LCWR Distortions and Misrepresentations: Can We Get the Facts?


Bishop Leonard Blair (Head Bishop in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith LCWR Assessment):
The Honest Truth about the CDF Assessment is to “remedy the significant and longstanding doctrinal problems.”


Catholic Chronicle, Written by BISHOP LEONARD P. BLAIR; When you are in a position of leadership or authority, it 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.

“The biggest distortion of all is the claim that the CDF and the bishops are attacking or criticizing the life and work of our Catholic sisters in the United States.” Bishop Blair

Having conducted the doctrinal assessment of the entity known as the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), I can only marvel at what is now being said, both within and outside the Church, regarding the process and the recent steps taken by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) to remedy significant and longstanding doctrinal problems connected with the activities and programs of the LCWR.

The biggest distortion of all is the claim that the CDF and the bishops are attacking or criticizing the life and work of our Catholic sisters in the United States. One report on the CBS evening news showcased the work of a Mercy Sister who is a medical doctor in order to compare her to the attack that she and sisters like her are supposedly being subjected to by authoritarian bishops. The report concludes with a statement that the bishops impose the rules of the Church but the sisters carry on the work of the Church.

Unless the sister in question is espousing and/or promoting positions contrary to Catholic teaching — and there was no reason given to think that she is — then the Holy See’s doctrinal concerns are not directed at her or at the thousands of religious sisters in our country like her to whom we all owe a debt of gratitude for all that they do in witness to the Gospel.

What the CDF is concerned about, as I indicated, is the particular organization known as the LCWR. Its function, responsibilities and statutes were all originally approved by the Holy See, to which it remains accountable. While it is true that the member communities of the LCWR represent most of the religious sisters in the United States, that does not mean that criticism of the LCWR is aimed at all the member religious communities, much less all sisters.

The word “investigation” is often used to describe the work that I carried out on behalf of the CDF. “Investigation” suggests an attempt to uncover things that might not be known. In reality, what the CDF commissioned was a doctrinal “assessment,” an appraisal of materials which are readily available to anyone who cares to read them on the LCWR website and in other LCWR published resources. The assessment was carried out in dialogue with the LCWR leadership, both in writing and face-to-face, over several months.

The fundamental question posed to the LCWR leadership as part of the assessment was simply this:

What are the Church’s pastors to make of the fact that the LCWR constantly provides a one-sided platform — without challenge or any opposing view — to speakers who take a negative and critical position vis-a-vis Church doctrine and discipline and the Church’s teaching office?

Let me cite just a few of the causes for concern.

  • In her LCWR keynote address in 1997, Sister Sandra Schneiders, IHM proposed that the decisive issue for women religious is the issue of faith: “It can no longer be taken for granted that the members [of a given congregation] share the same faith.”
  • Ten years later, in an LCWR keynote speech, Sister Laurie Brink, O.P. spoke of “four different general ‘directions’ in which religious congregations seem to be moving.” She said that “not one of the four is better or worse than the others.” One of the directions described is “sojourning,” which she says “involves moving beyond the Church, even beyond Jesus. A sojourning congregation is no longer ecclesiastical. It has grown beyond the bounds of institutional religion.” This kind of congregation “in most respects is Post-Christian.” She concludes by characterizing as “a choice of integrity, insight and courage” the decision to “step outside the Church” already made by one group of women religious.
  • Father Michael H. Crosby, OFMCap, a keynote speaker at the joint LCWR-CMSM assembly in 2004, lamented the fact that “we still have to worship a God that the Vatican says ‘wills that women not be ordained.’ That god is literally ‘unbelievable.’ It is a false god; it cannot be worshiped. And the prophet must speak truth to that power and be willing to accept the consequence of calling for justice, stopping the violence and bringing about the reign of God.”

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.

LCWR speakers also explore themes like global spirituality, the new cosmology, earth-justice and eco-feminism in ways that are frequently ambiguous, dubious or even erroneous with respect to Christian faith.

And while the LCWR upholds Catholic social teaching in some areas, it is notably silent when it comes to two of the major moral challenges of our time: the right to life of the unborn, and the God-given meaning of marriage between one man and one woman.

Are these examples indicative of the thinking of all religious sisters in the United States whose communities are members of the LCWR? Certainly not.

Serious questions of faith undoubtedly arise among some women religious, as the LCWR maintains. However, is it the role of a pontifically recognized leadership group to criticize and undermine faith in church teaching by what is said and unsaid, or rather to work to create greater understanding and acceptance of what the Church believes and teaches?

