Catholic Religious Women continue claim to the right to ‘faithful dissent’ and their own understandings of faith, ecclesial authority and religious obedience, an expert commentator has said.
The annual assembly of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious took place from 13-16 August 2013 in Orlando, Florida, USA.
The main topic of the meeting was how to respond to a mandate of reform of the organisation issued by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) on 17 April 2012.
That mandate directed Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle to accomplish in five years: a revision of the LCWR’s statutes; review and reform of LCWR plans and programs; creation of LCWR programmes to help member congregations deeper formation in Church doctrine; review and application of liturgical norms and texts; and review of LCWR links with the affiliated organisations Network and Resource Center for Religious Institutes.
Archbishop Sartain met in closed session with the entire membership to discuss the CDF assessment and to answer questions. An LCWR press release issued at the end of that three-day meeting said: “Although we remain uncertain as to how our work with the bishop delegates will proceed, we maintain hope that continued conversations of this depth will lead to a resolution of this situation that maintains the integrity of the LCWR and is healthy for the whole church.”
Ann Carey, considered by many to be the foremost expert on women religious, and whose book, Sisters in Crisis Revisited, spends an entire chapter reporting on the CDF doctrinal assessment of the LCWR, and includes for readers the actual Vatican document as an Appendix, commented afterwards on the key issues.
She said: “The LCWR statement indicates that the sisters continue to look for a ‘third way’ alternative to avoid reform of the LCWR while still retaining its status as a canonically-erected superiors’ organisation. The statement shows no intention to work on the reforms, but rather to continue dialoguing with Archbishop Sartain, as they have been doing for over a year.
"Perhaps the biggest clue about the LCWR’s intentions is found in the press release’s quotation from the address to the assembly by LCWR president, Sister Florence Deacon, OSF," she said.
"Sister Florence said that the LCWR’s ‘situation reflects larger questions and concerns,’ including ‘understandings of authority, faithful dissent, and obedience; and the need for spaces where honest, probing questions about faith and belief can be raised and discussed.’”