The LCWR has responded to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's Doctrinal Assessment of their group. In this initial statement, the LCWR expresses its clear and, I would say strong, disagreement with both the Vatican's accusations and the way that the assessment was conducted. The statement reads in part: "The board members raised concerns about both the content of the doctrinal assessment and the process by which it was prepared. Board members concluded that the assessment was based on unsubstantiated accusations and the result of a flawed process that lacked transparency. Moreover, the sanctions imposed were disproportionate to the concerns raised and could compromise their ability to fulfill their mission. The report has furthermore caused scandal and pain throughout the church community, and created greater polarization." The full statement is available on the group's website here.
The use of the word "scandal" is, to my mind, noteworthy, since it is an especially strong charge, and is also the precise word used by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in its Doctrinal Assessment. Specifically, the Vatican charged that some of the addresses given at some of the LCWR's assemblies were a "serious source of scandal." The LCWR today charges that the CDF's report has itself caused both "scandal and pain." Both the Vatican and the LCWR are saying that the other's actions are, literally, a "stumbling block" to the faith of others.
In Greek, a skandalon was a stumbling block, and the word occurs several times in the New Testament. It is a word Jesus reserves for some of his harshest critiques. In Matthew 16, he uses the word to castigate Peter: "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things." And later, in Matthew 18: "If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea. 7 Woe to the world because of stumbling blocks! Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling block comes!"
This initial response, it should be noted, is only a first step, as the LCWR's leadership will travel to Rome to meet with Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the CDF; and with Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, the apostolic delegate charged with overseeing the LCWR's reform. The LCWR will also gather its members in regional meetings and will convene as a body, in August, to reply more fully to the Vatican's statement. (See also Archbishop Sartain's new article, just released on America's website, on the LCWR; and the response by Christine Firer Hinze, professor of Christian ethics at Fordham, available here.)