*At the conclusion of a 4-day annual assembly, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) issued a cautious statement expressing hopes that a Vatican mandate for reform of the group could find “a resolution of this situation that maintains the integrity of LCWR and is healthy for the whole church." …Ann Carey, the author of Sisters in Crisis, observed in a National Catholic Register report that the group has not taken any concrete action to address the Vatican’s concerns.*Story at Catholic Culture
Pride is a terrible curse.
“Once indeed We had hopes of recalling them to a better sense, and to this end we first of all showed them kindness as Our children, then we treated them with severity, and at last We have had recourse, though with great reluctance, to public reproof. But you know, Venerable Brethren, how fruitless has been Our action. They bowed their head for a moment, but it was soon uplifted more arrogantly than ever. If it were a matter which concerned them alone, We might perhaps have overlooked it: but the security of the Catholic name is at stake. Wherefore, as to maintain it longer would be a crime, We must now break silence, in order to expose before the whole Church in their true colours those men who have assumed this bad disguise.” - Pascendi Dominici Gregis, Encyclical of Saint Pope Pius X
Considering they have taken the vow of OBEDIENCE its worse, it has echoes of something else
“I will not obey” and these Orders are not getting vocations,
They go around with lipstick, make up, nice clothes, the hair in some cases are dyed, out and about in pictures, restaurants, holidays. And they wonder why they are not getting vocations, the only Order that are getting vocations are ones that don’t do any of the above, wear a full Habit, and have a regular prayer life. I have written a letter to the Holy Father about this very matter last week, so far no reply. They should all be reduced to Holy women of a Secular Order unless they obey what is being asked, why did they enter religious life - to do there own thing. My blood boils with them.
Letter of Pope John XXIII to Women Religious
Il Tempio Massimo
The Apostle St. Paul develops the concept of the humiliation of Jesus made obedient unto the death of the Cross". In order to follow better the Divine Master you have joined Him with the vow and promise of obedience.
This constant sacrifice of your “ego,” this annihilation of self can cost much, but it is also true that herein lies the victory, for heavenly graces correspond to this spiritual crucifixion for you and for all humanity.
The Teaching of the Church on the inalienable rights of the human person is clear and precise. The special gifts of every man must be free to be duly developed in order that each may correspond to the gifts received from God. All this is acquired.
But, if one passes from the respect of the person to the exaltation of the personality and to the affirmation of personalism, the dangers become serious. May the words of Pius XII in the exhortation, Menti Nostrae, be of valuable direction also for you:
“In an age like ours, in which the principle of authority is grievously disturbed, it is absolutely necessary that the priest, keeping the precepts of faith firmly in mind, should consider and duly accept this same authority, not only as the bulwark of the social and religious order, but also as the foundation of his personal sanctification”.
Here We address Ourself to those who have duties of direction and responsibility.
Demand a most generous obedience to the rules, but also be understanding of your fellow Sisters. Favor in each of them the development of natural aptitudes. The office of superiors is to make obedience sweet and not to obtain an exterior respect, still less to impose unbearable burdens.
Beloved daughters, We exhort all of you, live according to the spirit of this virtue, which is nourished by deep humility, by absolute disinterestedness and by complete detachment. When obedience has become the program of one’s whole life, one can understand the words of St. Catherine of Siena: “How sweet and glorious is this virtue in which all the other virtues are contained! Oh, obedience, you navigate without effort or danger and reach port safely! You conform to the only-begotten Word . . . you mount the ship of the most holy Cross to sustain the obedience of the Word, to not transgress it or depart from its teachings . . . you are great in unfailing perseverance, and so great is your strength from heaven to earth that you open heaven’s gates”
I do hope something comes of this, and I hope it doesn’t take another fifty years. I empathize with those poor women who are good and who do obey and who do genuinely follow the teaching of the Church, and I feel badly for them that they have to endure their misguided superiors (if in fact their superiors are misguided).
I think the reform train left the station a long time ago. Having read some of the history of the LCWR and its dominant personalities, I think the scandal of this organization and its leadership can be cured only by “tincture of time”.
The average age of their orders is over 70. They’re not getting new recruits, and some even admit they don’t want any. What I suspect will happen is that some of the more rebellious “religious orders” are going to turn themselves into secular left-wing foundations, utilizing the assets faithful donors gave them long ago to carry out works they no longer do. Some have already done that. Some have transferred assets to subsidiary organizations only they control.
There are some of the older orders that remain faithful to the Church, and some of them are even growing. Some of the new orders, which wear habits, have community life, prayer life and definite ministries, are growing a lot.
But unfortunately, LCWR represents most of the sisters in the U.S., or seems to, and we’re only a decade or two away from their complete disappearance as religious orders. As near as I can tell, they know it, and don’t care, because they are actually political. They’ll “discern” endlessly, claim to want to “dialogue” endlessly, and not reform a thing.
This is so true.
