More on LCWR/CDF

I was pondering another post on the LCWR-CDF dust-up. Honestly, I didn’t think there was anything more to say about it. It seems to be in the hands of the bishops and the sisters. I think the bishops are in trouble, in the sense that they have much more to lose in this tussle. The LCWR, as a particular entity may well dissolve. But there’s nothing to prevent American sisters from calling conferences, maintaining collaboration, and starting a different organization to accomplish the same ends. Women religious will still serve people in parishes, schools, hospitals, and all the other outposts they did yesterday and today.

Today’s NCRep editorial gives a good lead-in:

“A church that does not go out of itself, sooner or later, sickens from the stale air of closed rooms,” Pope Francis has written in a letter released Thursday to his fellow Argentine bishops. This is a similar message to the one he delivered to his fellow cardinals before the conclave, impressing them enough to elect him bishop of Rome

In his new note he went on to say in the process of “going out” the church always risks running into “accidents,” adding, “I prefer a thousand times over a church of accidents than a sick church.”

A church of accidents … a church willing to take risks on the edges … a church dedicated to service of the most needy … a church working on behalf of mercy, peace and justice…

This sounds a lot like the church U.S. Catholic sisters have been building in recent decades. Not only U.S. women religious, but also women religious around the world have been at this work. It is the women who have lived closest to the marginalized; it is the women who have worked on the “peripheries;” it is the women who have gone precisely where Francis is encouraging others to go.

I think this is right. Whatever Pope Francis intended with the encouragement of the CDF to move forward against the LCWR, it seems clear he’s describing the attitude and approach of American sisters. Does he know it? Doesn’t matter. And that’s suggesting that “accidents,” however we arrived at that interesting term, are something that needs correction. In the case of the LCWR, I’m not sure that’s always the case. Even giving the CDF the benefit of the doubt, it doesn’t look to me like the pope is on the same page as they. Pope Francis sounds willing to risk accidents if the main mission of the Gospel is accomplished.

Most every woman religious I know has her eyes on the target and heart deep into ministry. Are some of them ignorant, misinformed, blundering, flawed, sinful, or harboring heretical beliefs? Sure. But that point means nothing, because you can say the same thing about bishops, priests, lay people, this parish or that parish, this community or that, this committee or that, and it would still be right.

The investigation’s problem has come to a difficult spot for the institution.

The sisters could just walk away. And nobody could stop them.

Archbishop Sartain was either the willing volunteer or the sucker for this task. He would seem to have motivation for the project to arrive at a successful conclusion. If he pushes the sisters too hard, they will walk anbd he will have failed in his first big assignment as an archbishop.

As I understand it, the LCWR was established to facilitate communiation between sisters and with the institutional Church. Women religious don’t seem to think the church is listening. So they lose nothing by walking away. And there is nothing to prevent them from maintaining communication among whoever want to organize under a new umbrella.

I also think we’re seeing a new administration in Rome that is concerned about looking out, not looking in. Pope Francis can tell the parties, “Stop fighting. Settle this, and get on with your work.” And what do you think the parties would do?

One way or another, this standoff is history.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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7 Responses to More on LCWR/CDF

  1. John McGrath says:

    Well put. The pope is saying in effect: Find a charitable way to resolve this. Get on with the Gospels, and, dear sisters, please join us us in a declaration of the value and dignity of human life in all its forms, especially in the neglected, the poor, the suffering. Minister to therm, please!

  2. Jimmy Mac says:

    John: that is simply the pope asking the sisters to do what they have been doing for time immemorial!

    • John McGrath says:

      Yes, precisely. the pope will require nothing of the sisters except no public stand in favor of abortion or contraceptives. Nor any required public stand against them. This will not serve as a public rebuke of the bishops, just a way to put the dust up to bed.

      By the way the Patriotic Catholic Archbishop of Shanghai is or was for a long time A jesuit, I believe in good standing or at least collegially respected throughout the Jesuit order. I think this pope will be more inclined to patiently and prudently work things out with the Chinese government. Downgrading the Vatican as a government and upraising its status as the center of a religion dedicated to the poor and against feral capitalism will help. Having personally know some Chinese papal seminary students in the 90′s I can tell you they were working for the CIA. This won’t be tolerated under this new pope.

    • John McGrath says:

      It is better, smarter and more prudent to continue the “investigation” and put the false accusations to rest than it would be to call the investigation off.

      • Mike says:

        Why? Why not say publicly that the investigation was wrong from the start, was based in an assertion of sexism and power, and needs to be stopped now, rather than waste time and resources on a fool’s errand?

      • John McGrath says:

        Mike, for one thing, it’s politically smart. When possible, never humiliate people who are easily hostile, as would be the conservatives who pushed for this investigation. Give them a way to come round. This pope lived under right wing dictators. He knows how to act in a way that does the least harm. He’s also motivated by charity, and the belief that reconciliation is better than victory and defeat.

        Having been Jesuit educated, and given human nature and the reality of how easily the heart can turn to evil, I was taught, in conflicts, to apply the same ethical norms as used in medicine: … FIRST, do no harm. Not, do good. Do no harm. The pope wishes not to harm the situation with one side losing and the other winning. I believe the sisters, better trained in charity than priests and bishops, will understand this. … 2. SECOND, if you must do harm, minimize it. … THIRD, do good.

        A great deal of harm is done when people are primarily motivated by doing good rather than doing no harm. The bishops and the conservatives were motivated, according to their lights, to do good. They did not consider the harm they would do.

        Prudence (seeing the consequences of one’s actions), prudent justice, prudent fortitude, prudent mercy or prudent temperance.

        Am I good at this? Sometimes, not as often as I should. But I don’t pray as much as this pope and I have not learned these lessons living under dangerous (to me) regimes.

        Prudent justice needs to be tempered with a prudent mercy, even to enemies, even to wrong doers.

  3. Mike says:

    Thank you, John. Excellent answer. You’ve convinced me.

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