Challenge to the church from women religious in the USA

By agency reporter
August 14, 2013

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) began its latest assembly in Orlando, Florida, on Tuesday 13 August 2013.

Given the LCWR’s ongoing contentious relationship with the Vatican over issues such as life, marriage and sexuality, the assembly is certain to generate headlines.

In April 2012, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith revealed the findings of a four-year assessment of the conference that found “serious doctrinal problems” and the need for reform.

Letters from LCWR officers and presentations sponsored by the conference revealed themes that do not adhere to the teachings of the Catholic Church, and an actual advocacy for positions on faith and morals that are not compatible with the Catholic faith, such as the female priesthood and homosexuality.

“When the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) meets for its annual assembly this week, the hot topic of discussion is sure to be whether the sisters will cooperate with a reform of the organisation ordered last year by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,” Anne Carey observed.

Carey is recognised as a leading expert on women religious, the issues they face, and their relationship with the Catholic Church.

“Several ‘dialogue’ sessions have taken place over the past year between Archbishop J. Peter Sartain and officers of the LCWR, whose 1,300-plus members lead about 80 per cent of the Catholic sisters in this country, but there have been no signs of progress," she added.

"Therefore, LCWR members entering their assembly this week will have to decide if they are willing to correct some doctrinal errors in their corporate policies, publications and programs or refuse to do so and risk losing their canonical status as a Vatican-approved conference of superiors of religious orders.”

Carey is a veteran journalist who specialises in bioethics and Catholic women religious, and whose work has been published widely in periodicals such as the National Catholic Register, Our Sunday Visitor, Crisis and Catholic World Report.

Her recent book, Sisters in Crisis Revisited, addresses the LCWR, the consequences of wayward leadership among women religious and reasons for the significant decline in the number of religious sisters in the United States.

It is also the only full and complete history of American Catholic women religious in existence.


Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.