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At LCWR meeting, complaints about apostolic visitation

Catholic World News - August 18, 2009

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, meeting in New Orleans, criticized the "lack of full disclosure about the motivation and funding sources" of a Vatican investigation into their group. Although the LCWR has frequently been critical of the Vatican, and the group's meeting has hosted speakers who are at odds with Church teachings, the LCWR-- which represents most of the "mainstream" women's religious groups in the US-- professed not to know the reasons for the Vatican inquiry, and complained about a lack of public information about the process.

The LCWR has posted on its Web site the recent keynote address of Cokie Roberts, the ABC and NPR analyst who is a critic both of Pope Benedict XVI and the federal ban on partial-birth abortion.

In her often-fascinating comments on early American Catholic history, Roberts remarked on the apostolic visitation of women religious and at one point appeared to attribute the Vatican’s concern about the collapse of religious life in the United States to negative European cultural traits.

Obviously, this meeting is taking place as we learn more about the Apostolic Visitation. I have read the Instrumentum Laboris: “The specific task of the Visitation is to look into the quality of the life of women religious in the United States who are members of apostolic religious institutes.” Seems like an awfully subjective assignment to me and one that I’m certainly not qualified to talk about …

This country remains a puzzlement to our ancestors in Europe and their modern day descendants … I understand why the Europeans continue to see this as some sort of upstart nation. They often see only the chaos without witnessing the creation. And they don’t appreciate the fact that we have traditions that are different from those of the old world, traditions that have to do with service both inside and outside of religious life.

She concluded her address by assuring that LCWR that despite a free fall in vocations LCWR institutions, women's religious life has never been better:

She [Eunice Shriver] chose to do [serve the disabled] outside of a religious life. She was not an officially consecrated woman-- except perhaps by God. And that is something that I think is very important to keep in mind as this Apostolic Visitation goes forward. The official numbers of women religious in this country might have fallen--but it’s safe to say that the number of religious women who are acting on their faith to serve society is higher than ever before in human history. Those of us who feel that calling feel it because of you, you awe-inspiring and holy women-- you women of spirit have taught us well and your teaching will go on, constantly creating a better world for the People of God-- corralling the chaos to create a quality of life for others that you can be proud of.

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