Catholic World News

LCWR leader responds to Vatican criticism

July 17, 2012

In a National Public Radio (NPR) interview, the president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) has defended her group against Vatican criticisms, and indicated that the LCWR is still weighing its response to a Vatican mandate for reform.

Sister Pat Farrell said that the criticism of the LCWR, made public by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith after an apostolic visitation of the group, centers on the group’s unwillingness to follow the policy directions of the hierarchy, rather than active resistance. The Vatican report, she said, concentrates on “issues we tend to be more silent about when the bishops are speaking out more clearly about some things.”

However, Sister Farrell insisted that the LCWR would continue to push for reform in the Church, saying that “there’s a need for a genuine dialogue and there doesn't seem to be a climate of that in the Church right now."

Repeating a theme that has been raised frequently by LCWR defenders, Sister Farrell said that the nuns represented by the umbrella group “stand in very close proximity to people at the margins, to people with very painful, difficult situations in their lives.” For that reason, she said, their perspective is different from that of the American bishops.

Regarding the question of women’s ordination, Sister Farrell said that the LCWR advocated that step prior to the Vatican’s definitive statement that women cannot be ordained. “Since then,” she said, “the Leadership Conference has not spoken publicly about the ordination of women.” The Vatican critique of the group had pointed out that LCWR conventions regularly heard from speakers who are associated with the drive for women’s ordination. Farrell did not address that point directly, but said: “Imposing a silence doesn't necessarily change people's thinking but we are in a position to continue to be very concerned that the position of women in the church be recognized."

Regarding abortion, Farrell avoided taking any clear stand, saying that the LCWR is pro-life, but defines the issue broadly. “If the rights of the unborn trump all of the rights of all of those who are already born, that is a distortion, too,” she said.

Further information:
Sound Off! supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

Show 6 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Jul. 19, 2012 1:19 AM ET USA

    What "right" of the born is trumped by the right to life of the unborn? Only a "wrong" of the born is trumped by the right to life of the unborn.

  • Posted by: polish.pinecone4371 - Jul. 18, 2012 4:45 PM ET USA

    I heard the whole thing. So much for Terry Gross' reputation as an interviewer. It was all softball and helping Sister Pat say the things that Sister Pat knew she couldn't say without jeopardizing the "dialogue" she so idolizes.

  • Posted by: fwhermann3492 - Jul. 18, 2012 11:53 AM ET USA

    I heard about the first 20 minutes of the interview on NPR, and Sister's comment about the LCWR being more in touch with the poor and marginalized than the bishops struck me as quite patronizing. She also repeatedly sidestepped questions about doctrine, calling instead for the need for more dialog in the church. I think her remark about the rights of unborn children not trumping other people's rights says it all. Please pray that the leaven will be purged from the Church.

  • Posted by: lauriem5377 - Jul. 17, 2012 10:53 PM ET USA

    “If the rights of the unborn trump all of the rights of all of those who are already born, that is a distortion, too,” she said. What a peculiar statement by Sister Farrell. I've never heard anyone speak before about the rights of an unborn child 'trumping' anyone else's rights. The prolife dialogue is about the fact that the unborn child has the SAME right to life as those of us already born.

  • Posted by: jacobtoo - Jul. 17, 2012 7:19 PM ET USA

    “If the rights of the unborn trump all of the rights of all of those who are already born, that is a distortion, too,” Forget the rest. If these phonies really think that the the rights of those we are now killing at the rate of over a million a year do not trump the rights of middle-aged women to, for example, become priests, they're lost souls.

  • Posted by: unum - Jul. 17, 2012 6:21 PM ET USA

    The choice of NPR to discuss the status of the LWCR dispute before the organization has even responded to the Vatican's mandate for reform tells me all I need to know about the group. LCWR is more interested in publicity and support from the politically progressives in the U.S. than in serious dialogue with the bishops about their different "point of view". The Church belongs to Christ, not to any group of laymen or religious no matter how important they believe their views to be.