Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Holy See orders "renewal" for LCWR

[Post updated with links at the bottom, and may add more as they become available.  Post title was also changed after reading that this action is not originating from the visitation, but to the doctrinal assessment which was also announced around the time of the visitation.  Update 2: I have a new post out which is more extensive - here].

No surprises here for me, other than the fact that the news was released today that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has ordered a "renewal" for the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) in the wake of the 2009 announcement that it was being investigated (See also, an excellent overview of the visitation of religious orders for women by Ann Carey at Catholic Culture).

While it is tempting to crack jokes about this, the most God-pleasing thing we can do is to pray for those involved.  Things have really been messed up the last 50 years. While there were people who took a lead in doing the messing, there are others who got pulled along, thinking they were doing the right things.  In your compassion, pray!

I once heard an interesting story from a religious sister who attended an annual diocesan meeting of superiors.  Sister was from an order that is part of the newer,  more traditional, Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR).  She had excellent formation in the fundamentals of religious life.  At the meeting, the bishop gave a talk on some of those fundamentals.  A sister sitting next to her, whose community was from the LCWR, expressed amazement and enthusiasm for what she learned that day.  The sister from the more traditional order conveyed a sense of sorrow for the fact that this woman, who had been a religious for some years, had been cheated out of this formation.

With God, all things are possible.  Please pray that the sisters will be open to the workings of the Holy Spirit.  With the average age of sisters in the LCWR pretty much running in the senior range versus the CMSWR's younger average age, they need to open themselves to this renewal or they will simply cease to exist, as communities, at some point in the future (poke around those two sites and look at the contrast, especially with respect to age).  It's obvious looking at where vocations are spiking that the Holy Spirit is driving the bus among many CMSWR communities.  In the meanwhile, LCWR communities are aging, merging, and phasing out altogether, even though 85% of religious communities in the US are represented by them.

The effort will be led by Bishop Peter Sartain of Seattle.

Here is the full text of the press release.  Follow the embedded  links for the actual meat and potatoes (my notes in Red).  I gotta tell you folks, if I could have a glass of wine right now, I would.  My mind is having a hard time grasping the fact that, after 50 years, someone finally hit one of the nails on the head.

Vatican Names Archbishop Sartain To Lead Renewal Of LCWR

April 18, 2012
Critiques doctrinal aspects of LCWR assemblies, publications
Faults work with Network social justice lobby, financial, legal Resource Center
Calls for advisory group of bishops, sisters and other experts to assist in renewal
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” (, 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. [Note: The link provided takes you to an 8-page PDF with details - so do read it]
A statement by Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is also available at
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.
The mandate for the Delegate “will be for a period of up to five years, as deemed necessary,” the document said. It calls for additional advisers – bishops, women religious and other experts – “to work with the leadership of the LCWR to achieve the goals necessary to address the problems outlined in this statement.”It also asked for a formal link between the Delegate and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
“It will be the task of the Archbishop Delegate to work collaboratively with the officers of the LCWR to achieve the goals outlined in this document, and to report on the progress of this to the Holy See …. In this way, the Holy See hopes to offer an important contribution to the future of religious life in the Church in the United States,” the CDF document said.
CDF said Pope Benedict XVI approved CDF’s taking action January 14, 2011, two days after a regular session of the CDF decided that “the current doctrinal and pastoral situation of LCWR is grave and a matter of serious concern, also given the influence the LCWR exercises on religious Congregations in other parts of the world.” CDF also recommend that after the Apostolic Visitation of Religious Communities of Women in the United States, the final report of which was submitted to the Holy See in December 2011, “The Holy See should intervene, with the prudent steps necessary to effect reform of the LCWR.” It also said CDF would “examine the various forms of canonical intervention for the resolution of the problematic aspects present in the LCWR.”
The mandate for the Delegate includes:
·Revision of LCWR statutes
·Review of LCWR plans and programs, including its General Assemblies
·Creation of programs for LCWR member congregations in initial and on-going formation
·Review LCWR’s application of liturgical norms and texts
·Review of LCWR affiliation with Network and the Resources Center for Religious Life.
The doctrinal assessment criticized positions espoused at LCWR annual assemblies and in its literature as well as the absence of support from LCWR for Church teaching on women’s ordination and homosexuality.
[READ THIS PART CAREFULLY] CDF said that the documentation “reveals that, while there has been a great deal of work on the part of LCWR promoting issues of social justice in harmony with the Church’s social doctrine, it is silent on the right to life from conception to natural death, a question that is part of the lively public debate about abortion and euthanasia in the United States.Further, issues of crucial importance in the life of the Church and society, such as the Church’s Biblical view of family life and human sexuality, are not part of the LCWR agenda in a way that promotes Church teaching. Moreover, occasional public statements by the LCWR that disagree with or challenge positions taken by the Bishops, who are the Church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals, are not compatible with its purpose.” [I have so much gratitude that someone with authority has finally called them out on this.  It's really too bad that the USCCB itself didn't do this based on what was readily available, and on the web, in their materials, etc.  However, it is much better that it came from the CDF because if it was spreading to other countries, bishops in those countries may be prompted to take care of business rather than letting it get away from them]
The CDF document said “the Holy See acknowledges with gratitude the great contributions of women Religious to the Church in the United States as seen particularly in the many schools, hospitals, and institutions of support for the poor which have been founded and staffed by Religious over the years.” It said CDF “does not intend to offer judgment on the faith and life of Women Religious in the member congregations which belong to the conference.”
Nevertheless, CDF said, “The Assessment reveals serious doctrinal problems which affect many in Consecrated life,” calling it a crisis “characterized by a diminution of the fundamental Christological center and focus of religious consecration.” [It's a crisis alright, and one that is leading to a dying out of their religious orders]
The document listed the principal findings of the LCWR doctrinal assessment.
On LCWR annual assemblies, it said, “The talks, while not scholarly theological discourses per se, do have significant doctrinal and moral content with implications which often contradict or ignore magisterial teaching.”
On formation of religious superiors and formators, the CDF said, “Many of the materials prepared by the LCWR for these purposes (Occasional Papers, Systems
Thinking Handbook) do not have a sufficient doctrinal foundation.[!!!] These materials recommend strategies for dialogue, for example when sisters disagree about basic matters of Catholic faith or moral practice, but it is not clear whether this dialogue is directed towards reception of Church teaching.”
Archbishop Sartain acknowledged the significance of the CDF assignment.
“In the four dioceses I have served, I have had the privilege of working with many women religious from a large number of congregations.For most of those congregations, the LCWR plays an important role of support, communication, and collaboration, a role valued by the sisters and their congregational leadership.I am honored that the CDF has entrusted this important and sensitive work to me, because the ministry of religious sisters, especially here in the United States, is deeply respected and paramount to the mission of the Church.Just as the LCWR can be a vital resource in many ways for its members, I hope to be of service to them and to the Holy See as we face areas of concern to all.”


FURTHER READING (This list will be updated later with more links):

Not a surprise here, either... there be public rebellion in the publishing arm of the LCWR National Catholic Reporter, as Father Z points out...

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