LCWR to determine course at next week's annual meeting

I really hope that it doesn’t come down to a decision to become non-canonical just because (if that’s the reason) they do not wish to be overseen by 3 bishops. I doubt very much (and I also hope not) that the Church wants to oversee the day-to-day management of those leading these congregations. The Church has far too much on her hands, and neither the Church nor the religious communities, i.m.o., would benefit from operational micro-managing. Clearly these communities have managed themselves (in terms of their ministries) well. At least, it seems that way. But there’s an additional concern, which is theology. See what you think about the quoted statements regarding “the control of thought” and “the evolution of theology.” The entire article is here:

I’ll not box, to make quoting with replies easier:

Nearly four months after a harsh Vatican critique, the leaders of the organization that represents 80 percent of U.S. women religious are due to gather Aug. 7-10 in St. Louis for their annual meeting. The questions before the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), which was founded in 1956 but reorganized in 1971 in order to address the changes of the Second Vatican Council, loom large.

Following the Vatican’s critique, which came in April and mandated that the group revise and place itself under the authority of three bishops, the first and foremost of those questions is almost certainly whether the group will decide to forego its status as a canonically recognized representative and reform outside the formal structures of the church.

The airing of those questions will come early in the gathering, which includes a number of closed-door “executive sessions” where the leadership of the group is expected to discuss the Vatican’s critique, known as a “doctrinal assessment.” The morning before the official evening opening Aug. 7, the group’s leadership is to meet with former presidents of the organization to communicate its direction and ask their advice.

Two of the former presidents told NCR in mid-July that their advice for the current leadership may be stark. Benedictine Sr. Joan Chittister, who headed the organization in 1976, identified what she called a “key question” facing the group: “Will the sisters function in the church as adult moral agents? As fully participating members of the church?”

Mercy Sr. Theresa Kane, who was LCWR president in 1979, said the sisters need to tell church officials that “we are indeed equal, and we come with respect, and we come with knowledge, and we come with a dialogue for what is important in our lives and you need to listen to that.” “We’re not looking for approval,” Kane continued. “We don’t need the approval. It’s out of our convictions that we’ve lived like this for many years.”

LCWR’s associate director of communications, Immaculate Heart of Mary Sr. Annmarie Sanders, said in an email July 23 that during the assembly “time has been allotted each day for discussion of LCWR’s response to the Vatican mandate.”

“Those times will include information-sharing, communal contemplation, and an opportunity for the members to hear from one another about next steps that LCWR might take regarding the [Vatican] report,” said Sanders, who is also a member of NCR’s board of directors. “Since each day’s process will build on the previous days, it is not expected that there will be any decisions made about next steps until the final day.”

The critique of LCWR, which was first released April 18, came from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Among its criticisms, the congregation identified a “prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith” in the group’s programs and “corporate dissent” in the group regarding the church’s sexual teachings.

In a statement June 1, LCWR’s national board criticized the Vatican’s move, saying it was “based on unsubstantiated accusations and the result of a flawed process that lacked transparency.” According to the Vatican’s mandate, LCWR is to place itself under the authority of Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain, who is to serve as “archbishop delegate” for the group and is to be assisted in that role by Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo, Ohio, and Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Ill.

Following its kickoff Aug. 7, a centerpiece of this year’s LCWR gathering is to take place Aug. 8 in a keynote address by Barbara Marx Hubbard, an author known for her advancement of a worldview called “conscious evolution.” According to the assembly’s registration materials, Hubbard’s presentation is to explore how women’s congregations can discern the future of religious life in a way “that remains open to the new levels of consciousness, even as that revelation exceeds the boundaries of present day understanding of one’s faith, as well as the charism and mission of one’s institute.”

During a formal ceremony set for Aug. 10, the current head of the group, Franciscan Sr. Pat Farrell, will move to the position of past president, while Franciscan Sr. Florence Deacon, currently LCWR’s president-elect, will become its president. Deacon, who is also the congregational leader of the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi based in St. Francis, Wis., previously served at the United Nations as director of the New York office of Franciscans International, a nongovernmental organization that lobbies for justice issues.