I don’t know why they are so patient with them. At a certain point, enough talking has been completed. Drop the hammer.
And here’s the thing about discipline. It only takes disciplining a few bad apples, to get the rest of them back into line.
It may simply be that the Church has decided to keep them talking until God settles it with the passage of time and the limits of human life. The more energy and time LCWR spends on “dialoguing” with the Church (even though they’ll never agree) the less energy and time they have to spend on undercutting the Church.
Many of those LCWR women are in total rebellion, but keep up the pretense of being “part of the Church” because it serves their purposes to be thought of as a religious organization rather than as a political one. It’s possible the Church just thinks that keeping the talk going is better than them specifically announcing that because of “patriarchy” and “hierarchy” and “old ways” they so abhor, they are now Episcopalian or officially “Womanchurch” or some New Age thing that’s even worse.
Within some of those orders there are undoubtedly some women who actually are as faithful to the Church as their limited access to information and their leaders will allow them to be. Might be some salvage there in time.
One has to be very careful here, because there are too many people commenting on something that does not concern them and to which we have no right to know what’s happening. What’s going to happen is what has happened with the Franciscans of the Immaculate. Someone in authority is going to get very angry and tell the rest of us to mind our own business and to shut up. Just read the message from the superiors of the Franciscans of the Immaculate. I can see this coming from a bishop or the LCWR itself.
We (I include me) who are superiors and bishops are masters at ambiguity when we want to be. The usual language when you don’t want to share what has been discussed in private is:
It was a good meeting.
The talks are going well.
We’re exploring all options.
We’re looking for the good for everyone involved and the Church.
The discussions have been cordial and warm.
Another clarification must be made here. There are three degrees of obedience. Before we go unjustly accusing anyone of disobedience, we must know the theology behind obedience.
There is the **promise of obedience **that a diocesan deacon and priest makes to his bishop. It only binds him in pastoral matters, not personal matters or matters of conscience. It’s a promise, not a vow. It carries not penalty of sin.
There is the simple vow of obedience that sisters and most male religious make. This vow binds the person to obey the constitutions of his religious community and the pope, ONLY when the pope invokes the vow. He must explicitly say, "I order you, under holy obedience, to . . . " This is why it’s called a simple vow. It carries the same moral gravity as the disobedience that would apply to a layman who disobeys his bishop or a child who disobeys his parent. In other words, the gravity is proportionate to the seriousness of the command.
There is the solemn vow of obedience. Only monks, friars and cloistered nuns are allowed to make this vow obedience. This vow applies to the rule of the founder. The constitutions of the community. The decisions of the community when they are made in a chapter, a direct order from the pope. Superiors can only invoke the vow of obedience if
a) the matter is grave
b) there have been at least three verbal requests for obedience and one written request
c) the founder gives him the right to do so
Bishops have no claim on the obedience of any religious, unless the founder wrote it into his rule as is the case with the Franciscans. I believe that Francis was the only founder who gave bishops that kind of authority. However, the Council of Trent took it away from them. Bishops may never command obedience from religious, only from their diocesan clergy and from the laity.
Until the pope says that the LCWR must do this and he invokes the vow of obedience, there is a lot of room for discussion and disagreement between the LCWR and Rome.
Finally, one must remember that there are only two people who have a right to know exactly what is happening between the leadership of the LCWR and the bishop. These are Pope Francis and Archbishop Mueller of the CDF.
The rest of us have no right to know. Neither the sisters nor the Church have any moral obligation to say more than they are saying, which is all very diplomatic answers. The writer of the article, like all “good” journalists, is filling in paper.
The truth is that no one knows what’s happening and what’s coming next. Those who need to know are not willing to share what they know.
It is very premature to accuse anyone of disobedience. Please remember that the conditions for disobedience must be met. The women religious in the LCWR are all in simple vows. Only that criteria applies to them, not other.
Not doctrinally, through, correct, when pertaining to settled dogmas, such as the necessity of a male for the priesthood, the eternity of God, the redemptive sacrifice of Christ, etc…? This matter is a “doctrinal assessment,” is it not?
This is exactly what I think the CDF is doing too, well said
Fortunately, the Catholic Church is not as cruel as are her members. She does not employ such underhanded tactics, especially with consecrated women. The Holy See still has a strong sense of respect for the consecrated religious, even if the laity has thrown its sense of respect out the window.
The issues are doctrinal but what the CDF asked the LCWR (alphabet soup) asked them to do was to “reinvent” their organization. This is not a doctrinal command. The command was given because of doctrinal discrepancies.
However, there is a problem here that the CDF has been made aware of by the Franciscan Major Superiors. There is a law that requires a council made up of bishops and religious with one religious more than bishops. Before the CDF issues any mandate to religious, it must convene such a council. And only when the council cannot resolve the problem, can the CDF take the step that it took. The CDF skipped the council.
