thoughts on Lefebvrites and the LCWR

Catholic news sites and discussion boards have been hopping these past 24 hours. Two major stories were head-lined yesterday at the National Catholic Reporter.

The first, by John Allen, was titled Lefebvrite schism may be nearing an end. According to the story, the Vatican confirmed Wednesday that the Society of St. Pius X, the traditionalist movement founded by the late French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, has responded to a “doctrinal preamble” presented in September as a precondition for reunion with the Catholic Church. With only minor concessions remaining, formal readmission of the Society of St. Pius X into full communion with Rome is probable.

The second news came at noon. The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has ordered the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), the largest leadership organization for U.S. women religious, to reform its statutes, programs and affiliations to conform more closely to “the teachings and discipline of the Church.”. The news was announced in a press release Wednesday morning from the U.S. bishops’ conference. It was accompanied by an eight-page document of the doctrinal congregation and a one-page statement from Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the congregation.

This morning, another NCR article, LCWR ‘stunned’ by Vatican’s latest move, describes not only the shock of the women at LCWR, but also their disappointment at not being allowed to share the news with their members before it became public.

Commentaries and discussion boards are heating up with opinions on these two stories. As usual, the voices are easily categorized by ideology.

Concerning the first story, the more progressive souls are angry. Why is Rome spending so much time appeasing the right-wing, ultra-traditional SSPX who chose to not only ignore, but denounce the Second Vatican Council? What about the anti-Semitic remarks by one of their bishops? Some are even hinting at conspiracy theories in the Vatican halls. Is there a connection between this apparent embracing of the SSPX and the publication of the New Roman Missal, with its pre-Vatican II language and theology?

The issue of the LCWR has reopened the wounds surrounding the initial investigation of women’s religious orders in the USA by the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. Both investigations were perceived by many as a bullying tactic on the part of the bishops. (More traditional orders were not included in the visitations.) While the simmering pot of clerical abuse was ready to explode, the leadership in the Church was spending time and energy on a costly visitation. (The religious orders, themselves, were expected to pick up the cost of these uninvited visitations.) Response on discussion boards has been quick and emotional.

More conservative souls are basking in a sense of triumphalism. A move towards reconciliation with the SSPX affirms their desire to return to a more clerical Church with a more Tridentine form of worship. For extreme traditionalists, Vatican II was a grave error. The modernization of religious orders, with their focus on apostolic mission instead of convents and habits, is a concrete example of this error. They believe it is time for these free-thinking women to be reined in, to once more embrace the role of humble, obedient, handmaiden at the service of priests and bishops. For them, the heavy handed investigation of the LCWR is good news.

Looking at the bigger picture, it is difficult to understand the workings of the great minds behind these and other recent initiatives. On the one hand, there is much talk about a new evangelization; to re-ignite our zeal and faith. But, can they not see what we in the pews are seeing?

We see extraordinary measures being taken to draw an ultra-conservative sect back into the fold. We see Ordinariates being formed to welcome disgruntled Anglicans into the Church. The welcome is extended to their married priests and use of their liturgy.

Meanwhile, we are struggling with the mandatory use of a difficult and awkward new Missal, with no option to return to the liturgy that many of us love. We are seeing priests and bishops being chastised for even suggesting the possibility of women’s ordination or a married priesthood. We are seeing our Pope use his Holy Thursday homily to denounce the Austrian priests who are trying to dialogue on issues that are embraced by many in the pews.

We see many faithful Catholics struggling to stay in the Church. Many who want nothing more than to be fed at the Eucharistic table are being excluded because their relationships cannot be legally recognized or blessed according to our Canon laws. Where are the extraordinary efforts to ensure that they feel welcome? Where are the extraordinary efforts to bring back those who have left because of hurts and despair inflicted by the Church on her own members?

Michael Sean Winters knew that the news of the Levebvrites being welcomed back would bring gnashing of liberal teeth. He reminded his readers of the great James Joyce line. The Catholic Church means “here comes everybody.”