Following the leadership transition that afternoon, there is to be a banquet that will see Immaculate Heart of Mary Sr. Sandra Schneiders, who since 1976 has taught at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, Calif., receive an award for outstanding leadership.Schneiders’ latest book, Prophets in Their Own Country: Women Religious Bearing Witness to the Gospel in a Troubled Church, is a collection of essays Schneiders wrote reflecting on the experiences of women religious during a separate Vatican investigation of individual congregations of U.S. women’s orders. Called an “apostolic visitation,” a report on that investigation, which was ordered by the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, was submitted to Rome in January.

Discussions about the possibility that LCWR will leave the formal structures of the church are expected to take place during the executive sessions at the gathering and during a scheduled time for a “contemplative process.” Both Chittister and Kane expressed reluctance about the group re-forming as a non-canonical entity. Kane said she was inclined to “stay with the process” and continue trying “to be creative without raising that question initially.”

Chittister, who is an NCR columnist, said that while she would hope the group’s leaving would not happen, she also said it’s a possibility that “will have to be faced.” Framing the situation as the Vatican “blocking the development of thought and the place of Gospel in that thought,” Chittister said, “The obstruction and the control of thought is so important to the evolution of theology and the church itself that if it has to be done outside the structures for a while, then it will have to be done.” “This is not necessary,” she continued. “This doesn’t have to be. But if those elements of the conversation are the central elements and they are nonnegotiable, then it seems to me that the possibility of that other approach will rise, will occur and will have to be faced.”

Wow. Forming an opinion on this at this point is way above my pay grade! I do think we need to have the LCWR and the Bishops doing the investigating in our prayers this coming week. I so hope the dialogue will be open and transparent. Many women are concerned for both sides of this.

Sadly, the lengthy article is filled with such “pride” that it is difficult not to imagine that the outcome will be the LCWR - as an organization - separating from the Church. And as GOD turns all to good, then the membership may have the opportunity to reflect on the mission they have chosen in life and decide if it was to raise themselves up or to raise souls up to GOD.

Good reminder for us to pray, Ohana. :slight_smile:

Boil it down…Pope Benedict is the Vicar of Christ. The nuns must submit to the papal authority and adhere to the complete doctrines of faith. It’s not a difficult issue. All the extra verbiage and justifications and rationalizations are puffs of smoke… Pride has no place amongst Christ’s body.

Despite all the conflict, I really cannot imagine LCWR actually separating themselves from the Church. My guess is they decide that more dialogue needs to take place. :wink:

I pray, Joe.
The Church does not need any more division or factionalism in its ranks.
We need to pray for the benefit of the church as a whole and as a unity.
(and of course it would just be this leadership organzation becoming non-canonical. It would not be the whole communities separating themselves! That was made clear in the article.)

It’s in my city and I’m praying hard for all.

Praying hard for the sisters. They do see a part of humanity that most of us do not, but their vocation is not to be social workers, but to be witnesses to God’s grace. It would be devestating for them to be “outside the Church” (non-canonical) in any way.

St Jeanne Jugan, St Louise de Marillac pray for us.

They do see a part of humanity that most of us do not,

They most certainly do.

I opened a Prayer Intention. :slight_smile:

Archbishop Carlson to address LCWR assembly in St. Louis next week; sisters to discern Vatican assessment

The LCWR is considering whether to be a non-canonical organization, not whether to leave the Church altogether. I think some posts indicate that there is some confusion on this point. As a non-canonical organization, the LCWR would not be subject to Vatican control, although it would continue to be an organization representing Roman Catholic religious within the Church.

Which post or posts? I don’t see any of them.

As a non-canonical organization, the LCWR would not be subject to Vatican control, although it would continue to be an organization representing Roman Catholic religious within the Church.

