The saga is finally over and while they aren’t dead yet – last rites have been given. I am speaking of the US LCWR, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. Beginning under Pope Benedict and continued under Pope Francis, a 7 year effort had been undertaken to return them to the fold. Last week, that effort was abandoned without any significant healing of the LCWR. In all likelihood they are too far gone to be saved.
The LCWR is one of 2 organizations representing religious women in the United States. The other, the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR) representing faithful Catholic women religious, is solidly loyal to the Magisterium, usually habited and often living in community. Their members are YOUNG, VIBRANT and in GROWING orders such as the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, Sisters of Life, Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, Franciscan Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal, Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara, Discalced Carmelite Nuns and so many more.
The LCWR in contrast is old, still living a ’60s interpretation of the Vatican II “spirit” (“spirit” = what they wished it said), heavily involved in liberal political causes and severely lacking in vocations. Their members have been known for giving grave scandal such as escorting women into abortion mills, strong support for women’s ordination to the priesthood, backing “gay marriage,” promotion of new age spirituality, radical feminism, publicly opposing and undermining their bishops, protests against the Church and all manner of liberal political activism. Orders such as the Sinsinawa Dominicans, Loretto Community and Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart.
The liberal media and large political donors (ref: Nuns on the Bus) have frequently used the LCWR. They portrayed the Church in every bad light they could manufacture and the LCWR rescue effort as “punishing nuns”. The media will now have one less avenue of attack open to them. Liberal media have widely hailed this as a great victory. It’s not. In about 10 years or so the LCWR will be mostly gone as their already aged members die-out unreplaced. It is sad what has happened to these once great religious communities but it has been in the making for decades. The bright spot remains the CMSWR, founded as a faithful alternative to the LCWR and who is everything the LCWR is not.
Officially, Rome has put the best possible spin on this. The language is that the LCWR has “accepted Vatican reforms,” but the reality is oversight has ended with the LCWR somewhat promising to maybe do better. No substantive changes have been made in the LCWR. Instead, there are only reports and findings. No wonder the liberal press is all over this as a big victory against the Church. A typical analysis comes from Bustle:
The move isn’t necessarily a surprise. Pope Francis has been much more, shall we say, chill than his predecessor, and much more focused on the Church’s mission to serve the poor and lowly rather than on maintaining doctrinal purity. And given that nuns have historically been rather proactive when it comes to tending the sick, educating children, and generally doing good things for the community, it makes sense he’d be inclined to let them go about their business, even if they might be affected by the dreaded “feminist spirit.”
Because there’s also the fact that nuns have historically been pretty badass. They haven’t just sat by and meekly tended children and nursed the sick and fed the poor – they’ve also advocated on behalf of the people they try to help. Nuns have participated in momentous social movements, like the Civil Rights Movement. Some even openly support abortion rights. There are tons of badass nuns around today, like this one, or these ones, or these. In fact, some of the issues behind the most recent investigation were perceived stances on things like the all-male priesthood, birth control, sexuality, and the centrality of Jesus to the faith that differed from the official Catholic teachings. Can you say badass”
And now it seems the sisters will be able to continue going about their work in peace. So, three cheers for nuns!
Not recommended, but if you must, the entire piece is Vatican Halts Investigation of American Nuns For “Feminist Spirit,” So Score This Victory In The Lady Column!. (Note: its lead image is a stock photo of young habited Brazilian sisters, not an image of actual US LCWR members). There are many, many similar analyses in the MSM.
More useful is Father Zuhlsdorf’s piece: Of the LCWR and the end of the CDF “crackdown”.
For background see my piece American women religious, Fr. Z’s Nuns Gone Wild: A Trip Down Memory Lane and A study of the Sinsinawa Dominicans (hint: LCWR). Read and weep.