Pope Francis Re-Affirms Vatican Censure of American Nuns

April 15, 2013

LCWRPope Francis has re-affirmed the Vatican’s censure against the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), which had been investigated by the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith under the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI.

The Australian newspaper reports:

“Pope Francis has backed a doctrinal report drawn up under his predecessor Benedict XVI that accuses the largest group of nuns in the United States of holding “radical feminist” views, the Vatican says.

“The new Pope has ‘reaffirmed the findings of the assessment and the program of reform’ for the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), which represents around 45,000 US nuns and is known for its social work, the Vatican said.

“The statement said the head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ludwig Mueller, met with representatives of the LCWR in the Vatican on Monday in an attempt to smooth over differences.”

The National Catholic Reporter has a full story which gives the background of the case and more details about this latest development.

As we reported last year, the investigation focused on three topics:  support for women’s ordination, support for LGBT issues, and questioning whether salvation exists outside the church.   As far as LGBT issues goes, support for New Ways Ministry was specifically identified as a problem in the “Notification” document that was issued last April.

LCWR today issued the following statement in response to this news:

“On April 15, 2013 Sister Florence Deacon, OSF, LCWR president; Sister Carol Zinn, SSJ, LCWR president-elect; and Sister Janet Mock, CSJ, LCWR executive director; met with Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF); Archbishop Luis Ladaria, secretary of CDF; and other members of the CDF dicastery. Archbishop J. Peter Sartain was also present.

“The LCWR officers reviewed the activities of this past year since receiving the report of CDF’s doctrinal assessment of LCWR in April 2012.

“In his opening remarks, Archbishop Müller informed the group the he had met with Pope Francis who ‘reaffirmed the findings of the assessment and the program of reform for this Conference of Major Superiors.’ “

“The conversation was open and frank. We pray that these conversations may bear fruit for the good of the Church.”

Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle had been appointed by the Vatican to oversee LCWR’s activities, but because of negotiations during the past year, no such oversight had begun.

New Ways Ministry asks you to join us in prayer for women religious in the United States and for the LCWR which is the national association for the leaders of women’s communities. We pray in gratitude for their service and witness, and we pray that they will be allowed to continue their ministry unimpeded.

A list of Bondings 2.0 blog posts about the history of the LCWR case can be found by clicking here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


From Standing Ovation to Twitter, Catholics Are Speaking Out

April 24, 2012

In two of the biggest Catholic LGBT news stories in the nation over the past few weeks, Catholics have been letting their voices be heard loud and clear, via both traditional and ultra-contemporary methods.

A standing ovation, a traditional method of showing support, was used by Catholics in Seattle to show their approval of their pastor’s decision not to allow their parish to be used as a location to collect signatures in a petition drive to put repeal of Washington State’s new marriage equality law on the ballot this November.  According to a Seattle Post-Intelligencer article:

“The congregation at Seattle’s Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church gave the Rev. Tim Clark a standing ovation Sunday when he announced that the parish would not gather signatures for a referendum to repeal same-sex marriage.

“The parish became the sixth in Seattle to opt out of the petition drive for Referendum 74 that has been endorsed and foisted on parishes by Archbishop J. Peter Sartain.

“ ‘I am happy to report that Our Lady of the Lake parishoners have been overwhelmingly and, thus far, unanimously supportive of the decision I made NOT to gather signatures in support of this Referendum,’ Clark wrote in response to an e-mail.

“ ‘The standing ovation experienced during one of the Masses says less about me and much more about the health of this parish.  I only wished the archbishop could have experienced the sustained applause — the “sensus fidelium” — of the people.  He needs to listen to this “voice.” That is my prayer.’ ”

Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church joins five other Seattle-area parishes who have refused the archbishop’s request. The others are St. James Cathedral, St. Joseph Church, St. Mary’s Church, St. Patrick Church, and Christ Our Hope Catholic Church.   Bondings 2.0 reported on some of these other parishes’ refusals in a post earlier this month.

Rev. Clark explained the motivation behind his decision:

“ ‘When I first read the archbishop’s letter[asking parishes to collect signatures]  I was troubled by the content and his intentions,’ Clark wrote.  ‘In conscience, I could not allow signatures to be gathered, to allow the faith to be politicized in this way.

“ ‘What troubles me is the message this whole approach sends which I find discriminatory and insensitive.  To follow through with his wishes would be hurtful, divisive and a countersign to what we are trying to foster in this Catholic community in Wedgwood.

“ ‘I deeply believe, and say this with boldness, that this approach is not in the mind of Christ.’ ”

Rev. James Martin, SJ

In the continuing story about the Vatican’s attempt to suppress the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Catholics are using a Twitter hashtag–“#WhatSistersMeanToMe“–to express their solidarity with U.S. nuns.  The hashtag was established by Fr. James Martin, SJ, the popular Catholic author on spirituality.  In a HuffingtonPost.com article about the Twitter campaign, Martin explains his reason for establishing the hashtag as a place where people can show their support for the embattled Sisters:

“Catholic sisters are my heroes. In light of the Vatican’s desire to renew and reform their main organizing body, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, I thought it would be a great time to speak a word of support for Catholic sisters, and to acknowledge the hidden ways that these women have generously served God, served the poor and served this country.”

You can read the tweets to this hashtag here.

The Sisters’ support of LGBT people and issues has been one of the reasons that the Vatican is attempting to suppress their leadership conference.  Bondings 2.0 has been reporting on this story for the past six days; you can read the background by following the posts on this blog since April 18th.

Archbishop Peter Sartain

Interestingly, and perhaps not coincidentally, Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle is involved in both these stories.  In the first one, he requested that parishes in the Seattle Archdiocese collect signatures at their churches.  In the second story, he is the person appointed by the Vatican to oversee the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

These two stories indicate that Catholics are at a point where they are eager to speak their minds, hearts, and consciences on important church issues–and that they will use all the means at their disposal, both traditional ones and modern ones, to let their voices be heard.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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