The National Catholic Review

Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo, who conducted the Vatican's doctrinal assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, appeared on NPR's "Fresh Air," in the second part of the program's look at the LCWR. Here is the full interview with Terry Gross, in which Bishop Blair stated his belief that the LCWR is "promoting unilaterally new understandings, a new kind of theology, that is not in accordance with the faith of the church." The full interview is here on NPR's site. Other excerpts follow.

On the LCWR not taking a hard-line stance on abortion

"I recall something that Pope John Paul II said: He said that all other human rights are false and illusory. If the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and condition of all personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination ... to relativize or say, well the right to life of an unborn child is a preoccupation with fetuses or [it is] relative in its importance, I cannot agree with that, and I don't think that represents the church's teaching and the focus of our energies in trying to deal with this great moral issue."

On the dialogue that the LCWR would like to have with the Vatican

"If by dialogue, they mean that the doctrines of the church are negotiable, and that the bishops represent one position and the LCWR represents another position and somehow we find a middle ground about basic church teaching on faith and morals, then no, I don't think that's the dialogue the Holy See would envision. But if it's a dialogue about how to have the LCWR really educate and help the sisters appreciate and accept church teaching and to implement it in their discussions, and try to heal some of the questions or concerns they have about these issues, that would be the dialogue."

On the importance of women in the church

"It's very important for me to say that the history of religious women in the United States is absolutely outstanding, and that one of the most disconcerting things about recent reports is to suggest that somehow that the bishops or the Holy See are not grateful or supportive for the work of religious women. They have done tremendous work in our country and throughout the world. If anything, part of our concern is precisely for their diminished numbers and their aging population. ... We hope there would be revitalization of religious life for women."


Michael Barberi | 7/27/2012 - 2:39pm
It is easy to pick and choose some teachings and proclaim them Divine Law, or demonstrate their reasonability and goodness. However, one can equally demonstrate that many Church teachings were not. Consider that Usury was endorsed by several Councils and three papal bulls, proclaimed in Scripture as Divine law for centuries, but reformed in the 16th century. Slavery, freedom of religion and the torture of heretics were also proclaimed licit by popes and their writings, but these teachings were reformed as well. In modern times we have certains actions that are proclaimed as "intrinsically evil", meaning that it is immoral under all circumstances and intentions. Deportation is one on them. Yet few people would consider illicit the deportation of an illegal alien who committed a felony.

Contraception is also intrinsicall evil and marial intercouse under these circumstances are said to be merely lustful pleasure, a false, destructive and evil love, causing the tendency to abortion in contraceptive failure. Apart from the lack of any evidence to these unsubstantiated consequentialistic proclamations, there may well be some people who abuse marital sex. However, there is an important moral theological principle at stake here that seems to have been forgotten: abusus non tollit usum: the abuse of a thing does not take away its legitimate use. Examples from daily life abound. The fact that alcohol and other drugs are abused by several millions of people does not mean that their responsible use by the rest of us should be forbidden. 

With respect to the LCWR and the CDF, the issue is authority and the interpretation of the LCWR's actions. The sisters are exercising their rights and judgments to be obedient to the love of Christ and Gospels, based on their prayer reflections and informed consciouses. The CDF has a right to exercise their responsibilities as well. These are the signs of the times.

Some people like to procliam that any disagreement with a Church doctrine and teaching is based on a distorted method of deciding what to accept or reject. Some believe that every Catholic, religious and clergy, must submit their minds and spirits to all Church teachings. It is important not to paint people and their theological and philosophical reasons for disagreement with the broad brush of an erroneous conscience and call this dissent. Disagreement is not dissent and those who disagree for good and just reasons are not unfaithful. We live in a divide Church and in a Crisis in Truth, as JP II asserted. A hermeneutic of disagreement may well have consequences for those in authority as well as for those that provide charitable social, religious, healthcare and other services.