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US sisters gather to consider Vatican rebuke

The LCWR is meeting in full this week, for the first time since the Vatican declared it in dire need of reform.

  • Joshua J. McElwee
  • United States
  • August 9, 2012
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The much-anticipated gathering of 900 U.S. Catholic sisters who make up the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) opened here Tuesday night with song, prayer, and references big, small, and in-between to the Vatican’s attempted take-over of the group.

References to the Vatican’s critique of the group, which came in an April 18 announcement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, came early in the two-hour event, with LCWR president Franciscan Sr. Pat Farrell telling the assembled that “we don’t have to remind you that our gathering this week is an historic time in the life of this organization.”

The opening of the annual assembly of LCWR, which represents some 80 percent of U.S. women religious, also included a welcome by St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson and details about how the group’s members would discern steps forward during the gathering, which continues through Friday night.

In its April critique, the Vatican congregation identified a "prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith" in the group's programs and "corporate dissent" in the group regarding the church's sexual teachings.

In a statement June 1, LCWR's national board criticized the Vatican's move, saying it was "based on unsubstantiated accusations and the result of a flawed process that lacked transparency."

According to the Vatican's mandate, LCWR is to place itself under the authority of Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain, who is to serve as "archbishop delegate" for the group and is to be assisted in that role by Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo, Ohio, and Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Ill.

During an address Tuesday night, Farrell outlined the process by which the group’s members would discuss the Vatican’s mandate in their gathering, saying they want to “gather the collective wisdom of this group to make a response that we hope can be for the good of the church, for the good of LCWR, for the good of religious life throughout the world, and ultimately for the good of the human family.”

Starting Wednesday, LCWR is to host a number of closed door “executive sessions” where members are to discuss the Vatican mandate.

Those meetings, said Farrell, will involve a process “that will be sort of like a seamless garment of discernment.”

“Each individual executive session will have something of contemplative rhythm, something of discussion together,” Farrell continued. “But all of this hopefully will continue unfold as another, and then another, step in an ongoing process.”

“The goal is not to come away from this assembly with a well-developed plan, or not even perhaps with a decision. Our only hope is that as we touch in to the collective wisdom that is here that we can at least discern whatever is the next best step. Maybe we will discover several next best steps, but at least we will try and find together one next step we can take.”

Farrell also mentioned that following the closure of the LCWR assembly Saturday the group’s national board will also meet on its own Sunday morning. Part of that session she said, will include a meeting with Sartain “for the very first conversation that really he’s had with us in any official way” so that “we can communicate with him something of a direction that comes from this group.”

Full Story: LCWR 'gathers collective wisdom' of members to discern next steps

Source: National Catholic Reporter
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