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Timeline of interactions between LCWR, doctrinal congregation

 |  NCR Today

The following is a timeline of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's investigation of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

2008: The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life had ordered a separate investigation, known as an apostolic visitation, of U.S. orders of women religious. The results of that study were submitted to Rome at the end of 2011.

February 2009: Cardinal William Levada, head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, composes a letter to LCWR leadership, informing them that his office has begun a doctrinal assessment of the group. Levada states that Toledo, Ohio, Bishop Leonard Blair, a member of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Doctrine, will conduct the assessment.

March 2009: LCWR receives Levada's letter.

April 2009: LCWR informs its members of the doctrinal assessment and meets with members of the doctrinal congregation in Rome.

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May 2009: LCWR leaders meet with Blair for the first time.

August 2009: LCWR holds its annual assembly in New Orleans. Afterward, LCWR leaders release a statement asking the Vatican congregation for more details on the causes of the investigation. LCWR leaders also pledge to cooperate in the assessment and say they are committed to "serving at and speaking from the margins of the Catholic church."

October 2009: The Asia-Oceania Meeting of Religious, which represents 113 women religious leaders from 17 Asian and Oceania nations, releases a statement in support of U.S. women religious, saying, "We offer you our solidarity and prayers." California's bishops also issue a statement of support for U.S. sisters, saying they "join our people in thanking Women Religious ... for their witness to the richness and varied gifts of the Spirit."

December 2009: The Continental Assembly of Europe, a gathering of women religious across Europe, issues a statement of support for U.S. sisters, saying they want to express "our most fervent solidarity."

April 2010: LCWR leaders meet again with members of the Vatican congregation in Rome. In a letter to LCWR membership, the leaders state that much of the meeting concerned the sisters' support of the U.S. Affordable Care Act. The leaders state that in the meeting, Levada said that the sisters' support for the legislation, which the U.S. bishops opposed, was "a public display of disunity within the church."

May 2010: Leaders of 17 women religious communities meet with six Midwestern bishops at a regional LCWR meeting. LCWR's then-president, Franciscan Sr. Marlene Weisenbeck, suggests that such meetings could be a "model for us to go forward."

July 2010: Blair submits an eight-page report on his investigation to the Vatican. The results of that report are not made public.

April 2012: LCWR leaders meet with members of the Vatican congregation in Rome. At that meeting, they are informed of the order to revise their group. In a press release, the U.S. bishops' conference announces appointment of Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain to the role of "archbishop delegate" of the group, with wide-ranging authority over its revision.

July 2, 2012: Archbishop Gerhard Müller is appointed prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith by Pope Benedict XVI.

August 2012: LCWR responds to the Vatican's findings. After gaining consensus from its body, it commits itself to an "open and honest" dialogue with Sartain, but only as long as it can maintain its integrity.

March 13, 2013: Pope Francis is elected

April 15, 2013: In a meeting with LCWR leadership, Müller informs the group that he had met with Pope Francis who "reaffirmed the findings of the assessment and the program of reform for this Conference of Major Superiors."

May 2013:  Cardinal João Bráz de Aviz attends an international women's religious meeting in Rome and tells the sisters that their leadership as consecrated persons in the church is "co-essential" to that of the hierarchy. He says the lack of CDF discussion over whether to criticize LCWR caused him "much pain."

August 2013: Sartain attends LCWR's assembly, addresses the group, and meets with leadership.

April 30, 2014: Müller meets with LCWR leadership in Rome, and in his opening remarks, says the organization must show "more substantive signs of collaboration" for implementing the mandate the doctrinal congregation ordered in 2012.

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