Everyone who is interested in the life of the Church is talking about it! We learned more than two years ago that the Vatican was taking a serious look at the inner-life of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an umbrella organization unifying the activities of 400 communities of religious women (nuns!) in the United States. A few weeks ago, the results came in.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has criticized LCWR for what it says and for what it does not say and accused it of a climate of “corporate dissent” on matters such as homosexuality and women’s ordination, and expressed regrets about the inroads of radical feminism into the religious communities. The Holy See has also appointed Archbishop James Peter Sartain of Seattle as its delegate with directions to review documents and speakers who might be scheduled for LCWR meetings. Needless to say, this has created a real uproar across the country and leading Catholic magazines, such as the London Tablet, America, Commonweal, and the National Catholic Reporter, are claiming that this is unnecessary and a destructive exaggeration of the fault lines in the American Church between men and women, between family values and women’s issues, and the expression “War on Women” is being bandied about.
I think everyone is pleased that the leadership of LCWR is handling the situation very calmly and the newly appointed supervisor, Archbishop Sartain, has a reputation for gentleness and has expressed a willingness to go slowly as the two sides try to find common ground. That may not be too easy.
In addition to the dramatic Vatican moves to more tightly regulate religious women in the United States, it has also tightened its control over Caritas Internationalis bringing it under the direct control of Cor Unum, the official Vatican office to foster social programs around the world. Cor Unum is to appoint an ecclesiastical “assistant” to Caritas and Cor Unum must approve any cooperative agreements between Caritas Internationalis and non-governmental organizations.
Most of us remember that last year the Vatican would not allow Secretary General of Caritas, Lesley-Anne Knight, to stand for a second term. Key issues are involved in these two situations, among them is a tragic lack of trust on both sides.