Pope Francis and the LCWR

Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, reported that Pope Francis has re-affirmed the need for a reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (the organization representing 70% of US women religious) and approved the critical “evaluation” that was published last year by the CDF, including the demand that the Sisters cooperate with individual bishops and the US Episcopal Conference.

The initial assessment and subsequent demands issued to the LCWR resulted in a massive outpouring of support for the social justice work done by American women religious. Many believed that the assessment was another example of heavy-handed control by the hierarchy. The nuns were being treated more harshly than child abusing clergy and the bishops who actively covered their tracks. The more skeptical believed that the bishops, whose dioceses face financial ruin due to the sexual crises, were trying to get their hands on the property owned by some of these religious congregations.

Critics of the LCWR were happy with the crack-down, believing that the women had become too progressive and should embrace the growing trend of more traditional orders back to convents, habits and strict obedience.

Support or critique for the LCWR is clearly divided along the usual ideological camps.

The initial response from more progressive Catholics to the papacy of Pope Francis has been almost unanimously positive. His calls for a more simple church with a preferential option for the poor has resonated with all who have been discouraged with the increased focus on liturgical and doctrinal purity and clericalism of recent years. His words and actions gave reason to hope that change will come.

The news that Francis is supporting the LCWR crack-down has shattered this hope for many. It has been likened to post-honeymoon blues; that it was all too good to be true. This pope will be like the one before him. Nothing has changed.

Others are encouraging a more optimistic, cautious approach. I put myself squarely in this camp.

These are the early days of a new papacy. It is impossible for Francis to know the intricacies of each issue that he has inherited. It is impossible to fix each mess overnight. Perhaps we shouldn’t read too much into Müller’s words. Saying the pope has allowed the work of the LCWR assessment to continue is not the same as giving the content of the work his stamp of approval.

Pope Francis has granted only provisional approval to all the Congregational heads. None of the prefects are guaranteed their positions at this point. Francis needs time to catch up on all the issues he inherited, to discern where the weaknesses lie and their root causes. He needs to identify and vet persons who have the gifts and back-bone to move forward with all that is good, and reform all that isn’t. With all that is on his plate, it is probable that he has not had enough time to study the nuances of the LCWR issue, or to dialogue with the parties involved.

As with politics and life, many in the church have a personal issue that becomes a focal point of their energies and passion. This is good and needed. The value of lobby groups is that they invest time and energy into researching and keeping on top of developments with a specific issue. They also ensure that an important issue is not forgotten or swept aside.

The dark side of becoming too focused on an issue is that we expect everyone to share our passion, and give it prioritized attention. We judge the effectiveness of a political party, ruling government, or leader by how they have responded to our demands. Their general success or failure depends on their success or failure in promoting and defending our agenda.

Of course, the future of the LCWR is more than an “agenda” for the religious women involved. At the core of the issue is one of heavy handed power and a deep lack of respect given to women who have given their lives for the service of God and God’s people. Justice is demanded for them, and hopefully it will come.

I am not ready to write Pope Francis off yet based on this one news story. Swift judgments are easy to make. I, and many others have made many swift judgments about our new pope based on the integrity of his words; words that are reflected in many simple gestures.

I’m going to hold on to those first, swift and positive judgments. I’m still enjoying the newness of the feeling; a feeling of hope for our church. I’m not ready to let go of the honeymoon yet.

the macro and micro moments of life


My days are often spent juggling my mind between the macro and micro aspects of life. Hours are spent on international tasks for the leadership team I work for. Each day I read emails and newsletters from around the world. I try to keep up with current affairs and church news to keep on top of my writing commitments. Time at the dental office with hubby means re-focusing on different, more local issues but with their own set of worries and stresses.

But, the best-est days of all are when I find myself plunked down on the carpet with my grand-babies! Today was one of those days. Grammy was on baby-sitting duty and all other jobs were flung aside. It was a micro kind of day; a chance to focus on the small miracles placed before us; the grandeur of God reflected in the joyful energy and small accomplishments of little people. Who would have thought that navigating a spoon of yogurt to your mouth could bring such delight?

With the arrival of our grand-daughter and the addition of her new brother, our house is slowly accumulating the glorious colors of toys. OK, I’ve developed an addiction and use any shopping trip as an excuse to check out toy aisles and children’s book sections, “for when the kiddies come to visit”! The wonderful, old school toys in this pic were an Ikea find. I’ll be picking up the wooden train set next time. 😉

In the midst of battery powered gizmos, electronic bells and whistles and over-commercialized characters, these toys are a stand-out. Just picking up the blocks floods the mind and heart with memories.

Watching a young soul at play is priceless….but Grammy wants a turn now!

how do we dialogue with heresy hunters?

It’s happened again. Thanks to the detailed stats and comment links provided by WordPress, I discovered that my blog was being referenced by yet another self-professed gate-keeper of orthodoxy. I shared a similar experience recently. At the time, I refused to give the accusers more notoriety than they deserved. I stand by that now and will not share the name of the blogs that published the accusatory article. (The article was written by one and re-posted by another.)

The article accuses the Prairie Messenger of promoting heresy and dissent, and singles me out as a columnist who is “indicative of the open dissent”. It then lists some of the topics and articles I have written about on this catholic dialogue blog.

My first reaction was to perhaps post a polite response to the accusations. I decided to leave the accusations lying in mid-air with hopes that they will vaporize on their own.

Perhaps it is time to post a warning by-line on catholic dialogue…..now available in HD! Depending on your viewing area and theological leanings, the words you read may be deemed as Heresy and Dissent.

Sometimes, all you can do is try to have a wee bit of a chuckle. But, the spirit behind these accusations is no laughing matter. In our politically correct world, there are some words that are no longer acceptable because their history is just too horrific.

I would like to propose that the words ‘heretic’ and ‘dissenter’ be added to that list.

Aren’t these merely theological definitions for those whose religious belief or practice is contrary to orthodox doctrine, you ask?

Perhaps, but these words also have a historical association with vile and violent religious persecutions by those who self-righteously claimed sole possession of the truth. The call to wipe out heretics inspired armies of crusaders. Trotting to the authorities with false accusations of heresy or dissent became the ultimate revenge in a dispute with your neighbour. Sadistic inquisitors terrified, tortured, and killed their victims in the name of keeping religion pure.

Accusations of heresy or dissent are too often associated with a mean-spiritedness that has no place in a religious community. It saddens me, but it also challenges us to seek ways to bridge the current divides; for they must be bridged if we are to move forward together as a united people of God.

Have you ever been in a situation where dialogue seemed impossible?

What strategies can be used to promote dialogue in these situations?