Blog Post

Dissenting Nuns Reject Rome's Plan

Commentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS

The Leadership Council of Women Religious (LCWR), which was recently put under direct control by the Vatican due to the group's long history of dissent from Catholic teaching, has decided to reject Rome's plan to reform the group into a more conservative mold, but stopped short of calling for an outright split from the Church.

According to the Religion News Service (RNS), the decision was made at the conclusion of the LCWR's annual convention in St. Louis this weekend. The group, which represents the leadership of a majority of U.S. religious orders, made its first official response to the Vatican by expressing its "deep disappointment" with Rome's assessment of the group as a dissenting organization. However, they also expressed a desire to keep talking with the hierarchy with the hopes of "creating more possibilities for the laity and, particularly for women, to have a voice in the Church."

“Dialogue on doctrine is not going to be our starting point,” former LCWR president Sr. Pat Farrell told reporters.

She added that the sisters will reconsider their options if the LCWR “is forced to compromise the integrity of its mission.” This seems to indicate that if the Vatican doesn't change some of its plans to revamp the organization, the sisters may take the unprecedented action of disbanding the LCWR and reorganizing into a new body that acts independently of Rome.

After releasing its doctrinal assessment in April of this year, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith appointed Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle to direct the group's reform and charged him to work collaboratively with the officers of the LCWR to achieve the goals outlined in the document, which would bring the sisters more into line with authentic Catholic teaching, particularly those concerning its teachings on morality and sexual ethics.

In their announcement, the officers of the LCWR said they would conduct their conversation with Archbishop Sartain "from a stance of deep prayer that values mutual respect, careful listening and open dialogue."

The first meeting between the leaders and Archbishop Sartain took place yesterday, but there is no word yet about the success of these talks.

Their announcement included a paragraph in favor of the New Age guru who keynoted the conference, Barbara Marx Hubbard, who they refer to as  “a futurist and author" who spoke on consciousness evolution. Hubbard told the nuns that the crises humanity is facing today "are potential signals driving the world toward more cocreative, coevolving humanity, where people become more fully aware of their potential for healing and evolving the world in new ways, new forms and ever-expanding relationships.”

Although the sisters claim they experienced an outpouring of support when the Vatican announced its intentions to reform the group, there has also been considerable relief among the laity that something is finally being done about religious sisters who have become deeply involved in the New Age, radical feminism and liberal social causes rather than in the Church they vowed to represent.

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