Editorial | Doctrinal assessment: It's about the Church
It's not about the sisters. It's not about the bishops. It's about the Church.
The recent Vatican-led doctrinal assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents leaders of communities of women religious, has somehow morphed into a proverbial line in the sand, with Catholics and non-Catholics alike taking sides on the matter.
Those who have chosen to walk with the sisters highlight the tireless ministry they have provided in serving the poor and the vulnerable -- going to the margins to share in the mission of the Gospel, as LCWR president Sister Pat Farrell, OSF, described. Many Catholics recall the sisters who taught them in school, and cite how they have played a critical role in their formation as Catholics and as human beings.
The Vatican -- and specifically the bishops charged with carrying out the reform of the LCWR -- are charged with upholding the magisterium, the deposit of faith that Christ handed on to the Apostles. They must safeguard our Church's sacramental traditions and and apply Church doctrine to matters of faith and morals. Their role is just as critical.
Those who align themselves with the Vatican's doctrinal assessment note that despite the good work of the sisters, some of the past activities and programs of the LCWR raise some serious doctrinal concerns. Specifically, the Vatican has said the group is not upholding Church teaching on important issues such as abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality and women's ordination. The LCWR also has a history of inviting controversial speakers -- such as new age futurist Barbara Marx Hubbard -- who promote ideologies not consistent with Church teaching to talk at its assemblies. These are matters of great concern.
Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo, Ohio, who is assisting in the doctrinal assessment, noted that the reform is needed to "remedy" those concerns. The assessment is not a smackdown. It's a healing process.
With such strong arguments on both sides, it's easy to see why this has become emotionally charged and divisive. But what is that doing to our Church? It's time that we step back and let the Vatican and the LCWR get to work. This is the time for both sides to work out differences and build a stronger relationship so that all can get back to the ultimate goal of the Church -- to proclaim the Gospel message of Jesus and lead all souls to heaven.
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