The American Monastic Newsletter

Volume 43, Nr. 3a,   2012                  Richardton, ND 58652

President's Message

The following is an excerpt from Martin Shannon's first address as incoming president of the American Benedictine Academy at the convention on August 4, 2012.

This year, the American Benedictine Academy celebrates its 65th birthday. The year 1947 was a momentous one for American Benedictines, and for another reason as well. On March 21, Pope Pius XII promulgated the encyclical entitled Fulgens radiator, in celebration of the 1400th anniversary of the death of St. Benedict. Acknowledging and celebrating our founder's contribution to the church, to European culture and society, and to the spiritual life of generations of Benedictines around the world, the text began: "Like a star in the darkness of night, Benedict of Nursia brilliantly shines, a glory not only to Italy but of the whole Church." Pius XII wrote of the "gloomy and stormy times" in which Benedict lived, and likened them to the disorder and disruption known by the world as it stood in the shadow of the Second World War. Monte Cassino, he observed, was in ruins, its "crumbling walls and rubble" symbolic of his own generation's "global upheaval."

The ABA was founded in 1947 with the purpose "to cultivate, support, and transmit the Benedictine heritage in contemporary culture" and, especially in the field of research and scholarship, it energetically fulfilled its purpose. Then in 1982, the Academy, recognizing that the tradition was evolving and expanding, extended its borders to include "anyone who had a serious interest in Benedictinism." This was the same year that, as a Presbyterian pastor, I began graduate work at Princeton Seminary . . . in monastic studies. That's right -- Princeton Seminary and monastic studies. My interest in monasticism had been growing for some years, largely due to my deepening connection with the Community of Jesus, an ecumenical, monastic community on Cape Cod. Founded by two Episcopal laywomen in the early 1960s, the Community of Jesus is a mixed community of families and celibate men and women, about 275 of us altogether, whose life of prayer, work and fellowship is firmly rooted in the Benedictine tradition.

In 1987 my wife and I, together with our four children, moved to the Community, where we have lived ever since. In 1995, I began doctoral work in liturgical studies at the Catholic University of America. My director, whom you all know, was Sister Mary Collins of Atchison. And what a director she was! Of the many things she did for me, and for which I will always be grateful, was the repeated suggestion she made that I must attend a convention of the American Benedictine Academy. She assured me that I would find a group of people there who would understand what we were trying to do at the Community of Jesus. You can imagine that "understanding" was not always the sentiment that we faced as a group of Protestants who sang Gregorian chant, observed the Liturgy of the Hours, celebrated daily Eucharist, and made professions of obedience, conversion and stability.

Mary was right. I attended my first ABA convention in 2000 at St Meinrad's. The hospitality I received as a member of a "non-traditional" Benedictine community made me feel welcome from the start, and once the conversations began, I knew that I had found members of my extended family. In explaining who we were, I did not have to translate my language. With the other members of ABA we shared the same values and principles, we celebrated a common heritage, our ancestors were related, and the skeletons in your closets were cousins to the skeletons in ours!

I say this in part as a way to introduce myself to those of you who may be wondering who this is standing before you, and how did he get here. No one was more surprised than I when, two years ago, at the convention of 2010, you elected me as vice-president, to succeed Sister Laura Swan as president. In talking with people after the election, I came to believe that my election had something to do with the Academy's recognition that Benedictine life is growing in a vital and authentic way beyond its traditional borders. Something genuine is happening that reflects the depth and strength of our tradition, and it is happening in some new ways. I believe we have a responsibility to explore what this evolution means.

On Monday, August 6, much of the church will celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. Reflecting on the proceedings of the world Synod of Bishops held in Rome in October of 1994, Pope John Paul II issued Vita Consecrata in 1996. I remember reading it that year, and happily discovering that the document presents the Transfiguration of Christ as the model for the monastic vocation. There, in the middle of the introduction, I read these words: "Nor is the consecrated life flourishing within the Catholic Church alone. . . . It is also taking root or re-emerging in the Churches and Ecclesial Communities which originated in the Reformation, and is the sign of a grace shared by all of Christ's disciples. This fact is an incentive to ecumenism, which fosters the desire for an ever fuller communion between Christians, ‘that the world may believe' (Jn 17:21)."

