Friday, June 01, 2012

"The Report Has Caused Scandal" -- On Call for "Renewal," The Sisters Respond

(4.40pm ET -- updated with response from Vatican delegate below.)

After refraining from public comment amid a widespread outpouring of reaction to last month's Vatican call for its sweeping reform, early this morning brought an official response from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which blasted the findings of the CDF's years-long Doctrinal Assessment as being "based on unsubstantiated accusations and the result of a flawed process that lacked transparency.

"The report has furthermore caused scandal and pain throughout the church community," the group representing the leadership of some 80 percent of the nation's sisters said, "and created greater polarization."

Here, the brief release in full:
The national board of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) held a special meeting in Washington, DC from May 29-31 to review, and plan a response to, the report issued to LCWR by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The 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.

Speaking of the vigils, as a second round of the pro-LCWR demonstrations were held around the country earlier this week, a rally in the capital brought an unexpected moment as Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò invited several members of the group marching outside Apostolic Nunciature to the United States inside for a for a conversation and some moments of prayer in his private chapel.

SVILUPPO: In reference to this morning's statement, the following response from Sartain was released just after 4.30pm Eastern by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops:
Both the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and I are wholeheartedly committed to dealing with the important issues raised by the Doctrinal Assessment and the LCWR Board in an atmosphere of openness, honesty, integrity and fidelity to the Church’s faith. I look forward to our next meeting in Rome in June as we continue to collaborate in promoting the important work of the LCWR for consecrated life in the United States.

The Holy See and the Bishops of the United States are deeply proud of the historic and continuing contribution of women religious – a pride that has been echoed by many in recent weeks.

Dramatic examples of this can be witnessed in the school system and in the network of Catholic hospitals established by sisters across America which are lasting contributions to the wellbeing of our country.
As the sisters' group broke its silence over the Curial process, the Tennessee-born Seattle prelate -- given a three-year mandate by CDF to oversee the LCWR reboot -- likewise went public, outlining his intended approach to the effort in a piece published today on the website of the Jesuit weekly America.

Known as a conciliatory, low-key operator with a decided preference for dialogue, Sartain will undertake the task with two deputies likewise named by Rome: Bishops Leonard Blair of Toledo and Thomas John Paprocki of Springfield in Illinois.