WASHINGTON—The Vatican Congregationfor the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has called for reform of the LeadershipConference of Women Religious (LCWR) and named Archbishop Peter Sartain ofSeattle as its Archbishop Delegate for the initiative.Bishop Leonard Blair and Bishop Thomas JohnPaprocki also were also named to assist in this effort.
TheCDF outlined the call in a “Doctrinal Assessment of the Leadership Conferenceof Women Religious” (https://www.usccb.org/loader.cfm?csModule=security/getfile"&pageid=55544),released April 18. The document outlines findings of the 2008 CDF-initiateddoctrinal 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, aswell as a subsequent report from Bishop Blair in 2010.A statement by Cardinal WilliamLevada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is alsoavailable at https://www.usccb.org/loader.cfm?csModule=security/getfile"&pageid=55673
The2010 report included “documentation on the content of LCWR’s Mentoring Leadership Manual and also onthe organizations associated with the LCWR, namely Network andthe Resource Center for Religious Institutes,”CDF said. Network is a social justice lobby founded by nuns. The ResourceCenter provides religious orders with legal and financial advice.
The Archbishop Delegate’s roleis to provide “review, guidance and approval, where necessary, of the work ofthe LCWR,” the CDF document said.
The mandate for the Delegate “willbe for a period of up to five years, as deemed necessary,” the document said. Itcalls for additional advisers – bishops, women religious and other experts –“to work with the leadership of the LCWR to achieve the goals necessary toaddress the problems outlined in this statement.”It also asked for a formal link between the Delegateand the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
“It will be the task of theArchbishop Delegate to work collaboratively with the officers of the LCWR toachieve the goals outlined in this document, and to report on the progress of thisto the Holy See …. In this way, the Holy See hopes to offer an importantcontribution to the future of religious life in the Church in the United States,”the CDF document said.
CDF said Pope Benedict XVI approved CDF’staking action January 14, 2011, two days after a regular session of the CDFdecided that “the current doctrinal and pastoral situation of LCWR is grave anda matter of serious concern, also given the influence the LCWR exercises onreligious Congregations in other parts of the world.” CDF also recommend that afterthe Apostolic Visitation of Religious Communities of Women in the UnitedStates, the final report of which was submitted to the Holy See in December2011, “The Holy See should intervene, with the prudent steps necessary toeffect reform of the LCWR.” It also said CDF would “examine the various formsof canonical intervention for the resolution of the problematic aspects presentin the LCWR.”
The mandate for the Delegateincludes:
·Revision of LCWR statutes
·Review of LCWR plans and programs, including itsGeneral Assemblies
·Creation of programs for LCWR member congregationsin initial and on-going formation
·Review LCWR’s application of liturgical normsand texts
·Review of LCWR affiliation with Network and theResources Center for Religious Life.
Thedoctrinal assessment criticized positions espoused at LCWR annual assemblies andin its literature as well as the absence of support from LCWR for Churchteaching on women’s ordination and homosexuality.
CDF said that the documentation “revealsthat, while there has been a great deal of work on the part of LCWR promotingissues of social justice in harmony with the Church’s social doctrine, it issilent on the right to life from conception to natural death, a question thatis part of the lively public debate about abortion and euthanasia in the UnitedStates.Further, issues of crucialimportance in the life of the Church and society, such as the Church’s Biblicalview of family life and human sexuality, are not part of the LCWR agenda in away that promotes Church teaching. Moreover, occasional public statements bythe LCWR that disagree with or challenge positions taken by the Bishops, whoare the Church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals, are not compatiblewith its purpose.”
The CDF document said “the Holy Seeacknowledges with gratitude the great contributions of women Religious to theChurch 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 byReligious over the years.” It said CDF “does not intend to offer judgment onthe faith and life of Women Religious in the member congregations which belongto the conference.”
Nevertheless, CDF said, “TheAssessment reveals serious doctrinal problems which affect many in Consecratedlife,” calling it a crisis “characterized by a diminution of the fundamental Christologicalcenter and focus of religious consecration.”
Thedocument listed the principal findings of the LCWR doctrinal assessment.
OnLCWR annual assemblies, it said, “The talks, while not scholarly theologicaldiscourses per se, do havesignificant doctrinal and moral content with implications which oftencontradict or ignore magisterial teaching.”
Onformation of religious superiors and formators, the CDF said, “Many of thematerials prepared by the LCWR for these purposes (Occasional Papers, Systems
ThinkingHandbook) do not have a sufficient doctrinal foundation. These materialsrecommend strategies for dialogue, for example when sisters disagree aboutbasic matters of Catholic faith or moral practice, but it is not clear whetherthis dialogue is directed towards reception of Church teaching.”
ArchbishopSartain 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 largenumber of congregations.For most ofthose congregations, the LCWR plays an important role of support,communication, and collaboration, a role valued by the sisters and theircongregational leadership.I am honoredthat the CDF has entrusted this important and sensitive work to me, because theministry of religious sisters, especially here in the United States, is deeplyrespected and paramount to the mission of the Church.Just as the LCWR can be a vital resource inmany ways for its members, I hope to be of service to them and to the Holy Seeas we face areas of concern to all.”
Keywords: Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, CDF,Leadership Conference of Women Religious, LCWR, Archbishop Peter Sartain,Bishop Leonard Blair, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki, “Doctrinal Assessment of theLeadership Conference of Women Religious, “Mentoring Leadership Manual,”Network, Resource Center for Religious Institutes,”United States Conference of Catholic Bishops,USCCB, Pope Benedict XVI, women’s ordination, homosexuality, women religious.
# # # # #MEDIA CONTACT ONLY:Sr. Mary Ann WalshO: 202-541-3200M: 301-325-7935Email
The best of the USCCB,
right in your inbox
Sign Up for Our Email Newsletter