The LCWR was given 5 years (starting in 2012) to implement a reform and thereby conform itself which Church doctrine and morals. What have been the results of this reform and how has the treatment of the LCWR differed from than the SSPX?
Once again, the LCWR is in the news for pretty much the same reason:
Actions by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) at its latest annual assembly suggest that it may be closed to the possibility of reform, one writer on Catholic religious life has said."
This mega organization of female religious superiors was recently given this description by the Catholic News Agency:
With some 1,500 members, the LCWR constitutes about 3% of the 57,000 women religious in the United States. However, the group says it represents 80% of American sisters since its members are leaders of their respective religious communities."
So, what is the problem with the LCWR? After all, this organization was canonically-erected. And though it acts like the USCCB for female religious, nevertheless, “democratization” of the Church (or collegiality) is in vogue.
The “minor” problem is that this mega power of sisters acts as if it can pick and choose—as heretics are wont to do—what it wants to accept of Church doctrine and authority. This problem of the LCWR was no secret. Despite cries for bringing the dissenting sisters into conformity with Church teaching, they were winked at by the hierarchy. Finally in 2011, the Vatican ordered an Apostolic Visitation to be made by Archbishop Peter Sartain. Not surprisingly, several of the sisters immediately issued an open letter denouncing the visitation as a “witch hunt.”
Paradoxically, the New York Times simultaneously reported on the drastic decrease of priests and religious who were serving as chief executives in Catholic hospitals. For example in the 1960s, the presiding total was 770 in 796 of the nation’s ecclesiastically-run hospitals, whereas today, the figure is 8 out of 636 hospitals. In retrospect, perhaps the literary denouncers should have considered the Visitation as more of a haunted house tour—with mere ghosts of sisters—than a witch hunt!
It is also interesting to note that even the Times drew the connection that the near “extinction” of sisters from hospitals was “accompanied” by the rise of feminism, the sexual revolution and changes wrought by Vatican II.
It is no surprise that the 2012 publication of the LCWR visitation report indicated serious dissent on various Church matters, not only in the doctrinal sphere on such topics as the divinity of Christ and the priesthood, but also in morality, such as on sex and gender matters.
Rather than calling the LCWR to task to immediately rectify these matters of dissent (even to sign on the dotted line), the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith granted Archbishop Sartain an “extension” of up to 5 years to lead a reform.
So how much of this reform has been accomplished within the past two years? Not much as can be witnessed by the recent statement of LCWR board members during its annual assembly just held in Nashville from August 12-16:
The board members said they wanted to continue in conversation with Archbishop Sartain in order “that new ways may be created within the church [sic] for healthy discussion of differences.”
What is the implication of such a statement? That these religious have adopted the modernist tactic of “stay put and rock the boat from within”! In fact, this was confirmed by Cardinal Franc Rode in 2011, when he affirmed that there were some in religious life:
who have chosen paths that have carried them away from communion with Christ in the Catholic Church, even though they have decided to physically “be” in the Church."
Hence, it is clear that the LCWR is playing by the same modernist tune of “alter from within”.
Perhaps in the confusion of the post-conciliar crisis these sisters simply “can’t get” what the Catholic Church actually teaches. Such a naïve notion was debunked by Ann Carey, a noted author and contemporary expert on female religious (Sisters in Crisis and Sisters in Crisis Revisited), who just recently told CNA:
These are educated women, and certainly they have the intellectual ability to understand the doctrinal teachings of the church… Rather than actually engaging some of the doctrinal issues involved, they tend to bring in speakers who reinforce their own views and even propose unproven theories such as 'conscious evolution' and 'new cosmology'”
So there we have it—the LCWR leadership definitely knows what it is doing in dissenting with Catholic doctrines and morals, let alone Church authority.
The irony here is that the “kid-glove” treatment has been consistently applied to the blatantly dissenting and heterodox LCWR and others of this attitude during the post-conciliar era, while traditional groups such as the Society of St. Pius X, whose fidelity to the Catholic Faith is unquestionable, have received stricter treatment.
The case of the LCWR—to use their own words—is unfortunately another case of the post-conciliar double-standard: those who adhere to the “new ways” are “in” the Church, while those who stand fast with the “old ways” are to be regarded as if they are “out”.
1 Quoted from the August 20, 2014 CNA article, “LCWR may not be open to reform, commentator worries”.
3 Cited from the August 20, 2011 article, "Nuns, a ‘Dying Breed,’ Fade From Leadership Roles at Catholic Hospitals".
4 Cited from December 5, 2008 CNA article, “Renew religious life by returning to founding charisms, Cardinal Rode tells orders”.
5 CNA article of August 20th.
6 National Catholic Reporter piece of August 22, 2014, “LCWR: business as usual despite cloud of Vatican mandate”.