LCWR, Cardinal Levada and the dialogue of the deaf

For all who have been following the tale of the doctrinal assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), today was a big day. LCWR president Franciscan Sr. Pat Farrell and executive director St. Joseph Sr. Janet Mock met in Rome with Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), and Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, the Vatican delegate appointed to oversee the assessment in the US.

The official press releases following the meeting were anti-climactic. The Vatican Press gave an official announcement that reiterated the authority of the Holy See over the sister’s conference, and the role of the CDF in ensuring that the LCWR is in union with the Magisterium. The press release from the LCWR was simple. The sisters were returning to the US to discuss the results of the meeting on regional levels and at their annual assembly in August. No interviews were going to be given.

I was musing on this all day, wondering if there was anything worth writing about. Perhaps all had been said to this point. But something still didn’t seem right. Did any actual dialogue take place? I wrote a blog post for NCR Today, but hesitated sending it in. I kept checking the National Catholic Reporter web-site for more news, and there was nothing. So, I sent off my wee piece. Almost simultaneously, John Allen Jr. posted an interview with Cardinal Levada, the Prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Faith. Now here is a story!

The Cardinal describes a `dialogue of the deaf“ with the women of the LCWR. The deafness, he believes, comes from not wholeheartedly embracing the doctrinal assessment of the CDF and accepting the proposals for reform that are being presented to them.

In the short term, Levada said he would take as evidence that things are moving in the right direction if LCWR enters into “a sincere, cordial and open dialogue” with Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle, tapped by the Vatican to oversee the reform envisioned in the doctrinal assessment.

To date, Levada said, that hasn’t happened. 

Cardinal Levada also spoke openly about the possibility of the LCWR cutting their official ties with the Vatican.

So, the LCWR has chosen silence in order to pray, ponder, and dialogue among their membership before any statements or actions are taken. Theirs is a dignified approach. Cardinal Levada, meanwhile, has already put his opinions and musings into the limelight for all to see as if it was a fait accompli. And he has taken a very undignified dig at the sisters with his ‘dialogue of the deaf’ comment.

The story is far from over. My prayers and hopes are with the sisters that they will continue to face this challenge with grace, dignity, and faith in their communal wisdom. As to the deafness in the dialogue…may all ears and hearts be open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.