives of hundreds of millions of people, suddenly began to appear in religious communities during this era. I spoke to someone a few years ago who had attended the more avant-garde meetings of religious sisters. I asked what the main topic of conversation was. I was flabbergasted when I was told that it was the teachings of Friedrich Engels. (Poor Engels never thought that the last people to take him seriously would be Catholic nuns who had gone off the rails.)


  1. We have only to look at the offerings of retreat houses run by some religious congregations to discover how silly people intending to be serious can sometimes become.

    Yeah...like priests who are into eastern mysticism giving retreats to Benedictine nuns.

  2. I saw nothing in the Master's letter that suggests any unabated self-destruction that hasn't been going on since at least 1221.

  3. Tom,

    I would like to see a discussion between the M.G. and Fr. Groeschel. My reference was to "globalization of religious life" which the M.G. has devoted some pages to; the globalization tendency seems to replace charity to persons with desire to change systems, if you will. Fr. G. is suggesting a returning to the old forms, the M.G. is saying that the old forms must be abandoned. Personally, I think that the Dominican genius is to combine the old and the new, and for that reason I tend to be suspicious of those who would wholesale abandon the old.

    On another level, it seems to me that "globalization" is a violation of subsidiarity. As we have seen in our lay province, it also gives rise to a rigid enforcement of a certain bureaucratic thinking which desires to squash anything that doesn't conform; something that is always a tendency, but as subsidiarity is offended against, the tendency is permitted ascendency.

  4. Mark:

    Okay, I'm less baffled by your comment, though it's clear we read the Relatio from very different perspectives.

    Globalization is not, in the first instance, a decision of the Order; it's a fact of the world. For the Order, the decision is what to do about it.

    As the Master [the "General" part has been abandoned] put it, "Globalisation daily places before us all that is
    happening in the world. This can help us to feel as our own the needs of others or –- on the
    contrary –- to close ourselves up more and more in our own 'worlds'." (n. 45)

    I would also add that we can ignore it entirely.

    I see the Master, following the Providence Chapter, as calling the friars to interpret globalization as a sign that the Dominican mission is in fact a single mission. It's not the sum of individual, or provincial, or regional missions; it is, as he writes, the "mission which is no other than that of Jesus."

    We can no longer get away with, "We're us over here doing our thing, and you're you over there doing your thing," when "here" and "there" have become the same place.

    That certainly doesn't mean I have to do your thing; it never did, even for medieval friars living in the same convent. But it does mean that, when it comes to making decisions about what to do, what once didn't matter (because it was too far away) might matter now (because nothing is too far away).

    I'd say the corresponding risk is not to subsidiarity as much as to liberty -- particularly, I think, the "liberty of initiative" mentioned at the end of the Relatio. But any course of action, including inaction, has risks.

    As for Fr. Groeschel, I was very impressed by a talk I heard him give on the Rosary, and I hope his reform movement bears much fruit, but I don't think there's much he can teach Fr. Carlos about being a Dominican in the 21st Century.

  5. Tom,

    There is an opinion which proclaims that the effective elimination of the religious orders is a "sign of the times" and a good thing. Fr. Groeschel has an interesting perspective he is offering, and the Fr. Carlos also has a perspective, which I is not completely at odds with Fr. Groeschel. It's an interesting juncture.

  6. OK, after looking again at my post, and Tom's post at Disputations, I see the confusion. What I was trying to say, is not that I believe the Dominican Order is hell-bent on self-destruction, but that, in terms of the analysis offered by Fr. Groeschel, it could be considered to so be.

    One of the troubles with broad-brush statements is that they break down in the face of particulars. Clearly it would seem, some of the Third Order conventual congregations have embarked on the path of self-destruction (per Fr. Groeschel), as witnessed by their being poised on the precipice of non-existence (or gone over the edge).