Cardinal Levada warns of “dialogue of the deaf” with LCWR

From John Allen at NCR:

In the wake of Tuesday’s meeting with representatives of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the Vatican official responsible for a recent crackdown said he still believes the relationship can work, but also warned of a possible “dialogue of the deaf,” reflected in what he sees as a lack of movement on the Vatican’s concerns.

Cardinal William Levada is seen in a 2009 file photo. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, floated the possibility that should the LCWR not accept the reforms outlined in an April 18 assessment, the result could be decertifying it in favor of a new organization for women’s religious leaders in America more faithful to church teaching.

Levada strongly rejected charges that the move against the LCWR is based on “unsubstantiated accusations” or lacks transparency, both complaints leveled in an LCWR statement issued last week.

“In reality, this is not a surprise,” he said, insisting that the process began four years ago and that its results are based not on secret accusations but “what happens in their assemblies, what’s on their website, what they do or don’t do.”

Levada also denied press reports that retired Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston helped instigate the move against LCWR, saying, “He’s not involved in this.”

Levada made the comments in an interview with NCR held shortly after the meeting between officials of his office and Sr. Pat Farrell, president of the LCWR, along with Sr. Janet Mock, the group’s executive director.

The LCWR is the largest umbrella group for the leaders of women’s religious orders in the United States.

Capping a four-year review, in April, Levada’s office issued a stinging eight-page assessment of LCWR, citing “serious doctrinal problems” and “doctrinal confusion,” including alleged “silence” on abortion and other pro-life concerns, a policy of “corporate dissent” on matters such as women priests and homosexuality, and the inroads of “certain radical feminist themes.”

After Tuesday’s meeting, Farrell and Mock released a statement describing the session as “open” and saying LCWR would ponder its further response in upcoming regional meetings and at an August national assembly. They declined to comment beyond the statement.

In his NCR interview, Levada said he believes the breach between Rome and the LCWR can be repaired.

“I believe it can work,” he said. “That’s my hope and prayer.”

At the same time, Levada described the risk of a “dialogue of the deaf,” saying the Vatican has been in talks with LCWR for four years, but along the way the group has made choices that, in Levada’s eyes, signal it’s not taking their concerns to heart.

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