Cue the outrage machine. Cardinal O’Malley was asked about the LCWR Intervention and called it a “disaster.”
When you watch the actual interview, it’s clear that O’Malley is referring to the public relations optics of having on the one hand a bunch of humble nuns working with the poor, and on the other hand a bunch of (male) bishops from the Vatican putting them in receivership. And on that score, he’s absolutely right.
From everything I’ve read, it seems clear to me that many elements of the LCWR have slipped into heterodoxy and that some sort intervention, at least, is called for.
At the same time, we should be wise as serpents and recognize that the Church doesn’t need unforced PR fiascos.
One way out of this square circle that I have proposed is to revise the institution of the Papal Legate. Back in the Middle Ages, when communication lines were poor, and there was some situation to be dealt with, the Pope would appoint someone as legate, with the full powers of the Pope, to go and rectify the situation. The legates had full power, but limited to a specific issue, and to the duration of their mission. Quite often, because of the corruption of Rome, the Pope would pluck some holy monk out of his monastery and send him on such missions, with powers greater than cardinals, archbishops and abbots.The institution of the Papal Legate seems to me to be a clear answer to several significant questions we are asking today, such as: how to increase the representation and involvement of women and laity within the Church hierarchy without unwarranted innovation; and how to reform the Curia and other institutions when the problem seems to be not just specific persons and policies, but the very culture of those institutions. If there is some theological objection to naming women or laymen as Legate, I have no idea what it could be. (I haven’t done the research, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some precedent, although obviously it would have been the exception rather than the rule.)
In the case of the LCWR intervention, it seems obvious to me that appointing an orthodox female religious as the Papal Legate in charge of the intervention would have avoided a lot of the bad optics. And it’s not crazy to think that it might even be more likely to produce good results in terms of the intervention itself, since a woman religious quite possibly could have better insight into the life of women religious than a bishop.
This, it seems to me, is the sort of idea that is completely in keeping with the best traditions of the Church, at the same time as bringing a fresh and intelligent solution to some important issues we are facing at the moment.