27 April 2012

The Holy See and the LCWR: What's really happening?

Writing in The Catholic World Report, Ann Carey has an excellent article in which she takes a look at The Church and the Sisters and asks What Is Really Happening?

Among her many clarifications of the erroneous media reports we find this one:
Additionally, the CDF document emphasizes that the initiative is addressed only to the LCWR, a 1,500-member organization to which many leaders of women’s religious orders belong. The initiative is not directed to the other 54,000 sisters in the United States who do not belong to the LCWR, though press reports have tended to confuse this point and characterize all sisters as members of the LCWR.

This is quite incorrect, and many sisters who are in LCWR-related orders have contacted this writer to emphasize that they have neither membership, voice or vote in the LCWR, and they do not appreciate being associated with the organization. In fact, many sisters in LCWR-related orders are quite pleased about the CDF action. As one such sister wrote in an e-mail: “I am so grateful to Pope Benedict and to all in Rome and in the USA who have contributed to this resolution. It has been a long nightmare and a severe cross for 40-plus years!”
There is also this little curiosity:
At its 1971 annual assembly, the LCWR changed its statutes, its purpose and its name without Vatican approval, thus beginning 40 years of conflict with the Vatican. The Vatican insisted on changes to the new bylaws, to acknowledge the authority of the bishops and the Holy See. The Vatican also took three years to approve the name change, and only then said the new name should be accompanied by a sentence giving the original name.
And this one:
The transformation of the superiors’ conference, which moved the organization away from Church authority and the traditional models of religious life to emphasize political, justice, and liberation issues, caused some sisters to leave the conference in the early 1970s and form their own small group of superiors. The Vatican tried for years to reconcile the women superiors, but finally concluded this was impossible, and canonically erected another group of women’s superiors in 1992, the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR) for superiors of orders that have retained a more traditional style of religious life and close ties with the institutional Church...  Even though CMSWR members represent fewer sisters, CMSWR communities are receiving the majority of new vocations and have an average age in the 30s, whereas the average age in LCWR-related communities is in the 70s.
And lest we forget that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was in dialuge with the Leadership Conference of Women Religious:
Thus, while the sisters might have been “stunned” by the contents of the document, they had no reason to be surprised that it was coming. Additionally, the LCWR had been given a “doctrinal warning” by the CDF in 2001 to correct doctrinal problems. When no progress had been made in seven years, the CDF told the LCWR in 2008 that it would undertake the doctrinal assessment. Thus, eleven years passed between the first warning and the issuance of the CDF directive.
Be sure to read the entire piece.

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