Monday, April 23, 2012

The LCWR Memory Lane; and One Sister's Interesting Take on the Assessment

Many headlines on the Holy See's Doctrinal Assessment of the LCWR are trying to make this into, "Big, Bad, Misogynist Church Hierarchy Pick on Nuns Who Care for Needy." Some are going so far as to suggest that this is a "political" move by the Church ahead of the election.

Go read Father Z's post: Nuns gone wild: A Trip Down Memory Lane. 

Also, if you have only seen press reports about the Doctrinal Assessment, it's only 8 pages so go read it rather than rely on hype in the secular press and dissenting catholic websites and blogs. It acknowledges the good contributions of the sisters which are in harmony with Church teaching, such as serving the poor.  You will also see a lot more of the doctrinal concerns outlined.  When the Divinity of Christ is challenged, the institution of the Church (which Christ established)

I'll use my example again to illustrate what is happening: If someone serves the poor 25 hours per day, teaches others that there are four persons in the Trinity, the Holy See cannot neglect to bring about correction because of the charitable works.  Anyone reading the full 8-page assessment, who persists in saying this is politically-based, is engaging in intellectual dishonesty.

I came across another blogpost written last Friday by Sr. Anne who writes at Nun Blog. Like Father Z, Sr. Ann recounts the infamous story of Sr. Theresa Kane confronting Pope John Paul II about women's "ordination" when he came in 1979.   She explains how this impacted her (emphasis mine in bold; my comments in red)

The Daughters of St. Paul belong to this organization, as well as to the other, also official, organization of sisters. The news got many people talking: some triumphantly ("Finally they are calling those wacky nuns into line!"); others in hurt ("Don't they see the good we are so committed to?"); others in anger ("Those patriarchal male hierarchs have to do something to hold onto their power, and putting women down is the easiest way to do it.") 

Me? None of the above. ("Meh" comes kind of close, though.)

I first became aware of the LCWR when I was a junior sister, during the first visit of Pope John Paul II in 1979. The President of the sisters' group, Sister Theresa Kane, did a good job of alienating me from the organization and its goals when she, in her capacity as the official representative of all the women religious of the United States, took the occasion to make a public call for women's ordination [I was a teen watching that unfold on TV and was horrified]. That pretty much sums up the disconnect I have always felt with the LCWR as an individual, even though the organization does offer a number of extremely valuable, indeed precious, services to the member institutes [I'm not sure what kind of services they get at LCWR they cannot get at CMSWR, the other council which is not doctrinally disoriented]. They never managed to speak for me. [Amen! And, this attitude mirrors what Fr. Philip Powell, OP stated in his post regarding the experience he has had with Religious whose communities are part of the LCWR]

I also do not empathize with the interpretation that this is some kind of power play on the part of the Vatican or the bishops [Right on, Sister!]. Really, if you were a bishop today, would you be the one to suggest, "Oh, while we're trying to get people to pay attention to the threats to religious freedom, support families founded on marriage and preserve our social apostolates, let's confront the most powerful women in the Church and put them in their place!" [Well put! And, like I said above, it is intellectually dishonest to do so, if you read the 8-page assessment] In fact, if anything, I would suspect that they kept putting that last on every list they ever compiled. (Not that the bishops can control or direct congregations, or that religious orders' charisms are in any way subject to a bishop's whims, because the Holy Spirit rather typically uses charisms of religious life to surprise the Church by answering needs the hierarchy is usually unaware of.) Given that Sr Theresa's affront to Pope John Paul was in 1979, and that there have been not one, but two major interventions in religious life in America since that time (in 1984 and then last year with the Apostolic Visitation), a move to renew the LCWR is not all that surprising; it does not seem abrupt.[!!! - And many of us would say it is about 50 years late; but, better late than never]

Here is the link again, if you want to read her full post or comment there. Sr. Ann represents a number of Religious whose orders are members of the LCWR.  I'm wondering how many of these more reasonable communities will just shift over to the doctrinally sound CMSWR.
Sr. Miriam James Heidland, SOLT, whose order is not a member of LCWR, also offers some cogent thoughts.

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The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church; it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!
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