Vatican to sisters: Enough moving beyond Jesus

One of the things I love about being a media critic is watching how a story develops over time. You may remember that years ago the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith launched a review of U.S. women religious communities. Several years ago, then, and before the the Leadership Conference of Women Religious was involved in helping President Obama pass his health care legislation, we were looking at discussions about the health of these religious orders. I remember tmatt’s column that included one such discussion:

During this era of crisis and decline, some Catholic religious orders have chosen to enter a time of “sojourning” that involves “moving beyond the church, even beyond Jesus,” Sinsinawa Dominican Sister Laurie Brink told a 2007 national gathering of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

“Religious titles, institutional limitations, ecclesiastical authorities no longer fit this congregation, which in most respects is Post-Christian,” added Brink, a former journalist who is a biblical studies professor at Chicago’s Catholic Theological Union. For these women, the “Jesus narrative is not the only or the most important narrative.

The questions being hammered out were whether many sisters had rejected Catholic teachings on the priesthood, sex and salvation. Or as one of my favorite Catholic bloggers put it at the time, “If you’re going to be Post-Christian, then be Post-Christian. I don’t say that with snark. It’s just reality. If you’ve moved on — move on. Step out from the protective mantle of identity that gives you cachet, that of ‘Catholic nun.’”

OK, so where are things now? Well, let’s let Laurie Goodstein at the New York Times explain:

The Vatican has appointed an American bishop to rein in the largest and most influential group of Catholic nuns in the United States, saying that an investigation found that the group had “serious doctrinal problems.”

Goodstein’s story is great, with many details. We learn that the Vatican found that the LCWR had serious doctrinal problems and that they were reprimanded for undermining Catholic teaching on various issues. The story mentions that the sisters had given “crucial cover” to the Obama administration back during the health care insurance battles of 2010. There’s also helpful data, such as that the conference claims 1,500 members who represent 80 percent of Catholic sisters in the U.S. That it was formed at the Vatican’s request and answers to the Vatican. I never knew that.

There’s also great color. The news of the Vatican’s action took the group by surprise (something that Rocco Palmo suggested might be a possibility in his helpful analysis at Whispers in the Loggia). We learn that the Vatican singled out Network as one group that was wrongly “silent” on abortion and marriage issues. Sister Simone Campbell, the executive director there, is quoted and given a chance to respond, including this bit:

“I’m stunned,” said Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobby founded by sisters. Her group was also cited in the Vatican document, along with the Leadership Conference, for focusing its work too much on poverty and economic injustice, while keeping “silent” on abortion and same-sex marriage.

“I would imagine that it was our health care letter that made them mad,” Sister Campbell said. “We haven’t violated any teaching, we have just been raising questions and interpreting politics.”

One key point in that passage is actually not true.

The group was not cited in the Vatican document for focusing too much work on poverty and economic injustice. Far from it. They were actually praised for their work in this regard. In fact, on the first page alone is this line, “The Holy See acknowledges with gratitude the great contribution of women Religious to the Church in the United States as seen particularly in the many schools, hospitals, and institutions of support for the poor which have been founded and staffed by Religious over the years.” I read the eight-page document and certainly didn’t see anything coming even close to suggesting that the Vatican wants the sisters to focus less work on poverty issues. The document never indicates any problem with that work at all. Instead, it focuses on the sisters’ silence on other issues of social justice and fidelity to church teaching.

Cardinal William Levada appointed Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle to lead the reform of LCWR, with assistance from a few other bishops. We learn specifics of what the reform will mean. There is a ton of context and analysis without any favoritism shown to the sisters or the Vatican. It’s a very helpful piece, in my view. I also learned that the investigation of LCWR was separate from a visitation of women’s religious orders and communities and that it concluded in December with the results not yet made public. I just assumed this was all part of the same thing.

