The board of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, to which congregations representing some 80% of American nuns belong, met this week and rejected the doctrinal assessment of their organization. They concluded that "the assessment was based on unsubstantiated accusations and the result of a flawed process that lacked transparency" and added that "the sanctions imposed were disproportionate to the concerns raised and could compromise their ability to fulfill their mission." They said the report has "caused scandal and pain throughout the church community, and created greater polarization."
The board cited the thousands of letters of support they have received and the rallies on behalf of the sisters that have been occuring in major cities across the nation. There is also an online petition to support the sisters. The organizers of the petition are aiming to get one signature for every one of the estimated 57,000 women religious represented by LCWR. At last count they had gathered over 53,000 names.
One particularly courageous priest, Fr. Doug Koesel, pastor of Blessed Trinity Catholic Church in Cleveland, Ohio, published a column in the church's bulletin that has been making the rounds in cyberspace, in which he didn't mince words. "The problem with the Vatican approach," wrote Fr. Koesel, "is that it places the nuns squarely on the side of Jesus and the Vatican on the side of tired old men, making a last gasp to save a crumbling kingdom lost long ago for a variety of reasons....The Vatican sounded like the Pharisees of the New Testament; — legalistic, paternalistic and orthodox — while 'the good sisters' were the ones who were feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, educating the immigrant, and so on." And he concluded, "this investigation is not about wayward US nuns. It is the last gasp for control by a dying breed, wrapped in its own self-importance. It is a struggle for the very nature of the church; who we are, how we pray, where we live, who belongs, why we believe. The early church endured a similar struggle. The old order died. The Holy Spirit won. Happy Pentecost Sunday!!"
The expressions of support have been gratifying to the organization. Speaking on behalf of the group to the National Catholic Reporter, LCWR's president, Sr. Pat Farrell, OSF, said " we just want to express our deep gratitude to people around the country and around the world that have shown such immeasurable support for LCWR." She said that the doctrinal assessment had "deeply saddened religious women around the United States."
Sr. Farrell and LCWR executive director, Sr. Janet Mock, CSJ, plan to go to Rome on June 12th to meet with CDF prefect Cardinal William Levada and the apostolic delegate Archbishop Peter Sartain to 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.
Meanwhile, we invite you to keep praying the prayer composed for LCWR at this trying time by Sr. Chris Koellhoffer, IHM, which has been translated into Spanish, among other languages, by the Sisters of Bon Secours.
God's Spirit - LCWR Prayer
In this time of pain and promise,
we call on God’s Spirit to bless
the leadership of LCWR, of our
Congregation, and all women religious
who strive to live the gospel in these
We call on the Spirit of God to reveal
the way forward that is faithful to God’s
dream for us and our lives together.
May all who are called to engage
in prayer and conversation come to
the table with hearts that are open,
transparent, and faith-filled. May their
reflection be marked by a deep listening
to the voice of the Spirit at work in
May the holy ones who have gone
before us inspire us by their courage
and wisdom and affirm that we are
May we continue to faithfully live the
questions of our time and witness to
the people of God that we are women
at home with mystery and filled with
fierce hope for our shared future.
El Espíritu de Dios
En este momento de dolor y promesa,
acudimos al Espíritu de Dios para pedirle bendiga
al liderazgo de LCWR, a nuestra
Congregación, y a todas las mujeres religiosas
que se esfuerzan por vivir el Evangelio en estos
tiempos de incertidumbre.
Acudimos al Espíritu de Dios para que nos revele
el camino correcto fiel al sueño de Dios
para nosotras y para nuestras vidas juntas.
Que todos los llamados a participar
en la oración y la conversación
lleguen a la mesa con corazones abiertos,
transparentes y llenos de fe. Que su reflexión
se caracterice por una escucha profunda
a la voz del Espíritu que actúa en nuestro mundo.
Que los santos que nos han precedido
nos inspiren por su valor y
sabiduría y confirmen que no
Que sigamos viviendo fielmente los
problemas de nuestro tiempo y sigamos
testimoniando ante el pueblo de Dios que
somos mujeres arraigadas en el misterio
y henchidas de indoblegable esperanza
en nuestro futuro compartido.