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The editors of America asked Christine Firer Hinze, a professor of ethics at Fordham University, to respond to Archbishop Peter Sartain's article, "Deepening Communion," on the Vatican's doctrinal assessment of the Leadership Council of Women Religious. Archbishop Sartain has been appointed by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith as delegate, charged with overseeing the evaluation of the L.C.W.R.

As neither a bishop nor a religious sister, I reflect on events surrounding the Vatican’s Doctrinal Assessment of the Leadership Council of Women Religious as an observer, not a direct participant. But my life and vocational path have been decisively shaped by the intertwining narratives of the Catholic Church and of U.S. women over the past half-century. What’s more, flesh-and-blood religious sisters and their stories have been a constant part of my own. In special ways, religious sisters and lay Catholics have been companions through a tumultuous and dramatic time for women and for the church. This being so, like many others, my interest in the Vatican-L.C.W.R. intervention has been intense, and my responses, surprisingly visceral.

My Michigan childhood was suffused by the pre-Vatican II church, especially through my teachers, the semi-cloistered Sister Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHMs), who staffed my Detroit parish’s grade school. The Second Vatican Council concluded, and during high school we students watched, literally before our eyes, dramatic transformations of dress, names, practices and ministries among teachers belonging to three different renewing religious communities. Later, as an inner-city lay minister and educator, I was privileged to befriend, learn from, pray and serve with sisters in the process of forging what would become two distinct currents in post-conciliar women’s religious life. Among IHMs and Adrian Dominicans, Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist and Mercy Sisters of Alma, I encountered talented, gutsy, wholesome and holy women, charting different paths in the new territories that the council’s call for renewal had opened.

The story of U.S. religious women and a reforming Catholic Church unfolded amid unprecedented shake-ups in cultural thought and practice concerning sex and gender, power and authority.This story, and contestation over how (and by whom) it is to be told, forms the context for the Vatican intervention. Their respective tellings will affect how Archbishop Peter Sartain, the delegate for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the L.C.W.R. team see and relate to one another, the process and its outcomes. Insofar as each group comes to the table understanding the narrative differently, the dangers of talking past one another, stalemate or alienation are high.

Archbishop Sartain’s essay (Am., June 18, Web Only) voices warm appreciation for religious sisters’ historical contributions to the U.S. church and society. He praises the “pioneer courage” of “consecrated women at the heart of the church” who extended its ministries into new geographical, professional or cultural frontiers. With varied ways of “being in the church, with the church and for the church,” sisters radiate divine love through lives of creative service grounded in contemplative prayer and passionate love for God.

Yet, the archbishop acknowledges, “conflicts and misunderstandings” have arisen within and between religious congregations, and with their bishops, often due to “disagreements regarding mission, apostolate, discipline, doctrine, style of life and personality.” We face such a moment now, he writes, and it offers a pivotal opportunity “to seek reconciliation and collaboration at the heart of the church, in the communio that is God’s gift.” For women religious in the United States, this C.D.F. call for renewal of the L.C.W.R. is an important moment “in living out communio.” Implementing this “sensitive task” according to quite specific C.D.F. mandates will be challenging. “But by God’s grace and with mutual respect, patience and prayer it can be indeed accomplished for the good of all…with renewal and even deeper faith the outcome.”

Two Currents

Equally essential to the outcome will be the extent to which interlocutors are able to understand and take into mutual account the orientations and authority of two distinct visions for radical discipleship among U.S. religious women today.

These two currents are embodied, broadly, among the member communities of the L.C.W.R. and the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious. Like the pioneer sisters Sartain praises, both L.C.W.R. and C.M.S.W.R. communities serve the gospel at contemporary frontiers, living lives of passionate love in and from heart of the church. Both articulate and practice the basic elements of consecrated religious life (vows of poverty, chastity and obedience; life in community; and mission) in light of prayerful discernment of the needs of the church and the signs of the times.

But differences between these two renewing currents have led to warm relationships between the Vatican and the C.M.S.W.R., and friction that has culminated in Vatican intervention for the L.C.W.R.

