The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has announced that it will appoint an Archbishop Delegate to oversee the activities of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), the national association of the heads of nuns’ communities throughout the United States. An Associated Press article about this action says the Vatican cited the organization
” . . .for using materials that ‘do not promote church teaching’ on family life and sexuality, for sometimes taking positions in opposition to the nation’s bishops and for being ‘silent on the right to life from conception to natural death, a question that is part of the lively public debate about abortion and euthanasia in the United States.’ ”
You can read the full text of the CDF document here.
Because support for New Ways Ministry was mentioned in this document as one of the factors leading up to this doctrinal investigation of LCWR, Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director of New Ways Ministry issued the following statement today:
“For all of our 35-year history, New Ways Ministry has been strongly supported by Catholic women religious in the United States. This support, manifested by so many generous and courageous acts, has, indeed, been the backbone of our bridge-building ministry for lesbian/gay Catholics and the wider church community.
“So, it was with great dismay that we learned that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) today released a document on the recent ”Doctrinal Assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious,” (LCWR) in which the Congregation announced the appointment of an Archbishop Delegate to oversee LCWR’s activities. We are even more deeply saddened that support of New Ways Ministry by women’s religious communities and by LCWR leaders was singled out as one of the reasons that a doctrinal assessment was undertaken. From the document:
“ ‘Policies of Corporate Dissent. The Cardinal [William Levada, CDF Prefect] spoke of this issue in reference to letters the CDF received from “Leadership Teams” of various Congregations, among them LCWR officers, protesting the Holy See’s actions regarding the question of women’s ordination and of a correct pastoral approach to ministry to homosexual persons, e.g. letters about New Ways Ministry’s conferences. The terms of the letters suggest that these sisters collectively take a position not in agreement with the Church’s teaching on human sexuality. It is a serious matter when these Leadership Teams are not providing effective leadership and example to their communities, but place themselves outside the Church’s teaching.’
“In 2007, many leadership teams of women’s religious communities wrote to the CDF to express their concern about the CDF’s directive to the Archbishop of St. Paul, Minnesota, to deny permission to our organization to celebrate the Eucharist at our national conference in that archdiocese. As far as we are aware, the content of these letters questioned the Vatican’s denial of the Eucharist without addressing the other issues of pastoral care of lesbian and gay people or Catholic teaching on human sexuality.
“The CDF’s criticism of receiving letters seems intended to silence discussion of important issues in the church. Why are Vatican leaders afraid to hear what women religious think on topics such as homosexuality that is being so widely discussed in all other quarters of society? The Catholic faith is a living faith that requires dialogue and discussion, not only to thrive, but also to be a viable witness of God’s love in the world.
“If the leadership of the Catholic Church is unwilling to listen to the idea of the leaders of some of its most dedicated members, then our Church will never be able to grow or to respond in a Gospel way to the needs of our world. The CDF’s repressive action towards LCWR further erodes Catholicism’s ability to be a vital force in the world.
“New Ways Ministry, in gratitude for all we have received from women’s religious communities, pledges our prayerful support to LCWR and all its members during this period of trial. We know that our God, who has graced these women with gifts of justice, fortitude, and wisdom, will guide and sustain them at this critical time. “
Stay tuned for news and commentary as this story develops.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry