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.