Bishop Leonard Blair

Bishop Leonard Blair

June 18, 2012
NANCY FRAZIER O'BRIEN
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

The Vatican-ordered doctrinal assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious is not directed at the tens of thousands of women religious whose communities are associated with LCWR, say two bishops who are assisting in the assessment.

In columns for their diocesan newspapers, Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo, Ohio, and Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Ill., criticized mistaken reporting about the assessment.

The two bishops will assist Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle in providing "review, guidance and approval, where necessary, of the work" of LCWR.

"It is a great cross sometimes to know firsthand the actual facts of a situation and then have to listen to all the distortions and misrepresentations of the facts that are made in the public domain," Blair said in his column.

"The biggest distortion of all is the claim that the CDF and the bishops are attacking or criticizing the life and work of our Catholic sisters in the United States," he added.

"What the CDF is concerned about . . . is the particular organization known as the LCWR."

Blair said the LCWR constantly provides a one-sided platform to speakers who take a negative and critical position vis-a-vis church doctrine and discipline.

He cited several "causes for concern":

  • Dominican Sister Laurie Brink, in a 2007 LCWR keynote speech, said religious congregations were moving in "four different general 'directions,'" none of which is better or worse than another. One such direction, she said, involved moving "beyond the bounds of institutional religion."
  • Capuchin Father Michael Crosby said at a joint LCWR meeting with the Congregation of Major Superiors of Men in 2004 that although "we still have to worship a God that the Vatican says 'wills that women not be ordained,' that . . . is a false god; it cannot be worshipped."
  • Other LCWR speakers "explore themes like global spirituality, the new cosmology, earth-justice and eco-feminism in ways that are frequently ambiguous, dubious or even erroneous with respect to Christian faith."

Blair also criticized the LCWR for being "notably silent" on the right to life of the unborn and "the God-given meaning of marriage between one man and one woman."

Meanwhile, Paprocki said the assessment of the LCWR is "not meant to call into question the faith and witness of so many dedicated and faithful women religious throughout the country."

The major concerns, he said, centre on "problematic statements and serious theological, even doctrinal, errors" in talks at LCWR's annual assemblies; "policies of corporate dissent" on such issues as women's ordination and ministry to homosexual persons; and the "prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith" in some LCWR programs.