Similarly, in his Circular Letter of March 2007, in which he reflected upon his travels around the world that year, Abbot Primate Notker Wolf remarked on his encounter with a growing presence of a great "variety of Benedictine life." Cardinal Walter Kasper, then president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, spoke that same year at the consistory in Rome, observing that many spiritual movements had arisen in recent years, among which were an increasing number of monastic communities "often living according to the Benedictine Rule." Something new was happening.

That "something" has often been described under the umbrella label of "new monasticism." According to Benedictine dating, it is new. But, it certainly pre-dates the twenty-first century. The origin of the term actually goes back to pre-war Germany and a pastor-theologian. In a letter to his brother written in January of 1935, Bonhoeffer described his vision for the Finkenwalde seminary community: "The restoration of the church will surely come only from a new type of monasticism which has nothing in common with the old but a complete lack of compromise in a life lived in accordance with the Sermon on the Mount in the discipleship of Christ. I think it is time to gather people together to do this."

Perhaps Bonhoeffer overstated the case when he suggested that the "new monasticism" would have nothing in common with the old; surely we see many similar marks, both inwardly and outwardly. But he certainly hit the mark when he described the most common trait we share: a complete lack of compromise in a life lived as disciples of Jesus Christ. This is a value that is being transmitted from "old" to "new." We here are more than witnesses of this. We are participants.

For this reason, we are announcing the theme for the next ABA convention at Conception Abbey, July 24-27, 2014: Benedictine Monasticism: The Past Receiving the Future. Receiving--can you hear the active, engaged, hospitable, and thoroughly Benedictine sound of this word? Helping us to explore its meaning, we have four major presenters who have already agreed to participate in this conversation: Father Joel Rippinger of Marmion Abbey, Sister Christine Vladmiroff of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove of the community at Rutba House in Durham, NC, and Julie Upton, RSM, professor at St. John's College (NY) and a long-time Benedictine oblate and active member of ABA. Father Joel and Sister Christine have lived the tradition for a combined one hundred years (!) and much of their work has revolved around cultivating, supporting and transmitting that tradition, both within and far outside their own communities.

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove has his thumb on the pulse of the new monastic "movement" and has written extensively on the subject. His newest contribution is a paraphrase on the Rule of St. Benedict. Julie has agreed to take on a special job on behalf of the Academy. We've all heard anecdotal evidence for the growing interest in Benedictine monasticism beyond the walls of our monasteries, and beyond the boundaries of the Catholic Church. But is there any hard data to support what we think we are seeing? That is what Julie will be looking for and reporting to us in 2014. If all goes well, we hope that this will include a pre-convention workshop on Thursday, July 24, geared particularly for oblates and others "who have a serious interest in Benedictinism." Who else is out there passing on the tradition? The ABA wants them to be part of the conversation.

Conversation is the operative word here, a give-and-take between "old" and "new" expressions of monastic life. The American Benedictine Academy is in a unique position to carry on this conversation. Handing on the tradition is precisely what we are about. Our mission statement goes on to say that the ABA is meant to be "a catalyst inviting men and women to ponder creatively and to discuss the challenges to Benedictine values in the twenty-first century." This is one way we keep the tradition "alive." And that is what tradition is meant to be, isn't it--alive?

As a pastor thoroughly trained in the stream of the Reformation, the word tradition was suspect, at least insofar as the question of authority was concerned. But I remember Mary Collins asking the question of us in our first semester of study with her: what do we mean by tradition? Is it going to the attic and getting your great-grandmother's hat to wear every Easter . . . or, is it having a baby? Her meaning was self-evident. Though both acts involve an ongoing and meaningful repetition, a "handing on" of sorts, the latter did so in the form of new life and new love. It is filled with hope, and expectation, and joy.

In an address given at Duquesne University in 1965, Father Damasus Winzen, founder and prior of Mount Saviour Monastery in Elmira, NY (and the subject of my dissertation), spoke about monasticism's unique contribution to ecumenical dialogue. There is, he said, an "inner elasticity to monasticism" that lends itself to dialogue and understanding. Monasticism stretches and rests, stretches and rests, making room for the presence of the other and space for the sound of the other's voice. This elasticity, said Father Damasus, is based upon the possibility of a "change of heart." Monasticism can carry on genuine conversation because it is rooted in the hopeful possibility that our hearts can expand "with the inexpressible delight of love."

Our outgoing president, Sister Laura Swan, began her service to us with something I want to leave you with tonight. In her first column for the American Monastic Newsletter in October, 2010, she wrote: "Appreciative inquiry encourages us to give our energy and attention to that of which we want more." Appreciative inquiry--those are the questions we are asking and are we asking them with gratitude or with fear? Attention to that of which we want more--what do we want more of; what are we looking for? Surely those questions and those desires are informing the decisions we make as monastics and as monasteries of our day.

What are the questions we are asking? What do we want more of? Are these not worthy and necessary subjects of the American Benedictine Academy's own inquiry? Traditionally, "academy" has meant an institute of higher learning. In our case, "higher" may refer to meaning and purpose that reaches beyond the bounds of the mind alone. We are here tonight because we love learning, and we desire God; and because we love God and desire to learn. This is why there is such a thing as the American Benedictine Academy. In the coming years, where will this love and this desire take us? What change and what growth will they bring?

Martin Shannon
ABA President

Issue Contents

Canon Law Column

What are CDF and CICLSAL? A Vatican Alphabet Soup

In the United States in recent years, for women religious in particular, the acronyms CDF and CICLSAL have become a regular part of the American Catholic vocabulary. CDF stands for Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and CICLSAL stands for Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (See the May 2009 column of this newsletter for more on CICLSAL). Both congregations are "dicasteries" of the Roman Curia at the Vatican. In the United States we might understand dicasteries to be similar to the various departments within the federal government. According to the General Norms of the Apostolic Constitution, Pastor bonus (PB), "By the word dicasteries are understood the Secretariat of State, Congregations, Tribunals, Councils and Offices. . . . The dicasteries are composed of the cardinal prefect or the presiding archbishop, a body of cardinals and of some bishops, assisted by a secretary, consultors, senior administrators, and a suitable number of officials."

Canon 360 of the Code of Canon law states: "The Supreme Pontiff usually conducts the business of the universal Church through the Roman Curia, which acts in his name and with his authority for the good and for the service of the Churches."

Recall that in late 2008, Cardinal Franc Rodé, then prefect of CICLSAL, issued a decree ordering an apostolic visitation of all apostolic women religious in the United States. Despite the fact that Benedictines are monastic and not classified as "apostolic," most American women Benedictines were nonetheless included in this apostolic visitation because most Benedictine women's monasteries in this country are engaged in apostolic activities. In a separate but seemingly related move, CDF announced in 2009 a "doctrinal investigation" of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

In April 2012 the results of the CDF doctrinal investigation of LCWR were made public (see If nothing else, these two Vatican investigations, first of American women religious in general and second of the leadership conference of American women religious, have made Americans more aware of at least two of the dicasteries of the Vatican. The purpose of this column is to address the relationship between these dicasteries and how it is that these two investigations originated in two different dicasteries, only one of which is specifically charged with "promoting and supervising the practice of the evangelical counsels as they are lived in approved forms of consecrated life" (PB, Art. 105).

As noted, it is CICLSAL which is responsible for overseeing the way religious life is lived in the Church. CICLSAL undertook the apostolic visitation of women religious in the United States, which is certainly within the ambit of CICLSAL's jurisdiction. But it is a unique exercise of its power to undertake the visitation of the (women) religious of an entire episcopal conference. The USCCB is the episcopal conference, that is, the conference of bishops for the United States. It should be noted that in 1980 there was a precursor to the Apostolic Visitation. CICLSAL, which was formerly known as the Sacred Congregation for Religious, established a commission, chaired by Archbishop Quinn of San Francisco, to study the life of women religious in the United States.

