The National Catholic Review

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, after an historic meeting this week in St. Louis, in response to the Vatican's Doctrinal Assessment, has issued an official press release outlining their response: 

The members charged the LCWR officers with beginning a conversation with Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, the apostolic delegate appointed by the CDF to oversee LCWR.  Their expectation is that open and honest dialogue may lead not only to increasing understanding between the church leadership and women religious, but also to creating more possibilities for the laity, and particularly for women, to have a voice in the church. 

The assembly articulated its belief that religious life, as it is lived by the women religious who comprise LCWR, is an authentic expression of this life that must not be compromised. The theology, ecclesiology, and spirituality of the Second Vatican Council serve as the foundation of this form of religious life – and while those who live it must always be open to conversion – this life form should not  be discounted.

The assembly instructed the LCWR officers to conduct their conversation with Archbishop Sartain from a stance of deep prayer that values mutual respect, careful listening and open dialogue.  The officers will proceed with these discussions as long as possible, but will reconsider if LCWR is forced to compromise the integrity of its mission. 

Update: Archbishop Sartain's response has just been posted here.

Read the full statement here.

James Martin, SJ

Comments

Stephen Morrison | 8/14/2012 - 2:00pm
Hmmm, interesting comments. Most have decided to forget just what started this whole thing. It did not start in St. Louis for sure, the response from the Bishops is just one more stepping stone of repression that the Vatican has taken on the American Sisters , at least for the last thirty years. Whether it be the disgraceful response to Sister E. Johnson's writings, totally taken out of context, and their failure to even meet or discuss with her before sending out the second letter of condemnation. Or maybe it was because the Nuns stood up for the Affordable Health Care Act? All I can see is that the Sisters have acted with dignity and grace, which seems to be lacking on the other side. "The assembly instructed the LCWR officers to conduct their conversation with Archbishop Sartain from a stance of deep prayer that values mutual respect, careful listening and open dialogue".  Maybe the "butler" did it??( Washington Post yesterday) Stolen letters that point to corruption at the Vatican?? Say it could not be so ! And now just this morning reported in the Portland Oregon news, priest arrested for child sex abuse. Where should the Bishops be focusing their efforts to make the Church better? I await that answer.
signed
a big fan of Sister Johnson & Father Jim
Alfred Chavez | 8/14/2012 - 12:35pm
After 9/11, a lot of us, not wanting to cut off dialog with Muslims who were peaceful at their core, wondered why moderate Muslim voices did not explicitly speak out against the actions of intolerant radical Muslims.  In time those voices were heard and we now know of their struggle to counter the prejudice directed at them.

Similarly, why can't the members of the LCWR make clear statements about the issues the Vatican is concerned about?  And if they can't, where are the moderate and faithful sisters who can assure us that they haven't taken a course that is inimical to basic Church teachings like those on gay sex and abortion?
Amy Ho-Ohn | 8/12/2012 - 12:17pm
A very prudent, judicious non-hysterical statement from Archbish Sartain in response. There is reason to hope the whole thing may be settled amicably with a few cosmetic changes and a few joint press conferences. The not-much-lamented departure of the blundering Cardinal Levada and the eagerly-awaited retirement of the infamous Cardinal Law may be quite helpful.
C Walter Mattingly | 8/12/2012 - 6:53am
Here the LCWR commits to enter into dialogue for as long as such dialogue does not "compromise the integrity of its mission."

Therein lies the rub, the challenge. What is its mission? Some members of the LCWR participate in the DC March for Life; others promote elective abortions and accompany women to the abortion centers for the purpose of elective abortions. This is an issue which calls to mind the incident from King Solomon and the baby: you can't split the issue. It's a complex issue, but it is also a life or death choice. On the question of gay marriage, the words of Christ couldn't be much clearer. Does the LCWR intend to follow or circumvent them? 

Is the mission to serve Christ and His church? Or, as some of its members have already determined, to move on to a "post-Christian" society?  
Kevin Murphy | 8/11/2012 - 3:19pm
Whatever doubts I had that the LCWR has completely gone off the rails is dispelled by this statement and from reading accounts of their Saint Louis assembly.

