Friday, June 1, 2012

Surprise! Not! LCWR says Vatican critique is 'unsubstantiated'

Past LCWR-President, Sr. Joan Chittester (left) and Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle (right)

From Catholic World News:

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) has a Vatican call for reform of their group, saying that it has “caused scandal and pain throughout the church community, and caused greater polarization.”   

After a 3-day meeting in Washington, the national board of the LCWR issued a stinging reply to a Vatican investigation of the group’s activities. The board said that the report was “based on unsubstantiated accusations and the result of a flawed process that lacked transparency.”

The LCWR, an umbrella group that represents most of the women’s religious orders in the US, was the subject of a Vatican investigation that found “serious doctrinal problems which affect many in consecrated life.” The investigation, which reported widespread departures from fundamental Catholic teachings, prompted an April announcement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) that a thorough reform of the group was needed, and Seattle’s Archbishop Peter Sartain had been appointed to supervise that process.


Let's revisit three bulleted items in the doctrinal assessment itself:

  • Addresses at the LCWR Assemblies. Addresses given during LCWR annual Assemblies manifest problematic statements and serious theological, even doctrinal errors. The Cardinal offered as an example specific passages of Sr. Laurie Brink’s address about some Religious “moving beyond the Church” or even beyond Jesus. This is a challenge not only to core Catholic beliefs; such a rejection of faith is also a serious source of scandal and is incompatible with religious life. Such unacceptable positions routinely go unchallenged by the LCWR, which should provide resources for member Congregations to foster an ecclesial vision of religious life, thus helping to correct an erroneous vision of the Catholic faith as an important exercise of charity. Some might see in Sr. Brink’s analysis a phenomenological snapshot of religious life today. But Pastors of the Church should also see in it a cry for help.

  • Policies of Corporate Dissent. The Cardinal spoke of this issue in reference to letters the CDF received from “Leadership Teams” of various Congregations, among them LCWR Officers, protesting the Holy See’s actions regarding the question of women’s ordination and of a correct pastoral approach to ministry to homosexual persons, e.g. letters about New Ways Ministry’s conferences. The terms of the letters suggest that these sisters collectively take a position not in agreement with the Church’s teaching on human sexuality. It is a serious matter when these Leadership Teams are not providing effective leadership and example to their communities, but place themselves outside the Church’s teaching.

  • Radical Feminism. The Cardinal noted a prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith in some of the programs and presentations sponsored by the LCWR, including theological interpretations that risk distorting faith in Jesus and his loving Father who sent his Son for the salvation of the world. Moreover, some commentaries on “patriarchy” distort the way in which Jesus has structured sacramental life in the Church; others even undermine the revealed doctrines of the Holy Trinity, the divinity of Christ, and the inspiration of Sacred Scripture.

  • Continuing with the Catholic World News report:

    Sister Pat Farrell, the LCWR president, told reporters that the group’s board had met in a mood of “deep, deep sadness” because of the Vatican’s stand. She said that the LCWR would not issue a full response to the Vatican’s investigation until after meeting with members during the summer and convening a national convention in August.

    Among the options that the LCWR could consider is a proposal that the group might abandon its current canonical status and become an entirely independent group. That independence would enable the LCWR to escape Vatican oversight. The June 1 statement from the national board did not address that possibility.

    Here, again is the link to the report at Catholic World News.  There is more offered at the bottom, including a tall stack of links.

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