LCWR Responds After Tense Meeting With CDF’s Cardinal Gerhard Müller

On May 8, the Leadership Council of Women Religious (LCWR) issued a statement on their April 30 meeting with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The statement is significant in that it’s a hopeful sign that the organization has heard the concerns expressed by Rome and may, in fact, be ready to listen–valuing its canonical status which has been conferred by the Holy See more than it values its autonomy.

Because it’s so important a document, I’m permitting the Sisters to represent themselves, reprinting it below in its entirety.

*     *     *     *     *

First, the background.  I outlined the problem in my May 4 post.  

On April 30, leaders from the LCWR, the Leadership Council of Women Religious, were called on the carpet by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

CDF Prefect Cardinal Gerhard Müller, in explaining Vatican concerns regarding the organization which claims to represent 80% of women religious in the U.S., reiterated the trio of problems cited in the Vatican’s Assessment of the group.  Those concerns centered around the speakers at the LCWR Assemblies; the policies of corporate dissent on issues like women’s ordination; and the prevalence of radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith in some of the programs and presentations sponsored by the LCWR.

Cardinal Müller expressed concern that despite Vatican efforts to bring the group into alliance with Catholic teaching, the LCWR had bypassed the rigorous pre-approval process put in place by the CDF and had announced that it would award its highest honor to Sr. Elizabeth Johnson, a theologian whose work has been found by the USCCB Committee on Doctrine to contain “misrepresentations, ambiguities, and errors that bear upon the faith of the Catholic Church as found in Sacred Scripture, and as it is authentically taught by the Church’s universal magisterium.”

While the CDF had focused specifically on Johnson’s most recent work, The Quest for the Living God, her earlier works have also been problematic.  For example, She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse embraces “the feminine God”, rejecting the Trinitarian formula revealed by Christ in Scripture, in which God is Father.

*     *     *     *     *

Sociologist Anne Hendershott, writing in Crisis Magazine, is harsh in her characterization of the problem with the U.S. nuns, whom she describes as “intractable”:

Like recalcitrant teenagers, taunting their teachers with their latest refusal to submit to authority, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious—an organization that represents more than 80 percent of the more than 50,000 Catholic women religious in the United States—has finally been publicly rebuked by the Vatican.  After several decades of trying to persuade the intractable women religious to comply with the teachings of the Catholic Church, Cardinal Gerhard Muller, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued a strong statement on April 30, 2014, demanding that the group return to the “ecclesial center of faith in Christ Jesus the Lord.”

For decades, the LCWR has refused all calls for renewal by the bishops. Promoting women’s ordination, reproductive rights, and an “end to patriarchy,” the LCWR has refused to comply with Pope John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation Vita Consecrata entitled Sentire Cum Ecclesia—“to think with the Church.”

Hendershott continues, explaining why this single action, awarding their highest honor to Sr. Elizabeth Johnson, is evidence of the continuing dissent within the LCWR:

“The choice of Sr. Johnson as honoree was clearly calculated to demonstrate the LCWR’s contempt for the teaching authority of the bishops….  Honoring Sister Elizabeth Johnson—a theologian who has devoted her career to denouncing as a “tool of patriarchal oppression” the traditional masculine language for God, including God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—was itself a statement of resistance.”

And Anne has a stern recommendation:

Perhaps it is finally time to stop cajoling and flattering the dissident women religious.  While well meaning, the constant accolades given to these women for their many sacrifices on behalf of the Church is misplaced. 

As evidence of this flattery, Hendershott cites a 2013 speech by Archbishop Carlo Vigano, the Vatican’s apostolic nuncio to the United States, in which he told the annual gathering of the LCWR in Orlando, 

“the Holy Father… is most thankful to you for all the good you have done throughout the years…. By the sacrifice of your own lives you have been deeply touching other people’s lives, bringing hope and healing, helping to form minds and hearts in the image of Jesus.”

Likewise, Archbishop Sartain,  the apostolic delegate charged by the Vatican with helping to bring the LCWR back into communion with the Church, tried to build collaboration by heaping on praise, telling the 2013 annual Assembly that he was there as “your brother and friend.”  Archbishop Sartain ended his remarks by claiming a closeness in his relationship which has been disproven by the LCWR’s recent actions:

“…we have developed a wonderful respect for each other and, yes, I would say a friendship with one another.”

One wonders if he didn’t at some point sit back and think, “Well, THAT didn’t work!”

*     *     *     *     *

And here is the LCWR statement, issued by Sister Carol Zinn, SSJ; Sister Sharon Holland, IHM; Sister Florence Deacon, OSF; and Sister Janet Mock, CSJ, and published May 8, 2014 on the organization’s website:

May 8, 2014

[Silver Spring, MD] Over the past several days, there has been much public commentary on the opening remarks of Cardinal Gerhard Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to the presidency of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) at their annual meeting April 30, 2014.  In a public statement after the promulgation of the Cardinal’s beginning remarks, in separate releases, both Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, archbishop delegate overseeing the implementation of the CDF mandate, and the LCWR presidency affirmed the accuracy of the Cardinal’s remarks and commented on the positive conversation that followed. For LCWR, this conversation was constructive in its frankness and lack of ambiguity. It was not an easy discussion, but its openness and spirit of inquiry created a space for authentic dialogue and discernment.

The meeting with CDF must be viewed within the context of LCWR’s entire visit to Vatican dicasteries.  In our first visit on April 27 to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Monsignor Paul Tigue, Secretary, shared that Pope Francis insists upon creating, as part of the New Evangelization, a culture of encounter, marked by dialogue and discernment. We experienced this culture of encounter in every Vatican office we visited in the Curia, an encounter marked by genuine interaction and mutual respect.

