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Vatican demands reform of American nuns' leadership group

April 18, 2012

The Vatican has called for a thorough reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), the umbrella group that represents most of the women’s religious orders in the US.

After a thorough investigation of the LCWR, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) concluded that “the current doctrinal and pastoral situation of LCWR is grave and a matter of serious concern.” The CDF concluded that a Vatican intervention was necessary to reform the group. Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle has been appointed as the Vatican’s delegate to supervise the reform of the LCWR. The archbishop has been charged with helping LCWR leaders to revise the group’s statues, plan its programs, review liturgical texts, and reconsider the group’s affiliations with other organizations.

The CDF assessment—based on the results of an apostolic visitation conducted by Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo, Ohio—detected “serious doctrinal problems which affect many in consecrated life.” The CDF report found that many American women religious have drifted away from “the fundamental Christological center and focus of religious consecration.”

More specifically, the Vatican report found that LCWR meetings regularly included speakers who “often contradict or ignore magisterial teachings.” The group’s statements “do not promote Church teaching” on questions of human sexuality, the Vatican noted, and “it is silent on the right to life from conception to natural death, a question that is part of the lively public debate about abortion and euthanasia in the United States.”

“Moreover, occasional public statements by the LCWR that disagree with or challenge positions taken by the Bishops, who are the Church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals, are not compatible with its purpose,” the CDF said.

The Vatican report called attention to ties between the LCWR and the liberal social lobby, Network, which has strongly supported the Obama administration’s plans for health-care reform despite the US bishops’ opposition. The report suggested a review of the LCWR affiliation with Network. The LCWR did not immediately respond to the announcement of the Vatican’s reform plan. But a former president of the group demonstrated the strength of dissent within the LCWR by saying that the Vatican’s action was “actually immoral.” Sister Joan Chitester told the National Catholic Reporter that instead of cooperating with the Vatican, the group should “disband canonically and regroup as an unofficial interest group.”


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  • Posted by: damian.riggs8445 - Apr. 20, 2012 11:24 PM ET USA

    America is following the lead of Europe in becoming a post-Christian mission field. No longer do we grow enough of our own priests, rather, increasingly they are imported from around the world (Thanks be to God). May I say it? Our Church in America is sick and needs our fervent petitions to the Lord for new health and life. LCWR is a symptom; it's not the problem.

  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Apr. 19, 2012 12:02 PM ET USA

    I think disbanding and moving out of canonical status is a very positive step in itself. Labeling is everything. Nobody should miss the obvious fact that these ladies do not represent in any official way anything Catholic. Go, Archbishop Sartain! Get heterodoxy!

  • Posted by: florentine - Apr. 19, 2012 12:22 AM ET USA

    There is no telling how much damage these liberal "religious" groups have done. Very thankful to read the Vatican is taking action ( in many ways) to redirect, correct, hopefully banish, those who have been calling themselves Catholic and using their position to systematically undermine authentic Catholic Church teachings. Get them out ! Those that adhere to Church Authority ( Dominican/ Sisters of Eucharist and others) are such beautiful blessings to all, and growing so fast they can't keep up.

  • Posted by: Convert96 - Apr. 19, 2012 12:14 AM ET USA

    How nice to see such strong leadership where it is needed. The response of the leadership group will not be pretty, but truth will prevail. And there will be many religious women for whom this is an answer to many years of waiting prayer. Praise be to God.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 18, 2012 11:24 PM ET USA

    This is wonderful news and long overdue. Hopefully the reforms will include the expulsion or demotion of the many LCWR leaders who have been systematically undercutting the Church under the guise of dialogue, bridge building, consensus building, and secularized political correctness.

  • Posted by: normnuke - Apr. 18, 2012 9:08 PM ET USA

    What a wonderful juxtaposition of news stories. This one on the (appropriately) left concerning the contemptuous rebelliousness of the LCWR. Across the page the wonderful development inre SSPX, which showcases the humility of Bp. Fellay. I have heard Bp. Fellay speak and I'm deeply impressed with his intelligence and his love for the Church. In contrast to the opposite qualities on the other side.

  • Posted by: Gerry H - Apr. 18, 2012 7:52 PM ET USA

    A long time coming. There are emerging groups of women religious, dedicated and faithful, who will benefit from having the ground cleared for them. And the actions were scandal, in the true sense of the word.

  • Posted by: Chestertonian - Apr. 18, 2012 7:13 PM ET USA

    This needed to be done at least 30 yrs ago, and now we'll have to pray that Abp Sartain has more spine with the LCWR than he's shown with the priests of his archdiocese on the gay 'marriage' petitions.

  • Posted by: Defender - Apr. 18, 2012 6:49 PM ET USA

    Why all the fuss? Catholic Charities honored NETWORK recently, too! The statement that the Vatican's actions are immoral says a lot about these pseudo-Catholics who have obviously forgotten their vows, it seems. "...disband..." by all means and don't let the door hit you on the way out.

  • Posted by: Contrary1995 - Apr. 18, 2012 6:46 PM ET USA

    Hopefully this intervention will end the long dark night of so many faithful women religious who have had to endure the nonsense imposed upon them by their superiors and the LCWR.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 18, 2012 6:30 PM ET USA

    Wow. What size is the next shoe to drop?