How can someone not be disturbed by any statement, let alone one by a Roman Catholic organization, that cites Barbara Marx Hubbard as its intellectual/spiritual muse. I encourage you to read Rod Dreher's column (http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/i-miss-the-old-left-at-prayer/) concerning the LCWR's assembly and Ms. Hubbard. Even if you don't accept Dreher's conclusions, read her words and watch the YouTube video via the links; make up your own mind. I fervently pray that at least a few Sisters were looking for the door when, as described by the New York Times, Ms. Hubbard was "escorted to the podium by seven liturgical dancers waving diaphanous scarves of pink and tangerine." The LCWR could have drawn on the rich intellectual/spiritual tradition of Theresa, Therese or Clare for guidance and inspiration, but chose a silly New Age guru as its "go-to-guy" as they move on with their "life that must not be compromised." Add to this the fact that the LCWR is also seeking encouragement from the editorial staff of the National Catholic Reporter in the persons of Thomas Fox and Jamie Manson, two individuals and a publication openly hostile - at times venomously so - to the Vatican, and you can see that this whole episode will not end well. The Vatican will never accept the LCWR's version of Catholicism (and it shouldn't) and the LCWR, if they continue down this path, will surely disappear.
Gerelyn Hollingsworth | 8/11/2012 - 12:21pm
A perfect response from the LCWR.

 I have a suggestion for the Sisters:  Put your congregational histories on Kindle.  They are extremely interesting, and many (most?) Catholics are unaware of what really went on.

Here's one tiny quotation from one order's history:  ''On July 8, 1852, a wagon carrying Sisters and luggage drew up before St. Vincent's Priory, Latrobe, Pennsylvania, among the Allegheny hills, and a lay brother noticing it announced:  'Father Superior, here comes a wagonload of trouble.'''

(That's from The Meaning of the Mountain:  A History of the First Century at Mount St. Scholastica, by Sister Mary Faith Schuster, O.S.B., 1963.  It was their centennial history, and that quotation was about the Erie congregation from which the Atchison community descended.)

Formatting for Kindle is easy, and publishing your e-books on Amazon is free.  The convent histories are available in divinity libraries at Catholic universities, but are very hard (and very expensive) to obtain for those without access to such sources. 

The histories are fascinating.  I like reading all the histories of one congregation in order of publication to see how details frankly discussed in the 1900 edition may be suppressed or downplayed in the 1930 edition and omitted from the 1960 edition.  Etc.  Readers will draw their own conclusions about why this was done.

You've given SO MUCH to American Catholics.   Now give them these wonderful books, so that they may understand just how much and at what cost. 

Love from,


Gerelyn

Jeanne Linconnue | 8/11/2012 - 10:31am
Ken, I wouldn't be surprised if Levada's successor doesn't just quietly let the whole thing die, covering it up with some kind of Vaticanese that they are deeply involved in ''dialogue'' and ''discernment'' and would not make any more public statements until...... or some other such say-nothing but sound-good approach, and that will be the end of it - at least that is what he will do if he has half a brain. He may be another clone of his boss, but he seems to have at least a few diplomatic skills and he has got to realize what a total PR disaster this whole vendetta against the LCWR has been.
Amy Ho-Ohn | 8/15/2012 - 11:27am
@Fred Keyes, Many LCWR sisters, including Sister Keehan, have spoken out against abortion. The assertion that LCWR is pro-abortion is a damned lie, as anybody who knows any sister in any of the orders can tell you.

They do not generally speak out about gay sex because it is unseemly for a religious woman to talk about subjects like that. They don't have a lot to say about the donkey show in Juarez either, but it's not because they approve of it.
KEN LOVASIK | 8/11/2012 - 9:39am
I have only great admiration for the Sisters of the NCWR.  Their measured response is what I have come to expect from American Religious Women:  contemplative, prayerful, nuanced, truthful, open ... and yet without fear of what lies ahead.  After he met with two Sisters from the NCWR in the Spring, Cardinal Levada allegedly referred to the encounter as a "dialogue with the deaf".  In my opinion, that statement says more about Cardinal Levada than it does about the Sisters.  I hope and pray that his successor in the CDF will be open enough to engage in a real dialogue, because more is at stake than just the Sisters' welfare:  they speak for the whole Church throughout the world, especially for those in the Church who have no voice.
David Pasinski | 8/11/2012 - 9:28am
Courage, integrity, humility, respectfulness, openness, and faith... good for the LCWR. "Dialogue" is unfortunately a concept little practiced in the hierarchy. They are not used to it and, as men, not conditioned for it (if we take the research of Deborah  Tannen and other seriously and even the pop psychology of John Gray). Linguists and translators are needed for this and I doubt the hierarchy is disposed towards that.