We also experienced the Church Universal as we learned about the many international meetings the Holy Father has convened and is planning to convene, addressing global issues like the economy, environment, family life, hunger, poverty, water, violence, human trafficking, and the desire to engage all people – the young, the old, the rich, the poor in communion, working together for the common good of the planet. We felt the energy flowing from these initiatives which are not new for the Vatican but have a renewed sense of urgency and possibility.

In our meetings at CDF, LCWR was saddened to learn that impressions of the organization in the past decades have become institutionalized in the Vatican, and these institutionalized perceptions have led to judgments and ultimately to the doctrinal assessment. During the meeting it became evident that despite maximum efforts through the years, communication has broken down and as a result, mistrust has developed.  What created an opening toward dialogue in this meeting was hearing first-hand the way the CDF perceives LCWR. We do not recognize ourselves in the doctrinal assessment of the conference and realize that, despite that fact, our attempts to clarify misperceptions have led to deeper misunderstandings. This is a very complex matter, yet LCWR was heartened by the attempt of both CDF and LCWR to find a way through that honors the integrity and mission of both offices.

Passion for all that the Church can be deepens our commitment to stay at the table and talk through differences. We want to be part of the universal Church rooted in the Gospel, a Church that hears the cry of the poor and is united in its response. At the same time, we cannot call for peace-making in Syria, the Middle East, in South Sudan, unless we too sit at tables with people who hold varying views and work patiently and consistently for a genuine meeting of minds and hearts.

In some ways, for LCWR, nothing has changed. We are still under the mandate and still tasked with the difficult work of exploring the meaning and application of key theological, spiritual, social, moral, and ethical concepts together as a conference and in dialogue with the Vatican officials. This work is fraught with tension and misunderstanding.  Yet, this is the work of leaders in all walks of life in these times of massive change in the world.

At our meeting with the CDF officials, we experienced a movement toward honest and authentic conversation on some of the matters that lie at the heart of our faith and our vocation. We have come to believe that the continuation of such conversation may be one of the most critical endeavors we, as leaders, can pursue for the sake of the world, the Church, and religious life.

No interviews will be given at this time.


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  • Todd Flowerday

    Few Catholics will be satisfied by any of this. Read the commentary on conservative blogs: people call for excommunication; they vilify Archbishop Sartain, and pile on the mischaracterization of people they don’t know, books they haven’t read, and issues that appear deeper than first glance. For many Catholics, and even outsiders, this looks like tired old men with nothing better to do than trying–unsuccessfully–to put women in their place. A witch hunt, in other words. And many conservative Catholics want to see some punishment.
    This sorry episode continues to pluck at Church unity as the tattletale culture fostered under JP2 keeps searching for its place. It’s time to move on.

    • fredx2

      And it is sad that their supporters keep trying to play the woman card. Nothing about this is about women. It is all about incredibly goofy theology – some of it sounding pagan and foolish and guru-like and simply as if it came from the mind of a madman. If men were doing the same things, the Vatican would do the same things to them.

    • Aldo Elmnight

      Most of these women are already excommunicated automatically by their actions and beliefs.

      • Todd Flowerday

        No they’re not. They’re Catholic disciples and believers just like you and I.

        • Mary

          Believers in what? That is precisely the issue. They believe more in the Barbara Marx Hubbards of this world than in the teachings of the Catholic Church.

          • Todd Flowerday

            Believers in Christ.
            Ms Hubbard doesn’t impress me. She’s right, of course, about the human race being in control of its material future, and that, in turn, has significant moral implications. But she’s barely a philosopher, let alone a religious figure.
            Her web site actually reminds me a lot of Father Z–lots of product to sell and promote. I’m not buying.

          • Margaret O’Hagan

            IMO they’re all old dinosaurs – look at the age of them…they’re dying out. The tragedy is the damage they have done

          • Todd Flowerday

            Except they are not dying out. They are gray just like priests. And they attract vocations in the US at the same rate as cloistered orders. The damage claimed here is illusory. The American bishops have done far more harm to faith by the sheltering and mismanagement of sex predators.

          • Sister S

            There are convents where Jesus has been wiped out from prayer books.

          • Margaret O’Hagan

            I believe you’re wrong, Todd. Their orders are not growing. I suggest you read a book ‘Good-bye Good Men’ to discover how some these nuns have contributed to the sex abuse problem in the Church; in the role they played in assessing whether seminarians had vocations or not….

          • Todd Flowerday

            I’ve read sections of the book, and again: unimpressive and even gossipy. Certainly, we are all aware of the meme of the knuckle-rapping sisters, and from my school days I recall one particularly cruel person. It is in the nature of people who crave power to be cruel–and it even happens online.

            Perhaps the Catholic blogosphere tries to convince us these orders are dying. But there are three key truths: 1. LCWR communities attract postulants in the same numbers as those of the CSMWR. 2. About 90% of American parishes are shrinking. 3. If we noted that fewer orders of women religious are shrinking, would that indicate–by numbers alone–the parish is in deeper trouble?

            This silly witch hunt distracts us from more important things most of the hierarchy has been powerless to curb: a lack of a sense of baptismal discipleship and a reticence about evangelization. Too much effort is spent in maintaining old systems of obedient sisters and bishops supreme in power.

            Too little recognition that lay people no longer need to join religious orders to serve the Church and people and to live a holy life.

          • Sister S

            You still don’t get it. It’s not an either/or.

            I would not fit into a lot of things the people here want me to , but at the same time I would not fit into a wacko feminist club.

            Would you give over everything, to join a group of new age nuts?

            If you are worried about evangelization, then this is not what you should be supporting.

          • Sister S

            This is not a silly witch hunt. It’s about the renewal of religious life. The CDF expressed genuine sorrow, and did not get into a nasty rant.

          • Sister S

            In the new age Jesus and christ are seen as different people.

          • Sister S

            There is another Hubbard conference coming up with the nuns on June 2nd.

      • GEORGE

        I agree with pretty much all the posts above. It seems like LCWR is just posturing. The gap between their views on certain issues and Church teaching is so wide as too be unbridgable.