For L.C.W.R. communities, renewing radical discipleship after the council meant relinquishing many securities and external accoutrements of their pre-Vatican II lives. Drawn to serve at the ecclesial and social margins and frontiers, these sisters experimented with new forms of being “in, for and with the church.” Through their vowed, communal, missioned lives, they have emulated Christ’s incarnational insertion into his religious and social worlds, and his prophetic practice in relation to both.

Sandra Schneiders, I.H.M., describes these sisters as claiming their baptismal identities by embracing Jesus’ prophetic mission as proclaimed in Luke 4. As Jesus’ mission exemplifies, prophetic women’s communities must be deeply rooted in prayer; be and live among the people; must discern the signs of the times; must denounce sin and injustice, both personal and systemic; and must be agents of gospel healing, peace and transformation. Religious women faithful to this mission will encounter tensions with societal and religious authorities, and their reward will be a share in Jesus’ cross.

Postconciliar CMSWR communities, by contrast, have been drawn to forms of radical discipleship that more closely reflect pre-Vatican II patterns and styles of religious life. Accenting the sacramental and cultic aspects of their identity and mission, these communities embrace distinctive religious dress, semi-enclosed, communal living and schedules of prayer, Eucharistic adoration and worship much like the IHM sisters of my childhood. A 2009 CARA study reports that these communities are attracting members, many younger, who prefer a “more traditional lifestyle of religious life” in which “members live and pray in community, work in a common apostolate, wear religious garb and “are explicit about their fidelity to the Church and the teachings of the Magisterium.” CMSWR communities align themselves with the “communio” ecclesiology espoused by Pope Benedict, and have made Pope John Paul’s call for religious’ “ready obedience to the Bishops and especially to the Roman Pontiff” a strong priority.

Sisters in both types of community, writes Ilia Delio, O.S.F., (Am. 10/12/2009) “witness to the Gospel revealed in Jesus Christ, but their trajectories differ. Their differences, Timothy Radcliffe, O.P., concludes, do not represent “a conflict between those who are faithful to the council…. [versus]… those who are faithful to the tradition,” but rather, “two different understandings of the council and how to carry its work forward.”

For some, the current Vatican action and the graying of many L.C.W.R. communities signal that this post-conciliar debate is ending, and the L.C.W.R. model debunked: Roma locuta est, causa finita est. These Catholics sometimes compare the church to a corporation or a military organization, with clergy, religious, and laity answerable to bishops and pope as their top executives and CEO. From this (ecclesiologically dubious) vantagepoint, “wayward” behavior of L.C.W.R. members or their affiliates endangers the church’s discipline, and requires firm correction; their continued obstinance constitutes de facto separation from the church and grounds for dismissal.

Mutual Learning

But insofar as the Vatican intervention delegitimizes or obscures the witness and voices of thousands of pioneering and faithful churchwomen, women who bravely followed the council’s call into risky modern frontiers, women who over decades have renewed, struggled, stayed and served, it will not serve communio. Instead, the intervention will further damage the vital dynamic of mutual obedience (from obedire, to listen) and learning that ought to unite our diverse church communion.

As Vatican II affirms, the episcopal office uniquely serves the revealed truth of the gospel. But that truth resides in and with the whole church. Beholden to military or business organizational models, pundits who deride L.C.W.R. sisters for posturing falsely as a “magisterium of nuns” disrespect the authentic authority not only of religious communities, but of the laity in their various charisms and vocations. Because the official magisterium does not have a monopoly on gospel truth, office-holders must constantly listen for that truth in the whole church, and all must work to avoid what Avery Dulles, S.J., called “excessive conformism” and “excessive distrust” among hierarchy and faithful.

From this point of view, the Vatican intervention, intended to “assist the L.C.W.R. in implementing necessary reforms” to bring it more fully in line with “an ecclesiology of communion,” cannot be properly understood as a one-way street. The very meaning of “communion” forbids this. C.D.F. investigators have detected in certain L.C.W.R. gatherings, speakers and materials “a cry for help” (p. 2). L.C.W.R. sisters, striving to enact prayerfully discerned prophetic missions, may detect in the Vatican’s latest action something of the same. If bridges toward communion are to be strengthened in this process, what John Paul II calls the “dialogue that leads to repentance” must work in both directions.