Those who do not hold the teachings of the Catholic Church, or Catholics who dissent from those teachings, are quick to attack the CDF and bishops for taking the LCWR to task. However, a person who holds the reasonable view that a Catholic is someone who subscribes to the teachings of the Catholic Church will recognize that the Catholic bishops have a legitimate cause for doctrinal concern about the activities of the LCWR, as evidenced by a number of its speakers and some of its resource documents.

A key question posed by the doctrinal assessment had to do with moving forward in a positive way. Would the LCWR at least acknowledge the CDF’s doctrinal concerns and be willing to take steps to remedy the situation?

The response thus far is exemplified by the LCWR leadership’s choice of a New Age Futurist to address its 2012 assembly, and their decision to give an award this year to Sister Sandra Schneiders, who has expressed the view that the hierarchical structure of the church represents an institutionalized form of patriarchal domination that cannot be reconciled with the Gospel.

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.

Most Reverend Leonard P. Blair
Bishop of Toledo
June 8, 2012

May God bless you!

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12 comments to LCWR Distortions and Misrepresentations: Can We Get the Facts?

  • Br. Christopher Sale

    I ask a nun recently if she missed wearing her habit.
    She replied, “no because there are some places I go
    I don’t want people to know I’m a nun”.
    I ask a priest why he no longer wears his Roman collar,
    He said, “because I don’t want people to bother me.”
    Hmmm I didn’t realize that being a religious is now a
    part time job.

  • EK

    Enough already! Somebody please just kick them out! They’ve been polluting the Faith for decades and they have the nerve to trample on the gracious opportunity to repent and to come back to obedience.

  • Br. Christopher Sale

    Hi Bill, so far 3 with a few volunteers. We assist the homeless, poor and sick. We also promote prayer by giving away rosaries, holy cards, medals etc. It takes a long time to
    expand. I’founded the lay order 4 years ago. (The Brothers of Padre Pio). We also have other projects such as anti bullying and working with those with HIV.

  • Bill

    How many men belong to Br. Christopher’s community?

  • Bill

    Now here is real courage:
    Vatican Crackdown: American Nuns Reject Takeover But Seek Dialogue On Difference

  • Br. Christopher Sale

    I think the Vatican should give the boot to these nuns. We have far to many new orders would are committed to following Christ.
    Listen to this clip. Shame on these nuns.

  • Br. Christopher Sale

    Many of us in the religious life suffer because of these runaway religious. Though we suffer in silence we ocassionally feel the need to express how commited to following Christ and the teachings of the Catholic church. In my 4 years of ministry I have been verbally bashed by priest who critize my wearing the habit. I was recently told by a local priest that I’m teaching old doctrine. He said being a practicing homosexual is no longer a sin and I must stop teaching that it is. Just today a Brother bashed me saying that homosexuality was one of God’s mistakes in His creation. Many times I have considered leaving the religious life because of this. However my passion for serving Our Blessed Lord over powers my will to leave. Those of us who follow the teaching are now being abused by other religious. Please pray that we survive this progressive nonsense perpetuated by the liberal disenters.
    Please watch this clip as Michael Voris supports us.

  • Br. Christopher Sale

    Here in Los Angeles Sister Edith Prendergast or has I prefer to call her (Edith) is the head of our religious congress. Each year she allows Fr. Richard Sparks to speak at the congress. Sparks is a known dissenter of the Catholic faith.Despite our complaints she seem to get her way. Let us pray that these wayward nuns reconcile their marriage to our Blessed Lord.Fr. Sparks teaches the Jesus and Mary Magaline had sex. And that gay sex and masturbation is no longer a sin.These nuns are a disgrace to our church. You can read about sparks here. I think you will agree that he needs to be removed from ministry. Many say he’s a perverted priest.

  • TG

    I read “Ungodly Rage” about these feminist sisters. Really shocking that the bishops allowed all the crazy things some of these nuns did. I’m glad the Holy Father is trying to put a stop to it. I think part of the problem is that bishops needs to use “the big boy voice” in dealing with these unfaithful sisters. If only these nuns would be like Mother Angelica,a true bride of Christ. The nuns that taught me in Catholic school were also faithful nuns who wore habits. I pray for the unfaithful sisters of LCWR to repent.

  • lisag

    Without humility there is no obedience. True humility from the heart serves in obedience to Our Lord. Giving without demanding or grumbling. Jesus calls us to be like children open to love and obedient to the Father. When sisters stray from the flock should not our Bishops go out to find them and bring them back home.

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