I found some of the quoted speech of Fr Frank Morrisey ("Vicars for religious urged to be part of Spirit's ongoing history," Visitor 3/29) disturbing for its subtle implications.
I wonder which medical practices he's referring to when he says "Matters which are often opinions are being presented as the only possible Catholic teaching. But we should keep in mind that in the late 19th century, the church condemned vaccination for the same reason it is condemning certain medical practices today. It would be good to have a sense of doubt."
He has instilled in me a strong sense of doubt concerning the value of his guidance. That sense increases when Fr Morrisey objects to branding as "dissident or immoral" the questioning of authority over matters that I suspect are non-negotiable, immutable truths of our faith. Immediate branding may be uneccessary and counterproductive, but to encourage doubt and refer abstractly to "varying schools of theology" and "church authorities who are often operating out of a different model" results in desperate confusion.
If I am not reading accurately between the lines, still I question the tone of the article. Is it not an abuse of the consciences of the faithful to speak so vaguely about the application of church teaching that we are unsure as to what is being said and how we should respond as obedient Catholics?
I agree that "the declining numbers in religious life mirror a breakdown of secular society," but as to "What do we have to offer the world that is sadly missing at this time?" how about clear, undiluted truth? Perhaps the decline in numbers of religious is due, in part, to their feeling obligated to spread a fog of false justification rather than the true Good News of redemption through Jesus Christ.
(This letter originally appeared in The Providence Visitor)