Hype / Fidelity

Here's what the LWCR said in response to the CDF assessment:

"As the church and society face tumultuous times, the board believes it is imperative that these matters be addressed by the entire church community in an atmosphere of openness, honesty, and integrity."

Here's what Sartain said in response to their response:

Both the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and I are wholeheartedly committed to dealing with the important issues raised by the Doctrinal Assessment and the LCWR Board in an atmosphere of openness, honesty, integrity and fidelity to the Church’s faith. 

Notice the key difference?

Through it all I have stood in admiration of Donna Bethell, as she has met the hype, incoherence, and fury of the LWCR supporters with humor, charity, courtesy, and aplomb. She reminds me of Cardinal Ratzinger. Observe:
On June 1, the LCWR issued a statement in response to the doctrinal assessment. It complained that the process had not been transparent, the allegations had not been substantiated, and the remedies were out of proportion to the problems. It said that the doctrinal assessment had “caused scandal and pain throughout the Church community and created greater polarization.”

The statement said that LCWR officers will be meeting with Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the CDF, and Archbishop Sartain in Rome on June 12 to discuss the concerns of the LCWR board. During the summer, members of the LCWR will hold meetings around the country to determine the response to the CDF.

Judging from the statement, that response will not be conciliatory. The LCWR statement contains no hint that the CDF might have any reason at all for concern. Instead, it attacks the CDF for causing scandal, drawing unjustified conclusions and overreacting.

Yet there is no factual refutation of the matters cited in the doctrinal assessment. Rather than acknowledging the authority and responsibility of the bishops and the CDF, the statement appeals to the support of “many people around the world,” as if they were the source of authority in the Church or the competent finders of fact. For all of their talk about listening and sharing, the LCWR is not listening to the CDF or sharing its legitimate views.

In other words, the statement could serve as the next exhibit in the CDF’s portfolio of what is wrong with the LCWR.

This sad tale might not end soon, but it will end. The average age of the members of LCWR communities is 73 and increasing, while their numbers fall. Meanwhile, what of the CMSWR? They represent 20% of all the women religious in the U.S., more than 11,000 sisters, but they are young, with an average age of 35 and falling, and they are growing fast. They are happy to state their fidelity to the magisterium of the Church, to pray together as the central focus of their lives, to work together in community apostolates, to wear recognizable religious habits and, above all, to promote and protect their consecration to Christ as the source and goal of the Church’s life.

Donna F. Bethell is chairman of the board of directors
 at Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia.

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