    • Sam Schmitt

      I notice you never mention the serious doctrinal errors and ambiguities the LCWR has been promoting. It’s all about what people will think. As if those calling it a “witch hunt” by “tired old men” have read the books and gone deep on the issues. Only “conservatives” are misinformed.

      • Todd Flowerday

        Sam, I read Elizabeth Johnson’s book. It’s a theological work, not a catechesis. I don’t see the substance of Cardinal Wuerl’s objections at all. As for the claim about the ordination of women, the CDF had to go back to the 70’s and 80’s, when it was an open question, to find LCWR material. The LCWR stance since 1994 has been respectful and clear.
        In sum, I don’t see the doctrinal errors. And people misunderstand church doctrine all the time. The new Roman Missal translation has several ambiguities in the new text, but you will never see particular translators called on the carpet because the formulation is clumsy and suggests heresy.
        I agree with those who call it a witch hunt. Cardinal Rode was on a mission, and he was deposed years ago.
        I think nobody is going to get satisfaction from this. Nobody’s backing down and everybody’s trying to save face from the mess Cardinal Rode handed them. This latest episode has stirred up a lot of emotion. To what point?

        • Sister S

          you are just informed. Try reading Ann Carey or sister sarah butler.

          • Todd Flowerday

            Ann Carey is not as impressive to me as she is to Cardinal Muller. I would read Ann Carey to find out about the NCReg or Ann Carey. I wouldn’t trust her viewpoint on the LCWR any more than I would pay attention to what the LCWR says about Ann Carey.

            I can read Elizabeth Johnson. I can read the LCWR statements. I can read the CDF. I don’t need a journalist to interpret events for me.

          • Sister S

            Its not about what impresses you or me. It’s about facts.

          • Todd Flowerday

            The facts have been misread by the CDF and by the USCCB Doctrine Committee. If I’m unimpressed by a person, even a bishop, who lacks reading comprehension, I’m disinclined to pay further attention.

            I care little for the philosophy of agnostics like Ms Hubbard. But Elizabeth Johnson is a sound, orthodox, and reputable theologian. I don’t need someone to interpret her for me. (Though I will admit her prose requires me to focus and think–it’s not like reading a blog.)

          • Sister S

            Johnson is more polished than Andrea dorkin, but isn’t saying anything new. Radical feminists see references to Jesus as lord or master offensive because it puts them in a place of subordination.

            The same with son of God or the incarnation.

            This is not Christian.

            The claim that others are can’t comprehend this, is a Dodge.

          • Todd Flowerday

            That’s a pretty broad generalization. On the other hand, men have, in fact, abused women, and continue to do so. Women religious have been through the centuries on the front line of service to those abused by powerful men.
            We submit to Jesus not because was a man, but because he is God. Christianity does not require submission to a bishop not one’s own. One might say that insistence on lording it over others is gentile or pagan, but not of God. Jesus himself suggested actions speak louder than words. People can say what they like about the LCWR, but they tend to be less desk jockeys and airport inhabitants than bishops and bureaucrats.

          • Sister S

            I am a woman religious and I thank you for thinking so highly of us.

            I love my sisters and want whats best for them.

            The loss of mission and community life has led to the decline of religious life in America.

            Women religious in general are not on the front lines like they used to be.

            Much of this is the result of pride.

            Bishops not being faithful to their vocation does not mean that we should.

            Jesus cannot be seperated from his
            church. If one holds the view that the teachings of the church are not inspired by the holy spirit on faith and morals

          • Todd Flowerday

            Thanks for responding, savvy. What you write may all be true: Sara Butler has been critical of both the LCWR and the CSMWR. The loss of mission–well, I’m not sure we Catholics ever had it. We seemed content to let Bishop Sheen evangelize on tv, and did precious little of it ourselves.

            I don’t know women religious who have withdrawn from the frontlines. I know the ones who serve in parishes where their communities need them to be, and where they are called, often hundreds of miles from motherhouses. Priests don’t have it as bad, but they still live quasi-eremitic lives alone in rectories. None of it may be healthy for many, if not most of them.

            Pride is always a stumbling block.

            My point would be that prideful and intentionally dense bishops are indeed a problem. I can see how people would defend Professor Johnson. Her award was also surely a slap to bishops who closed ranks with Cardinal Wuerl. But if bishops want to give awards to women religious, they are free to do so, are they not?

            I don’t see the mischaracterizations described here of the women religious I know and am proud to have served with for nearly 30 years. The reaction to the latest CDF pronouncement is what, calling for excommunication on blog sites like this? Is this helpful? Is this godly? And isn’t this the fruit of this continued investigation.

            Bishops and sisters need to work this out in private. Not the news, and certainly not in the blogosphere. This is a near occasion of sin for me; I can only imagine what it’s like for people indulging in name calling, and the biting and tearing apart.

            My last comment here. Let the others have the last word.

          • Sister S

            I agree that the tone Catholics on both sides of this have taken is not helping their cause. The issues are not political.

            I can only give you an insider’s perspective on what the issues are.

            The LCWR is not being persecuted, they are committing suicide.

            In the 1970s when prayer books were being re-written to wipe out references to Jesus, the nuns who took a stance were given a very hard time.

            Many left, others stayed to fight the good fight.

            Call it poetic justice, but what goes around comes around.

            The Vatican is late to this, but better late than never.

          • Sister S

            “I don’t know women religious who have withdrawn from the frontlines. ”

            There is no active presence in majority of schools, hospitals and even parishes.

            “But if bishops want to give awards to women religious, they are free to do so, are they not?”

            This is not about a few things here and there. It’s about the leadership actively promoting new age teachings.

            “I don’t see the mischaracterizations described here of the women religious I know and am proud to have served with for nearly 30 years.”

            I made a distinction between members and the leadership.

