Recently, a Register reader, after perusing our online coverage of Catholic or Vatican objections to the practices of the Girl Scouts and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, stated: “The Inquisition continues! First the nuns; now the Girl Scouts.”
Indeed, the latest round of news reports has fueled the partisan spin that the Catholic hierarchy is waging a “war on women.” The Vatican has appointed two U.S. bishops to help reform the LCWR and, in a separate action by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, released a statement repudiating a text by Mercy Sister Margaret Farley, a retired Yale Divinity School professor, stating that its doctrinal errors could cause “grave harm to the faithful.”
Yet, for all the bemused comments posted online or angry editorials in newspapers, many Catholics have also communicated their gratitude that Church leaders are addressing such problems. That gratitude arises from the fear that practices and teachings which depart from Catholic doctrine or traditional values — without explicitly acknowledging that fact — are dishonest and dangerous.
During a June 5 conference call with Catholic media, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore acknowledged that many of the faithful and the broader public do not understand why the Church needed to correct an organization like the LCWR, just as many still are confused about the bishops’ reasons for challenging the HHS contraception mandate.
The archbishop recalled that one person told him that “we are becoming a Church of issues,” meaning that U.S. Catholics risk losing a deeper sense of belonging to the Church and embracing the fullness of its teaching in an integrated manner.
But Archbishop Lori, who also serves as the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, defended the right of Church leaders to help the faithful identify and resist false laws and teachings. “Many will look at the LCWR and say, ‘The Vatican has attacked all the sisters across the board, no matter how much they have done,’” he said. “But, in simple fairness,” the Vatican’s letter to the LCWR “was more surgical” and not designed as a broad repudiation of the great legacy of women religious in the U.S.
In an increasingly secular world, he suggested, the public struggles to understand how such actions square with the Church’s stated mission: “While we are not of the world, we are in the world. The Church is going to experience the gales and headwinds our culture is dealing with.”
May she continue to proclaim boldly the teachings of Christ.