LCWR gripes about being accountable to the CDF and USCCB

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Fishwrap today has an interesting bit of news about the LCWR’s recent developments.  As you know, those meanies at the CDF and USCCB are actually going to hold the LCWR’s leadership accountable for their doctrinal dissent and defiance of the bishops.

Today Joshua J. McElwee, who seems to be the NCR’s go to guy for this story, has an article about how LCWR took the news. LCWR ‘stunned’ by Vatican’s latest move.

I’ll be they were stunned!  After all, since the Apostolic Visitation had not produced immediate consequences, and since even a highly placed official in the Congregation for Religious had downplayed the results, I’ll bet they thought they had intimidated their way out of the corner they have been painting themselves over for the past decades.

With this new development, however, watch LCWR – a subsidiary of the Magisterium of Nuns – try to spin their latest news as if they are being victimized by the holders of power in the very power structure they themselves would like to control.

There is a bit in McElwee’s report that got my attention. My emphases.

The group [LCWR] sent an email Thursday to the heads of each of the congregations it represents, explaining how the group became aware of the news.

That email, obtained by NCR, [“obtained”  Great!  I’ll bet LCWR’s office just cc’s everything to NCR.] says LCWR leadership was in Rome to meet Wednesday with members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith regarding the doctrinal assessment. When the leaders came to the meeting, the congregation had already communicated with the U.S. bishops’ conference news of Sartain’s appointment, the email states.
Additionally, the email says LCWR membership was told during the meeting that news of the appointment would only be shared Wednesday at the bishops’ conference internally and not with the general public in order to give the group time to communicate with its leaders. [I have a strong doubt that LCWR was ever told such a thing.]
“When we met with Cardinal (William) Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on April 18, where we received the assessment results, CDF’s communication had already been sent to the USCCB for release at noon,” the email states.  [The implication is that the CDF should not have been communicating with the USCCB autonomously when it came to the LCWR. HAH.]
“We understood that the documents would be put on USCCB’s members-only web page,” it continues. “Consequently, we had hoped to communicate the conclusions with you ourselves. That was not possible.”

It is pretty clear why this news about the CDF and USCCB’s decisions about the LCWR was made public.

Now that everyone knows about this, LCWR can’t just go back to their labyrinths and oaktrees and pretend nothing had happened.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. doozer125 says:

    While reading the comments over at the NCR website it just made me realize how bitter and sad some people can be. I really try to understand the liberal mindset in the Church, but just don’t get it. I really can’t wait until the last aging, “Spirit of Vatican II” hippy goes on to their final reward and the Church can be done with this sad chapter in her history…

  2. Peggy R says:

    I heard a clip of Sr. Joan Chittister’s comments on a CBS radio news update. All she could say was “Why? Why?” These ladies are trying to rest on the laurels of their once-great orders and their saintly foundresses who were indeed dedicated to educating Catholic children and caring for the sick and the poor in their midst. As I have read some where else (I can’t take credit), “these women have abandoned their posts.” They’ve shown themselves incapable of self-governance.

    I pray for a conversion of these women’s souls.


  4. GregH says:

    Who exactly has the USCCB ever held accountable?

  5. tcreek says:

    20 years late, but better late than never.

  6. digdigby says:

    Hip, loving, feminist nuns….abusing girls? Lots and lots and lots of girls? For years and years?
    I couldn’t remember where I read it. Some fellow named …. Father Z . It turns out it is much worse than even he suspected. And they have stonewalled TOTALLY ever since. So much for the ‘evil patriarchy network’. Some of these harridans actually say “An older woman sexually initiating a young woman is ’empowering’ and ‘beautiful’ and ‘revolutionary’. This is NOT Rosalind Russell in The Trouble with Angels.

  7. Supertradmum says:

    “Why”? Because, Sister Joan, you and yours have ignored over one-hundred years of the Teaching of the Catholic Church on modernism, obedience, the role of the religious in the Church and society, the real teaching on social doctrine, sexual morals and traditional marriage, the Syllabus of Errors, Lamentabili Sane, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, Humanae Vitae, Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life, and the list goes on. Take your pick of reasons….

  8. Massachusetts Catholic says:

    Perhaps the best answer to Sister Joan’s response is to pray to St. Michael (to bring the battle to those who would persist in fighting against the Church) and to St. Joseph, patron of the universal Church. And of course to pray to the Blessed Mother, that she intercede for her consecrated daughters, to give them insight into God’s will for them.

  9. Andy Milam says:

    My gut tells me that the LCWR and their minions need to pray more, but that is an absurd notion to bring up. They have far more important things to do, like protest and catorwallor.

