Bishop Blair on LCWR

At the Bench, Greg linked this column from Toledo bishop Leonard Blair on the doctrinal investigation of the LCWR.

 (I)t is a great cross sometimes to know firsthand the actual facts of a situation and then have to listen to all the distortions and misrepresentation of the facts that are made in the public domain.

And yet it is undeniable that the CDF and the bishops made this a “public domain” issue by breaking the news of it. The secular world doesn’t understand the Church. Some people within and outside of the Church are deeply skeptical of the bishops and their moral conduct. Cardinal Rodé’s investigation was very poorly handled from the start and seemed to curl up quietly and die. One of the strongest objections to the CDF investigation is how the news was presented. It’s been a frequent CDF problem for decades now. The cross, in this instance, is a self-selected one.

Bishop Blair cites the four usual “causes for concern” we’ve seen elsewhere. I tend to skepticism when quotes are taken out of context. Dr Sandra Schneiders said

It can no longer be taken for granted that the members [of a given congregation] share the same faith.

That’s not good news, but it certainly may be true. I’m not deep enough into religious life to know for sure. I also don’t know if Dr Schneiders was speaking of people who have faith in someone other than Christ. Or if she was speaking about non-Catholic lay associates. Or if she was suggesting that people who share membership might have different styles of faith. If the CDF is concerned about people who have lost faith, then Dr Schneiders’ bearing when delivering this unwelcome news would be important: straight-faced lament, fist-pumping, or something else.

Another example:

The LCWR’s Systems Thinking Handbook describes a hypothetical case in which sisters differ over whether the Eucharist should be at the center of a special community celebration.  The problem is that some of the sisters object to “priest-led liturgies.” The scenario, it seems, is not simply fictitious, for some LCWR speakers also mention the difficulty of finding ways to worship together as a faith community.  According to the Systems Thinking Handbook this difficulty is rooted in differences at the level of belief, but also different mental models—the “Western mind” and the “Organic mental model.”  These, rather than Church doctrine, are offered as tools for the resolution of the case.

Given the context, I’m not sure I see the problem here. I had a friend in religious life a number of years ago who lived in a community in which a chaplain assigned to preside at Mass occasionally showed up inebriated or late. Women’s communities do not always have the access to priests who will collaborate on liturgy, as is often the case in parishes. In mission locations, there may be no clergy available. Lacking the ordination of women or married persons, there is no rejection of the Eucharist on the part of communities. The institution itself cannot provide for the sacramental needs of the faithful. Coming from a women’s ordination advocate, that might seem like a loaded criticism. But aren’t the words themselves true?

Four single speakers in fifteen years–I’m not sure I have a problem with these contrary examples. Maybe I’d have more of a concern if workshop attendees just swallowed everything they heard as gospel. The women religious I know have no problem sharing criticisms of convention speakers when we’ve gone to conferences.

Bishop Blair’s conclusion:

This situation is now a source of controversy and misunderstanding, as well as misrepresentation. I am confident, however, that if the serious concerns of the CDF are accurately represented and discussed among all the sisters of our country, there will indeed be an opening to a new and positive relationship between women religious and the Church’s pastors in doctrinal matters, as there already is in so many other areas where mutual respect and cooperation abound.

Mutual respect and cooperation indeed. We sure need more of that. I’m not attacking the LCWR for saying these are good words. Not at all.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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16 Responses to Bishop Blair on LCWR

  1. Lionel Andrades says:


    In their protests supporters of the LCWR Sisters have been saying that Vatican Council II has changed every thing.They mean Vatican Council II contradicts the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus and so they are into all New Age teachings and even deny the Creed.

    One of the posters of an LCWR supporter says Vatican Council II cannot be changed.They interpret Vatican Council II with an irrational argument. In their religious formation they were taught that those saved in invincible ignorance and the baptism of desire are explicit exceptions to the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus.Explicit, known to us ? This is irrational.

    They do not realize that Vatican Council II no where says that those saved in invincible ignorance etc are known to us and so they are explicit exceptions.

    So how can those saved in invincible ignorance, a good conscience,seeds of the Word, imperfect communion with the church etc and who are unknown to us, be an exception to the traditional interpretation of the dogma, which they reject?

