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James Martin, S.J.April 18, 2012

In response to the Vatican's investigation of women's religious congregations in the United States and of the Leadership Conference for Women Religious, the main organizing body of women's religious congregations in this country, the USCCB has announced the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith beginning of a reform of the LCWR in a press release, which includes link to the CDF's "Assessment."  The main areas of concern were (a) the LCWR's assemblies and conferences, (b) "policies of "corporate dissent" and (c) "radical feminism."  The CDF also mandates a five-year period of oversight for the LCWR.  From the USCCB's press release today:

WASHINGTON—The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has called for reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) and named Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle as its Archbishop Delegate for the initiative.

Bishop Leonard Blair and Bishop Thomas John Paprocki also were also named to assist in this effort. The CDF outlined the call in a “Doctrinal Assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious” (http://www.usccb.org/loader.cfm?csModule=security/getfile&pageid=55544), released April 18. The document outlines findings of the 2008 CDF-initiated doctrinal assessment of LCWR, conducted by Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo, Ohio, which included his findings and an LCWR response submitted at the end of 2009, as well as a subsequent report from Bishop Blair in 2010. A statement by Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is also available at http://www.usccb.org/loader.cfm?csModule=security/getfile&pageid=55673

The 2010 report included “documentation on the content of LCWR’s Mentoring Leadership Manual and also on the organizations associated with the LCWR, namelyNetwork andthe Resource Center for Religious Institutes,”CDF saidNetwork is a social justice lobby founded by nuns. The Resource Center provides religious orders with legal and financial advice.

The Archbishop Delegate’s role is to provide “review, guidance and approval, where necessary, of the work of the LCWR,” the CDF document said.

A portion of the CDF's "Doctinal Assessment":

While recognizing that this doctrinal Assessment concerns a particular conference of major superiors and therefore does not intend to offer judgment on the faith and life of Women Religious in the member Congregations which belong to that conference, nevertheless the Assessment reveals serious doctrinal problems which affect many in Consecrated Life.  On the doctrinal level, this crisis is characterized by a diminution of the fundamental Christological center and focus of religious consecration which leads, in turn, to a loss of a “constant and lively sense of the Church” among some Religious.  The current doctrinal Assessment arises out of a sincere concern for the life of faith in some Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.  It arises as well from a conviction that the work of any conference of major superiors of women Religious can and should be a fruitful means of addressing the contemporary situation and supporting religious life in its most “radical” sense—that is, in the faith in which it is rooted.  According to Canon Law, conferences of major superiors are an expression of the collaboration between the Holy See, Superiors General, and the local Conferences of Bishops in support of consecrated life.  The overarching concern of the doctrinal Assessment is, therefore, to assist the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in the United States in implementing an ecclesiology of communion founded on faith in Jesus Christ and the Church as the essential foundation for its important service to religious Communities and to all those in consecrated life.

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Jack Barry
12 years 3 months ago
It is an odd coincidence that Abp. Sartain of Seattle shows up twice today in connection with leadership.   He is the designated Archbishop Delegate for the CDF initiative to reform the Leadership Conference (LCWR) as noted above.   
Meanwhile, reports from Seattle suggest he has his own leadership problems.   For his campaign against same-sex marriage, at least six parishes (25 by some claims) rejected his request that they collect signatures for a referendum to repeal a new Washington state marriage-equality law.   It would be interesting to hear his current views on Catholic leadership.  
See  http://www.americamagazine.org/blog/entry.cfm?blog_id=2&entry_id=5064  
Rick Fueyo
12 years 3 months ago
Along with Cardinal Dolan's implicit endorsement of Bill Donohue, who could have written the Congregation's abnnouncement, the news of late has been distressing
Nancy Walton-House
12 years 3 months ago
Why?  Why does the Vatican continue to misread the ''signs of the times''?  Why does the hierarchy continue to act in such a way that thinking Catholics are severely challenged to remain in the Church?  I get so discouraged by such actions.  I really want to remain an actively practicing Catholic but it seems like the Church does not want us to do so.  I greatly admire most women's religious orders who speak in an integrated way about our times and how we must live them.  Thinking, progressive women of the church, stay strong and united.  I am with you.
Vince Killoran
12 years 3 months ago
"[T]his crisis is characterized by a diminution of the fundamental Christological center and focus of religious consecration which leads, in turn, to a loss of a “constant and lively sense of the Church” among some Religious."