I don’t believe that it was done maliciously at all. The people in the CDF are not that kind of people. They are good honest men. It was truly an oversight. Once the mandate was given, it was too late to go back and say, “Let’s hold a council to determine if the LCWR’s leadership needs to reinvent itself or if it can fix its problems without going that far.”
By that point, the best thing to do was for the CDF to accept the scolding that it had to take from the Franciscan Council of Major Superiors of Men.
Then there was another blooper. The CDF did not inform the Sacred Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life that it was issuing a mandate to the LCWR. The Sacred Congregation for Religious thought that the CDF was looking at the doctrinal issues, not the organizational issues. Any organizational issues pertaining to religious life fall under the jurisdiction of the Sacred Congregation for Religious, which is part of the Holy See.
The Council of Franciscan Major Superiors of Men, asked the International Council of Major Superiors for clarification. The International Council of Major Superiors, is headed by a Jesuit and a Franciscan, president and vice president respectively. It is an agency of the Holy See under the Sacred Congregation for Religious. It reported that no one had told them that the LCWR had been given marching orders of any kind. They went to the Prefect for Religious who expressed surprise that the CDF had issued such a command without informing him.
Again, I truly believe that there was no intent to do harm. These men are not in the business of trying to do others in. Especially Cardinal Laveda and Archbishop Mueller. These men are straight shooters. These are simple rules, protocols and procedures that have not been used in such a long time, that they probably forgot they even existed.
The situation is more than a doctrinal one. If it were simply doctrinal, the CDF can state that the LCWR cannot publish said pamphlets and that persons A, B and C may not speak at any LCWR function, because they’re heretics. It would be over. The LCWR would go on with life, knowing that it cannot include certain people or support certain causes. If it does, then the situation goes to the next level, which is the level of obedience. The Pope can command. Remember, the CDF cannot command religious to obey. No bishop, regardless of who he is, can command any sister to obey, even in a doctrinal matter. Only the pope can do that. A bishop or the CDF can say that such and such a statement is heresy and that such and such a person has excommunicated himself, if it applies. He cannot command a sister. No one other than her own sisters and the pope can command a sister. A sister is not a laywoman. She has greater autonomy from bishops than a laywoman does.
The real issue here is that the protocols were not followed. The rules were not followed. The Council of Franciscan Major Superiors of Men noticed it and reported it. This changes how Rome proceeds.
Rome can still proceed with the reconstruction of the LCWR, because the Holy Father wants it to happen. But it must do it conscious of that fact that it has to be fair to the sisters, because steps were skipped and people who should have been in the loop were left out. When things like this happens, you can’t be aggressive. Afterall, you’ve made some procedural mistakes as well.
If this were a civil case, if would have died on a technicality. The Church is wiser, kinder and more practical than civil governments.
The concerns are about doctrinal issues. But the mandate is to reconstruct the LCWR. It does not say, “Thou shall not teach heresy.” We know that already. No one has to spend one million dollars doing a three-year study, involve I don’t know how many people and reconstruct an organization if the only problem is teaching error. The CDF’s concern is with structure as well as content. This is where the glitch lies. Structure does not fall under the CDF. It falls under the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. There has to be more coordination, more dialogue and it’s going to take longer.
We also have to remember that this is not about what sisters wear. Some people are making it about habits. Most women religious in South America do not wear a habit and they are thriving. They are very orthodox in their doctrine. They are very connected to the poor. They do great work in areas of education, healthcare and care for the elderly among the poorest of the poor. The have wonderful apostolates for the good of families and youth and they have very good relations with male religious superiors. This helps. They don’t have two conferences, one for men and one for women. They have one conference for religious, period. This helps, because there is a lot of balance rather than conflict between genders.
The criticism I have is only with the leadership of of the LCWR (Leadership Conference of Women Religious) because they have been causing a lot of public scandal by going on TV shows, disagreeing with basic Catholic doctrines, and throwing the bishops under the bus. This is not about all consecrated women. I have lot of respect for consecrated women such as Mother Angelica and her nuns. And I have a lot of respect for consecrated women like Blessed Mother Teresa and her nuns. These are the kinds of nuns that we should respect. But I do not respect the leadership of LCWR because I do not respect the scandal they have been causing to the Church and how they seem to be continuing in their disobedience. Why is it so hard for them to just say “ok, we’ll do that” when the Vatican asks them to do something? Giving the same amount of respect to the publicly disobedient ones as to the obedient, humble, and holy ones cheapens the respect. And the rules of CAF only says that we can’t criticize clergy. Women religious are not clergy.
I dont think its cruel or underhanded at all. Its just acknowledging that:
A) The individuals in leadership positions in the LCWR are not going to be converted by the CDF back to orthodoxy, they are set in their ways.
B) The LCWR groups are rapidly declining due to age, so this problem will have taken care of itself in a decade.
The only choice the CDF really has is to wait out the bad apples, nothing cruel or wrong with that, in fact its exceedingly patient and forgiving.