..."What’s more, the lawyers say, LCWR has no recourse for appeal of the decision, which the U.S. bishops' conference announced Wednesday in a press release. That release stated that, following a three-year "doctrinal assessment" by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain had been appointed to review and potentially revise the organization's policies.
One prominent canon lawyer, Oblate Fr. Frank Morrisey, summed up the situation facing LCWR in one sentence: “If they want to continue as a recognized conference, they’re going to have to work with this.”
Another, Jesuit Fr. Ladislas Orsy, also put it succinctly: “It’s not very complicated. The Vatican is taking control. They are taking control ... and they hope that in five years, they will put [LCWR] on a different track.”
While other canon lawyers contacted by NCR generally confirmed Orsy and Morrisey’s analysis, they declined to speak on the record, citing the sensitivity of the situation. A short press release from the LCWR on Thursday morning said the group was preparing to meet with its national board members “within the coming month to review the mandate and prepare a response.”
In its document explaining the move, the Vatican congregation said Sartain was to have authority over the LCWR in five areas, including:
- Revising LCWR statutes;
- Reviewing LCWR plans and programs;
- Creating new programs for the organization;
- Reviewing and offering guidance on the application of liturgical texts; and
- Reviewing LCWR's affiliations with other organizations, citing specifically NETWORK and the Resource Center for Religious Institutes.
[Joshua J. McElwee is an NCR staff writer. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.]
For the full copy of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's letter, click here. For the full copy of Levada's letter, click here.
Previous reporting from NCR on the Vatican's investigation of LCWR:
- Vatican investigates U.S. women religious leadership, April, 2009
- Women religious meet Vatican accusers in Rome, April, 2009
- LCWR seeks full disclosure of Vatican visitation, August, 2009
- LCWR leaders meet with Midwest bishops, May, 2010
- Vatican officials, US women religious meet, July, 2010
- Vatican orders LCWR to revise, appoints archbishop to oversee group, April 18, 2012
- LCWR 'stunned' by Vatican's latest move, April 19, 2012
- Options facing LCWR stark, say canon lawyers, April 19, 2012
It is time for the LCWR to cast off the albatross of Vatican patriarchal control and declare as the civil rights movement leaders did, "free at last, free at last, thank God almighty we are free at last"! Most U.S. Catholics stand in solidarity with the Sisters, and support their courageous witness to the Gospel.
I hope the LCWR names the abuse of power at the heart of this attempt to control the nuns. And I pray that one day soon, there will be public ordinations of nun priests!
Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP