This week Ann Carey, author of Sisters in Crisis Revisited, was on the Register Radio show to talk about the recent annual assembly of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.  She wrote the Register’s news analysis, “LCWR Assembly 2013: Little Evidence Yet of Any Reforms.”

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) met Aug. 13-16 in Orlando, Fla. for its annual assembly. Of the 1400 members of the organization, 850 gathered for the event.

This assembly was the second time the LCWR members gathered since the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith released a doctrinal assessment of the organization in 2012. The investigation of the organization that yielded the doctrinal assessment began in 2008. 

The doctrinal assessment saw in the LCWR a crisis on the doctrinal level that included “a diminution of the fundamental Christological center.” The assessment calls for a significant reform of the organization, recognizing “certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith” that were prevalent in some presentations sponsored by the conference, a lack of adequate doctrinal formation offered by the group, and from some leaders a “corporate dissent” from Church teaching on topics such as the sacramental male priesthood and homosexuality.

The eight-page doctrinal assessment gives very specific examples of doctrinal problems and gives 5 specific steps for reform. This is Ann’s summary of those steps:

1)     revise statutes to insure greater clarity about scope and mission of the conference

2)     review plans and programs, including general assembly and publications

3)     create new programs for developing ongoing formation to provided deeper understanding of church’s doctrine

4)     Review and offer guidance in application of liturgical norms and texts, for example the Eucharist and liturgy of hours will have a place of priority in events and programs.

5)     Review LCWR links with Network or Research Center

The Vatican appointed Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle, together with Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo and Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, to oversee a reform that was to be completed within five years. They have met with the leadership of the conference several time several times in the last year.

“Last year just a few months since the mandate had been given, Archbishop Sartain had invited himself to attend the assembly, but he was told his presence would not be helpful there,” said Ann, who attended last year’s general assembly as a correspondent for the Register.  

“This year [Archbishop] Sartain was invited and he did attend [the assembly]. And there was some thought that some sort of a decision would be made as to whether or not the LCWR would be open to these reforms because thus far there does not seem to be any progress whatsoever,” she explained.

According to Ann, who did not attend the assembly this year but followed from afar, “the tone this year was more conciliatory toward Archbishop Sartain. The sisters said they had very good discussions with him.”

However, in the radio interview and in her news analysis, Ann suggests that little evidence of reform can be see.

“Last year the speaker was cosmologist Barbara Marx Hubbard who talked about a lot of the new age philosophies she holds that have apparently been embraced by many in the LCWR. This year we had another cosmologist, at least, it was a Catholic sister this time,” said Ann. Sister Ilia Delio was this year’s speaker and the topic waded into an understanding of cosmic Christ and a “cosmological rethink” of religion.  

Ann said that the doctrinal assessment called for Archbishop Sartain to approve the plans and programs of the general assembly, but that doesn’t seem to have happened.

Listen to the interview to hear more and, please pray for the sisters, that they collaborate with the bishops in reforming for the good of the Church. We need the witness of consecrated women, living Christ and other-centered lives!


New Age Influence

 Father Mitch Pacwa joined Dan Burke in the studio for the second half of the show to talk about the dangers of new age ideologies that creep into some of the LCWR speakers.  Dan asks the question: how did the Church ended up with a group of women who have a sincere vocation to the church but apparently are in deep confusion over the nature of God, nature of man, how to discern the will of God, what relationship we should have with the Church?

Father Mitch explains that much of this confusion has its origin in interpreting Christ’s words “Do you not know how to read the signs of the time.”  He points out that Blessed John XIII used that scripture as a part of his introduction to the Second Vatican Council.

According to Father Mitch, “Our Lord’s point was to pay attention to what is going on in the world around us. We need to heed the pope who was responding to what was going on in the world around him in post World War society in which philosophy was headed toward a focus on personal freedom, like existentialist, everything was without meaning; their earlier hopes dashed by the war, all they saw was absolute freedom.”

Also, Father Mitch spoke of the “religious mood of the late sixties,” which was influenced by the English translation of the French Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin who was trained as a paleontologist and philosopher.

“As a priest [Teilhard] wanted to unite science with the faith ... which was considered another one of the signs of the times,” said Father Mitch.

However, Father Mitch points out that Teilhard’s theology was problematic.

“He was never condemned or anything as a heretic but there was admonition, which is a warning issued on his writings by the time of Pius XII,” he said.

“The warning is because he does not have place for the doctrine of original sin within his thought. He himself admitted it…he doesn’t deny original sin but he doesn’t know how to fit it into his world view,” explained Father Mitch.

Teilhard tried to take the theories of evolution at his time and expand it.

For Teilhard, said Father Mitch, “the focus on God incarnate as the omega point, the goal of all of creation attracting all creating to being renewed the way a center of gravity attracts things to themselves. That’s how he saw Christ and that was very appealing in the 1960s.”

“I want to say to Sister Ilia, I don’t deny that Christ is the Lord of the cosmos but pay attention to the signs of these times. This is not 1965 anymore but this is 2013,” said Father Mitch.

“We need today to understand Christ’s role in the cosmos in a much more profound way then they could in the 1960,” he continued.

Father Mitch points to Dr. Anthony Rizzi who does physics and theology together in a way that doesn’t distort the understanding of Christ, original sin, reason and also keeps up with current science.

Listen to the show to hear more. And don’t forget to pray for the sisters!