Creating such an atmosphere is especially urgent for addressing three crucial points of concern over which the L.C.W.R. and the Vatican appear to be at impasse.

Gender and power in church and society. The theology of communio advanced by the Vatican and many CMSWR communities entails very specific understandings of the meaning of sexual difference and of men’s and women’s vocations, revolving around the symbol of “nuptial mystery” in Ephesians 5. Women, called by vocation to embody the Marian, “feminine” dimension of humanity and the church, go wrong when they try to grasp and or replace the (complementary, equally important) vocations of men, who embody the Petrine “masculine” dimensions.

Many L.C.W.R. sisters, also drawing on Scripture (e.g. Galatians 3) and recent theological and social-scientific scholarship, question this tightly wound picture of gender and its implications for women’s participation in church and society. Many study or engage in theological analyses that challenge gender-based asymmetries in social or ecclesial power or status. For them, doctrinal intervention into women’s communities by an all-male episcopacy, whatever its warrants, easily looks and feels oppressive, and it puts L.C.W.R. leadership in the wearying position of constantly discerning when they are called to cooperate, resist, challenge or forgive. Given the Vatican’sconcerns about “radical feminism” (a term it nowhere defines in the assessment) affecting L.C.W.R. materials, does the intervention require that religious women (and by extension, all believers) give religious submission to one particular theologyof sexuality and gender? Are the fruits of L.C.W.R. sisters’ years-long study and reflection on feminist themes to be dismissed as so much secular political ideology? Or will this intervention be an opportunity for mutual prophetic speaking and listening?

Authority and freedom in the church. As they discern prophetic identities and missions in modern church and world, L.C.W.R. communities have periodically raised their voices in lament and critique of structures and practices harmful to human dignity, including in the church. But the Vatican document explicitly denies “the possibility of divergence between the Church’s magisterium and a ‘legitimate’ theological intuition of some of the faithful.” Prophecy can never be directed “at the Magisterium and the Church’s pastors” (italics in original), because “true prophecy is a grace which accompanies the exercise of the responsibilities of the Christian life and ministries within the Church, regulated and verified by the Church’s faith and teaching office.” Might the Vatican’s statement here overplay an institutional understanding of church authority as residing exclusively in hierarchical office, and the inerrancy of the magisterium so understood? If magisterial office is diaconal, does it not need to take seriously prophetic utterances from among the faithful?

Religious institutes’ discernment of their charism and missional priorities. The Vatican assessment cites evidence in certain L.C.W.R. materials or actions of “positive errors” concerning church teaching and culpable “silence and inaction in the face of such errors.” It also chides an “absence of initiatives by the L.C.W.R. aimed at promoting the reception of the church’s teaching, especially on difficult issues such as Pope John Paul’s letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis and church teaching about homosexuality.” This raises larger questions concerning the freedom and obligations of religious communities to discern their missional priorities, and how these relate to papal and episcopal priorities. Are mounting public defenses for such teachings a litmus test for sisters’ ecclesial communion? By using the examples it does (non-infallible teachings relating to sex, gender, authority and power) and by underscoring ecclesial communion as “allegiance of mind and heart to the Magisterium of the Bishops…which must be lived honestly and clearly testified to before the People of God by all consecrated persons,” the document seems to leave little room for sisters’ own conscientious discernment about how they and their communities will express this ecclesial communion in the face of such “difficult issues.”

What is the way forward in this process? Archbishop Sartain’s team and the L.C.W.R. leadership will surely agree that deep prayer and appeal to the guidance of the Holy Spirit will be essential. What God is up to here is bigger than either of these two groups of disciples, and not entirely clear. As they take up their sensitive work, by grace all will be receptive to the Holy Spirit’s light, lure and movement, especially at moments of hurt or lament, clashes of perspective, or seeming impasse. In this season of pain and Pentecost, Veni Sancte Spiritus.

