St. Louis, Mo., Aug 14, 2012 / 04:40 pm (CNA).- The Leadership Conference of Women Religious has begun talks with the archbishop tasked with its reform, but says it will not make fundamental changes to its expression of consecrated religious life.
During its recent national assembly, the group instructed its board members “to articulate 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 conference of sisters said in an Aug. 13 statement.
On Aug. 11, one day after the assembly's close, the national board of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious met for the first time with Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle, who was assigned by the Vatican to address doctrinal concerns within the conference.
The leadership conference's national assembly had instructed its board to approach the discussion with Archbishop Sartain “from a stance of mutual respect, careful listening and open dialogue.”
In Monday's communique, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious said the archbishop “listened carefully” as its board members expressed “both their concerns and their feelings” about the findings from the four-year doctrinal assessment carried out by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The leadership conference said the “expectation” of its members was an “open and honest dialogue” leading to better “understanding between the church leadership and women religious,” and more chances “for the laity and, particularly for women, to have a voice in the church.”
The assessment by the Church's top doctrinal office was released in April 2012 and highlighted concerns over “corporate dissent” from Church teaching in the conference of religious sisters, “radical feminism” in its approach to the faith, and a pattern of theological and doctrinal errors in presentations given at its annual assemblies.
Archbishop Sartain was subsequently appointed by the Holy See to lead “a process of review and conformity to the teachings and discipline of the Church.”
According to the conference, the archbishop wants to “learn more about the conference and about the members’ experience and understandings of religious life.”
The religious sisters said they would “provide Archbishop Sartain with resources they believe will be helpful.” Its officers will meet with him again during fall 2012.