The national board of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) met in Washington, D.C., this week to review and plan a response to the Vatican report issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith last April.
When I was up at LCWR offices a few weeks ago to deliver letters of support from Sojourners and Faithful America ago they were preparing for this meeting and said the wide-ranging support from around the world would be a centerpiece of their conversations. I appreciate the thoughtful and faithful way these dedicated and wise women disciples are modeling a mature Catholicism.
The [LCWR] board members raised concerns about both the content of the doctrinal assessment and the process by which it was prepared. Board members concluded that the assessment was based on unsubstantiated accusations and the result of a flawed process that lacked transparency. Moreover, the sanctions imposed were disproportionate to the concerns raised and could compromise their ability to fulfill their mission. The report has furthermore caused scandal and pain throughout the church community, and created greater polarization.
The board determined that the conference will take the following steps:
• On June 12 the LCWR president and executive director will return to Rome to meet with CDF prefect Cardinal William Levada and the apostolic delegate Archbishop Peter Sartain to raise and discuss the board’s concerns.
• Following the discussions in Rome, the conference will gather its members both in regional meetings and in its August assembly to determine its response to the CDF report.
The board recognizes this matter has deeply touched Catholics and non-Catholics throughout the world as evidenced by the thousands of messages of support as well as the dozens of prayer vigils held in numerous parts of the country. It believes that the matters of faith and justice that capture the hearts of Catholic sisters are clearly shared by many people around the world. As the church and society face tumultuous times, the board believes it is imperative that these matters be addressed by the entire church community in an atmosphere of openness, honesty, and integrity.
The Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) in Ireland is holding an gathering this week in Dublin entitled “Towards an Assembly of the Irish Catholic Church” aimed at restoring the Spirit of Vatican II.
More than a thousand showed up for conference that took place in the weeks following the Vatican censure of several progressive Irish priests, in what appears to be a blatant attempt to deflect the spotlight away from the Vatican’s failure to protect and defend Irish Catholics against predatory priests within the hierarchy. The ACP hopes to move toward a national dialogue on the Irish Catholic Church. Other countries are looking at similar gatherings.
Fr. Desmond Wilson, a priest who has served in West Belfast since the mid-1960s, wrote this thoughtful letter to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith out of his experience of the Irish context. It sheds light on the American situation of the Vatican’s harassment of Catholic sisters:
Dear Friends in The Congregation for the Doctrine of theFaith,
You may be aware that we in Ireland have a special reverence for our Saint Columbanus. He was one of our saints who disagreed with a Pope and said so. You may be more acquainted with Saint Catherine of Siena who did the same, although she had the disadvantage of having to disagree with three possible popes at one time.
Some of us view with dismay then, but no great alarm, your decision to censor some of our fellow citizens and fellow members of the Catholic Church who have done nothing at all so serious.
We are puzzled – naturally and supernaturally – by the fact that you and we preach the presence and inspiration of the Holy Spirit and then you tell us, so inspired, to stop talking – as if we had nothing important to say. This is not a matter of doctrine, it is one of logic and we in Ireland are inclined to judge these things by logic as well as doctrine and not too often by emotion. We remember the Gamaliel principle – you remember it too, when forced to make a decision, he told his colleagues, If this be of God it’s useless to oppose it, if it be of human planning it will fade away in any case, so we should not take extraordinary measures for ordinary happenings.