    Vatican Council II is a traditional Council if the ‘exceptions’ are considered implicit and not explicit.

    It’s ecclesiology is exclusive ecclesiocentrism. Ad Gentes 7 says there is exclusive salvation in only the Catholic Church and all need Catholic Faith and the baptism of water for salvation (to avoid Hell).AG 7 indicates all New Agers and Protestants need Catholic Faith (which includes the baptism of water) to avoid Hell.This is the message of the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus.

    The Sisters are rejecting Vatican Council II (AG 7). Then they assume LG 16 is explicit and not implicit. So they deny AG 7 and the defined dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus.

    They reject an ex cathedra teaching (Cantate Domino, Council of Florence on extra ecclesiam nulla salus) and are not excommunicated like the OMI priest Fr.Tissa Balasuriya who denied the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady.

    Can the LCWR sisters affirm the literal interpretation of the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus, along with implicit baptism of desire and invincible ignorance ?

    Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Vatican has not asked them to acknowledge Vatican Council II in accord with the dogma on exclusive salvation in only the Catholic Church.

    The dogma is in agreement with the Catechism of the Catholic Church as long as it is understood that the baptism of desire etc is always implicit for us and explicit for God.

    The LCWR sisters are rejecting the Letter of the Holy Office 1949 issued during the pontificate of Pope Pius XII which referred to ‘the dogma’, ‘the infallible statement’.

    In principle there can be non Catholics saved in (implicit to us) invincible ignorance and the baptism of desire. De facto, in reality, in the present times there are no known exceptions to everyone needing to convert into the Church for salvation.

    The LCWR needs to clarify its doctrinal position on the thrice defined dogma and Vatican Council II.

    There are religious sisters in Worcester,USA who affirm the literal interpretation of the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus and reject explicitly known baptism of desire and invincible ignorance.They affirm Vatican Council II according to Tradition.-Lionel Andrades

  2. Todd says:

    A rather lengthy thesis, Mr Andrades, which doesn’t seem to fit the issue here: coming to terms with a he said/she said situation and attempting to find common ground from which to proceed.

    I’m always skeptical of commentators who place words in other people’s mouths. I’d rather hear well-formed opinions and views from people themselves.

    As for the matter of salvation outside the Church, that discussion is not relevant to this one. I don’t mind people branching off from the posts here, but if you’re serious about starting a discussion or suggesting one, I recommend you e-mail me so we can explore it together.

    • Lionel Andrades says:

      The sisters do not believe in the literal interpretation of the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus in accord with Vatican Council II(AG 7) . So they have gone off into New Age and other religions and they read all types of literature.

      ‘It can no longer be taken for granted that the members [of a given congregation] share the same faith.’!!

      The Catechism of the Catholic Church says a person must protect his personal faith. If the sisters do not believe in the salvation dogma and it is not asked of them, why would it be important to protect the Faith ?

      If they believed in exclusive salvation being there in only the Catholic Church this issue would not be there before the CDF.

      The Sisters would know that the Catholic Church is the only true faith and moral authority. They would not support homosexuality etc.

      • Todd says:

        I think this assessment is largely false. I appreciate your enthusiasm for a traditional faith, but I think you are making the same error others have made in their criticism. The main issue seems to be that each side is saying others have misrepresented them. It is not helpful for a believer to interpret what another person believes. Unless you are a member of the LCWR, you really do not know.

        As I read the statements of the LCWR, this has very little to do with the important issues you’ve raised: salvation outside the Church, authority, and homosexuality. This is the politics of personal interaction, or the lack thereof.

  3. Lionel Andrades says:

    It is not helpful for a believer to interpret what another person believes.

    If you invite Charles Curran to speak you are telling us all what you believe.

    If you openly promote New Age you are telling us what you believe.

    In the case of the LCWR, they represent the Church and so they are saying that this is what the Church teaches.

    They are also saying that there is no exclusive salvation in only th Catholic Catholic Church.

    When you invite Barbara Marx Hubbard your message is clear.You are saying that the Catholic Church is not the one true Church (UR 3, Vatican Council II) and all people do not need Catholic faith and the baptism of water for salvation.(AG 7).