    What has baffled me about this whole discourse is that somehow their disobedience is acceptable, yet the SSPX’s is not. Don’t get me wrong, neither is acceptable, but I have far more sympathy for the SSPX, who is trying to, at the very least, maintain some sort of Catholic idenity.

    I don’t think that the same can be said for the LCWR. They have set up a totally separate hierarchy which seems to be, at least on the surface, opposed to the idea of papal primacy. So, this leads to the logically absurd question (I already know it is……but is it?), what makes the LCWR different from the Anglicans of King Henry’s time? Seriously. The only major difference I can find is that they don’t have a monarch to unite behind, or do they? Do they hold democracy (as they see it) to be monarchical in nature?

  10. Tim Ferguson says:

    The “proposal” that seems to be circulating among certain higher circles on the left is to simply disband the LCWR in its canonical incarnation and set up a separate, non-canonical association, which would thereby be “free” of what they see as the shackles imposed on them by the institutional Church.

    Here’s where the hardball needs to get thrown: Fine, but if you do that, the annual collection taken up for retired religious is ONLY going towards those religious orders that remain a part of the CMSWR.

  11. anilwang says:

    Andy Milam,

    There’s a clear difference. The LCWR should have been held into account decades ago. The fact that they weren’t until now is no excuse for letting others off the hook. I’m waiting for the hammer to fall on Ireland and Austria as well.

    WRT the SSPX, like it or now, the orthodox are held to a higher standard, and they should be. Jesus railed harder against the Pharisees much harder than the tax collectors and prostitutes even though he himself stated that the Pharisees sat on the Seat of Moses and the Pharisees tried harder harder than most people to keep the Law. If the SSPX wants to people to return to Tradition, Tradition demands obedience as the Holy Father has recently stated. Obedience cannot not come from disobedience. Ultimately. the SSPX leadership know this. Pride an fear (of being absorbed into modernism) are the only thing that have kept the SSPX separate until now. Both can be resolved, and hopefully have been. Anglicans wanting to join Rome had similar concerns and they’ve been resolved.

  12. Jayna says:

    “Consequently, we had hoped to communicate the conclusions with you ourselves. That was not possible.”

    Read: Consequently, we didn’t get the chance to spin the results to sound like we were being bullied before the CDF and USCCB went and published hard evidence of our dissent.

  13. Suburbanbanshee says:

    1. The LCWR has done a lot of bad things, and they’ve claimed a lot and advocated a lot. But they didn’t publicly declare their affiliated to people ordained bishops without the permission of the Pope.

    I can be a bank robber, and that’s very bad and may send me to Hell, but I’ll still be a very bad Catholic sinner with a relatively straightforward path back to grace. If I’m a perfectly nice person, and I ordain myself a bishop, I’m in a a very bad position toward the Church in a much more complicated way than the bank robber, and will have a harder time getting back to a normal position. (And it’s a sin too.)

    A lot of unorthodox people on the left were too devious, cowardly, or doubleminded to make open breaks in the same way the SSPX did. They wanted to stick around inside the institutional Church at all costs, especially since they could do more subverting that way. This may well tell against them at the Last Judgment, of course; but it’s an advantage where canon law is concerned. In exchange, of course life became easier for the SSPX in some ways because they stopped having to deal with bureaucratic obstruction; but it made return harder, and it made life infinitely harder for traditionalists who didn’t break away. They knew it when Cardinal Ratzinger pleaded with them; they knew it when their leaders did it; but they did it anyway. (Insert “wise as serpents… gentle as doves” quote here.)

  14. Fr_Sotelo says:

    “Their labyrinths and oak trees” this made me burst out laughing. Now I’m thinking of that song, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon round the old oak tree” and imagine their singing that in honor of Archbishop Sartain visiting some of their congregations.

    The reaction across the board is quite angry. I think the LCWR really is quite stunned.

  15. Cincinnati Priest says:

    @Fr_Sotelo (and Fr. Z.) … Sounds like a golden opportunity for our hymno-parodist to write a little ditty about the “good sisters” at the LCWR, to the tune of Tony Orlando and Dawn’s “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree” of course.

    I am unfortunately not clever enough to do that myself.
    But for starters, the title / refrain could be, oh, I don’t know, something like “Shutting down the lab’inth at the nunnery,” or something else that suitably fits the meter.

  16. Diane at Te Deum Laudamus says:

    I recommend dropping over at the NCR and dropping comments into their boxes. Last I saw, there were more people expressing gratitude for this action than those who got their dander up. Keep it flowing, charitably. One commenter said she was sitting on the fence. There are probably many who are silently reading replies there, looking grasp all of this. Well reasoned, cited, responses could help someone.

