Saturday, August 3, 2013

Key US sister: Vatican's LCWR order 'unacceptable'

Joshua J. McElwee
National Catholic Reporter
Aug. 3, 2013

A year and a half after the Vatican ordered the main representative group of U.S. Catholic sisters to place itself under the control of three U.S. bishops, many sister-leaders still consider complete compliance with the order “unacceptable,” the head of the largest order of sisters in the Western Hemisphere said Thursday.

Many members of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) do not think they can give complete control of their group over to the bishops, Mercy Sr. Pat McDermott told NCR Aug. 1.

“The points of direction for the future, I think are unacceptable -- that the bishops would be looking at our materials, our publications, giving direction to the assembly,” said McDermott, who as president of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas leads about 4,000 sisters serving in the U.S. and 11 other countries.

“That’s not a conference that most leaders want to belong to.”

McDermott’s comments come as LCWR, which represents about 80 percent of the 57,000 U.S. sisters, is preparing for its annual assembly, to be held this year from Aug. 13-16 in Orlando, Fla. About 900 women religious are expected to attend.

Addressing them will be Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain. A year and a half ago, the Vatican appointed Sartain as “archbishop delegate” of LCWR, giving him wide-ranging control over the conference’s statutes and programs.

Leaders of LCWR and the individual institutes of U.S. sisters have expressed pain and confusion over the Vatican's move, made in a “doctrinal assessment” published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

While some sister leaders initially expressed hope Pope Francis might take a softer line on the situation than Pope Benedict XVI, a statement from the doctrinal congregation in April said Francis “reaffirmed the findings of the Assessment and the program of reform.”

In her interview, McDermott said she and other sister leaders are looking for a “third way” to deal with the Vatican’s move. She also said they are hoping the pope will consider meeting personally with LCWR’s leaders to hear the concerns over the matter, similar to his meeting with members of the Latin American Conference of Religious (CLAR) in June.

“I think that’s a fair expectation on our part,” said McDermott.

“It seems reasonable and I think it would be a positive step, not only for LCWR and women religious but for our church were he to sit with us and just listen to the experience of the doctrinal assessment and what that has been for us.”

McDermott also mentioned conversations she has had with global leaders of sisters on the LCWR matter stemming from her attendance in Rome in May of the assembly of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG), a membership organization of some 1,800 leaders of congregations of women religious world-wide.

Full article at National Catholic Reporter

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