            “The reaction to the latest CDF pronouncement is what, calling for excommunication on blog sites like this? Is this helpful? Is this godly? And isn’t this the fruit of this continued investigation.”

            This is the fruit of confusion about what the LCWR is and what’s its not.

            it’s just a support group for leaders of communities to network between communities.

            “Bishops and sisters need to work this out in private.”

            Yes, I agree.

          • Sister S

            I am a woman religious and I am touched that you think so highly of us.

            You might be in denial but there are serious issues.

            When prayer books were being re- written in the 1970s. The sisters who took a stand were in big trouble with their superiors. Many left at this time.

            Bishops doing something wrong does not justify something else.

            Jesus cannot be separated from his church. If one does not hold that the church has been founded by him and will not teach error on faith and morals then one should go elsewhere

          • Sister S

            You might want to read sister Sarah Butler’s take on this.

        • Sister S

          The point is that the sisters who disagreed, were given a very hard time by the same people crying wolf now.

          My superior is one of them.

          By what authority did the age of Aquarius crowd do this.

    • Sister S

      What utter hogwash. I know those sisters who have lived through a lot, under the new age loon bags.

  • disqus_NAVsMmJ24g

    As a lay Catholic watching all this play out, all I can say is that I just want sisters who will teach what the Catholic Church actually teaches. When I listen to what these sisters who head the LCWR teach I wonder, where is Christ? Where is the evangelization? While they help the poor and wounded, they also are more worried about feminism and power then spreading what Jesus and his church teach. If I had a corporation I would expect my employees to promote what my corporation does, not tell the world my corporation is corrupt or promote some other product we don’t sell. As a representative of the Catholic Church they should be promoting Catholic teachings – all the teachings, not just the ones they like, and bad mouth the other teachings and the heads of their organization. They need to reconcile what they believe, and if they are not willing to be a complete representative of the Church they need to reevalutate their vocation to the Church. I feel sorry for the sisters who belong to these orders. They are supposed to be supported and educated by their leaders and the LCWR. They should be receiving real teachings and help to support their vocation, not confusing support that goes “beyond Jesus” and is pridefully worried about power and those “evil men in the Vatican.” Those men have actually been more than patient while they have watched these sisters help tear down the Catholic Church in public

    and help weaken, not strengthen, the laity in their faith in Christ and His Church. I wonder what some of the great saints who were sisters would say if they saw what these LCWR leaders actually teach?

  • Thinkling

    I too am heartened by this response, although with one major caveat. The insistence that this is merely a misunderstanding strains credulity.

    I am reminded of the replies from Sr Elizabeth Johnson (yes the same one) to the doctrinal corrections of her textbook from the USCCB: they just don’t understand it. Even after several iterations, she maintained that party line. (practical comment: if bishops, many theologically well trained, have a hard time understanding your textbook, even to the point of wrongly concluding it is full of error, then you simply are not a good enough writer to even think about writing theology textbooks, especially for green high school and college students). Of course, the well founded fear is that what she would have considered understanding would only be the USCCB saying yeah Sr, you are right and 2000 years of Tradition are wrong.

    It is really, really hard to read the paper trail between the CDF and the LCWR, and the supporting documents from the LCWR, in good faith, and not instantly see the same worrying possibility.

    Let’s pray for all parties. The women of the LCWR are not the enemies, rather the Principalities and Powers who hate them and who have ghostwritten much of their mission and activities. Neither are the men of the CDF the enemies, rather the Principalities and Powers who hate them (even more) and who strive constantly to undermine their efforts.

    • fredx2

      You do point out one of the worrying things about the LCWR – they have always pretended they did not understand why there was a problem. They pretended that they had no idea why the CDF would be looking into them. They knew why, and they just kept feigning innocence. That is a very bad way to start.
      But time is up’ now with their latest provocation – so childish – it is time to let them go their own way.

      • 1ray1

        “Pretend” is the verb we all need to see!!

    • Florian

      The women of the LCWR are not the enemies…rather..the principalities and powers…no one can force anyone to comply with evil…bit by bit though, one succumbs through small acts of arrogance and disobedience; their efforts, the efforts of the LCWR, have been to undermine and distort Church teaching and in doing so they have not only damaged their own souls but also the souls that they have led astray…

    • MgW

      Sounds like the devil is in the details.

  • Greg Cook

    This response does not change anything. There are multiple times when the LCWR’s statement tries to shift focus away from doctrinal concerns raised by the Vatican. There is only carefully-crafted lawyer speak that concedes nothing and promotes to independent magisterium of the LCWR. It evinces no acknowledgment of a need to change. If the sisters are really concerned about trust, why don’t they speak in an honest manner?

  • PNP, OP

    “At our meeting with the CDF officials, we experienced a movement toward honest and authentic conversation. . .” Notice: movement toward, progress on, in process, developing. . .all synonyms for “evolving.” Progressives (in the Church and outside it) are experts at manipulating procedure to avoid reaching conclusions. It’s the bane of religious life — process, process, process! While processes are evolving toward movement in progress, they continue doing whatever they want. And the Vatican boys buy. Every.Single.Time. Fr. Philip Neri, OP

    • The LCWR certainly puts the Vatican in a bad position. The Holy See has shown an honest desire to show mercy and allow reconciliation, as Christ would.

      Nevertheless, enough is enough. Facta, non verba. At this point, mercy must be shown to the souls being lead astray by LCWR nuns.

      • Maggie

        Would that such leniency, clemency, and mercy that the dissenters have enjoyed be given to more of the truly faithful.

    • AquinasMan

      The object is to hold out a circumspect, fraudulent olive branch, so that, if the CDF wants to bring down the hammer, they can’t do it without looking like they’re the ones who won’t be reasonable with “poor little us”. It’s so ridiculously transparent.

      • Sister S

        Nobody has access to inside information. The nuns turned them in.
        There are members who don’t agree with the leadership.

