Rorate Caeli

The Comfy Chair treatment and the LCWR

Much has been written in recent weeks about the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's "crackdown" (as the secular media calls it) on the LCWR. The way the media tells this story, one would think that stakes are being prepared, convent libraries are being burned en masse, and the Spanish Inquisition is being brought back to life as Cardinal Levada is finding his inner Torquemada.

The reality is obviously very different. Our question here in Rorate is very simple: how will the CDF and the American bishops actually go about overhauling the LCWR in order to bring it nearer to orthodoxy and to genuine Catholic religious life? Stern episcopal and cardinalitial words against the heterodoxy of liberal nuns are hard but not impossible to find amidst the ecclesiastical verbiage of the past five decades. What we truly hope for are solid disciplinary actions, combined with unambiguous teaching. 

If Cardinal Levada's statements to John Allen (in an exclusive interviewthe full text of which was published today, to a periodical still fully using the adjective "Catholic" in its name, without being bothered by any bishop for doing so) are any indication, it would seem that comfy chairs, not hot seats, are being prepared for the LCWR leadership, despite the "blunt" language that earlier reports indicated. The following passages sure look scaaaary! (Emphases ours):

NCR: From your point of view, it's premature to say that the LCWR is prepared to move on the substantive issues outlined in the doctrinal assessment? 
Cardinal Levada: I would say that's correct. 
NCR: Speaking of Barbara Marx Hubbard, LCWR officials have said they went ahead with their assembly in August because you gave them permission to do so. Is that accurate? 
Cardinal Levada: Yes, mea culpa! At the time, I hadn't been aware of who was being invited to speak or to get an award. I appreciated their concern that everything was already in place, and I said that's fine, we're OK with that. We haven't asked them to do an about-face. I feel comfortable in saying, however, that I wish they hadn't made these choices. 
NCR: By that, you mean the choice to invite Hubbard? 
Cardinal Levada: Yes, and also to give an award to Sr. Sandra Schneiders for a view of religious life which has nothing to do with the teachings of the Second Vatican Council or the post-conciliar church.  For the record, let me say again this is not about a criticism of the sisters. No sister will lose her job in teaching or charitable work or hospital work as a result of this assessment, as far as I know. This is about questions of doctrine, in response to God's revelation, and church tradition from the time of the apostles. We take that seriously. I've been doing this work for seven years, and I do it willingly, because I believe in it. It's not easy in a secular society like ours in the States, or in Europe for that matter.
NCR: The tensions outlined in the doctrinal assessment have been around for a long time. Why is this coming to a head now?
Cardinal Levada: One answer is that the wheels turn slowly here in the Vatican. Also, when something comes [out of this office], people may be surprised by it, but that doesn't mean the process hasn't been under way for some time. It just goes to show that even in this age of Vatileaks, some of us are able to keep a pontifical secret.
In reality, this should not be a surprise to anyone. We started this process four years ago. I met with the representatives [of LCWR] then to explain it to them. Of course, these things go on at a snail's pace here, while the LCWR has changes in leadership all the time, so the new leaders may not be familiar with the history, and they have to go back over it all.
Why now? It's a reasonable question in that this is not new stuff. Yet it's cumulative, and at a certain point someone has to pay attention to it.


 ***

NCR: LCWR has said it's considering its response. What happens if they say, "We won't go along with this"? 
Cardinal Levada: I mentioned to the sisters today that we shouldn't look at this primarily from the angle of who's in charge here, what's the authority, and so forth. We should start with the issues, and how we can come to an understanding about the issues and the needs. There's a great deal of subsidiarity in the church, and religious communities are a classic example. 
Of course, if you look at the church as a hierarchical structure -- whether you see that as benign, or something else -- ultimately, the pope is the superior. If he says, "Sisters, I want you to do this, I want you to take a look at these things, and so forth," that's what I hope will be the outcome. 
I suppose if the sisters said, "OK, we're not cooperating with this," we can't force them to cooperate. What we can do, and what we'd have to do, is say to them, "We will substitute a functioning group for yours," if it comes to that. 
NCR: What would such a "functioning group" look like? 
Cardinal Levada: Good question. I hope it would look like a conference that focuses on the priorities of religious life, the life of holiness, which is the fundamental call of all of us in the church, and the good that can come through the apostolic works that many of these orders are committed to and the prayers that others are committed to. I would like to see religious as champions of the mission of Jesus Christ in the church and the world. 
NCR: So if the response is not satisfactory, the result could be decertification of LCWR? 
Cardinal Levada: It could be. We only have so much information, and what we've outlined is based on the information we have received. But as I mentioned to the sisters, if one or more parts of that is not correctly perceived, they will tell the bishop delegates, and that won't be a problem.

12 comments:

Fr. said...