Let’s look at another great treatment, this one by David Gibson of Religion News Service. When it ran at USA Today, the web editors put a picture of a bunch of habited nuns attending a Rick Santorum rally in Michigan with it, as if to say “We don’t know what we’re doing!” But the story itself is also helpful. Although the lede underplayed the drama of the report:

The Vatican has launched a crackdown on the umbrella group that represents most of America’s 55,000 Catholic nuns, saying that the group was not speaking out strongly enough against gay marriage, abortion and women’s ordination.

You might recall that the New York Times conveyed this not as “not speaking out strongly enough” but as silence. Which is it? I mean, technically both could be true but one obviously gives a very different impression from the other. Well, in the eight-page summary you can read here, we are told:

The documentation reveals that, while there has been a great deal of work on the part of LCWR promoting issues of social justice in harmony with the Church’s social doctrine, it is silent on the right to life from conception to natural death, a question that is part of the lively public debate about abortion and euthanasia in the United States. Further, issues of crucial importance to the life of Church and society, such as the Church’s Biblical view of family life and human sexuality, are not part of the LCWR agenda in a way that promotes Church teaching. Moreover, occasional public statements by the LCWR that disagree with or challenge positions taken by the Bishops, who are the Church’s authentic teachers of faithmorals, are not compatible with its purpose.

And in fact, much of this excerpt is quoted directly or summarized later in the RNS report. The later parts of the report also include some feedback from Sister Campbell as well as some of how the group had attempted to defend itself during the investigation and why that defense was ruled inadequate by the Vatican. The story even goes beyond the context of the health care law’s passage in 2010 to point out that the LCWR is currently backing President Obama in his battle with Catholic bishops over religious freedom. That was one omission I thought odd from other reports, given its timeliness. The lengthy report mentions that the more traditional religious orders, while much smaller than those that are part of LCWR, are the ones that are growing. It is obvious that this story is written by someone with deep knowledge of the topic, as all of these details are included in the report.

I did find this line somewhat interesting:

Increasingly, however, the hierarchy in Rome and the U.S. is focusing on promoting doctrinal orthodoxy and curbing dissent.

Now, maybe it’s just because I’m Lutheran and have some weight of history bearing down on me on this topic, but what does “increasingly” mean here? How is this measured? And over what period of time? Likewise, it would help to know how similar “unorthodox” teaching or dissent has been treated in the states or elsewhere over the years.

Which brings us to the Associated Press report on the topic. This one was not my favorite. Here’s the lede:

The Vatican orthodoxy watchdog announced Wednesday a full-scale overhaul of the largest umbrella group for nuns in the United States, accusing the group of taking positions that undermine Roman Catholic teaching on the priesthood and homosexuality while promoting “certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”

See, you might have bristled at the “crackdown” language used by other reporters, but it seems downright tame compared to this lede. Interesting that sanctity of life, whether related to abortion or euthanasia, isn’t mentioned in this lede. It does get mention down-story, right before Campbell is quoted claiming the report was linked to her advocacy on behalf of the Obama administration’s health care bill. The AP points out that the review of LCWR began in 2009 and doesn’t cite the bill.

Perhaps due to the struggles of space constraints, the article includes paragraphs such as this:

When the Vatican-ordered inquiry was initially announced, many religious sisters and their supporters said the investigation reflected church officials’ misogyny and was an insult to religious sisters, who run hospitals, teach, and play other vital service roles in the church. Conservative Catholics, however, have long complained that the majority of sisters in the U.S. have grown too liberal and flout church teaching.

Considering how specific these anonymous complaints are, I wouldn’t mind something more descriptive than “many” people. Whether you think it makes the sisters or their supporters look great or awful for alleging “misogyny,” it’s worth backing that up with a real person. We are told that investigators cited the Brink speech mentioned above, as well as other examples of how the LCWR leadership had publicly disagreed with church teaching and embraced radical feminism.

I’m mildly surprised by the way the story ended, with a quote defending the sisters and attacking bishops. Readers usually focus on headlines and ledes, but you can always tell a lot about a story by the kicker. In any case, the quote was set-up in the following manner:

Nick Cafardi, a canon lawyer and former dean of Duqesne Law School, said he has worked over the years with many nuns and that the description in the report does not reflect his experience with them. Cafardi is an Obama supporter.

Is it just me or is it kind of weird to mention which political candidate Cafardi supports?

Images of nun praying in church and health care paperwork via Shutterstock.

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  • AuthenticBioethics

    Is it just me or is it kind of weird to mention which political candidate Cafardi supports?

    Weird or not, it is telling. It could be a way the story identifies who the good guys are. I have greater concern about the relevance of Cafardi’s opinion, which could have been explained. What part of the description does he object to? Does he feel that an organization created at the Vatican’s request and that answers to the Vatican stands on good canonical foundations in its dissent? Does canon law permit such a wide range of opinion that a Catholic group could move “beyond Jesus”?

    The AP lede does not mention life issues explicitly, but they are implicit (abortion at least) in the phrase “certain radical feminist themes.” I personally found the lede fairly accurate, although one could say that it also attempts to establish who the good guys and bad guys are in this story. While a conservative Catholic would agree with the division, she might take exception as to which was “good” and “bad.”

    If the facts seem accurate in the AP story, one could argue that it is structured around an us-vs-them theme.

    I do object that “church official’s misogyny” is not qualified with something like “what they believe is.” Misogyny is a very strong word and warrants evidence to back it up. It is not self evident that objecting to the doctrinal trajectory of the LCWR is rooted in misogyny.

  • LewisFan

    Actually, I’m surprised no one noticed this obvious flaw in the NY Times story.

    The Vatican’s assessment, issued on Wednesday, said that members of the group, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, had challenged church teaching on homosexuality and the male-only priesthood, and promoted “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”

    Contradicts this:

    Her group was also cited in the Vatican document, along with the Leadership Conference, for focusing its work too much on poverty and economic injustice, while keeping “silent” on abortion and same-sex marriage.

    Did the good sisters challenge Church teaching about homosexuality and abortion by keeping silent about them? Or did they advocate affirmitavely for those things? Apparently, according to the summary provided by Mollie but not in the article, those amount to the the same exact thing.

    If it was the intention of the reporter to provide a balanced and nuanced report on this event, this is a major failing.

    An angle missing from the AP piece is the definition held by both sides of “radical feminist themes incompatible with Catholic faith”. What does that even mean? Artificial birth control? Therapeutic abortion?

    And if it is true, as the AP report says, that:

    Conservative Catholics, however, have long complained that the majority of sisters in the U.S. have grown too liberal and flout church teaching.

    , then what do these anony-Conserva-Catholics propose to do about it? Report the too liberal, teaching-flouting nuns? Dismiss them? Excommunicate them?

    Very weak reportage.

  • C. Wingate

    Painfully wrong headline in The Atlantic: Vatican Criticizes U.S. Nuns for Being Too Progressive

  • LewisFan

    Here is the letter that Sister Campbell’s group sent, mentioned by the Vatican-appointed group. I looked very hard for “radical feminism” and things “contrary to to Church teaching”. Didn’t find any. Can my fellow GR readers help me out here?

    The Presidency and National Board of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious adds its voice to those of the US Conference of Catholic bishops and Catholic Health Association in their support for comprehensive health care reform.

    o We believe that genuine health care reform is a moral imperative; therefore we call for a health care policy that respects and protects human life and dignity and advances universal coverage.
    o We urge access for all with a special concern for those who are poor and vulnerable.
    o We advocate pursuing the common good and preserving pluralism including freedom of conscience and a variety of options involving both public and private sectors, including voluntary, religious, and not-for-profit organizations.
    o We believe that health care costs must be restrained, with all stakeholders, including government, employers, individuals, charitable organizations and health care providers, sharing the responsibility of financing.

    There are 624 Catholic hospitals in the United States serving 1 in 6 patients. Most of these institutions were founded by the Catholic Sisters.

    We affirm Bishop William Murphy, who in his July 17, 2009 letter to Congress, asserts that health care is a fundamental issue of human life and dignity. “Health care is not just another issue for the Church or for a healthy society,” Bishop Murphy writes. “It is a fundamental issue of human life and dignity and a critical component of the Catholic Church’s ministry. The Church provides health care, purchases health care and picks up the pieces of the failing health care system. . . . Genuine health care reform that protects the life and dignity of all is a moral imperative and a vital national obligation.”