    • Laura G

      I well remember my RCIA experience in the mid nineties. I was a young woman with no religious background thirsting for the Gospel. What the sisters gave us (along with a side of the Gospel) was Native American drumming, the Labyrinth and the Enneagram. I was pretty confused, but continued on because I knew the Church’s basic teachings through self-directed reading. Later, I got off track into New Age and Gnosticism, not having a strong foundation to my faith, partially due to the weakness of my religious education. I eventually found my way home to orthodoxy by the grace of God. Having been through all that, I know how attractive those philosophies can be to those seeking power. I hope God’s love burns through the fog of evil that is befuddling the top minds of the LCWR before it is too late. From my reading of their response to the CDF, they have no intention of abandoning the road they’re on. It’s pride that’s driving this.

    • Leonard Vega Merino

      “Passion for all that the Church CAN BE deepens our commitment to stay at the table and talk through differences.” That sentence jumped out at me and I believe says it all. They have an agenda as Father mentioned and it appears submission to Church teachings with obedience is nowhere in sight.

  • AquinasMan

    They think we’re all idiots. This whole “Who, us?” narrative is disgusting.

    I’ve had enough first-hand experience with entrenched activist nuns to know what a danger they are to the souls they instruct. Until they actually send out formal directives to all of their congregations to get rid of the Dream Catchers, Reiki Classes, Sophia Worship, and all the rest of the non-Catholic programs, and tear down the Joan Chittister/Rembert Weakland shrines, and repudiate CHA and every single group that gave their blessing to Obamacare, there’s not much to listen to coming from that corner. Not buying it for one second.

  • byGodsgrace

    We will know them by their fruit. Vocations, vocations, vocations. They do not think with the Church. Their starting point is themselves and their progressive theology, not the Church. When you start with the Church man or woman doesn’t matter, only Truth. Mistrust was how Satan got Eve.

    • Todd Flowerday

      Are you sure? Vocations to cloistered life and apostolic religious life are running 50-50 in the US.

      And indeed, nothing will change here. The LCWR is just a leadership committee. Religious orders continue attracting women, and governing their orders. The LCWR was formed at Rome’s request to facilitate communication. If women religious don’t like what’s being said–and they have some justification on many points–they will just walk away. And there’s nothing that can be done. The bishops and the CDF must realize they hold no cards here. Public opinion is against them. Most lay people appreciate and embrace the ministry witness of women religious in the US. Are there horror stories? Sure. But no Catholic group is exempt from loonies in their midst–even bishops.

      The more some Catholics get themselves worked up over this, the more bitter the inevitable disappointment.

      • Sister S

        The nuns turned them in. Nobody else has access to this information. There is a difference between members and the leadership. Members are not obliged to accept a set of view. The leadership has outstepped their bounds. The LCWR has internal factions.

        You are correct that orthodox communities in the LCWR will move on without ageing hippies who are dying out.

  • $51060174

    LCWR represents the devil.

    • Aldo Elmnight


  • Mary E.

    Perhaps I am missing something, but I don’t see this response as representing any sort of positive step forward. Instead, I see it as a rephrasing of their earlier responses, and another attempt to “run out the clock.” It fails to acknowledge or address any of the serious doctrinal issues raised by Cardinal Mueller, and makes more vague promises to continue the dialogue or conversation, without any commitment to a timeline or to definite actions. Just more talk, talk, talk, talk and talk. Followed by more talk. This has been going on for years now. Most insultingly, there is a suggestion that the concerns of the CDF are somehow in opposition to the pursuit of social justice.

    In short, the LCWR comes across as viewing themselves as equal to the CDF, and not bound by its statements. As they are a canonical institution, this attitude is troubling. As they say, “In some ways, for the LCWR, nothing has changed.” How true.

  • Stringtickler

    Getting back to; and sticking with the basics works every time…obedience…habits…

    • Sister S

      Start with belief in Jesus christ.

  • Wendell Clanton

    I have little to add, except to say that readers should be heartened more by Kathy Schiffer’s presentation of the facts and by the forthright comments written herein than by the LCWR response which is yet another attempt to avoid orthodoxy. It is refreshing to read comments by Catholics who truly love and defend the Church.

    • Mary E.

      Yes, it is refreshing, Wendell.

  • Carl HJ

    The response of the LCWR is truly sad. While they felt that the talk of Cardinal Muller had led to honest dialogue, it is clear that they did not hear what he said. It seems to me the heart of his talk centered on the need for the LCWR to return to the ecclesial center of faith in Christ Jesus the Lord”. The LCWR’s response does not mention “Jesus Christ the Lord.” This is the heart of the issue for the LCWR and for all the various parts of the Church. Pope Francis has constantly called all of us, women and men, priests and laity, religious men and women, to refocus ourselves on “ecclesial center of faith in Christ Jesus the Lord.” It is the life of the Church and therefore of all of us, especially religious. If the LCWR did not hear this or ignored it, there is really no point to expect a change. How can members of the Church dialogue about whether Jesus Christ is the center of our faith and lives?

  • Toni Vercillo

    So what don’t the nuns-on-the-bus understand about the Vow of Obedience? They sought freedom and ended up imprisoning themselves in their ‘we’ve got a better idea than Holy Mother Church’. They are like small children trying to tell mother how they ‘want’ it done instead of listening to mother on how it ‘ought’ to be done.

    • David M Paggi

      For most, “nuns on the bus” conjures an image of a school bus full of joyful sisters, in habits and frequent prayer, ignoring their discomfort in their zeal for Our Blessed Lord and His Church. Nothing could be further from the truth, which just one photo shows all too eloquently.

      Instead, there were a half-dozen or so women, well past middle-age, in civilian dress traveling in luxurious comfort in a well-appointed coach provided by the deep pockets of George Soros, who certainly means no good to Holy Mother Church. Compare the cost-per-seat of this transport to the former and ask yourself which better reflects the practice of the virtue of humility. Don’t even think of considering the virtue of docility.

