LCWR responds to the Vatican in the true spirit of religious sisters

There's been a lot of talk from a lot of different sources about the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's April statement calling for reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. The document has spurred testimonies supporting the nuns, rallies in their favor, and petitions of those who "stand with the sisters." Others have rallied around the Vatican and its condemnation of the LCWR.

The LCWR themselves had been mostly silent during the debate, but today they released a statement following a three-day meeting of their national board in Washington. The statement announces two steps the group plans to take: A meeting later this month with CDF prefect Cardinal William Levada and Archbishop Peter Sartain, who was named by the CDF to oversee the LCWR reform, and an August assembly to further discuss the conference's response.

The rest of the LCWR statement offers a general reaction to the CDF's criticism, none of which comes as a surprise. They claim the assessment "was based on unsubstantiated accusations and the result of a flawed process that lacked transparency," without actually getting into the recently uncovered story behind the Vatican investigation or the involvement of Cardinal Bernard Law, the former Boston archbishop infamous for covering up sexual abuse cases. NETWORK, the Catholic social justice lobby group that was mentioned in the CDF report as one of LCWR's problematic connections, has seconded the fact that the investigation was flawed, pointing out that they were never questioned during the investigation about their mission or activities despite being cited in the report.

But rather than focus solely on what the CDF assessment means for the sisters, the LCWR statement takes a broader view of the harm being done to the entire church. "The report has furthermore caused scandal and pain throughout the church community, and created greater polarization," they write. They conclude by adding, "As the church and society face tumultuous times, the board believes it is imperative that these matters be addressed by the entire church community in an atmosphere of openness, honesty, and integrity."

A pastoral concern for the members of their church. A desire to unite, rather than to divide. An effort toward dialog that will bring about healing. Yes, that does indeed sound like the religious sisters I know. No wonder they've received so much support during this entire ordeal.

About the author

Scott Alessi

Scott Alessi is a former editor at U.S. Catholic.