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Janelle Lazzo
11 years 11 months ago
Christine Firer Hinze has added much to my understanding of the friction between the CDF and the LCWR, which to my mind, has the Holy Spirit written all over it.  It seems unlikely that this will be resolved for the good of the unversal Church without a great deal of openness and prayer within both congregations.  I especially like this sentence :"What God is up to here is bigger than either of these two groups of disciples and not entirely clear."   Veni Sancte Spiritus indeed!
Ann Engelhart
11 years 11 months ago
A very interesting and informative article by Prof. Hinze. I agree with Janelle's appreciation of the quote "What God is up to here is bigger than either of these two groups of disciples and not entirely clear." This is a great opportunity for dialogue and learning in both communities, which is why I strongly reject calls by the LCWR for dropping the mandate. The deterioration of trust that has been allowed to fester must not continue. Prayers all around!
11 years 11 months ago
Professor Christine Firer Hinze's article is admirable in its understanding and spirit of charity toward both sides of the communio/concilium conversation. I believe she is telling us that Pentecost did not leave us with certitude, but with the Spirit of Truth, which in practical terms means that the Catholic Church is not a Nanny Church.
11 years 11 months ago
Professor Christine Firer Hinze's article stresses teh need to discuss with an open mind to possible contributions by both parties to teh dialogue - asensible approach. It is a scandal to have disagreement without a willingness to resolve differences. Both "sides" are interested in advancing the cause of Christ and this cannot help but be be a good starting point.
Katherine McEwen
11 years 11 months ago
Christine Hinze has done a very nice job of bringing together the edges of a seemingly dichotomous situation. Well done!
Nathaniel Campbell
11 years 11 months ago
In discussing the second area of friction identified by Prof. Hinze ("Authority and freedom in the Church"), she quotes from the doctrinal assessment to the effect that prophecy cannot be directed "“at the Magisterium and the Church’s pastors”.  Such an understanding of the prophetic office would seem to be difficult to reconcile with the recently canonized and soon to be declared Doctor of the Church, Hildegard of Bingen, <a href="http://nathaniel-campbell.blogspot.com/2012/05/pope-and-prophetess-benedict-xvi_11.html">whose prophecies were frequently and explicitly aimed at the abuse of the Church by her own ministers</a>.
Nathaniel Campbell
11 years 11 months ago
In discussing the second area of friction identified by Prof. Hinze ("Authority and freedom in the Church"), she quotes from the doctrinal assessment to the effect that prophecy cannot be directed "“at the Magisterium and the Church’s pastors”.  Such an understanding of the prophetic office would seem to be difficult to reconcile with the recently canonized and soon to be declared Doctor of the Church, Hildegard of Bingen, whose prophecies were frequently and explicitly aimed at the abuse of the Church by her own ministers.
11 years 11 months ago
Christine Hinze has written a well thought out assessment of the different positions of the hierarchy, the L.C.W.R., and the C.M.S.W.R.

"Prophecy can never be directed 'at the Magisterium and the Church’s pastors'.... Might the Vatican’s statement here overplay an institutional understanding of church authority as residing exclusively in hierarchical office, and the inerrancy of the magisterium so understood?" 

I believe that the above quote hits at the heart of the matter. From my reading of Archbishop Sartain's letter, I get the impression that the hierarchy do not want to see the Sisters as equals to themselves, with just different roles in the Body of Christ and the People of God. The hierarchy want to keep the women down, as they always have done. 

From my understanding, Jesus did not treat women as second-class citizens.

As a Catholic physician, I feel moved to ask "Why can't prophesy be directed at the Magisterium and the Church's pastors??? How are these men to become mature leaders, if no one is allowed to question them?

In my view, the members of the hierarchy have had limited life experiences and it would be to their benefit to LISTEN TO and WORK WITH the Sisters and with the lay people.

