Vatican says “Get thee to a nunnery!”

“And don’t come out until you’ve learned your lesson, young lady!”

Since 2009, The Vatican has been conducting a review of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), which is the council that oversees more than 80% of the Catholic sisters in the United States. According to the eight-page “Doctrical Assessment of the LCWR” document released earlier this week, there are three major areas of concern:

  1. Addresses at the LCWR Assemblies – The investigation finds “problematic statements and serious theological, even doctrinal errors” in some of the addresses. I like that doctrinal errors take precedence over theological errors in this sentence.
  2. Policies of Corporate Dissent – This part talks about how it’s bad that the LCWR protests “the Holy See’s actions regarding the question of women’s ordination and of a correct pastoral approach to ministry of homosexual persons,” particularly in regard to New Ways Ministry, which advocates for full equality for the LGBT community in Church and civil society. I also want to add that New Ways was founded by a priest who has been silenced by the church and a nun who is fully supported by her order in her work.
  3. Radical Feminism – My personal favorite. It’s a vague condemnation of “certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.” The most specific it gets is “some commentaries on ‘patriarchy’ [that] distort the way in which Jesus has structured sacramental life in the Church.” Can’t you just feel the sarcasm on “patriarchy” in that phrase? And how exactly did Jesus himself structure church life? If the church followed Jesus’ “structure,” the faithful would hang out with social outcasts, be expert couch-surfers, and give a whole lot more than 10% of their income to the poor.

It goes on to talk about how the LCWR is either silent or wrong on euthanasia, abortion and gay rights issues and that they need to start toeing the party line, or else. Which brings me to the implementation part. In response to the problems the Catholic church sees in the LCWR, where the W stands for Women, the Vatican will appoint three men (an archbishop and two bishops) to provide “review, guidance and approval.” These delegates’ work includes revising statutes, reviewing plans and programs, creating new programs, offering guidance in the application of “liturgical norms and texts,” and reviewing links with affiliated organizations. In essence, they’re nannies.

While reading this document makes me sad for the LCWR, which I have no doubt adopted these policies and mannerisms in a spirit of love and inclusiveness with the hope that the church leadership would see how changing their methods might benefit the church as a whole, I also see hope because the language of this document shows more than anything that the “patriarchy” is terrified. They may come down hard on the LCWR now, but it’s only a matter of time until the church catches up with society. If we use the time between Vatican I and Vatican II as a yardstick, that should happen sometime around the year 2060. I can’t wait!

Full text of the doctrinal assessment may be found here.

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