    We acknowledge the complexity of the issues, the legitimate approaches to strategize resolution of these issues, and the need for genuine civil discourse to move reform forward in light of the fact that the present U.S. health system, while extremely costly, is not working for the benefit of all.

  • Julia

    It was sister Campbell who opined that it must have been that letter that set them off:

    “I would imagine that it was our health care letter that made them mad,”

    Strange that The Atlantic and other articles feature photos of sisters in full habit. The LCWR is the group that has almost no sisters in habits. It’s the smaller group that has the old-fashioned habits.

    BTW Archbishop Sartain has a sibling who is a sister in the Knoxville Dominicans – kind of the anti-LCWRs.

  • LewisFan

    Ok, Julia – but *why* would the letter set anyone at the Vatican off? Shouldn’t someone have asked, I don’t know… Sister Campbell herself?

    Likewise – wearing habits or not, Archbishop Sartain’s supporters seem to have big problems with women religious in general:

    Hope that doesn’t reflect his own views.

  • LewisFan

    To add: Archbishop Sartain’s own statement:

    Archbishop Sartain acknowledged the significance of the CDF assignment.

    “In the four dioceses I have served, I have had the privilege of working with many women religious from a large number of congregations.For most of those congregations, the LCWR plays an important role of support, communication, and collaboration, a role valued by the sisters and their congregational leadership.I am honored that the CDF has entrusted this important and sensitive work to me, because the ministry of religious sisters, especially here in the United States, is deeply respected and paramount to the mission of the Church.Just as the LCWR can be a vital resource in many ways for its members, I hope to be of service to them and to the Holy See as we face areas of concern to all.”

    Seems to make a point of not dismissing the LCWR as heretical, radical feminist kooks who don’t wear habits.

  • Bobby Ross Jr.

    Actually, the mention of Cafardi’s support of Obama did not seem weird to me. A quick Google search shows that Cafardi has been a pretty outspoken supporter of Obama. To me, the source’s personal political leanings are an issue in a story about where the nuns stand on social justice issues (a.k.a. political issues). So AP discloses that information, and readers can decide how much credibility to assign to the source. JMHO….

  • Julia

    then what do these anony-Conserva-Catholics propose to do about it? Report the too liberal, teaching-flouting nuns? Dismiss them? Excommunicate them?

    They hoped to prod the powers-that-be to do an inquiry – which is what has happened. The Pope/Curia asked for this organization to be formed in the 1950s and has the power to reform it or even disband it. The Pope has the authority to suppress the individual religious orders. It has been done in the past. Currently the Legionaries of Christ (Maciel’s group of priests) are being re-formed and if this reformation is not successful, the Pope can suppress the order.

    People are excommunicated on an individual basis. Groups can be interdicted. Both are similar to being found in contempt of court – it’s a remedial measure.

    Nobody dies, nobody goes to jail – the organization just can’t call itself officially “Catholic” any more. And the individuals are no longer recognized as professed religious. Those are technical terms too complicated to explain in a combox. Somebody like Ed Peters, a canon lawyer, can better explain the options available to the Pope in a situation like this.

  • LewisFan

    Whether or not that is a good idea in the instant case of the LCWR is glanced at by Archbishop Sartain in his statement, but not touched by any of the reporters. If the statistics cited in the LCWR’s letter are of any accuracy, it would seem that while they may not have doctrinal autonomy from the Vatican, they are still a force to be reckoned with, as their departure would leave a significant hole in the American Catholic presence.

  • Julia

    Ok, Julia – but *why* would the letter set anyone at the Vatican off? Shouldn’t someone have asked, I don’t know… Sister Campbell herself?

    I have no idea why the letter you posted would set anybody off. Agreed – it would have been a great idea to ask Sr. Campbell why should thought that.

