In case you missed it, on April 18 the Vatican’s Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith issued its “Doctrinal Assessment” following an investigation of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). The statement issued by the CDF highlighted three areas of concern:
- Addresses at LCWR assemblies that the CDF felt did not correspond to core Roman Catholic teachins, highlighting in particular an address by Sister Laurie Brink.
- Policies of “Corporate Dissent.” Here the CDF cited letters that leadership teams had written to the CDF concerning the Vatican’s approach to women’s ordination and ministering to gay, lesbian, transgendered community within the Church. It is very important to note that these letters were delivered privately asking questions – not public mobilizations or statements.
- Radical Feminism! Again, the CDF is noting themes in programs and assemblies that the CDF indicates are incompatible with Catholic faith. No specific examples are given.
In response to these concerns the Vatican placed LCWR under the authority of a representative of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops who will report to the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith for “up to five years.” The delegate will have the authority to approve of content at LCWR assemblies, revise LCWR statutes, review LCWR relationships with other organizations, and ensure proper practice of liturgy and Eucharist, among other items. The process is depicted as collaborative, but if that is the intention (we’re skeptical) the Vatican did not get off to a good start.
The leadership of LCWR was in Rome when the announcement came from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops via a press release on their website. They were not told in advance and were shocked. LCWR has not yet issued a formal response to the Vatican decision, and what leeway they have is not really clear according to Canon law experts. So much for collaboration.
A number of organizations have launched initiatives to allow people to express their support of LCWR. The Women’s Ordination Conference launched an online petition expressing support for LCWR. You can review and sign it here.
New Ways Ministries, one of the few organizations named in the inquiry, is encouraging people to write letters of support to the leadership of individual communities of women religious. You can track the details of that at New Ways’ blog, Bondings 2.0.
Finally a signature ad to appear in the National Catholic Reporter is being organized by a collection of individuals and groups, and will be sponsored by the Share Foundation. They are raising $2,700 to place the ad, and you can support them by going to www.share-elsalvador.org and following these instructions – donate (click on the orange “Donate ” tab in upper right hand corner; then click “donate on line;” scroll down, fill out the information, and click on program designation “Support Our Sisters/NCR Ad). Or send a check to SHARE. Make your check payable to: the SHARE Foundation/Stand with the Sisters. To sign your name or add an organization send an email to email@example.com
The best source of ongoing coverage and analysis we’ve seen is New Ways Ministry’s blog. Subscribe and keep up to date. You can also track the news at National Catholic Reporter’s page, Sisters Under Scrutiny