The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) spent three years in private conversations with the bishop-delegates of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), which led to a joint final report in April 2015.\ Sister of Loretto Jeannine Gramick suffered more than a decade of Vatican investigation because of the ground-breaking, heroic ministry she co-founded. Comparing her experience with that of LCWR, Sister Jeannine states that she believes that LCWR “chose the path of secrecy and self-silencing” because they offer no details of their conversations about the CDF’s charges and because she believes the joint final report will constrain them.
Commentary - While I feel deep sympathy for the personal toll suffered by the leaders of LCWR who went through the doctrinal assessment and mandate from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, I also feel deeply troubled by the structural implications of the settlement. I believe the two main pillars of the church’s bureaucracy have been maintained. There is still secrecy and there is still self-silencing.
Commentary - The LCWR experience is a 21st-century story and the latest version of this “uneasy alliance” that American sisters have negotiated and finessed, both within the church and in secular society where male, hierarchical authority and gendered politics have usually defined the terms and set the parameters of power, status and leadership.
So much has been written about the Leadership Conference of Women Religious of the USA particularly since April this year when the Vatican closed the controversial oversight of the LCWR. What I would like to express here is my/our deep gratitude to the LCWR for their exemplary way of going through this extremely painful and difficult process.
Twice in recent months Catholics have breathed a sigh of relief when press conferences in Rome announced the friendly settlement of difficulties between Vatican officials and American women religious. Although Pope Francis gives evidence of androcentric thinking, I believe his commitment to initiating processes of reform that allow for the voicing of divergent views is promising where justice for women is concerned.
Having experienced six years of a Vatican investigation that shrouded the work of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Sr. Carol Zinn, the organization's past president, called for more open, honest and heartfelt dialogue across the divides within the church.
Recently I had an opportunity to lead the discussion following the screening of the film, "Band of Sisters," which I am in. It tells the story of how we women religious became involved with various ministries following the Second Vatican Council. It focuses on the emerging works of social justice, political advocacy, the movement toward sustainability and ecological centers and the transformation of consciousness rooted in contemplation. Woven within the film is the challenge women religious faced with the investigations initiated from two different Vatican Congregations.
I'm so thankful for the mid-April resolution of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's mandate against the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. Alongside December's positive apostolic visitation report, this is a second win-win for U.S. sisters and for Pope Francis, who successfully de-escalated the troubling (not to say scandalous) situation he inherited.
After the Leadership Conference of Women Religious broke its silence Friday regarding the end of the controversial Vatican oversight of the group, some sisters also still have lingering questions. For the National Coalition of American Nuns, a progressive 300-member grassroots organization focused on church and social justice issues, the major question is this: At what price has this resolution been achieved?
GSR Today - So, in case you missed it, the end of last week was pretty busy at Global Sisters Report. On Friday (at 4:30 in the morning Kansas City time, no less) the Leadership Conference of Women Religious released its first statement about the end of the Vatican’s oversight of the conference last month.
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