    Perhaps there is another letter out there somewhere that referred to the supposed accomodation that the President made which the bishops did not accept.

  • LewisFan

    10 should have been preceded by this blockquote:

    The Pope has the authority to suppress the individual religious orders. It has been done in the past.

  • stceolfrithtx

    This is a great article. Thanks for pointing out that the Vatican praised the sisters for their service to the poor, etc.

    LCWR is ONE of two major umbrella organizations of women’s religious orders in the U.S., the other one being known for orthodoxy and for wearing habits.

    I wanted to point out that the picture on the article of a sister wearing a habit doesn’t fit what I know of the LCWR. In fact, she looks like a Daughter of St. Paul, an order that is NOT in the LCWR.

  • Ann Rodgers

    Perhaps the most pertinent point about Nick Cafardi is that he is from Pittsburgh. Our nuns, like our mainline Protestants, tend to hew fairly orthodox. While I certainly know sisters here who have issues with various aspects of church teaching (and almost every Catholic does, on some level) I’ve never met a local sister who would describe herself as post-Christian.

  • Julia


    I think the articles didn’t mention extreme measures such as excommunications and suppression of orders because that would be a long way down the line, if ever. Fixing problems is the first order of business. As Archbishop Sartain said, the sisters are highly valued, as is their organization of leaders. Nobody wants to throw out the baby with the bath water.

    As John Allen has repeatedly noted, the church thinks in centuries, not even decades.

  • Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz


    That was Sister Campbell’s opinion that the letter set Rome off. Yes, someone should have asked her why she thought that, but it was her opinion.

    More than likely, however, it was the fact that, two years ago, they directly contradicted the General Counsel of the USCCB and publicly stated that ObamaCare would not fund abortions and that it would not in any way offend Catholic consciences. It was their defiant public statement, along with those of NETWORK and the Catholic Health Association and the assurance of the President that his executive order would work, which convinced Bart Stupak to vote for the bill. If the LCWR, CHA and NETWORK had kept silent, I am convinced Stupak would not have changed his vote. But either way, their public opposition to the bishops was totally unacceptable, but not because they are women or because they opposed them. But because the bishops are the ones who have the authority to guide the Church in the U.S. on these matters, not the nuns or even the priests. Being a religious — male or female — does not give one magisterial authority; that only comes with the episcopal office.

    Regarding the blog post you referred to — I know Omar and he doesn’t “have big problems with women religious in general.” Nor do I. In fact, one of my family’s dearest friends is a Polish nun who is currently in Rome. Instead, we have big problems when women religious do not live up to their freely taken vows and instead teach and worship something “beyond Jesus.”

  • Jeff

    Good jobs, Mollie, New York Times, USA Today, and Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

    Associated Press and Leadership Conference of Women Religious?

    Well, not so much …

  • LewisFan

    Thomas @ 16… it seems to strain credibility that no specific examples (nor discussion of) are provided in the pieces discussed here of the “beyond Jesus” phenomena mentioned in passing.

    Your friend Omar takes a decidedly obnoxious tone in the linked post – again, not providing specific examples and tarring the entire group of the LCWR with a rather broad brush of “goofiness” and theological heterodoxy. I see no evidence of this but would love to look at some.

    Instead, we have big problems when women religious do not live up to their freely taken vows and instead teach and worship something “beyond Jesus.”

    Ok. Let’s see something beyond “silence” on issues such as homosexuality and abortion (while simultaneously working tirelessly for the poor, as Christ Himself commanded) as evidence of that. Attributions to the leadership of the LCWR would be particularly helpful… especially so to the quality of the NYT and AP reports.

  • Mollie

    This is not the place to discuss how you feel about the report or how you feel about the path that the sister have taken or anything else of that nature.

    This *is* the place to discuss media coverage.

    Keep things focused strictly on media coverage.

  • Dan Crawford

    “Is it just me or is it kind of weird to mention which political candidate Cafardi supports?” Is it just me or is it kind of weird to mention several times in this critique of media coverage the LCWR’s support of health-care reform? Is this a way of communicating that a fundamental reason for the Vatican’s actions is that support?