For example, I have to question the decision of Archbishop Sartain to ordain a young man to the priesthood, with known sexual problems. As soon as the newly ordained priest was jailed for child sexual abuse, Bishop Sartain was moved from the Joliet Diocese in Illinois, and elevated to become the Archbishop of Seattle. I do not remember hearing of an apology to the people of Joliet.

Another example, Pope Benedict XVI has not admitted his role in allowing clergy sexual abuse to flourish worldwide, from the time that he was known as Cardinal Ratzinger and head of the office that dealt with clergy sexual abuse cases for 24 years, and then from 2005 as Pope.

Frankly, I believe that the equal partnership of women and men is desperately needed in the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church, for God's greater glory!

Sincerely,  Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh, Chicago, Illinois

11 years 11 months ago
I concur with Dr. McHugh's assessment, and I too believe that the heirarchy have an interest in maintaining the status quo.  The idea that we are in some kind of top down organization where each member of the Body of Christ becomes lesser and lesser down the line is anathema to me.  For some reason, I just don't think that that was the plan Christ has for his apostles.
I've been hanging onto the faith by my fingernails, and this whole debacle with the Vatican and our Sisters religious isn't helping.  Most of the professional Catholic women I know feel the same way.  We are intellectual, not prone to blind obedience or faith, with a Church hierarchy that at times seems to refuse to embrace or even accept the us in the fullest sense. I feel this even as part of the laity.  How much more so must the Sisters feel?
What would Saint Mary Magdalen say?  Truly her good work would have been considered  "radical" by the Rabbis for a woman in her time. 
I pray daily some good will come of this mess, but based on past experience, I'm not going to hold my breath.
Deborah Truitt
Attorney at Law
Roger O'Brien
11 years 11 months ago

Thank you Professor Hinze for your brilliant theological analysis of what is at work in this process.  You have very adequately named the struggle we continue to face, as church, in living out the challenge of collaboration and partnership, rooted in Christian Initiation, which the Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church developed.

In 1962 the twenty first  gathering of the world’s bishops convoked by good Pope John gave us a breath of fresh air, freeing us from our church’s rigid and insular preconcililar focus on legalism, clericalism, and triumphalism. All of us, each in our own way, were called to be coresponsible in doing liturgy, in living our baptismal ministry, and in sharing in our church’s mission to transform the world.

While that call for gospel renewal has yielded rich fruit these past fifty years, we nonetheless know that systems and procedures remain askew: the continuing sexual abuse worldwide, the alarming exodus of members from our U.S. churches, a sometimes heavy handed exercise of church authority, a pattern of Roman Curial preference for top-down, non-consultative decisions, bishops’ focus on Catholic identity and rubrics (including a new missal) rather than on solidarity with the poor, the jobless, or the state of the economy.

Underlying much of this has been a clash of differing senses of church, differing senses of ministry, and differing senses of spirituality.  We struggle to live the collegiality and communion heralded in Lumen Gentium.

 Professor Hinze’s sage observations make clear how much this is at play, especially with regard to the Assessment’s three crucial points of concern, in the dialogue that now begins  between the CDF examining team and the LCWR leadership.


11 years 11 months ago
Please do not publish my comment. 

I just want to thank America for publishing these two articles together.  They are enlightening and encouraging.  While my sympathies are with the beleagered LCWR Sisters, Archbishop Sartain sounds like a man who possibly could listen and dialogue.

