LCWR board responds to Vatican order for reform of organization

The national board of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious June 1 said it feels the assessment that led to a Vatican order to reform the organization “was based on unsubstantiated accusations and the result of a flawed process that lacked transparency.”

The LCWR board called the sanctions “disproportionate to the concerns raised” and said they “could compromise” the organization’s ability “to fulfill their mission.”

“The report has furthermore caused scandal and pain throughout the church community and created greater polarization,” the LCWR said in a statement released the morning after the board concluded a special meeting in Washington May 29-31, held to respond to an eight-page doctrinal assessment issued to LCWR by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Citing “serious doctrinal problems which affect many in consecrated life,” the doctrinal congregation April 18 announced a major reform of LCWR to ensure its fidelity to Catholic teaching in areas including abortion, euthanasia, women’s ordination and homosexuality.

In response to the LCWR statement, Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle, appointed by the Vatican to oversee the reform, said both he and the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith “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,” he said.

The LCWR board said the organization’s president, Franciscan Sister Pat Farrell, and its executive director, Sister Janet Mock, a Sister of St. Joseph, will return to Rome June 12 to meet U.S. Cardinal William J. Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Archbishop Sartain “to raise and discuss the board’s concerns.”

The Vatican April 18 appointed Archbishop Sartain to provide “review, guidance and approval, where necessary, of the work” of LCWR, a Maryland-based umbrella group that claims about 1,500 leaders of U.S. women’s communities as members, represents about 80 percent of the country’s 57,000 women religious.

His appointment came the same day the congregation announced a major reform. The congregation issued an eight-page “doctrinal assessment,” that cited “serious doctrinal problems which affect many in consecrated life.” The problems, it said, were revealed in an assessment originally ordered in April 2008. [More]