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The Pope of Christian Unity, The LCWR & SSPX | KFP Articles
The Pope of Christian Unity, The LCWR & SSPX PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 20 April 2012 22:20
Pope Benedict XVI has been dubbed by some the Pope of Christian unity.  His intellectual acumen and ability to find the golden mean between the extremes - or perhaps its better said that he can find the complementarity between two apparently opposing perspectives - when combined with his understanding of Catholic doctrine make him the right person to bring disparate elements of the Church back towards unity at the same time.  This past week we heard of two separate events.  A big step forward in the negotiations with the SSPX and other news that some see as a step backwards in the relationship with the LCWR and the Vatican with the appointment of a Bishop to oversee reform of the LCWR.  First the news on the SSPX from Rorate Caeli:

"Today's news means that yesterday Bp. Fellay's response, that had been requested by Cardinal Levada at the last meeting, was delivered to the Congregation, to the Ecclesia Dei Commission, to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Now, this response, it is a reponse that, according to the words of those who could see it, is a very different response from the previous one, and this is encouraging, we proceed forward. But, naturally, we also find in the response the addition of some details or integrations to the text of the doctrinal preamble that had been proposed by the Congregation for a doctrinal agreement, and this response will be discussed, it will be examined first by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in one of its meetings of the next few weeks and, afterwards, it will also naturally be examined directly by the Pope."


This is a sign that there can be legitimate discussion on theology and the nature of certain pronouncements by the Vatican, in this case within the documents of Vatican II.  There is room for discussion on some points of Catholic theology while holding firm in adherence to Catholic teaching.  It is great to see a move towards a more fair understanding of Vatican II, one where the Church recognizes the concerns raised by the traditionalists and where the traditionalists are respectful of the Church's authority and effort to evangelize since the council.  This relationship is one, in my opinion, that is far better than the relationship between the LCWR and Rome.  In my research I have often found that the religious orders comprising the LCWR engage in efforts that borderline on, or actually engage in support for gay marriage, abortion and other non-negotiable issues.  The NCR reported the following on the  Vatican document to the LCWR:

The document from the congregation re-emphasizes the reason for the doctrinal assessment, writing that Levada told LCWR leadership in 2008 that the congregation had three major areas of concern with the group:

  • The content of speakers' addresses at the annual LCWR assemblies;
  • "Corporate dissent" in the congregation regarding the church's sexual teachings; and
  • "A prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith" present in some of the organizations programs and presentations...

The document cites an address by Dominican Sr. Laurie Brink, given at the 2007 LCWR assembly, and says that certain passages in it addressing how some members of religious congregations view their vocations indicated a "serious source of scandal."

"The Cardinal offered as an example specific passages of Sr. Laurie Brink’s address about some Religious 'moving beyond the Church' or even beyond Jesus," reads the document. "This is a challenge not only to core Catholic beliefs; such a rejection of faith is also a serious source of scandal and is incompatible with religious life."

The move by the Vatican to "crackdown" on the women religious has been viewed in a very negative light by many in the media.  Sister Chittister has interpreted it in terms of power, as just another effort to control the thinking of Roman Catholics.  But the Church appears genuinely concerned with the direction of the theology of the LCWR.  After all, Sister Chittister should be able to understand the objection to the idea of moving "beyond Jesus." I believe the following comments and quote from the Levada give us a glimpse of the intent of the Vatican:

In his letter, Levada writes that the first step in the implementation of the findings will be a "personal meeting" between members of the congregation and LCWR leadership.  "Such a personal encounter allows for the opportunity to review the document together in a spirit of mutual respect and collaboration, hopefully thereby avoiding possible misunderstandings of the document's intent and scope," Levada writes.

Its the beginning of a process that is rooted in mutual respect and collaboration in pursuit of understanding and truth regarding Catholic doctrine.  That sounds more like a fresh start than and controlling crackdown.  It also seems very similar to the SSPX situation because it involves a collaborative effort to discuss issues of faith and morals to bring the two parties closer together.  Seen in this light the two situations are very similar except for one not so small fact.  The LCWR enjoys canonical standing in the Church that the folks in the SSPX do not.  Its due time for that to change.

Below is an interesting and revealing interview presenting two views on the letter to the LCWR.  You'll notice that the theologian Jeannine Fletcher speaks only in the negative about Catholic social, that the bishops want the religious sisters to support the bishops issues such as being "against reproductive rights and denouncing homosexuality" as opposed to promoting natural marriage and loving both mother and child.  A real telling juncture in the interview comes at the 5:10 minutes in when Donna Bethel points out that the letter recognizes the great work done by the sisters but focuses in on the purpose of the letter.  The religious sisters are "being asked to be fully in the Church."  When Jeannine Fletcher is asked about the compatibility of the Church's social teaching and the sisters social justice message she does not answer the question.  There is a long long way to go in this dialogue.  However, lets recognize that many, but far from all, of the schools and hospitals run by these sisters make great strides in respecting the teachings of the Church upholding the pro-life teachings on abortion and contraception against great pressure.  There is much common ground to stand on when moving forward with this dialogue.

Dim lights



A good place to find an example of efforts by religious sisters to promote activities in direct oppostion to Church teaching is the Sisters of Loretto women's network.  Here you will find veiled support for abortion in terms of their right to full control of decision making related to reproduction or repruductive rights which would include abortion.  You will find here a feminist theology that imposes a blanket judgement against all forms of patriarchy as evil; its a theology that owes more to Marx than Christianity.   They acknowledge no difference between sexes and paint any difference in roles as discrimination.  Here's a quote from a paper written to defend the women's network against the claims made against it:

The Loretto Women’s Network is committed specifically “to work for the full equality of women and men in all aspects of civil and ecclesial life.” It also acts to reorder all relationships based on domination. Consequently, the Women’s Network endorses several positions that put it at odds with the official church.  For example, the network supports the ordination of women to a renewed priestly ministry despite the Vatican’s stance that it is not possible to ordain women in the Catholic communion. Again, the network upholds full civil rights for lesbians and gays notwithstanding opposition to this by many U.S. bishops. These are merely two examples of patriarchal tradition within the Roman Catholic Church. Challenging any aspect of patriarchy within the church brings to the surface widespread tensions with the Loretto Community.  Patriarchy is of Greco-Roman origin. Originally applied to the organization of the family and the relationships therein, it gave the father total authority over the mother and all minor children. By extension, patriarchy is an organizational system that structures the relationships of modern social institutions. It is a way of ordering the world by institutionalizing the domination and superiority of one group or class of human beings (male) over another class (females), regarded as subordinate and inferior. As a system it is evil and violent because it denies the equality of women with men and contravenes the full personhood of women. The patriarchal system must be overturned if the full development of all human persons is to be possible.

Source: http://www.lorettocommunity.org/mission-work/justice-and-peace/loretto-womens-network/

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