Um, yes and no. First half of sentence, correct, of course. The problem is with the second half. It could “represent” the same religious it now does, of course! The concern of some, in and out of the LCWR, is that it would not have the standing it now does and could be marginalized/ignored, etc. Hopefully that does not happen.

Yes, but representing them without the approval of the Church. The LCWR would become just another rogue entity, like “We Are Church” or “Call to Action.”

Going off in this way might have some interesting consequences for a lot of people and for the Church. Not saying they’d all be bad consequences or good, just interesting. It might take a while to sort it all out.

The one thing that’s excellent about the whole thing is the fact that we’re finally going to see the truth out in the open. This is a truth-telling thing. There won’t be anything going on in public that hasn’t been going on in private for years. It’s high time people saw the real truth for what it is.

I personally find it hard to believe that the LCWR is going to go along with the Church (aka the CDF and Rome). But I could be wrong. Maybe they will come around, but from where the LCWR is, coming around would mean a historic and systemic 180 degree turn for them. They’re incredibly and completely messed up and have been for decades now.

I’m not sure if I understand this correctly. I thought that the LCWR is simply an organization comprised of the major superiors of a number of congregations. I don’t think that the members of the underlying organizations get a vote on these matters. I’m not even sure whether or to what extent the individual members of those religious congregations may agree with their leadership or with the LCWR.

It doesn’t much affect my own diocese, because I think nearly all of the religious congregations of women here are members of the CMSWR, not the LCWR.

But my question is this: Suppose the LCWR decided to become a non-canonical organization. Does that mean that each of the member congregations would thereby become non-canonical?

I don’t see how that follows.

Almost correct. Many of the women’s congregations don’t have superiors anymore, but they do have “leadership teams.” The people in the LCWR aren’t necessarily superiors anymore for that reason.

Votes on issues that come before the members of the LCWR are voted on by members of the LCWR, yes, not from everyone in the individual congregations, although the individual congregations do vote in the people on their “leadership teams” who ultimately go to form the LCWR.

About the individual congregations going non-canonical, you are correct. If the LCWR goes non-canonical, it doesn’t necessarily take individual congregations with it juridically. Although, the LCWR has been talking to congregations about the possibilities of non-canonical status for some time and has formed legal representation arms to help with that process when it’s decided that’s what a congregation wants to do. Some congregations have already taken that route.

One of the legal organizations that handle going non-canonical:

But the interesting part is yet to come. There was an investigation of the individual congregations in the US, and we haven’t yet heard the results of that. The fact that that’s out there hanging in the balance may well affect what happens with the LCWR next week.

Non-canonical former Catholic congregations:

Holy Wisdom Monastery:

Monastery at Mont Tabor (the Dwelling Place):

Non-canonical congregations that have some former nuns in them:

Sisters for Christian Community:

Immaculate Heart Community:

Pseudo-congregations that never were canonical in the first place–there are whole slew of these. They’re all over the internet.

Example: The Service Order

After we see the results of the CDF’s review on individual religious congregations, it’ll be interesting what happens next. I"m not sure what’s going to happen, to be honest.


As another poster said, this is beyond my pay grade as well. And the ambiguity expressed below makes the outcome unpredictable. I can understand Bishop Blair’s concerns, given the style of the communication, but I also think that this is a result of two ships passing in the night phenomenon. There is a real communication gap between the Vatican and the LCWR that seems not to be an overnight occurrence.

To “continue to raise and respond to questions” of the present day is not outside of the task of religious, if what Sister means is the application of theology (Gospel & Church). One problem, when a group has been isolated (or has chosen isolation) for so long is that one forgets how to communicate according to the expectations of others! The Bishops read communication one way; the Sisters are often less concerned about precision, even, as the article mentions in coming to a consensus. (A “sense” rather than a vote.) That works when you don’t need to dialogue, or when your functioning does not depend on accuracy! But as Sister concludes, hope is indicated by dialogue, and vice-versa. So that will be the focus of my prayers for this, this week.