I'm a fan of the 'comfy chair' myself - it is good to lull the opponent into a false sense of secutirty.

MarvinDante33 said...

Well, there it is,then. One hopes the good cardinal will deal similarly with the SSPX, with like deference to their sensibilities and similar soft language.

Anil Wang said...

The language is definitely diplomatic, but as the old saying goes, diplomacy is the art of saying "nice doggy" while you go reach for a stick.

Cardinal Levada's comment "What we can do, and what we'd have to do, is say to them, 'We will substitute a functioning group for yours,' if it comes to that. "

is pretty telling. Basically, he's saying, "That's a nice organization you have there. It would be a shame if anything *happened* to it. But don't worry, life will go on without you".

Athelstane said...

I hope it would look like a conference that focuses on the priorities of religious life, the life of holiness, which is the fundamental call of all of us in the church, and the good that can come through the apostolic works that many of these orders are committed to and the prayers that others are committed to.

As it happens, that group already exists in the form of the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR), given canonical recognition in 1992.

CurmudgeonKC said...

As for that non-Catholic periodical with "Catholic" in its name, the bishop in whose diocese it sits has indeed not publicly revoked the right to use the word. But I know this bishop, and he's one of the few who deserves to be given the benefit of the doubt on this prudential issue.

Perhaps he refrains from public anathematizing the rag in this case because he thinks that it (with an average readership in its 70s) will soon die of its own accord, unless he gives free publicity to a broader audience associated with a directive that they will ignore anyways. A good leader should never give an order that he's sure will not be obeyed. He has to be strategic.

He's in the thick of it with that liberal crowd right now, including a trumped-up misdemeanor case their left-wing prosecutor friend has brought against him personally. But he, and the rapidly growing orthodox Catholic lay community and clergy, will ultimately prevail against the grey and sterile NCR crowd.

Marko Ivančičević said...

Cardinals!
Fetch ye the comfy chair!
xD

GQ Rep said...

I don't read any "easy chair" approach to these nuns. I think Levada was very straight forward. There is nothing easy in his words and assessment.
These liberal femminst nuns are in for a shock if they think that they can go on as before any nothing will happen.
I predict they will be supressed by the Vstican, replaced by faithful nuns, and slowly go out of existance. In 10 years all the liberal Orders world wide will be gone.

The big concern however is the Congregation for Religious, governed by two radical liberals, especially the American Bishop Tobin. Both should be sacked by the Pope. And very well might be....especially Tobin!

OutsideObserver said...

None among you seem to have noticed the following sentence:

"No sister will lose her job in teaching or charitable work or hospital work as a result of this assessment, as far as I know"

As far as I'm concerned this negates most of the "terror" that any "crackdown" would otherwise inspire.

The interview is also very revealing in that Cardinal Levada allowed this year's LCWR assembly to go ahead without even bothering to check first on what was going to happen there.

Supertradmum said...

That Monte Python is one of my favorites. I hope we have not lost our sense of the zany in 2012, although the LCWR can be even more crazy...when will this boring feminism ever end? Those who are convinced feminists do not want the "patriarchal hierarchy" as they call it. Wait until after the Anglican Synod this July...

GQ Rep said...

"The interview is also very revealing in that Cardinal Levada allowed this year's LCWR assembly to go ahead without even bothering to check first on what was going to happen there."

I agree. But Levada admitted his error. Still, Ihope that Bishop Sartain is more of a manager, and refuses to allow the radical agenda these nuns have pursued.

It doesn;t really matter in the long run though. 99% of these Orders are so filled with really old nuns (median ages 74 and older, with some having median ages approaching 80 that in a few years none of their antics will matter. Who cares what a bunch of embittered, radical dissident femminist octogenarian nuns do?

The only sad thing is that they will have destroyed their once flourishing Orders (60-65 years ago), and that's tragic.

Andrew said...

I think its good the Vatican is trying to help them but I am not really worried about this at all. These dissenting religious communities will be completely gone in about 20 years. The average age is 70 in these communities. There is very little by way of vocations. What has happened is very sad and there are many hidden saints in these communities who were railroaded by their leadership (Read the excellent book Sister Crisis by OSV Press to learn all about this). On the bright side there are many orthodox women's communities that are flourishing. They are the future. Check out just a few of these great examples (all of which are new foundations) to feel hopeful about the future of the Church and religious life:

http://www.sistersofmary.org
http://franciscansisterscfr.com
http://benedictinesofmary.org/

Here is the link to the book Sister Crisis:

http://www.amazon.com/Sisters-Crisis-Unraveling-Religious-Communities/dp/0879736550

Hilary said...

Really? That's seriously what you're hoping for? And when was the last time we had "solid disciplinary actions" or "unambiguous teaching"? Hmm? Don't recall?

Me neither.