REPORT ON U.S. WOMEN RELIGIOUS PRAISES NUNS, STRESSES FIDELITY TO CHURCH DOCTRINE – ASSESSMENT OF LCWR: BRIEF BACKGROUND AND TIMELINE

My question about why St. Peter’s dome has not been illuminated in recent days has been answered and it is rather what I thought it might be – new lighting. In fact, Vatican Radio reported this morning that new LED lighting for the facade and dome of St. Peter’s Basilica will be turned on Friday evening at about 6, simultaneous with the illumination of the the Christmas tree in St. Peter’s Square. There will be 315 new clusters of LED lights to illuminate the basilica and, most importantly, to offer the Vatican a signifiant savings in energy consumption. The lighting ceremony follows that of the unveiling of the Nativity scene in St. Peter’s square. Traditionally this is unveiled on Christmas Eve, the moment that Baby Jesus is placed in the crib.

Have you been to the Vatican website lately – www.vatican.va? There are images of all the Popes up to now with their name as Pope, their birth name and place of birth and the beginning and ending dates of their pontificate.

REPORT ON U.S. WOMEN RELIGIOUS PRAISES NUNS, STRESSES FIDELITY TO CHURCH DOCTRINE

The Final Report on the Apostolic Visitation of Institutes of Women Religious in the United States of America, was made public today by the Vatican and placed on its website (see link below). This is separate from an assessment done by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Today’s report was “Given in Rome, Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, September 8, 2014 Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” and signed by Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, Prefect, and Archbishop José Rodríguez Carballo, O.F.M., Secretary.

Speakers at the press conference (which aired simultaneously online) included Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life; Archbishop Jose Rodriguez Carballo, O.F.M., secretary; Mother Mary Clare Millea, A.S.C.J., director of the Apostolic Visitation in the United States; Sister Sharon Holland, I.H.M., president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR); Sr. Agnes Mary Donovan, S.V., coordinator of the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR), and Fr. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B., assistant to the Visitation Committee.

Cardinal Braz de Aviz explained that the Visitation was initiated “because of our awareness that apostolic religious life in the United States is experiencing challenging times. Although we knew that any initiative of this magnitude would have its limits, we wished to gain deeper knowledge of the contributions of the women religious to the Church and society as well as those difficulties that threaten the quality of their religious life and, in some cases, the very existence of the institutes.

“Our final report on the Apostolic Visitation is addressed to the women religious of the United States as well as to the Church’s pastors and faithful. In addition to publishing this general report, our dicastery will send individual reports to those institutes that hosted an on-site visitation and to those institutes whose individual reports indicated areas of concern. We will also send letters of thanks to those institutes that participated in the first two phases of the Visitation. … We are aware that the Apostolic Visitation was met with apprehension by some women religious as well as the decision, on the part of some institutes, not to collaborate fully in the process. While this was a painful disappointment for us, we use this present opportunity to express our willingness to engage in respectful and fruitful dialogue with those institutes which were not fully compliant with the Visitation process.”

Archbishop Jose Rodriguez Carballo, O.F.M, secretary of the Congregation, gave an overview of the final report. He explained that the dicasteries of the Apostolic See regularly authorize Apostolic Visitations, which involve sending one or more visitors to evaluate an ecclesiastical entity in order to assist the group in question to improve the way in which it carries out its mission in the life of the Church.

He also gave some statistics: the Apostolic Visitation involved 341 religious institutes of women religious that engage in apostolic ministry and which have a generalate, provincialate and/or initial formation program in the United States. Both diocesan and pontifical right institutes, to which approximately 50,000 women religious throughout the United States belong, were part of the Visitation. Each province of institutes that had more than one province in the United States was considered a separate unit, for a total of 405 entities involved in the Visitation.

He noted that the congregation appointed a woman Religious from the United States, Mother Mary Clare Millea, A.S.C.J., as Apostolic Visitator, granting her the faculties to design and carry out the Visitation. She, in turn, chose a core team of American religious who assisted her throughout the process.

The archbishop explained that the Visitation took place between 2009 and 2012 and was divided into four phases. In the first phase, 266 superiors general (78% of their total number) voluntarily engaged in personal dialogue with the Visitator. Subsequently, all major superiors were asked to complete a questionnaire requesting empirical data and qualitative information regarding the spiritual, community and ministerial life of the individual institutes. On-site visits were then conducted in a representative sample of 90 religious institutes, representing about half of the apostolic women religious in the United States. In the final phase of the Visitation, the Visitator submitted to our dicastery a final general report on the major issues and trends in women’s religious life in the United States. While these trends cannot be presumed to apply to each of the institutes, they were significant enough to warrant mention in her report.”

The 5,275 word Report can be accessed here:   http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2014/12/16/0963/02078.html

The full text of the Report is also available at: http://www.uisg.org; http://www.vidimusdominum.org; http://www.lcwr.org; http://www.cmswr.org; and http://www.usccb.org.

