|Religious Sisters of Mercy. (Source: vocationblog.com)|
The Final Report, however, was not the severe tongue-lashing many orthodox Catholics expected. Between the initiation of the visitation in December 2008 and its conclusion in 2012, the dicastery changed prefects, from the outspoken Lazarist Cdl. Franc Rode to the more conciliatory secular bishop Cdl. João Braz de Aviz. (Secular, in this context, simply means “not attached to any specific religious order”.) Both men have had concerns about the weakening of religious orders by liberalizing trends; +de Aviz said in an interview that he was nearly driven out of the seminary and the Church by liberation theology. Nevertheless, +de Aviz chose to take a more soft-pedaled approach with the skittish, distrusting women religious the Congregation would study.
As a result, the Final Report — which is more of a generalized executive summary — has copious praise for the work women religious have done and are still doing. Specific criticisms are presumably restricted to the reports the Congregation “foresees” will be issued to “those Institutes which hosted an onsite visitation and to those Institutes whose individual reports indicated areas of concern.”
Nevertheless, there is some steel underneath the velvet glove: not every paragraph is either laudatory or exculpating. Moreover, the report points to data which indicate that, for many American institutes, the visitation has come two or three decades too late to save them.