A report was submitted by Quinn to CICLSAL, but the report was never made public, and no known actions were taken pursuant to the report. The commission's study was not an apostolic visitation, thus making the 2008 decree for apostolic visitation unique, not just to the United States but to the church universal. Apostolic visitations initiated by CICLSAL are usually of a particular religious institute in response to a specific issue in the life of that institute. Usually an apostolic visitation is conducted because of a perceived need to correct or amend.

It is CICLSAL which, according to PB, Art. 109, "establishes conferences of major superiors of men and women religious, to grant approval to their statutes and to give great attention in order that their activities are directed to achieving their true purpose" (See also canons 708-709). Nevertheless, it was CDF, not CICLSAL, which ordered the doctrinal investigation of LCWR, a conference of major superiors of women religious established by CICLSAL and which is subject to CICLSAL's "great attention." No one can know for certain why CDF rather than CICLSAL ordered this doctrinal investigation of LCWR, as neither of these arms of the Apostolic See has chosen to reveal its reasons. In fact, no one can know for sure that CICLSAL was even aware that CDF was going to order an investigation of a leadership conference established by CICLSAL.

CDF was previously known as the Vatican Office of the Inquisition. According to PB, "the proper function of CDF is to promote and safeguard the doctrine on faith and morals in the whole Catholic world; so it has competence in things that touch this matter in any way" (PB, Art. 48). This is a broad and open-ended competence. PB goes on to say that in order "to safeguard the truth of faith and the integrity of morals, the Congregation takes care lest faith or morals suffer harm through errors that have been spread in any way whatever. . . . [I]t takes good care lest error or dangerous doctrines, which may have been spread among the Christian people, do not go without apt rebuttal" (PB, Art. 51).

Given the function of CDF, one has to wonder what matters of faith and morals, in the mind of CDF, have been compromised by LCWR. The April 2012 report gives clear indication of at least some of the CDF concerns (See PB, Art. 51). Still, why was it CDF and not CICLSAL that pursued the doctrinal investigation of LCWR, especially in light of the fact that CICLSAL had already initiated the apostolic visitation of women religious, in general, not just their leadership conference, in the US?

No one knows the real answer to these questions about the relationship between CDF and CICLSAL regarding the two apparent Vatican efforts to reform religious life of women religious in the US. There is not the kind of American reporting with "insider scoop" about things Vatican that we as Americans have come to expect from the media. However, one might wish to read the thoughts of one long-time American observer of the Vatican, John Allen. He has written several times about these issues. Two of his columns are found at: (John Allen, 5/3/12) and (John Allen's blog, 4/27/12).

Officially, the general norms of PB show the inherent balance that must be struck between the independence of each dicastery and the cooperation among the various dicasteries. "Each individual dicastery pursues its own end, yet they cooperate with one another. Therefore, all who are working in the Roman Curia are to do so in such a way that their work may come together be forged into one" (PB, Art. 34). In John Paul II's introduction to Pastor bonus, he wanted to "promote mutual cooperation between dicasteries, so that their manner of working may intrinsically bear the stamp of unity" (PB, Introduction, #13). As with all things human, even those things which enjoy the inspiration of the divine, results are less than perfect. Perhaps it is not always clear how the various dicasteries, and in this case CDF and CICLSAL, "cooperate" and "bear the stamp of unity."

Nevertheless, in the CDF document entitled "Doctrinal Assessment of the LCWR" issued earlier this year, it does recognize the role of CICLSAL in this assessment and how its results will be carried out. It states: "For the purposes of this implementation, and in consultation with CICLSAL and the Congregation for Bishops, CDF has decided to execute the mandate to assist in the necessary reform of the LCWR" (end of section II, my emphasis). Regarding the mandate for implementation of the Doctrinal Assessment in section III of the CDF document, it refers to the appointment by CDF of an archbishop delegate who will report to CDF, which in turn will inform and consult with CICLSAL and the Congregation for Bishops.