  • Jerry

    Given the uproar over this report, the text itself is critically important and needs to be referenced.

    For example, the LCWR publicly expressed in 1977 its refusal to assent to the teaching of Inter insigniores on the reservation of priestly ordination to men. This public refusal has never been corrected. Beyond this, the CDF understands that speakers a tconferences or general assemblies do not submit their texts for prior review by the LCWR Presidency. But, as the Assessment demonstrated, the sum of those talks over the years is a matter of serious concern.

    Several of the addresses at LCWR conferences present a vision or description of religious life that does not conform to the faith and practice of the Church.

    So clearly some of the issues go back decades to statements made in 1977! And some concern not what the LCWR itself believes and says but which some participants say at a conference.

    I think facts like these deserve to be in stories covering the Vatican decision.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    I too noticed the mistake in Goldstein’s story where she claimed the Vatican document faulted the sisters’ group “for focusing its work too much on poverty and economic injustice….” And, of course, the opposite was true for the group was praised very much for its work in these areas. This is a very unfortunate mistake (I hope it was merely a mistake) for in a sense, in my opinion, it “poisons the well”– so to speak– and makes the Vatican document look like it was just an overall hit job done by “conservative” clerics.

  • Martha

    LewisFan, you touch on the one criticism I would have with the story in “The New York Times”, namely, that it did not include a link to the summary document issued by the CDF.

    You also conflate separate criticisms; it was the LCWR in general (and not Network, Sr. Campbell’s group in particular – in fact, the only mention of the Network group comes in a list of recommendations as “5) To review LCWR links with affiliated organizations, e.g. Network and Resource Center for Religious Life”) that was noted for problems with “radical feminism”:

    Radical Feminism. The Cardinal noted a prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith in some of the programs and presentations sponsored by the LCWR, including theological interpretations that risk distorting faith in Jesus and his loving Father who sent his Son for the salvation of the world. Moreover, some commentaries on “patriarchy” distort the way in which Jesus has structured sacramental life in the Church; others even undermine the revealed doctrines of the Holy Trinity, the divinity of Christ, and the inspiration of Sacred Scripture.”

    Also, the requirement to withdraw the handbook for the formation of religious superiors and formators, “Systems Thinking Handbook”, mentions that:

    “As a case in point, the Systems Thinking Handbook presents a situation in which sisters differ over whether the Eucharist should be at the center of a special community celebration since the celebration of Mass requires an ordained priest, something which some sisters find “objectionable.” According to the Systems Thinking Handbook this difficulty is rooted in differences at the level of belief, but also in different cognitive models (the “Western mind” as opposed to an “Organic mental model”). These models, rather than the teaching of the Church, are offered as tools for the resolution of the controversy of whether or not to celebrate Mass.”

    Now, if religious communities of sisters are avoiding celebrating the Mass because they object to the necessity for an ordained priest in order to do so (either because of ordination being restricted to men only and/or the necessity for ordination in the first place), then Houston, we have a problem with “certain radical feminist themes contrary to the Catholic faith”.

    I have no idea why they mentioned the Network in the summary document and, if your citation of the letter they sent is correct, then neither does Sr. Campbell. We’ll all just have to wait for the full version to find out.

  • Jerry

    I should have posted a link earlier. I believe is the full albeit translated statement from the Vatican.

  • Julia

    It’s useful to remember that this statement from the CDF only references the leadership organization LCWR and not the various religious orders themselves.

  • tmatt

    I’m curious.

    Why would the letter in question have set off the Vatican if they Vatican had already been set off years earlier on doctrinal and moral theology issues?

  • tioedong

    The missing part:
    That these orders are aging and dying off…

    and that some conservative orders objected to their policies, so that there is now a newer second organization that represents religious women, whose average age is much younger…

  • tioedong

    The article didn’t mention that maybe their modern agenda was one reason these orders are dying out.

    The article also didn’t mention that some orders were so disgusted that they left and formed their own group, CMSWR, who only represent 20 percent of the nuns but are younger and growing…

  • Francis X. Maier

    Brava, Mollie. Good and accurate analysis.

