National Catholic Reporter

The Independent News Source

Priests criticize head of doctrinal congregation for rebuke of LCWR

 | 
Seattle

The Association of U.S. Catholic Priests in a letter to Pope Francis criticized the head of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for his recent comments chastising the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

The Seattle-based association, which claims 1,000 U.S. priests as members, focused its letter to the pope on comments made by the congregation's prefect, German Cardinal Gerhard Müller, in an April 30 welcoming address to LCWR leadership.

LCWR is a Maryland-based umbrella group that claims about 1,500 leaders of U.S. women's communities as members, representing about 80 percent of the country's 57,000 women religious. The group is currently undergoing a major reform ordered by the Vatican in 2012.

Müller's remarks were "self-confessedly blunt," said the letter, signed by Fr. David Cooper of the Milwaukee archdiocese, the association's president, and members of the group's board.

Dated June 2, the letter was released to the media June 12.

envelope-gray-background.jpgLike what you're reading? Sign up for NCR email alerts.

The prelate's comments included, among other things, the view that an LCWR award to one sister whose book was subject to doctrinal scrutiny "will be seen as a rather open provocation against the Holy See and the doctrinal assessment"; that LCWR is promoting futuristic ideas he described as "opposed to Christian revelation"; and there is "increasing concern" over the "directional statements" of some LCWR member congregations.

LCWR plans to give a major award at the group's annual assembly in August to St. Joseph Sr. Elizabeth Johnson. In 2011, the U.S. bishops' Committee on Doctrine criticized one of Johnson's books as containing "misrepresentations, ambiguities and errors" related to the Catholic faith.

The cardinal's remarks were released by the congregation "without any aspects of the subsequent discussion being included," the U.S. priests told the pope.

"Does that kind of premature, one-sided public comment build trust? Does it help the process or the public perception of the church?" the letter asked. "Rather it projects what many perceive as clerical/hierarchical bullying of religious women, publically shaming them. That is deeply regretful. A joint concluding statement after the discussions would have been more appropriate."

The LCWR later issued its own statement describing the dialogue that ensued as "honest, respectful, and engaging" during which the LCWR leadership was able to "offer responses that illuminated some of the perceptions about the LCWR held by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith."

"We perceive you to be promoting an entirely different way of dealing with matters of concern within the church, allowing honest dialogue without preemptively defining the outcomes," the priests told Pope Francis. "The process CDF is using with LCWR seems to us ... far removed from 1 Peter's recommendation on the Sixth Sunday of Easter that we explain our reasons for our 'hope' -- our positions, our convictions, our perspectives -- 'with gentleness and reverence,' in short with respect for those with whom we talk."

The letter added, "We pray that abuse of process and persons will not continue in this case or others, but that a genuinely dialogic process, conducted with gentleness and reverence, will bring this issue to a conclusion more in keeping with ... your own pastoral approach."

NCR Comment code: (Comments can be found below)

Before you can post a comment, you must verify your email address at Disqus.com/verify.
Comments from unverified email addresses will be deleted.

  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the original idea will be deleted. NCR reserves the right to close comment threads when discussions are no longer productive.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report abuse" button. Once a comment has been flagged, an NCR staff member will investigate.

For more detailed guidelines, visit our User Guidelines page.

For help on how to post a comment, visit our reference page.

 

Feature-flag_GSR_start-reading.jpg

NCR Email Alerts

 

In This Issue

July 18-31, 2014

07-18-2014_0.jpg

Not all of our content is online. Subscribe to receive all the news and features you won't find anywhere else.