They must have visited women religious communities on Mars because the ones I know here on Earth have a "constant and lively sense of the Church" in adundance. Plenty to share with others.

It all comes down to this, at the bottom of page 5 of the CDF document:
"Some of the addresses at LCWR-sponsored events perpetuate a distorted ecclesiological vision, and have scant regard for the role of the Magisterium as the guarantor of the authentic interpretation of the Church’s faith."

Odedience. Faith. Conscience. Witness.  The hierarchy has presented a crimped and inaccurate understanding of what makes a faithful life.
Andy Forsyth
12 years 3 months ago
Mr. Killoran refers us to the doctrine of obedience, the virtue of faith, and the gifts of conscience and witness.  Are we to believe these all exist without being dispensed through the Church and exclusively? 
2 Thessalonians 2:15 "So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings[c] we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter." NIV
Andy Forsyth
12 years 3 months ago
sorry, made a mistake.  The last sentence should read "...and exclusively through the LCWR and those who maintain their views?"
Vince Killoran
12 years 3 months ago
I'm not certain what Andy Forsyth means by "dispensed through the Church."
Beth Cioffoletti
12 years 3 months ago
ditto to what Soleil says in #1.  Other than parishes like Ed Gleason's in San Francisco, which are few and far between, and most monastic settings, I'm beginning to think that something is going on with the Spirit to cause us to "leave" the Catholic Church as she is continually interpreted by the Vatican.  Perhaps we are Catholics in exile, but maybe we're being pushed into totally new territory and new ways of knowing our Faith.

I saw a quote the other day attributed to the Dalai Lama that said that the world would be saved by the Western woman.  American nuns are definitely leading the way.
Jim McCrea
12 years 3 months ago
Of course I'll love you tomorrow.
The check is in the mail.
We're here from headquarters and want to help you.
Bumfodder is bumfodder, now matter who spreads it.
Jim McCrea
12 years 3 months ago
I hope these women say something like this:  Thanks, boys, but we are over 21 and perfectly capable of directing and leading our lives without your unnecessary, unwanted interference.

If that doesn't work, then they should reorganize as non-canonical institutes and go about doing what they are already doing.

These dressup ecclesiastics seem bound and determined to turn this whited sepulchre of a former church into a males-only club of self-serving, authoritarian clericalistic nonsense.
ed gleason
12 years 3 months ago
"a former church into a males-only club of self-serving, authoritarian clericalistic nonsense.'
Jim , maybe this is the reason for the unsightly embrace of the SSPX, a sad search  for allies in the old boys club. When you are facing severe losses , it's called looking for a white knight in the business world. However everyone can tell SSPX rides a black horse.

12 years 3 months ago
Surely, there is resident in the readership of this blog the legal and financial expertise that could assist LCWR in establishing itself on terms that would free it from the Apparatchiks' - er - umm - ah - extremely interesting fixation on sex. The Home Office apparently is so focused on sucking up to the dime-store Vichyites that it might take them months to notice.

Doubtless, the Holy Spirit foresaw this farcical charade when She caused it to unfold during a liturgical year in which we focus on the Gospel of Mark - a document that reveals the 12 to be a bunch of (mostly) well-meaning numbskulls who are forever missing the point and squabbling over who gets to sit at the head of the table.

Successors to the Apostles? You bet!
Amy Ho-Ohn
12 years 3 months ago
Sounds like the real target here is NETWORK, the social justice lobby. The bishies are annoyed that the nuns' lobby takes opposite positions from their lobby on health care issues. The bishops can't regain the moral authority they've squandered, so the best they do is prevent the nuns from using the moral authority they haven't.