Specifically, the CDF mandate of the delegate includes revision of LCWR's statutes, which will be submitted to the Holy See for approval by CICLSAL. The delegate is to report on the progress of his work to the Holy See. "Such reports will be reviewed with the Delegate at regular interdicasterial meetings of the CDF and CICLSAL." It is a rather odd setting for CDF to be directing CICLSAL about matters outside of CDF's own canonical competence; viz., approval of LCWR's statutes.

Regardless of what happens with CDF's continued effort to reform LCWR, Benedictine federations and monasteries of women in the United States should rest assured that the outcome of that reform will have no direct effect on their canonical status or reality. LCWR has its own independent canonical status as a leadership conference. Benedictine women's federations have their own independent canonical status as monastic congregations of pontifical right and their member monasteries have their own independent canonical status as autonomous monasteries of pontifical right.

Readers are reminded that the canon law columnist welcomes ideas for exploration in these columns and may be submitted by email to <> or by post to Lynn McKenzie, OSB at Sacred Heart Monastery, 916 Convent Road NE, Cullman, AL 35055.

Lynn McKenzie, OSB
Sacred Heart Monastery
Cullman, AL

Issue Contents


ABA Membership Meeting

ABA members attending the convention elected new board members for the next two years. The vice-president, who will take the presidency in 2014, is Sister Susan Quaintance, OSB, of St. Scholastica Monastery, Chicago. A member of ABA for twelve years, she has a monastic studies degree from Saint John's University and has served as an English and theology teacher at Saint Scholastica Academy in Chicago, as community formation director and past member of the ongoing formation team, and as a workshop director for Benedictine and Trappist communities in Uganda and Kenya through AIM's Commission for African Women.

She will be joined on the board by new member Antoinette Purcell, OSB, Our Lady of Grace Monastery, Beech Grove, IN, and reelected members Gerry Allen, OblSB, Bellevue, NE; Dennis Okholm, OblSB, Costa Mesa, CA; and Julie Peak, OSB, Sacred Heart Monastery, Yankton, SD.

In other business, reports were given by the special interest sections of the Academy. For the monastic researchers, Father Terrence Kardong reviewed the section meeting, where the numerous members attending reported on their current projects and interest areas. Many of these items will be part of the next Monastic Researchers newsletter which is produced by Sister Ephrem Hollermann.

The coordinator of the archives section, Sister Hildegard Varga, submitted an extensive written report from the discussion of the six archivists who gathered and talked about memorials, organizing data, and photographs.

Gregory Evans, OblSB, Bristow, VA, reported that the visual arts section will be reorganizing under his direction following the death of the former coordinator, Sister Kathleen Hickenbotham. Sister Mary Josephine Torberg, OSB, of Duluth was responsible for art displayed during the 2012 convention.

Sister Laura Swan moved that the librarians section be reconvened as a section of ABA and the membership unanimously agreed. Jack Fritz will be the convener of the section.

Reporting on monastic study grants and awards, Dennis Okholm announced that there had been two entries in the Junior Essay Competition. The awards committee selected "Who Were these Women? Hearing God's Call in Central Minnesota, 1888-1921" by Sister Karen E. Rose, OSB, Saint Benedict's Monastery, Saint Joseph, MN.

Since the ABA membership meeting in 2010, three study grants were approved and awarded: Sister Jeana Visel, OSB, from Immaculate Conception (Ferdinand, IN) for research of Benedictine monasteries along the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, Spain; Paul Monson, Ph.D. student in Theology at Marquette University, to study the pastoral theology of Martin Marty through his unpublished sermons in the Einsiedeln Abbey archives; and Rev. Laura Thomas Howell, oblate and rector of Trinity Episcopal Church, Bethlehem, PA, to work on the project "Tools for Benedictine Church Leadership."

Issue Contents

Benedictine Monasticism:
The Past Receiving the Future

24-27 July 2014

Conception Abbey
Conception, Missouri

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