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Misunderstanding? No, Vatican understands the LCWR all too well

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | May 09, 2014

Commenting on the blunt scolding they recently received from the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, representatives of the Leadership Conference of Women religious have acknowledged that “mistrust has developed” in their dealings with the Vatican.

And how could that be? The LCWR leaders profess never to have understood the Vatican’s concern about the group’s adherence to Catholic orthodoxy, despite the “doctrinal assessment” that pointed to a parade of dissident speakers at LCWR meeting, and to public agonizing over “whether the Eucharist should be at the center of a special community celebration since the celebration of Mass requires an ordained priest, something which some sisters find ‘objectionable.’” The LCWR has been ordered not to continue promoting dissident theologians, yet its leaders are surprised with the Vatican’s dismay that a theologian whose work has been panned by the US bishops’ conference will be given the group’s top award at this year’s meeting.

The LCWR laments that “our attempts to clarify misperceptions have led to deeper misunderstandings.” Not so, I’m afraid; the “mis” should be stricken from those two nouns. The perceptions have been accurate, and the Vatican has come to understand the LCWR all too well.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: nix898049 - Jun. 22, 2017 4:49 PM ET USA

    Oh, Phil, you read my mind again! When I heard about that verdict my first thought was it would never have come to trial if she'd had 'MD' behind her name. But then PA doesn't have Dr. prescribed suicide on the books. Yet.

  • Posted by: iprayiam5731 - Jun. 19, 2017 11:56 AM ET USA

    With the extraordinary number of nonpracticing Catholics vs practicing, lay involvement is simply not a good idea. You couldn't do it without a hard standard for who is the "right" kind of Catholic to have a voice, and any objective standard would create more problems than it would help.

  • Posted by: fenton1015153 - Jun. 18, 2017 9:56 AM ET USA

    The "intelligent" selection of Bishops by lay people would require a complete, no holds barred biography of each candidate. Considering how the Church keeps its cards very close to its chest the "intelligent" selection of Bishops doesn't stand a chance. The current selection process of Bishops will remain essentially the de facto standard.

  • Posted by: feedback - Jun. 17, 2017 9:36 AM ET USA

    "But which lay Catholics would be invited...?" The question hits the nail precisely on its head. Two recent events, that don't inspire confidence in that type of process, come to mind: selection of participants for the 2014-15 "Synod on the Family" gave strong impression that outcome was decided before the "Synod" even started, and a messy "election" of new leader of the Knights of Malta appeared to have been rigged.

  • Posted by: james-w-anderson8230 - Jun. 17, 2017 3:25 AM ET USA

    Re the selection of bishops. Maybe the people could vote on a pool of possible bishops and present the top three vote getters to the Pope to make the final selection.

  • Posted by: Bernadette - May. 12, 2014 4:04 PM ET USA

    I predict ousting the LCWR from the ranks of the faithful will never happen. They are too afraid to alienate Catholics who still recall the "old days" when they were educated by the "sisters" and simply don't understand what has transpired since Vat. II. There would be a hue and a cry and great protestations. Not so in the early Church when the likes of St. John would run for his life when a heretic came near. Besides, there are curial members who side with the LCWR, corruption from within.

  • Posted by: fenton1015153 - May. 12, 2014 12:02 PM ET USA

    Talking about redistribution of wealth leads one to think the Vatican Bank will surely model itself along non-usurious lines. I support what the pope said but also would support him getting a little more aggressive with house cleaning of dissidents and Catholics in name only organizations.

  • Posted by: Minnesota Mary - May. 09, 2014 8:40 PM ET USA

    Instead of making pronouncements to the world on redistribution of wealth, Pope Francis needs to clean his own house and put these LCWR apostates on notice that they are no longer to call themselves "Catholic."