  • Jeremy Pierce

    The NPR story has a quote from Campbell about how the issue here is not liking strong women after the Vatican had originally encouraged women to learn theology. So it’s not about the issues at all. But then a later quote says the problem is really that the Vatican is pushing an orthodoxy “that I can’t quite understand”. So does the problem come from having learned theology or not? She thinks it has something to do with it, or she wouldn’t have said the first thing. But if orthodoxy is totally unimportant, how does this come from having learned theology?

  • LewisFan

    Jeremy @ 30 – If that quote is accurate, it certainly goes toward establishing what Sister Campbell thinks the role of women in the Roman Catholic Church should be.

    The question that remains unasked and unanswered is this: If Sister Campbell expected to act in an equal capacity to her male peers in Church polity and hierarchy, why on earth did she (voluntarily) join an organization where that is explicitly not allowed? It seems like no one at the AP or NPR wanted to ask her the meat-and-potatoes questions.

  • Julia

    For anybody who might be interested, here’s an assessment of the organization’s options from some canon lawyers.

    Re: whether this is a clamp-down on women, in particular. There is a similar situation going on with the Legionaries of Christ – an attempt to correct problems that is under the authority of a Cardinal. This is a men’s group, so I don’t see why the sisters’ think this has anything to do with them being considered uppity or the like. I wonder why no articles in the media mention what is happening with the Legionaries – you know, a compare and contrast story.

    There is also an organization for the heads of men’s religious groups. It is not an advocacy or theological group; just a conference where US religious groups of men can co-ordinate and work out problems and which also provides a forum which can interact with the Holy See more efficiently than if that was done with individual groups.

    In other words, there may have been massive mission creep, as it is called in the non-profit world. IOW, what was the original mission of the group when it was formed in the 1950s at the request of the Holy See? That’s what it looks like to me.

    Any of these angles would make good, useful additions to what’s already being reported.

  • Julia

    Regarding the NPR interview:

    There are professional Catholic theologian groups in the US that have women members and there are women theology professors. However, authoritative teaching comes from bishops in the Catholic world – that’s the bishops primary job. The theologian groups are treated more like think tanks. It looks like the Holy See may think LCWR has set itself up as a rival to the USCCB. The leadership group for the men’s religious orders doesn’t do this.

    BTW, the spokesperson for the USCCB is a Catholic sister and there are a number of women who work on position papers and the like for the USCCB.

    Lots of fact-based things for reporters to write about.

  • Elisabeth McDonald

    The obvious feigning of surprise by the various nuns and their supporters is the kind of politics that makes me ill. EVERYONE knows these groups rebel against the Church. Regarding the speakers at the LCWR assemblies, the one scheduled for this coming year is, in my opinion, the leader of a worldwide New Age cult. There is no way she would be invited to an authentically or even marginally Christian meeting, let alone give guidance or any kind of relevant framework for the goal setting process and spiritual direction of a group of Catholic religious. Barbara Marx Hubbard is her name, and a quick search of her website allows you to see her own summary of the topic she will be speaking on. She does not believe in the divinity of Jesus, and has built a mega-following of New Age crazies around her “Conscious Evolution” model. She is the kind of person who eventually has people drink poisoned kool-aid because in order to believe her stuff you have to detach from a lot of nitty-gritty reality. That is the person who was supposed to influence tens of thousands of nuns and affect their future direction and work in our country? Very scary to think the LCWR is that far adrift from Truth. A better speaker for this convention would be Fr. Mitch Pacwa, SJ, or Johnette Benkovic, both of whom are experts on the New Age. I pray that they will hear and return to the Truth once again. I am thinking of the letter in Revelations to one of the churches “you have lost your first love”… I am proud of our bishops and our pope, that they are beginning to rise to their resonsibilities of calling us all to the truth and addressing the problems so many of us have been shaking our heads wondering WHY they were allowed to go on for so long. What the hell took them so long? Still, I thank God for their courage to finally address it.