The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s recent censure of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious for ‘serious doctrinal problems raises a number of familiar, if troubling, questions. The LCWR, which represents most American nuns, exists to provide support for the work sisters do for the poor, the imprisoned, the ill, and the marginalized, and to give the various religious communities a corporate voice. As part of the CDF’s action, the LCWR will be put into a kind of receivership under Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain—essentially suppressing what little autonomy the group has had. Its statutes will be rewritten and speakers for LCWR meetings will now be vetted. The sisters were specifically reprimanded for speaking out in opposition to positions taken by the U.S. bishops but also for keeping ‘silent’ about church teachings on ordination and same-sex marriage. Is silence now considered a form of dissent? Are women religious not even allowed to determine the priorities of their own ministries?
In its recent statement regarding the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith noted that its principal means of assessing the doctrinal fidelity of the LCWR was a review of keynote and leadership addresses at the LCWR annual assembly. Many of the documents in question are publicly available on the LCWR web site. Given the controversy, I wanted to read some of these documents myself. What I found was not what I expected.
Peter Nixon, “Read Them and Weep”