The rest is just nuisance. They'll make the annual conference hire boring, sycophantic speakers and schedule boring liturgies that nobody will attend, with long boring, sycophantic homilies that nobody will stay awake for. They can make LCWR publish some boring, sycophantic formation materials that nobody will use. Expensive, boring nuisances.

Sometimes bad news portends good news. It's possible the CDF, anticipating that the CICL's Apostolic Visitation will be basically a whitewash, has decided to do its worst. Which, all things considered, doesn't look too bad.
Winifred Holloway
12 years 3 months ago
Before going to bed last night, I read online about the bishops' plans to "reform" the LCWR and its command that the sisters seek them out for approval of everything from written statements to liturgies.  On waking this morning, I listened to the BBC report on the radio about a Libyan artist who was admired by Khaddafy.  The artist met with the late tyrant who complimented him on his paintings, but wanted him to seek out Khaddafy on what themes his paintings should represent.  Khaddafy told the artist he wanted to offer him "guidance."  So, perhaps, petty dictators aren't all bad.  Maybe they're just trying to be helpful.
Jeanne Linconnue
12 years 3 months ago
Jim, #9, I hope you are right and the sisters have the courage to do what needs to be done and break with Rome.  I grew up in southern California and there was an order of sisters who had established a number of schools and colleges in Los Angeles and elsewhere who incurred the displeasure of the then-cardinal of Los Angeles.  They decided that they need not labor under his autocratic, patriarchal whims, but could do God's work without his ''blessing.''  And they did.  One of the leaders died recently, and the NY Times summarized her achievements.


I pray that the sisters who are now expected to submit to Rome's heavy boot will follow the example of the Immaculate Heart sisters.  Although Amy is quite right that the sisters will simply do a ''work around'' and continue as usual, it would be better if they stood up and said ''Enough.''  Perhaps then a new form of committed ''sisterhood'' will be born, one that establishes a new model (and most likely would include laity and perhaps also be religiously ecumenical) - sort of ''third order'' with  expanded possibilities. The sisters have a chance to positively guide the church (the people of God), and perhaps it lies to them to begin to rebuild the church and undo some of the disasterous consequences of the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict.  
Gregory Popcak
12 years 3 months ago
Historically, have any renewal movements been appreciated by the people for whom the renewal was created?
Stephen SCHEWE
12 years 3 months ago
Hmmm ... how about John XXIII's announcement of Vatican II?

This was in the Washington Post this morning:

“It’s painfully obvious that the leadership of the church is not used to having educated women form thoughtful opinions and engage in dialogue,” Campbell said."

Change women to laity, and it still works.
Matthew Pettigrew
12 years 3 months ago
Don't worry, ladies, the men are here now and they'll take care of everything for you. 
12 years 3 months ago
These ''progressive'' orders are dying out anyway so I would not fret it.  It is the more orthodox orders that are flourishing so we should be ok in about a generation or so!
Ryan Hilliard
12 years 3 months ago
Long overdue.
Bill Freeman
12 years 3 months ago
This is another unfortunate and ill-conceived move by a misognist and irrevelant hierarchy.  But anyting to deflect from the trial of Kansas Bishop Robert Finn for child endangerment and the Philadelphia trial that has already proven a criminal conspiracy to protect pedophile priests perpetrated by Cardinal Bevilaqua.     

There are wonderful validly-Catholic alternatives to the Roman Chuch.  The American National Catholic Church is one: www.TheANCC.org.

Incarnate Sisters
12 years 3 months ago
Scripture tells us that Jesus grew in wisdom and understanding.  Why can't his self-appointed "successors" do the same?
edward knauf
12 years 2 months ago
Anne #15 - did you catch this important tidbit from the article you linked:

"The community has not grown. It counts 160 members today."

And the community now includes men, too.  From 300 women when they went into schism, to 160, mostly gray-haired men and women now.

Apart from the true vine (the Body of Christ, the Church), the branches will wither.

To the LCWR - accept with humility this discipline.  Christ left us shepherds whose thankless job it is to lead, and sometimes discipline, their flock.

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