It’s funny that he said this, because I was thinking the exact same thing. So, while my liberal teeth are gnashing, I still believe that there is room in our great Church for all, regardless of where they fit on the trad-lib scale. But we, as a Church, are not taking the meaning of the word catholic to heart. Instead of opening our arms to everybody, we are picking and choosing with greater exclusivity whom we want to welcome.


14 thoughts on “thoughts on Lefebvrites and the LCWR

  1. There is a bigger picture. 1. There is a backlash against women in spite of all past work to gain equality. 2. Women still are not appreciated by the Church, a Church which gives health care to priests and Bishops but not to religious women. 3. The valuable property owned by the religious women – is badly needed by the Church – to pay for the sexual abuse by the priests including those known and still known by thier Bishops. 4. The present conservative Bishops and Archbishops fully know how ill the Pope is and are in a process of working through their own internal power struggles to choose their man as the next Pope prior to the actual death and election and also to be members of the new inner circle. They will use the guise of “protecting” the doctrines of the Church for their own advancement and agendas.
    5. What is being played out by the “boys” – will further weaken the Church – a Church that women around the world have supported since they were first followers of Jesus. 6. In the early church priests did marry and have families – a normal balanced wholesome life as well as being a priest in the full sense. It is a puzzle why priests cannot be allowed to have such a life and be able to fully relate to their parishioners and their lives. 7. The Church archives appear closed to the world and the secrets there might share with the world what the Church could be.

    1. Hi Sue,

      It is this bigger picture that many fear, myself included. I keep trying to give the bishops the benefit of the doubt, but each new pronouncement and action is making it more and more difficult to do so. Do the bishops with the loudest voices, the leaders of congregations and congresses, the ones that are making the headlines, really speak for all? I really wonder…

      If ever dialogue was needed in our church, it’s now. The dialogue is surely taking place on web-sites and blogs all over the world. I hope that our leaders take a moment to listen to the voices of all concerned and committed Catholics.

      Thanks so much for your comments.

  2. “Why is Rome spending so much time appeasing the right-wing, ultra-traditional SSPX who chose to not only ignore, but denounce the Second Vatican Council?”

    Well, I rather think it’s like the sorcerer Simon in the Matins reading this morning, from the Acts of the Apostles. He saw Peter and John working real miracles and he wanted the power. He knew it was the authentic power, he wanted it, he wanted it bad, he offered to pay.

    Benedict is one of the authors of Vatican II at which we turned away from the gospel of Christ, to go forth and baptize the whole world in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. We turned away from that, because the mission became harder since the Reformation and often means martyrdom, and embraced ecumenism and so-called religious liberty in which we agreed that Christ didn’t have to be at the center of our societies, but rather that the center could somehow be neutral. That had never been proven the case about any government, but it saved our skins for a little minute. And so the power went out. And Benedict wants it back. He needs it back. But he’s given up the mission that gave the power, so he’s trying to buy it. He won’t changed the ruined doctrine, but he’ll pick up that SSPX at a discount. Just like Simon offered his paltry coins and made Peter laugh.

    By the way, being a holy woman is woman enough. Since my body makes the precious babies, I don’t have to lay myself down on the stone altar of the priesthood. This is a kindness to women. You liberal, or radical, women throw away a life that was so good the truly Catholic women of England were prepared to die in sundry horrible ways rather than give it up for the degraded protestant variety of womanhood, the one apparently being promoted here. Just try being holy if honor is desired. It’s hard enough, manly enough, for many, including myself. By the way, when you want some real power of your own, the chapel is always open, but you will have to, as Peter told Simon, change your heart. Simon didn’t, but you could, just ask Christ for the grace.

  3. The purpose of this blog is to promote dialogue, regardless of where we are situated on the trad-lib scale. A truly ‘catholic’ church has room for all good souls seeking God’s kingdom in the here and now, and for all eternity. The good news of Vatican II was the realization that we must try to be as gracious and inclusive as is God’s great heart.

