Ugly smear directed at the FSIs January 12, 2016Posted by Tantumblogo in different religion, episcopate, error, General Catholic, huh?, martyrdom, mortification, persecution, religious, scandals, secularism, self-serving, Society, Spiritual Warfare, the struggle for the Church, Tradition.
Via Eponymous Flower, the London Daily Mail has run a very ugly smear article against the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate, claiming that sisters were forced to engage in acts of self-abuse, eat out-of-date food (and???), sign vows in their own blood, take the discipline, and other sundry things.
The accusations stem entirely from one disaffected woman who left the order years ago. I won’t quote any of the Daily Mail piece here, if you want to read it, you can go there. I did want to say a few things, however.
First, this is the word of one woman. Her claims have not been substantiated to any degree. Given the climate that surrounds the FIs (male and female) right now, the ongoing persecution and attempts to paint them as insane extremists desperately needing the (thus far) totally unsubstantiated Vatican intervention, I am highly dubious of her claims. There is ENORMOUS room to wonder whether these claims are not some attempt by liberals within the Church (or without) to justify the Vatican’s blundering, draconian, and abusive intervention in a formerly growing, thriving order. That is to say, these claims seem just a bit too convenient to me, especially given that the source is an Italian newspaper with a very close connection to a number of the most progressive members of the Italian episcopate.
Second, worldlings have always expressed horror at many penitential practices long found acceptable within devout religious orders in the Church, and associated with too many Saints to list. Josemaria Escriva, whatever you think of the group he founded, took the discipline regularly. Saint Catherine of Siena, one of the Saints to which I am most attached, not only denied herself virtually all food, but on several occasions drank the puss from absolutely sickening wounds, not to do something gross and horrific, but to overcome her natural revulsion for individuals afflicted with such wounds and to better serve them, seeing in them the still-present image of their Creator. Numerous other female Saints have done similarly over the Church’s long history.
Those are just a handful of examples from a variety that could fill an encyclopedia. I have read a great many books on a great many Saints, and I have found myself at times shocked at some of their penitential behavior, but we must keep in mind that this behavior both flowed from, and was a result of, the enormous faith and practice of virtue in these holiest of souls. It is a great mistake to discount behaviors as “excessive”, “fanatical,” or “disgusting” simply because we do not understand them. There were generally extremely good reasons for all these “extreme” examples, and the devotion they reveal are not to be trifled. Part of me wonders whether some of those who express shock and dismay at such things – even among some fairly devout Catholics – might not have a bit of unconscious envy of the kind of faith indicated by such practices. I won’t say any more than that.
Note, however, that, in every instance I can think of, all the myriad examples of such incredible practices were voluntary. That is an extremely important point. But done voluntarily, such things as daily “self-flagellation,” eating less than desirable foods, and even signing vows in blood have been a regular feature of religious life for many, many centuries. The world, and the worldlings who run the Church, may not understand them, they may even be repulsed by them, but that does not mean they are necessarily wrong, unholy, or against good practice of the religious life.
Now, it’s possible these claims are all true. I’m very doubtful, but it’s not impossible. It could be there was a particular convent where disordered practices developed, and where nuns were forced (that being the key) to engage in very trying penitential practices not as a fruit of Grace, but out of some excessive notion of obedience. If so, then that would be a very bad thing, and a concerning indictment of the FIs. But for now, I remain so exceedingly skeptical as to basically discount the claims, especially given the source. I tend to think that, failing to find any real structural problems with the order, the people dedicated to its “reform” (re: destruction) are now turning to rumor, innuendo, and general calumniating.
We’ll see what develops. Remember, even most relatively active Catholics are convinced that Bishop Robert Finn was a bad guy who concealed abuse, when what happened to him was on the contrary one of the biggest railroad jobs I’ve ever seen.
Don’t believe everything you read. Except here, of course.