      Was this well-publicized tour engaged in evangelization or Christian Service? Unfortunately no, they instead were too busy claiming victim status from the big, bad, male bishops while pointedly avoiding any discussion of the merits of the CDF Doctrinal Assessment.

      So the “nuns on the coach” presented a rather different expression of two of their vows, namely poverty and obedience, which were conspicuous by their absence. Their blatant lack of fidelity to these vows does nothing to inspire confidence in their fidelity to the third.

      A perceptive commenter observed that their carefully crafted response used the conditional “could be”, yet another instance of their strategy of delay, dissemble, & distract. They confuse the patience, forbearance, and restraint which so characterizes the statements of Cardinal Mueller & Archbishop Sartrain with weakness, and in the blindness of their pride fancy themselves actually advancing the progress of a worthy cause.

      I would bet long odds that the book of Ecclesiastes was not the reading of choice aboard the “Vanity Express”.

  • Florian

    May 8th…I honestly do not understand where these women are coming from – they have been in dialogue…they are not in line with the teachings of the Church, they know this and Rome knows this and yet they say: “…heartened by the attempt of both CDF and LCWR to find a way through that honors the integrity and mission of both offices.” …it seems that they consider the CDF to be under suspicion…the fact that these Nuns, these leaders, have been permitted to run amok for so many years is disgraceful. They have perverted the faith for so many; they have formed so many according to their views and have made known their contempt for the teachings of the CHurch and for those who proclaim the teachings of the Church truthfully. As I see it, they are still playing games…they should not be allowed to receive any new vocations or to teach or write or speak publicly until they have rejected their false teachings…this is not just about the LCWR – it is also about those they influence in the social, cultural and Religious sphere. Haven’t they done enough damage? And, primarily, this is about their souls and the souls of those in their care…

  • Cromulent

    Not sure LCWR’s response is all that heartening. Time will tell. The contention “This is a very complex matter” is not at all true.

  • donttouchme

    I agree with others here that nothing has changed. You can hear in their statement a resolve not to submit and an equating of the CDF and the LCWR, as if they are parallel voices, of equal import, which is their favorite lie.

    Sartain should call himself their father, not their brother and friend.

    • Trybil

      They should all be burned at the stake. The Church should return to its roots and purge the heretics. With love of course, as Christ would want.

  • quidkat

    Dialogue is not compliance. This looks like a strategy of dragging out the inquiry without resolution.

  • Gail Finke

    “What created an opening toward dialogue in this meeting was hearing first-hand the way the CDF perceives LCWR. We do not recognize ourselves in the doctrinal assessment of the conference and realize that, despite that fact, our attempts to clarify misperceptions have led to deeper misunderstandings.” I hope that is true and that this leads to something positive. Perhaps they really don’t realize how they are perceived — peopel often don’t — and that that perception isn’t limited only to “The Vatican.” It’s my perception, and I’m pretty sure my perception is accurate — although probably skewed by some of the wackier things that I’ve heard/read about and know are true, and not knowing about some of the less wacky things that doubtless also go on.

  • ike

    Remove their status. They can comply and be re-instated, or be just another liberal mouth piece

    • Mal

      I agree. Perhaps, a new leadership body (or bodies) can be introduced with members serving three year terms – no more. Furthermore, at every meeting these members should attend Mass and make a profession of faith.

      • kathyschiffer

        Well, I should have mentioned the orthodox group, the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious. There is an alternative!

        • Todd Flowerday

          Both groups are orthodox. The CMSWR are largely cloistered orders. The LCWR consists of apostolic orders. Clergy have been finding themselves in conflict with apostolic women in ministry for centuries. That’s why this latest episode has the sheen of he-said/she-said. And likely why everybody might do well to step back for a decade or two. It has nothing to do with theology or ecclesiology as such.

          • Sister S

            The CSMWR has apostolic communities. None of the great women saints were ashamed of Jesus christ. You have no idea whats going on.

          • Todd Flowerday

            I don’t see any shame for Jesus on the part of sisters I know or those I read. It is possible you may wish I have no idea what’s going on, but I’ve read the statements, the books, the blogs, etc. I just have a different conclusion, that’s all. I’m not in denial of Christ by having it. Well-meaning, faithful, thoughtful Catholics can have different opinions about this episode. We behold two well-educated, deeply-entrenched sides who each want to save face. Bishops with conservative Catholics. LCWR leadership with the sisters. It may be the best time to step back and let everybody cool down.

          • Sister S

            I am talking about all the new age nonsense. I would rather the Vatican handle this than those who don’t know a lot about religious life.

          • Todd Flowerday

            New age philosophy doesn’t bother me. Barbara Marx Hubbard is a lightweight. She’s entirely correct about human beings having control over the future vectors of evolution. But I’m far more concerned about the reemergence of gnosticism and pelagianism on both the Catholic Left and Right.

          • Sister S

            We agree here. Gnosticism is compatible with new age views, but not orthodox Christianity.

            I made a distinction between LCWR members and the leadership. Average members are not crazy like the leadership.

            But, sadly do not have the power the leadership does.

          • Todd Flowerday

            gnosticism is quite often found in those who consider themselves orthodox Catholics. You seem to be in the minority with others about who is crazy. Many people here seem ready to condemn all religious sisters whom they dislike. The new definition of “heresy” almost seems to be “stuff we don’t like.”

          • Sister S

            There’s a difference between traditionalist and orthodox I have come across this on both sides. Liberals who attack young nuns for being submissive drones.

            Yes. I have taken the heat for defending the LCWR sister’s who I know.

            I don’t see the Vatican dissolving entire communities. The orthodox communities in the LCWR would suffer along with the new age nuts.