    Blessed John XXIII took the words of Jesus to heart, ‘that they may be one’. We, as a church, are called to do the same. Vatican II did not turn us away from the gospel. It challenged us to live it more fully in the church and the world. It challenged us to reject the language of exclusivity and hatred, the belief that we, and only we, are the chosen and saved. The beauty of ecumenism is that it challenges us to focus on what unites us….to seek the unity amid the diversity.

    Judgmental thought and language only increases division and nurtures misunderstanding and hatred.

  4. Wow! There is a lot in that post! Great work!!
    Each morning I mentally go through a list of words. It is my hope that these words will help to shape how I approach each moment of my day. One of these words is “inclusivity”. That words is very important to me. I know what it’s like to feel excluded, and I know what it’s like to not feel welcome even when I am present.
    Regarding the traditionalist movements within the Catholic Church, there is an aspect that I have not yet heard discussed. Many of us have multiple chemical sensitivities. We become very sick (some have even died!) when we come into contact with things like perfumes, petrochemical, alcohol (think: hand sanitizers), incense, etc. There is no church law saying that incense MUST be used. I am excluded from going to church because no churches that I know of are willing to go scent-free, on any level. Also, it is my understanding that churches weren’t made wheelchair accessable until it became enforced by Canadian law.
    In addition to mcs, I also have fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and a number of other health issues. I have been unable to properly care for myself or my home. For years I often did not even have the strength to make toast. No one (family, friends, church community) helps, or even comes to sit with me. I watch Mass on TV or on YouTube, my husband (a deacon) brings me Communion, and sometimes a priest hears my Confession outside. But, overall, I do not feel very included by the Cathoilc Church.

      1. I was too busy hearing your voice to notice any spelling mistakes. Your story shows how much work we need to do to be truly inclusive to all….on a spiritual, emotional and physical level. Several of our parishioners suffered from scent-related allergies and struggled during the Easter season when lilies festooned the sanctuary. Interestingly, the lilies were not banned until a previous pastor banned them – because of his own allergies. Many health offices and hospitals are scent free. Perhaps our churches will follow suit.

        I am so sorry to hear that you are house-bound. You are welcome into this community any time! And your own blog provides a wonderful voice for the cyber-community. Peace to you! 🙂

  5. Most often The Vatican has proclaimed the words of Jesus, “I am the way the truth and the life” with the underlying meaning of, “We are the way the truth and the life”. So if the American sisters are focusing on the poor, and thinking it all the way through, on the Church’s stand on social justice issues, but not focusing on women’s reproductive rights and the “for celebrate men only” leadership in the Church, they are wrong. The Sisters are wrong because in the mind of the Vatican, they themselves are “the Way, the Truth and the Life”. They decide if others are the followers of Jesus and apart of the Church, even if it includes such bizarre elements such as those who deny the holocaust and see the Second Vatican Council as the work of Satan!

      1. Your wee oopsie made me smile, Ray….’for celebrate men only’. Haven’t we celebrated maleness enough?? 😉

        As to the ‘war’ on women. Yes, I agree that there are still many in the church who just don’t get it when it comes to the role of women in the church and in the world. But, war terminology always makes me uncomfortable, and it is being used too lightly and with too much frequency nowadays. What would I replace it with? Not sure…..but you have me thinking…..

        Does anyone else have any thoughts?

  6. Isabella, you asked if anyone had any thoughts on what to replace war terminology with. How about “confusion”? People could say something like: “Some members of a certain community seem to have some confusion regarding members of another community” or “Some members of a certain community seem to have some confusion regarding how to respond to members of another community” or “Some members of a certain community seem to have some confusion regarding how to maintain a healthy dialogue with members of another community”.
    It’s just a thought. And I am open to more ideas. 🙂

  7. Diocesan priests including bishops do not understand religious life..A priest of a religious order should look into the matter at hand..Charlene Carrier

Comments are closed.