The Final Report has an Introduction, followed by 12 sections: 1. The Apostolic Visitation to Institutes of Women Religious in the United States: Rationale and Overview; 2. Empirical Findings of the Apostolic Visitation; 3. Charism and Identity of the Religious Institutes 4. Vocation Promotion and Religious Formation; 5. Praying with the Church; 6. Called to a Life Centered on Christ; 7. Community Life; 8. The Service of Authority; 9. Financial Stewardship; 10. Collaboration in the Evangelizing Mission of the Church; 11. Ecclesial Communion and 12. Conclusion:

Following is a link to the Holy See Press Office bulletin with the speeches given at today’s press conference: http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2014/12/16/0962/02072.html

There are some interesting and generally pretty fair headlines in the media today as they report on the Final Report and press conference: Vatican probe ends with an olive branch for American nuns; Vatican Report Finds American Nuns are a Graying Workforce; Vatican report on US nuns is conciliatory, stresses teachings; Vatican Report Cites Achievements and Challenges of US Nuns;

ASSESSMENT OF LCWR: BRIEF BACKGROUND AND TIMELINE

2008:

The LCWR is an association of more than 1,500 leaders of U.S. congregations of women religious. Together they represent more than 80% of the 57,000 women religious in America. (https://lcwr.org)

In 2008, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) initiated a doctrinal assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) conducted by (then) Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo, Ohio. The LCWR responded at the end of 2009 and a subsequent report was made by Bishop Blair in 2010. See the April 2012 CDF document (below) for reasons why mandate was initiated.

Cardinal William Levada was the prefect of the CDF in 2008 when this assessment was mandated.

2012:

APRIL 18: The above-mentioned reports (LCWR 2009 – Bishop Blair 2010) were included in the document issued by the CDF on April 18, 2012 and published on the website of the U.S. Bishops: http://www.usccb.org/upload/Doctrinal_Assessment_Leadership_Conference_Women_Religious.pdf

JUNE 12:

“Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, released a statement Tuesday about a meeting at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) about the doctrinal Assessment of the LCWR, Leadership Conference of Women Religious, a group that represents about 80 percent of American sisters.

“He said, “Today the superiors of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith met with the president and executive director of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in the United States of America. Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle, the Holy See delegate for the doctrinal assessment of the LCWR, also participated in the meeting.” Fr. Lombardi noted that, “the meeting provided the opportunity for the Congregation and the LCWR officers to discuss the issues and concerns raised by the doctrinal assessment in an atmosphere of openness and cordiality.”

“The CDF in fact, on April 18 issued an assessment of the conference that noted “serious doctrinal problems” and significant need for reform. Since then, there has been a vehement outcry in the U.S. from members of the LCWR as well as from Catholic faithful who support many of the ministries operated by women religious.

“The press office statement continued. “According to Canon Law – canons 708 and 709 – a conference of major superiors such as the LCWR is constituted by and remains under the supreme direction of the Holy See in order to promote common efforts among the individual member institutes and cooperation with the Holy See and the local conference of bishops. The purpose of the doctrinal assessment is to assist the LCWR in this important mission by promoting a vision of ecclesial communion founded on faith in Jesus Christ and the teachings of the Church as faithfully taught through the ages under the guidance of the Magisterium.”

“Sisters Pat Farrell and Janet Mock, respectively president and executive director of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, attended the meeting.”

JULY 25:

Part of a Catholic News Service (CNS) story by Cindy Wooden. CNS is the news service of the U.S. Bishops Conference.

“VATICAN CITY — Asked about how he would handle the most controversial cases he inherited, the new head of the Vatican’s doctrinal office said, “For the future of the church, it’s important to overcome ideological conflicts from whatever side they come.”

“German Archbishop Gerhard L. Muller, named prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in early July, told the Vatican newspaper that the congregation’s discussions with the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X and with the U.S. Leadership Conference of Women Religious would focus on the fact that being Catholic means believing what the church teaches.

“Although he has been a member of the congregation for five years, Muller told L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, that it would take him some time to get up to speed on all of the details of the congregation’s work.

“But, in the interview published Wednesday, the archbishop was asked what he thought about the ongoing discussions aimed at bringing the traditionalist SSPX back into full communion with the church and about the congregation-ordered reform of the LCWR, the organization that brings together the superiors of most religious orders of women in the United States.

“….In an apparent reference to the LCWR, he said, “One cannot profess the three religious vows (poverty, chastity and obedience) and not take them seriously.”

FOR FULL STORY, click here: http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1203123.htm

(Since this report, Muller has been made a cardinal)

2014

APRIL 30:

Meeting of the Superiors of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith with the Presidency of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) -Opening Remarks By Cardinal Gerhard Müller

I am happy to welcome once again the Presidency of the LCWR to Rome and to the Congregation. It is a happy occasion that your visit coincides with the Canonization of Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII, two great figures important for the Church in our times. I am grateful as well for the presence and participation of the Delegate for the implementation of the LCWR Doctrinal Assessment, Archbishop Peter Sartain.

As in past meetings, I would like to begin by making some introductory observations which I believe will be a helpful way of framing our discussion.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL REMARKS: http://www.doctrinafidei.va/muller/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20140430_muller-lcwr_en.html

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