In a National Public Radio (NPR) interview on July 17, LCWR president, Franciscan Sister Pat Farrell, said there were three options: Comply with the mandate, not comply and possibly form a separate organization, or look for a way “that refuses to just define the mandate and the issues in such black-and-white terms.”

Because of the high interest, and because she will not do media interviews during the assembly, Sister Pat conducted a telephone press conference with media on Aug. 2 to discuss the upcoming assembly. She refused to speculate on the outcome of the LCWR members’ discussions about the mandate, which will be in executive sessions closed to the press.

Sister Pat stressed, “We don’t want to allow this doctrinal assessment to really take over the mission and the entire agenda of our organization because we do have other important things to be about.” Thus, normal assembly business will take place in the mornings of the assembly, with executive sessions occurring in the afternoons and evenings, if necessary.

The LCWR leader declined to say whether the individual doctrinal points raised in the CDF mandate would be discussed in those sessions, saying only that trained facilitators will guide the discussion. When asked if a democratic vote of the membership would determine which of the three options is taken, she said members would be given generous time for their input and “a sense of the membership” would be determined.

“Our process of discernment is typically not taking a vote,” she explained.

All of the LCWR past presidents and past executive directors have been invited to the assembly, and Sister Pat said they will provide insights and wisdom about how the LCWR should deal with the CDF mandate.

Sister Pat said Archbishop Sartain will not attend the assembly, but the LCWR will inform him of any decision the assembly reaches before that information is released to the press. According to Mercy Sister Mary Ann Walsh, director of media relations for the bishops’ conference, Archbishop Sartain offered to come to the assembly, but he was told his presence “would not be helpful.”

One reporter referred to a July 24 NPR interview with Bishop Blair that was a follow-up to the Sister Pat interview. In that interview, Bishop Blair was asked about Sister Pat’s wish to dialogue on the issues in the mandate. He had replied that if the LCWR wanted to negotiate the doctrines of the Church that was not the kind of discussion the Holy See envisioned. The reporter asked Sister Pat if that was an accurate representation of the LCWR position, and she replied:

“I would also say that there are very few doctrines in the Church that are not discussable, that are absolutely infallible. And I think those kinds of commentaries [the NPR interviews] are a reflection of a slightly different perspective that we have on obedience.

“And as I have stated in other interviews, one of our concerns is that questioning is seen as defiance, and that’s not healthy for our Church, nor is it our intention. And that our sense of our own fidelity means that we continue raising and responding to questions, according to our own consciences and according to new information and questions that arise in our day.”

Sister Pat told the press conference: “The one thing that I think we’ve constantly communicated is that we … in however we respond to this [CDF mandate], we want to help create a safe and respectful environment, where Church leaders and grassroots Catholics can raise questions openly and search together for truth freely to the very complex issues of our time.

“Anything that we can do in the way that we respond to this that could contribute to the climate of open and deeper dialogue in the Church is one of our greatest hopes.”

Read more:

This kind of gives a feel for how the LCWR wants to position this in the press before their convention. Interesting. Like I said, who knows how this will turn out. Thanks for posting it, Elizabeth502.

There are some interesting bits in here:

“Our process of discernment is typically not taking a vote,” she explained." If you read Ann Carey’s book, Sisters in Crisis, you can get a background on this. It’s interesting that she would acknowledge it so openly. On the other hand, she’s probably so used to it that she considers it a no-news item, which tells you something about where the LCWR has been for a long time now.

“All of the LCWR past presidents and past executive directors have been invited to the assembly, and Sister Pat said they will provide insights and wisdom about how the LCWR should deal with the CDF mandate.” They’re not considering this to be just one more order of business. This may be significant. They may believe that a lot more is at stake than many people outside do. Again, Ann Carey’s book is helpful here.

"Archbishop Sartain offered to come to the assembly, but he was told his presence “would not be helpful.” No? ROFLOL

Like I say, maybe we’ll know more in a week or two. No telling now.

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