    Your also saying that there can be an interpretation of Vatican Council II which negates AG 7.

    • Todd says:

      Lionel, these points illustrate a lack of logic. Inviting Prof Curran means you are interested in what he has to say. Upon becoming pope, Benedict XVI invited Hans Kung for dinner. Context always provides more input than outside personal interpretation.

      These points illustrate the maxim: “Those who are not against them are against us.” If you check your Gospel, you’ll find that’s somewhat out of kilter from the Lord Jesus.

      • Lionel Andrades says:

        ‘Inviting Prof Curran means you are interested in what he has to say.’

        Yes. And we all know what he has to say.It’s the same message as the LCWR.

      • Lionel Andrades says:


        He has to allow Cardinal Koch and Cardinal Ladaria to offer Holy Mass or receive the Eucharist- the issue is doctrine.They deny the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus and assume that there are explicitly known exceptions.

        Just like Sr. Margaret Farley and the LCWR Sisters the Vatican cardinals reject the Nicene Creed ‘I believe in one baptism for the forgiveness of sin’, Vatican Council II (AG 7) and the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus. These are mortal sins of Faith.

        When we say there is a Hell it is not to frighten the leftists but to acknowledge a reality. There are people there screaming continuously at the frightful sight and there is a fire which burns and it is non-stop. There is no time to eat, relax or read. There is no time there it is eternal.

        It is to this place where the majority of people are oriented to at the time of death. Since at the Particular Judgment they will see their souls blackened with mortal sin and the demons will be there appealing to God’s Justice and demanding the possession of that soul to be damned.

        The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) sisters will be confused at this time immediately after death on earth and find themselves in a big line of people, entering a tunnel which gets darker and darker and more frightening.

        Gloria Polo, Dante and many others in the present times who have seen this frightful spectacle after death on earth, say that the people in that line of the damned know that it is all over , there is nothing which can be done anymore to change the situation for all eternity. They would like to go back to earth and live in repentance but they cannot. Now they understand what the Church was teaching but they cannot change things. Like Abraham with Lazarus told the rich man Dives in the Gospel of St. Luke: ‘the gulf between you and us is too big’. No one can cross over.

        There is no reincarnation and LCWR ‘evolution of consciousness’ there. There is devolution of consciousness there and over time one looks like a beast, with all that screaming, hate, fright and pain.
        There are some 18 times that Jesus mentions Hell according to Fr. Stefano Manelli F.I.
        There are mortal sins of morals and mortal sins of faith and it is on the mortal sins of faith that the American Sisters along with the Vatican cardinals are on the same boat, which Dante saw, ferrying people to the land of the damned.-Lionel Andrades

      • Todd says:

        Lionel, your post was identified as span for the many links to the Eucharist and Mission blog. I took the liberty of deleting them.

        Speculating on the state of souls is dangerous territory, my friend. Not the stuff of saints.

  4. Lionel Andrades says:

    I say then, walk in the spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. [17] For the flesh lusteth against the spirit: and the spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary one to another: so that you do not the things that you would. [18] But if you are led by the spirit, you are not under the law. [19] Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are fornication, uncleanness, immodesty, luxury, [20] Idolatry, witchcrafts, enmities, contentions, emulations, wraths, quarrels, dissensions, sects, [21] Envies, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like. Of the which I foretell you, as I have foretold to you, that they who do such things shall not obtain the kingdom of God. -Galatian 5:17
    The Bible is saying that there are some sins which lead to Hell, those who commit these sins shall not obtain the kingdom of God. Similarly the Church and the popes are saying that those who die with Origina Sin on thier soul are oriented to Hell. They are not saying that they are already in Hell since they are referring to sinners still on earth. Neither are they naming or condemning any one in particular.

    So one cannot say that the Bible is speculating on the state of souls. It is telling us the conditions for going to Hell and warning us in charity.

  5. Todd says:

    It is one thing for the Bible to make statements on general sin or specific offenses. It is another thing entirely for one believer to undertake the mantle of the Last Judge and make pronouncements against believers for which you have no concrete evidence, only speculation. This is very dangerous territory, my friend.