Thank you and your staff for "ratcheting up" the discourse.
C Walter Mattingly
11 years 11 months ago
So good to see this letter from the good bishop and Professor Hinze presented with open candor by America. And it is even better to see this divergence and, truth be told, conflict between the bishops and the L.C.W.R. hung out on the laundry line to dry rather than getting moldy in the laundry hamper.
The distance and effort of the outreach from both sides is apparent in these two communications. The perils can be seen herein. If the bishops intend to dismiss the recent input of feminist sensibilities and recent contributions to social understanding among religious men as well as women, they will box themselves into a lonely corner. If on the other hand they seriously and in open good faith address any attempt among those moving toward a New Age Spirituality with pantheistic overtones, redefining Jesus as a sort of sociologist/guru rather than our Savior, deemphasizing the sacramental life of His Church in the process, they will probably receive deserved and widespread support.
But railing against widespread "radical feminist ideologies" rather than addressing specific concerns will not be well received by either the sisters or the general body of the laity.
Nor is describing the women religious of the CMSWR who find expressions of their vocation in the traditional spiritual life and practices of the Church as "cultic" activity, as Professor Hinze has done here, as if devotion to the Sacred Heart were some essentially bogus, voodoo-like, quasi-religious endeavor. Perhaps this was merely an unfortunate word choice, but it is hard to escape the connotation of a dialogue-threatening disdain, a counterpart to that expressed in the "radical feminist ideology" nonstarter moniker among the bishops. 
Yet both the bishop and the professor's response are very encouraging overall. It's important both sides remain open to the Holy Spirit and not speak in different tongues.
Marie Kopin
11 years 11 months ago

Thanks much to Dr. Hinze for a well researched article following Sartain's article about the CDF's take on USA LCWR matters. She has brought up many points worthy of consideration in my opinion and given me much 'food for thought' on the issues she presents. I appreciate this.

I would like to see Christine elaborate more on what she means in the sentence when she uses the word CULTIC: "Postconciliar CMSWR communities, by contrast, have been drawn to forms of radical discipleship that more closely reflect pre-Vatican II patterns and styles of religious life. Accenting the sacramental and cultic aspects of their identity and mission, these communities embrace distinctive religious dress, semi-enclosed, communal living and schedules of prayer, Eucharistic adoration and worship much like the IHM sisters of my childhood."

Is this talking about a certain kind of culture that CMSWR Sisters choose, or is Dr. Hinze saying it is 'cult-like'? And then, the term 'Cult-like' needs definition too as well as does 'culture'. I'd like to be 'on the same page' in understanding what she is saying here.

I agree with her analysis that "Postconciliar CMSWR communities ........ are drawn to forms of radical discipleship that more closely reflect pre-Vatican II patterns and styles of religious life." It is also true that most LCWR congregations started out with this same life style which changed as they studied and implemented Vatican II norms from the documents. I know many IHM Sisters personally and also members of several different LCWR congregations. It is my experience today that distinctive religious dress is optional in terms of uniformity of dress within most congregations. Where communal living is available there are schedules of prayer and the availability and observance of Eucharistic adoration and worship is encouraged. Privacy in their homes is also observed unless there is mutual agreement to be open to visitors at prescribed times. Quiet time is essential for prayer.

There is much to be said about the history of 'distinctive dress' and how uniform dressing styles evolve. Probably 'distinctive' dress today for most LCWR Sisters consists of Thrift Shop bargains and 'hand-me-downs' along with the use of identifying crosses, embordiered symbols, and medals designed by Sisters within Congregations.

So what does Dr. Hinze really mean when she offers the term 'cultic' for distinctive dress, sturctured prayer times, 'semi-enclosed', communal living, and Eucharistic Adoration and worship? I would like her to reply to this.

Nancy O'Neill
11 years 11 months ago
Dr. Hinze has written a brilliant and insightful analysis.  It was helpful to study the three main areas of contention. 

While looking up the reference to Galatians 3, I also read Galatians 2.  During the debate between Peter and Paul, concerning whether or not the gentile converts needed to be circumcised and follow the Judaic Law, Paul publicly denounces Peter's cowardice and hypocrisy by acting one way when alone with the gentiles and the opposite way when other Jews were present.  Paul goes on to argues that salvation and life are found through faith in Jesus, not in the Law.  So, too, the sisters will find life in following their informed consciences.  Like Paul, they must publicly state their case and not be silenced.

Yes, both sides must pray and listen to each other and the inspirations of the Holy Spirit.  As in the conflict between Peter and Paul, both the sisters and the Vatican will need to compromise.
Christine Firer Hinze
11 years 11 months ago

I am deeply grateful for the substantive, thoughtful, and enlightening responses this essay has received. Thank you all. 

I am also happy to have the chance to offer two points of clarification.

