U.S. women religious leaders face an uncertain future as they gather Aug. 12-16 in Nashville, Tenn., for their annual assembly.
More than 800 elected congregational leaders will discuss how they plan to react to continued charges of infidelity leveled by the church's top enforcer of orthodoxy, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as well as to the congregation's plans to take over the organization after the assembly.
The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents nearly all the women religious congregations in America, has been under attack by the congregation since 2012. The Nashville gathering will be the third consecutive LCWR assembly in which church infighting overshadows the business of the leadership conference.
The issues are multilayered, involving disputes over the role of religious life, the relationship between religious and bishops, questions of obedience, and differing visions of church priorities and mission.
Beneath these is one more: the role of women in a church that maintains a gender-determined authority system. The conflict between LCWR and the doctrinal congregation has become the most visible manifestation of this highly charged issue.
The congregation upped the ante April 30 by setting a deadline to take control of LCWR. Prefect Cardinal Gerhard Müller, in a harsh statement that reiterated Vatican charges of LCWR's doctrinal breaches, said that beginning in August, LCWR must clear with a bishop overseer future assembly speakers and honorees.
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Global Sisters Report will be reporting daily from the LCWR assembly in Nashville.