  6. Lionel Andrades says:

    Just as the Church and the Bible makes general statements on ‘general sin’ which leads to Hell I am calling attention to those same statements on salvation, in particular the salvation dogma.
    Extra ecclesiam nulla salus is a defined dogma and every Catholic needs to beive in it. It is based on important teachings in the Bible e.gJohn 3:5 on the necessity of the baptism of water for salvation and Mark 16:16, those who do not beleive will be condemned.
    LCWR rejects the dogma. It rejects Vatican Council II (AG 7).

    In August they will invite a speaker who also rejects this teaching.

    Then there are reports about their pro abortion and homosexuality position.
    There is a picture of a nun with a T Shirt saying she is a pro choice religious.

    I cannot read a person’s soul and I do not know the LCWR sisters prsonally however I do know that the Church still teaches that there are some sins which lead to Hell.The sisters are in dangerous territory.

  7. Lionel Andrades says:


    According to Canon Law the Leadership Conference of Women Religious(LCWR),USA need to follow the teachings of the Catholic Church they need to affirm the dogma of the Faith, they need to affirm the Creed to remain as religious sisters. They are not doing this.
    They have denied the dogma on exclusive salvation being there in only the Catholic Church and in denying an ex cathedra dogma, they have rejected the dogma on the infallibility o f the pope ex cathedra.
    This applies to Sister Sr. Patricia Farrell OP , Sr.Janet Mock, Sr. Sandra Schneider,Sr. Laurie Brink O.P…
    According to Canon Law a religious sister in public office , a Superior of a congregation, cannot hold an office unless she is a Catholic. To be a Catholic one has to believe and affirm in public the teachings of the Catholic Church.
    Since they are religious superiors they are ‘juridical persons’ according to Canon Law and they can be deprived of their positions of authority for denying the Catholic Faith.
    Also religious who deny the Catholic Faith in public are not to receive the Eucharist. The LCWR sisters are in public manifest mortal sin and sacrilegeously receive the Eucharist.
    They need to publicly affirm the Catholic Faith and so remove the scandal.
    Just affriming the Catholic Faith, by praying the Creed on Sunday is not enough they need to clarify that :
    1) There is exclusive salvation in only the Catholic Church (Dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus)
    2) Those saved in invincible ignorance, a good conscience (LG 16), baptism of desire etc are not explicit so they do not contradict the defined dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus. So they could affirm the dogma on the infallibility of the pope ex cathedra, and especially with reference to the thrice defined dogma on salvation.
    3) Since Lumen Gentium 16 is always implicit it does not contradict Ad Gentes 7 which says all need Catholic Faith and the baptism of water.l So they must affirm Vatican Council II
    (AG 7).
    The Canon Law and Eucharist requirement apply to all LCWR sisters and not just the Superiors.-Lionel Andrades

    • Todd says:

      Canon law also requires proof. It is a legal system, not a game of journalistic gotcha!

      Why do you harp on the matter of salvation outside the Church? That is barely a consideration with the LCWR, and only because you’re making a stretch thay canon lawyers themselves aren’t touching.

      • Liam says:

        And barking or bleating dogma is *not* a manifestation of zeal or love for souls. It’s an egoistic exercise for the self, not for others.

      • Lionel Andrades says:

        The proof is there in the Doctrinal Preamble and the link from Bishop Leonard Blair above.It is there in the statements of the LCWR speakers.
        Why do you harp on the matter of salvation outside the Church?
        Since Sr.Janet Mock in an interview has said that they are faithful to the doctrines of the Catholic Church.Exclusive salvation in only the Catholic Church is not just a doctrine it is a defined dogma. It is a grave sin to reject a Church teaching mentioned in the Creed (‘I believe in one baptism for the forgiveness of sin’ and ‘I believe in the Holy Catholic Church’). One cannot reject Vatican Council II (AG 7) and the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 846,845 etc) and also go to receive the Eucharist.
        According to Canon Law the Superiors need to affirm all these teachings of the Church to hold their offices/ authority.
        Canon Lawyers could touch on it in the future since it is offensive for Catholics to see Women Religious in public mortal sin, go up to receive the Eucharist and hold their positions of authority in the religious community.If Canon Law is applicable for divorcees, marriages etc it should also apply for Women Superiors.

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