First, concerning my use of the term “cultic”:  In theology/religious studies, this term is used descriptively, to refer to beliefs and practices surrounding worship (ritual, prayer, sacrament, etc) that form a constitutive dimension of any church or religious community.  So, in sketching two currents in post-conciliar women’s religious communities, I suggest that one current has tended to accent the “prophetic” aspects of its mission and identity, while the other has tended to foreground the “cultic” (as in worship, ritual, sacramental practice, etc.) 

 Some respondents point out that in common parlance, “cult” often has a negative connotation. I am grateful for the opportunity to clarify that in this essay, the term “cultic” is used in its descriptive (=things having to do with worship and ritual) sense, to refer to an essential (and precious) aspect of the life of every Catholic and every faith community.

Second, in attempting to portray two broad trends among contemporary U.S. women’s communities, my comments on “cultic” vs. “prophetic” emphases refer to distinctive accents, or emphases, not strict or exclusive differences! 

LCWR communities certainly cherish and live out the cultic/worship aspects of their missions and identities, and CMSWR communities are certainly prophetic.  As is true for all baptized Christians (cf. Vatican II, Lumen gentium #31; Catechism #783-786), member of these varied religious communities continuously discern how they are called to enact the prophetic, cultic (worship), and serving-authority functions that are their sharing in Christ’s offices of “priest, prophet, and king.”

Of course, how we embody our baptismal share in Christ’s priestly, prophetic and kingly identity and mission will differ according to our particular gifts, circumstances, states in life, offices in the church. In my view, consecrated women in both these (in themselves, diverse) currents of contemporary religious life are embodying this challenging calling in a variety of worthy and estimable ways.



Michael McMiller
11 years 11 months ago

Being a simple man I felt that the heart of Ms Hinz’s reply was very similar to Number 12:2, “does not the Lord speak through us as well?”

May Saint Gerard Majella, the Saint of obedience and expectant mothers pray for us!

C Walter Mattingly
11 years 11 months ago
Professor Hinze,
Thank you for the clarification of the special connotation of "cultic" as communicating liturgy in theological jargon rather than the common understanding of the word.  And thank you for the article and adumbration of it above.
Sue Foley-Currie
11 years 11 months ago

Thankyou Archbishop Sartain and Professor Hinze

The puzzle also may be - are we in a period of several hundred years when new "re-form" is taking place in the Roman Catholic Church with all the tensions that have gone on throughout history? As we well know - re-form or reform of a religious insitution i.e., Roman Catholic has resulted over the centuries - resulting in many Protestant denominations being formed due to the conservative elements in the RC not wishing such reforms. And sadly the groupings - conservative and liberal - have had various debates that often resulted in one group having to leave the Church - usually the liberal grouping (s). In fact many fled to the New World (eventually the US). The sad part of history - is that innocent and faithful persons did get hurt, lost their property, employment, and worst yet - their lives (in rather horrible ways)

The old line that women should not be priests has a long history in the RC since the 4th century. What is not widely known is that the Vatican at present has a Cardinal in Britain lobbying - to prevent Anglicans who are ordained women priests from becoming Bishops! The reason given is that it would weaken intefaith dialogue and relations - however one assumes that it is really fear that more women Bishops in other denominations around the world - might start Catholics lobbying the Vatican for the same.

And thankyou to the editors for publishing such a fine article.

11 years 11 months ago
I think many priests and nuns believe that ALL of the educated and good practicing Catholic women are FEMINISTS.  This is not the case.   I never was or needed  to be a feminist.   I have been treated well by men as I was growing up  and do not feel in the least bit inferior.  I am tired of some Catholic newpapers (NCR) that do not respect us women who do not need the feminist agenda and who believe that Motherhood, spiritual like my early nuns were,  or physical like I am as  mother of  several children ,  is a women's greatest raison d'etre and greatest glory in life.     It is not the no. of Phd"s that you have or the amount of money you make.      I have a Phd in the school of life.           Thank you for your time in reading this,   Sicerely,   Marilyn Sherry

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