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May 7, 2012

The time immediately following the Second Vatican Council is often presented as one of great renewal in the Church. However, that impression is one-sided. While there was much change and renewal in the period right after the council, council teachings were often half-digested and there was much confusion. The ossified Catholicism of the pre-conciliar Church had been rejected, but Catholics had neither the intellectual nor the psychological resources to undergo the renewal sought by the council.

The post-Vatican II renewal had barely begun prior to the pontificate of John Paul II and it is still slow to work its way through the Church. The full renewal sought by Vatican II will likely take at least 100 years.

Understanding this is crucial in order to see the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's "doctrinal assessment" of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) in the United States in its proper context. The process is being widely presented as one of a grey, patriarchal club of aging Vatican men beating up on the liberated nuns of the world's most advanced nation. It should rather be seen as a nearly-inevitable step in the process of post-conciliar renewal.

The LCWR is being challenged and offered guidance in living up to the standard of Catholic teaching. The situation is "grave," but true renewal remains a genuine option.

To take one example, the LCWR brought in a speaker who encouraged them to "move beyond the Church" and even beyond Jesus. To take another, the LCWR and some religious orders have protested some actions of the Vatican in a manner that implies they do not accept Church teaching on sexual morality.

The CDF does not provide much of the evidence that led it to blow its trumpet of alarm in regards to the LCWR. Some of it, however, is a matter of public record.

One may well ask why the CDF decided to investigate the LCWR at all. Was it a case of frightened men determined to oppress Spirit-inspired women who prophetically challenge male power? If that is the case, the Catholic Church is in dire trouble and those who want to follow Jesus might well consider going elsewhere.

Or, was the investigation a matter of those charged with guarding the treasure of divine revelation trying to help an organization that was going astray? The available evidence points clearly to this latter explanation.

A libertarian secular culture that believes that one can do or say anything whatsoever in the name of Jesus will not accept that explanation. However, Christ does lead the Church through the Holy Spirit. As well, Vatican II renewal remains a difficult process. It is thus entirely reasonable to expect that other similar interventions will be needed to overcome the remnants of postconciliar confusion and to achieve the renewal the council sought to bring about.

Letter to the Editor - 05/21/12

Letter to the Editor - 05/21/12