  17. Adam Welp says:

    The statement from the LCWR’s website: (with my comments)

    The presidency of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious was stunned (stunned I tell you) by the conclusions of the doctrinal assessment of LCWR by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (Those Bullies!). Because the leadership of LCWR has the custom of meeting annually with the staff of CDF in Rome (which goes in one ear and out the other) and because the conference follows (loosely) canonically-approved statutes (from the 70’s), we were taken by surprise (that it took this long for them to figure out what we were doing).

    This is a moment of great import for religious life and the wider church (that thinks we are right). We ask your prayers (to Gaia) as we meet with the LCWR National Board (read: Drum circle)within the coming month to review the mandate and prepare a response (read: temper tantrum).

    I know I didn’t do as good of a job as our wonderful host, but I thought I would give the commenting part the old college try.

  18. Random Walk says:

    I’m just glad that some long overdue house-cleaning is going on.

    I get the creepy feeling that the Church is going to be in for one very ugly fight over the coming years from forces outside it (yes, it’s begun already, I know), and it certainly doesn’t help when there are people on the inside unwittingly trying to help them win.

    At first I thought of using Lenin’s favorite term for folks like these, but the phrase “useful idiots” is not charitable at all, and I (we!) should instead be praying that they quickly figure it out for themselves. If they refuse to or cannot, then we can only pray that they are ejected quickly, so as to not mis-use the mantle they have hidden behind all this time.

  19. oldcanon2257 says:

    Talking about the CDF, since the building which houses the CDF is still called the Palace of the Holy Office, why not bring back the old name of the congregation and make it “The Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office” again and keep that name for a minimum of 400 years (to give Sr. Joan Chittister the “400 years of darkness” she was talking about)? :D

    I know it’s not the name alone; however, I can’t help but lament the fact that the CDF of today doesn’t seem to have as much “teeth” as the Holy Office of yesteryears. Even well into the first half of the 20th century, the Holy Office still managed to strike fear into the heart of the heretics.

    Of course, I would love to see the real old name (of the Holy Inquisition) brought back, but that’s too much of a stretch.

    Perhaps the LCWR’s so-called leadership had already moved beyond Jesus as in the statement by Sr. Laurie Brink at their conference in 2007 about “moving beyond the church, even beyond Jesus”. Our Lord is the center of our Catholic Faith. Without Our Lord, the Church and the Faith simply cease to exist. To my ears at least, “moving beyond Jesus” sounds like formal apostasy and impugning the known truth (which is a a sin against the Holy Spirit).

  20. Gus Barbarigo says:

    Would the Latin for “stunned” be the same as “shocked”? Perhaps the LCWR should get a nod for The Captain Louis Renault Award:

    What do the film buffs here think?

  21. eulogos says:

    I hope all the people making the comments over there at Fishwrap are older, I really do. (I am also, but I am a convert, chose the Church after experiencing the despair of nihilism, so I am not about to invite the world and its opinions to take over the Church as these folks want to do.) These folks are really not Catholics. They are speaking from a totally different worldview from the Catholic one. These people are of the same mind-set as those who have destroyed the Episcopal Church and caused real Christians to flee from it. We know they can’t, ultimately, destroy the Catholic Church. But parts of it can fall away. Please, Lord, let Pope Benedict live a long time, and then send Your Holy Spirit in power on the next conclave!

  22. Tim Ferguson says:

    Hmmm. Cincinnatus, there may be a new hymn in there… good idea. I may have to cogitate over the weekend upcoming…

  23. redselchie says:

    Brooke Baldwin on CNN did an interview with Sister Simone Campbell today – Vatican blasts American nuns, calls for reforms I found it amusing she stated that they didn’t speak up about abortion or contraception because they were celibate and it wasn’t their issue.

  24. Cincinnati Priest says:

    @Tim Ferguson. Thanks for whatever you can do. That would really make my week.
    To put you in the mood, the classic YouTube video version of the TO & D number is at

    Instead of “Dawn” doing the doo-wop thing in the background, I can just picture the hymnoparody video version now, with real nuns in habit doing the backup shtick behind Archbishop Sartain as he lead singer :-)

  25. Midwest St. Michael says:

    Admirable job, Adam. ;)

    I am sure your friend Fr. Kaiser would be (secretly) proud.

    I know it has been mentioned before – but to get a better picture of many (not all, but many) of the women’s religious communities in the Church for the last 40-50 years or so – read Donna Steichen’s “UnGodly Rage.” (Ignatius Press)

    Not an easy read (I know people who were so scandalized they could not make it through the first chapter), but it will give one a good perspective of why the CDF and USCCB are taking these steps.

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