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Women Religious Reject Vatican Assessment

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) issued a statement on Friday in which they denounce the Vatican's recent sanctions against the organization.

According to a LCWR press release, the group issued a statement at the conclusion of a special meeting held in Washington DC from May 29-31 to review and plan a response to an assessment by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) that found serious doctrinal problems with the way the group is conducting itself.

Many members of the LCWR are well-known for their outspoken support of women's ordination, same-sex relationships and other issues concerning sexuality. It was also one of the few Catholic groups in the country to support ObamaCare and the HHS mandate accommodation.

However, the leaders of the LCWR denounced both the content of the CDF's assessment as well as the process by which it was prepared.   "Board members concluded that the assessment was based on unsubstantiated accusations and the result of a flawed process that lacked transparency," they say in their statement.

"Moreover, the sanctions imposed were disproportionate to the concerns raised and could compromise their ability to fulfill their mission. The report has furthermore caused scandal and pain throughout the church community, and created greater polarization."

The group claims to have received thousands of messages of support and "dozens of prayer vigils" held throughout the country.

"It believes that the matters of faith and justice that capture the hearts of Catholic sisters are clearly shared by many people around the world," they assert.

The LCWR president and executive director will travel to Rome on June 12 to meet with CDF prefect Cardinal William Levada and the apostolic delegate, Archbishop Peter Sartain, who has been put in charge of the group, to discuss their concerns. Following these discussions, the LCWR plans to gather its members in regional meetings and in its August assembly to determine its response to the CDF report.

Within hours of the LCWR's statement, Archbishop Sartain of Seattle issued his own statement in which he promised to address the group's concerns "in an atmosphere of openness, honesty, integrity and fidelity to the Church's faith."

He went on to assure the faithful that both he and the CDF “are wholeheartedly committed to dealing with the important issues” raised by both the recent doctrinal assessment and the LCWR’s national board.

Part of Archbishop Sartain's responsibilities will be to revise the statutes of the LCWR, review its connections to affiliate organizations, as well as help create a new formation program for sisters to offer a deeper understanding of Catholic teaching.

Sartain will also be responsible for approving future speakers and presentations at the group's assemblies which have caused great scandal in the Church in the past. For instance, the speaker for this year's conference, which will be held from August 7-10, is New Age guru Barbara Marx Hubbard, a promoter of a new worldview called "conscious evolution" who will speak on "What does it mean for you to be a leader in the evolutionary times."

The LCWR is composed of 1,500 members which represent just three percent of the 57,000 women religious in the U.S. today. However, because its members are leaders of their religious communities, the group actually represents 80 percent of American sisters.

The Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR), a similar organization that is faithful to the teachings of the Church, was formed by the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life in 1992 to promote religious life in the United States. It represents 20 percent (about 11,400) religious women in the United States, all of whom wear religious habits and are active in an apostolate.

The CMSWR is comprised of younger women, with the average age of the group being 60, compared to the LCWR whose members average 74 years. 

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