Citing doctrinal problems, Vatican announces reforms of US nuns' group
Published: April 24, 2012
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Citing "serious doctrinal problems which affect many in consecrated life," the Vatican announced a major reform of an association of women's religious congregations in the U.S. to ensure their fidelity to Catholic teaching in areas including abortion, euthanasia, women's ordination and homosexuality. Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle will provide "review, guidance and approval, where necessary, of the work" of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the Vatican announced April 18. The archbishop will be assisted by Bishop Leonard P. Blair of Toledo, Ohio, and Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, Ill., and draw on the advice of fellow bishops, women religious and other experts. The LCWR, a Maryland-based umbrella group that claims about 1,500 leaders of U.S. women's communities as members, represents about 80 percent of the country's 57,000 women religious. In Silver Spring, Md., the presidency of the LCWR issued a statement saying it was "stunned by the conclusions of the doctrinal assessment of LCWR by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Because the leadership of LCWR has the custom of meeting annually with the staff of CDF in Rome and because the conference follows canonically approved statutes, we were taken by surprise. "This is a moment of great import for religious life and the wider church. We ask your prayers as we meet with the LCWR National Board within the coming month to review the mandate and prepare a response," the statement said. A spokeswoman for the LCWR said its leadership would not be granting interviews until after a wider consultation with its members in May. The Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, said the doctrinal congregation "appreciates that (the leaders of the conference) have so far limited themselves to a single official statement and have not expressed other specific complaints." But Father Lombardi said the congregation believed that it had been treated "a bit unjustly" with the suggestion that the sisters had been taken entirely by surprise by the assessment. The LCWR later revised its initial statement, adding that "we had received a letter from the CDF prefect in early March informing us that we would hear the results of the doctrinal assessment at our annual meeting; however, we were taken by surprise by the gravity of the mandate."
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