(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.
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.