Laurie Goodstein at the NYT has a feature up this weekend on the upcoming LCWR meeting and the response to come from a summer of discernment. I guess my own summer has been roaring by; I didn’t realize the moment of truth was so near.
Looking back, I have to say that I admire Bishop Blair for going on NPR’s Fresh Air to state the bishops’ view. That interview could have gone much worse for him and the bishops than it did. As it happens, I don’t think he carried himself well at all. If he’s any indication, the bishops see this as an issue of obedience to Church teaching. For the sisters, I don’t think the Church teaching is a matter of dispute, at least not in any great numbers. They see it as a twofold problem.
First, the matter is one of what’s fair game for discussion. This report is more about imposing a gag order on disputed topics. Not aligning oneself against faith and morals. Secondarily, it seems the sisters have a serious case to say that the views cited in the report are taken out of context, or even blatantly misunderstood.
If the CDF is intentionally misreading their reports, then that would be a matter of grave sin, a participation in gossip and defamation.
I’m more inclined to think that this is something of a dialogue of the deaf, as one cardinal put it. I’d say a certain intellectual curiosity is a danger signal to modern bishops, who, it seems, lack the general theological aptitude of their forebears of the post-conciliar years. Uniformity is routinely confused with unity. Talking and listening equates with accepting. This is just not logical.
If the LCWR as a canonical entity can’t get past the blockade of ignorance, then I don’t see its purpose. Religious sisters seem well-able to convene in conference in any sort of way. It continues to happen among communities. No doubt it will continue outside the approval of the bishops–there are simply too many women who will talk about minsitry and theology and way too few bishops to have a prayer of stopping them. All that has been accomplished is the weakening of the institution. And maybe that’s not a bad thing.