  • Georgette

    The Holy Father should ask his Swiss guards to show these longtime dissenting sisters the door to the outside of the Church… Their minds have been made up a longtime ago…In this way if they want sincere changes then they will beg our Loving Lord to forgive and take them back. These sisters are just making promises to buy time right now.

  • Noel

    Well, the magisterium is into the works of salvation and they want these sisters salvation. Just like Pope Benedict tried to help those who follow the schismatic Bishop Lefebvre. Most of these sisters are up in years and will soon be meeting Jesus whom they vowed their life to in obedience, chastity and poverty. It is tragic that these educated woman have grown ignorant of how one can start walking away from fundamental truths of the Catholic Church but this has happened throughout history. Mercy is what is needed and prayer. Look at St Paul who sincerely believed he should get rid of the Christians, he changed and so can these sisters– It takes humility, mercy and lots of prayer.

  • bzelbub

    NEW YORK (RNS) The German cardinal who has been called the “pope’s theologian” said fresh Vatican criticism of American nuns was typical of the “narrower” view that officials of the Roman Curia tend to take, and he said U.S. Catholics shouldn’t be overly concerned.

    “I also am considered suspect!” Cardinal Walter Kasper said with a laugh during an appearance on Monday (May 5) at Fordham University. “I cannot help them,” he added, referring to his critics in Rome.

    The 81-year-old Kasper, who served as the Vatican’s chief ecumenical officer under Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, is seen as a close ally of Pope Francis. When Francis summoned bishops for a two-day summit on family issues in February, he tapped Kasper to give an opening address to lay the groundwork.

    In many ways, Kasper may better reflect Francis’ outlook than the crackdown on U.S. nuns launched by the Vatican’s doctrinal office. Just as Francis has downplayed the focus on rule-following and hot-button issues in an effort to widen the church’s appeal, Kasper has pushed the importance of pastoral flexibility and realism in walking with Catholics throughout their imperfect lives.

    Kasper is in the U.S. to discuss his book, “Mercy: The Essence of the Gospel and the Key to Christian Life.” It includes a blurb from Pope Francis, who has made mercy a cornerstone of his ministry since he was elected last year.

    On Monday, Kasper told the audience that after Francis praised him by name just days after his election, “an old cardinal came to him and said, ‘Holy Father, you cannot do this! There are heresies in this book!’ ”

    As Francis recounted the story to Kasper, he said, the pope smiled and added: “This enters in one ear and goes out the other.”

    It was Kasper’s way of providing context to the news that the Vatican’s doctrinal czar, Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, had sharply criticized leaders of more than 40,000 American nuns for disobedience to Rome and for “fundamental errors” in their beliefs.

    Mueller’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has been trying to rein in the American sisters for two years. Talks were believed to be going well, especially after the election of Francis. But Mueller’s criticisms and stark warning that the nuns must heed his demands seemed like a major setback to those hopes.

    Kasper said that he hoped that the confrontation between the Vatican and the Leadership Conference for Women Religious would be overcome.

    “If you have a problem with the leadership of the women’s orders, then you have to have a discussion with them, you have to dialogue with them, an exchange of ideas,” he said. “Perhaps they have to change something. Perhaps also the Congregation (for the Doctrine of the Faith) has a little bit to change its mind. That’s the normal way of doing things in the church. I am for dialogue. Dialogue presupposes different positions. The church is not a monolithic unity.”- See more at:‘pope’s-theologian’-downplays-vatican-blast-us-nuns-28863#sthash.yzWrrmMG.dpuf

  • Paul Kevin Patrick Geers

    I would say to these “grandmas NUNS” since they don’t wear a habit, they dress like old grandmas now, If you don’t want to be in the catholic church, GET OUT!! you sisters ruined the catholic school system in the USA, “Oh we don’t want to teach we want to be priests or do prison work” bull, most are on the gravy train, I am so tired of these nuns, I wish they would get out of the church.

  • Sue

    So what strikes me in the Sisters response is there was not one mention of Jesus Christ. They did talk about “energy” but not Christ. Seems to me this has been the problem all along.

  • Michael Sullivan

    Let’s be frank here. The LCWR are dying. They are playing shuffle board on the Titanic when the CDF is calling them into a life boat, but they refuse to leave their game. Within 3 miles of where I sit, EVERY order of religious sisters have either died out or are dying out because they think that young women want to give their lives to a poisonous ideology that is premised on the myth that women have been oppressed by the Church. Obviously hoard of young women are interested.

    I once consulted with an order that prays “In the Name of the Creator, the Redeemer and the Sanctifier” because they can’t bring themselves to say “Father.” They were dying and financial projections meant they would be bankrupt within 10 years. They wanted to know what to do.

    After going over a number of possibilities, I eventually asked the Prioress, “Have you heard from the Lord about all this? What is the Lord saying to you?”

    She glared at me with a flash of anger that flowed over her and had nothing to say because clearly she didn’t have a relationship with Jesus and was not one of the “sheep that hear His voice.” It was a sad but revealing moment.

    The untold story here is the witness of those faithful religious who were kept out of power in their orders and were psychologically abused by the revolutionaries. The stories of these faithful women need to be told.

  • Steve

    Blah-blah borderline heretics.

  • Chauffeur

    There are none so blind as they who will not see.
    The response should have been: “We profess obedience to the Holy Church.”

  • jenny

    Do we know why are there only 4 women , but 30 men Doctors of the Church?

    • kathyschiffer

      Again, Jenny, you point out an important issue! I’m going to hazard a guess: Through much of the history of the Church, there was a true difference between men’s work and women’s work. Men were writers; very few women had the equivalent education or work experience, but instead raised their families. In the last two generations, that has changed. I doubt that the lopsided ratio will recur in future years, because society in general has changed.

  • jenny

    Do we know why till 1970s most women saints in the calendar were “virgin”, but no man saint was required to be “virgin”?

