“Stifle yourself, Edith! Stifle!” – Archie Bunker
The Leadership Conference of Women Religious is once again the target of a Vatican crackdown. The Conference, which is the largest umbrella group for U.S. nuns, came under criticism under the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI, the predecessor to Pope Francis.
As far back as 1979, the group asked then-Pope John Paul II to entertain the idea of ordaining women as priests. The Church rejected this, and asked the group to not ask about it again.
The group was singled out due to its stances that run afoul of established Church doctrine, as well as its willingness to entertain points of view of those persons that the Church has deemed contrary to its established order.
This and other stances led the Church to declare that the group needed to be reformed, or else cease to exist. They have not let go of some of the reforms they are asking take place in the Church. Church administrators have warned the LCWR that they must “renew” their organization or risk having their charter revoked.
Now the Church is continuing its crackdown on this group, even under what is seen as a more liberal administration of Pope Francis. In 2012 Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of the Archdiocese of Seattle was appointed as an Archbishop Delegate with the task of overseeing changes in the LCWR to reform its statutes, programs, and affiliations to conform more closely to “the teachings and discipline of the Church.”
Another Church representative, Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, the Vatican orthodoxy watchdog, recently reprimanded the LCWR leadership for not falling more in line with the wishes of the Vatican on these matters, as expressed through their Assessment.
“This concern is even deeper than the Doctrinal Assessment’s criticism of the LCWR for not providing a counter-point during presentations and Assemblies when speakers diverge from Church teaching,” Mueller said. “The Assessment is concerned with positive errors of doctrine seen in the light of the LCWR’s responsibility to support a vision of religious life in harmony with that of the Church and to promote a solid doctrinal basis for religious life.”
“The LCWR, as a canonical entity dependent on the Holy See, has a profound obligation to the promotion of that faith as the essential foundation of religious life,” Mueller said. “We are looking for a clearer expression of that ecclesial vision and more substantive signs of collaboration.”
The LCWR officially takes as its mission the promotion of a developing understanding and living of religious life by:
* assisting its members personally and communally to carry out more collaboratively their service of leadership in order to accomplish further the mission of Christ in today’s world.
* fostering dialogue and collaboration among religious congregations within the church and in the larger society.
* developing models for initiating and strengthening relationships with groups concerned with the needs of society, thereby
* maximizing the potential of the conference for effecting change.
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