    Is virginity a requirement only for women, in order to get into the catholic calendar of saints?

    • kathyschiffer

      Jenny, I think that many of the “virgin” saints are religious sisters–members of religious orders. There could be some prejudice involved in that; but more likely, it has to do with the fact that there is extensive research required when a person is considered for sainthood. That’s very expensive for an individual or family to accomplish; whereas a devout sister’s religious community would be pleased to initiate the Cause.

  • Concerned Catholic

    Look at these women pictured – they’re not nuns; they’re not even Catholic. Once you deviate from the teachings of the Catholic Faith, you’re no longer Catholic, as far as I am concerned; just another type of Protestant sect. And what about their appearances would inspire respect for their vocations or supposed consecrated lives? Without the traditional habit, they look like any other layperson out on the street. And I wonder if the virtuous and dedicated Catholic founders of their Orders/Congregations would approve of what their members are doing today? I doubt this is what the founders had in mind when they began their respective ministries.

    Many of these “nuns” are more invested in promoting metaphysical philosophies/practices – Eastern practices, Reiki, Maze walking – than they are solid Church Teachings; they’ve lost the original charism of their founders and now glorify obvious heresies opposed to Christian Doctrine.

    I’m so sick of reading about how this group makes themselves out to be victims being bullied by Rome. If they don’t agree with the Catholic Church’s set of teachings, why don’t they just leave the Church for another one that teaches what they want to believe rather than trying to spread errors within the Holy Sheepfold? There are hundreds of other churches out there.

    Lord, send your Church holy, solid vocations in the same caliber as St. John Vianney, St. Padre Pio, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Clare of Assisi, St. Veronica Giuliani, etc. We are in need of worthy religious role models who are truly on fire with love for you and your Church, not individuals who love their self-interests more. Amen.

    • Todd Flowerday

      Don’t forget women persecuted by clergy: St Mary MacKillop, Mother Guerin, and Jeanne d’Arc, who even died when priests and bishops didn’t get it right..

      • Sister S

        These women were faithful to the teachings of the church, not the other way around.
        I am tired of the self pity card johnson and others would not be fit to tie their shoelaces.

        • Todd Flowerday

          Actually, I don’t hear the self-pity card all that much. Professor Johnson keeps head to grindstone and teaches and writes. It’s others like me who have publicly defended her. I think Professor Johnson has been very badly treated–unchristian I would call it–by Cardinal Wuerl and his committee. He might be a favorite of Pope Francis, but he’s no favorite in my book for a lack of reading comprehension.

          As for faithfulness, I doubt anyone here is qualified to make a judgment on people they do not know personally. Ann Carey does not replace the Last Judge in determining who is faithful and who is goat.

          • Sister S

            I know some of these people personally. My superior was a part of the LCWR.

            Theology that pits people against each other, is destructive, regardless of who does it.

            I have no time for power feminists who play these games, while rallying against clericalism.

            It’s the pot calling the kettle black,

  • Maggie

    The LCWR needs to be disbanded. Their continued dissentions and disobediences are a SCANDAL.

  • jmstalk

    So, if I understand the LCWR response, the real problem is the “institutionalized impressions” at the Vatican for LCWR? And, these LCWR leaders conclude they “are still under the mandate and still tasked with the difficult work of exploring the meaning and application of key theological, spiritual, social, moral, and ethical concepts together as a conference and in dialogue with the Vatican officials. This work is fraught with tension and misunderstanding.”

    Wow. I’m not a nun or a theologian but I understand the teachings of the Catholic Church just fine and what those teachings require me to do or not do. Perhaps LCWR needs new leaders. At least some of these women or their speakers seem to have a problem with men and this is the root of their rebellion.

    To these women, I say, LOOK at the natural order of the world. From the beginning, women turn to the men and the men toward God. Men are meant to lead us to God. This is not because men are better or greater than women because we have equal dignity…but our callings differ immensely. Jesus Christ clearly demonstrated that the greatest in heaven is the lowliest on earth (because He humbled himself to the lowest position), so really, we should all be striving to be the littlest, the least important, and humbly guided by others. That the man was chosen to be the one to lead his family only makes it more difficult for him to achieve this lowliness in this life. He has to struggle with this his entire life because the temptation to exploit is is immense. Women should be grateful that God blessed them with a different calling, one of loving and nurturing life. My only regret is that I learned this too late in life.

  • Fatherharry Graham Potter

    I would like to see them “dialogue” with Jesus the Supreme Judge at the Last Judgement!

  • RMThoughts

    They look like a bunch of dikes.

  • Paul B

    This is quite unbelievable. Where has humility and obedience disappeared to in the west? Is this just an American thing? Is it too difficult being a humble, obedient nun in such a world of pride and self-glorification? I would simply ask these nuns to consider Our Blessed Mother.

  • TycoBraheem

    Hey nuns, in all charity, it isn’t that you need to”talk through your differences” with the CDF. It is you hold hetrodox views that need to be brought into conformity with the dogmatic-doctrinal positions of the Church. There is no need for you all to be defensive, just contrite and accept your rebuke in humility without heaping on excuses and deflections which appeal to reader’s emotions rather than focusing attention on your real doctrinal problems. Especially when you publicly endorse a well established heretic, unabashedly. Your group has been warned in the past about your errors, yet you persist, and plow ahead. I mean come on ladies, you don’t even wear habits anymore! It is almost as if living the contemplative life takes the back seat to the activist-feminist cause. Prehaps your prayers have been answered afterall, and this rebuke is supposed to put you all back on the right path. Now start heading in that direction the Cardinal has set you on.

  • john654

    I’m 63 years old and I am just fed up with these Sisters. I am not in “Dialog” with them any more. They need to repent!

  • rtwngr

    They’re taking something simple and trying to make it complex. Fix what is broken or move on to whatever end you are seeking. Either you are in communion with the Pope and his Cardinals or you are not. Pick.