I haven't written much on the LCWR visitation lately. Part of that is because Mother Millea's visitation has been thoroughly covered elsewhere. My other reason is I have been waiting for some information on the other investigation of the doctrinal questions of the LCWR leadership which originated with Cardinal Levada and the CDF. I really believe Mother Millea's investigation is designed to give more support for the Vatican when the hammer comes down from the CDF on the LCWR leadership conference. The following is an excerpt from an NCR article by Tom Fox which is hugely 'enlightening' about the CDF investigation.
Describing the gathering as “frank and open,” the leadership team wrote that it had insisted at the meeting it does not support abortion, but did support the idea of speaking out on a political issue.
“We clarified that LCWR does not support abortion and that we have made this position clear,” the letter said. “We explained that we feel a moral imperative to see that there is health care coverage for all persons, and that we believe this bill will guarantee that more than 30 million uninsured persons would finally be provided health care.” The letter added: “We were very clear in stating that our actions were not in opposition to the U.S. bishops.” (It looks to me like Olmstead's actions in Phoenix are designed to demonstrate that the LCWR is dishonest when they say they don't support abortion. The timing of his announced excommunication of Sr. McBride and these meetings between the LCWR and the Vatican is most 'interesting'.)
The Leadership Conference told its membership that Levada was concerned that the organization’s actions “were being interpreted as a public display of disunity within the church and that they undercut the perception of the church as one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic.”
The conference said it responded, speaking of the necessity to be able to exercise “rights, duties, and obligations as citizens.” The letter stated that Levada acknowledged women religious operate in two worlds -- as Catholics and as citizens. However, he insisted that the bishops are the ones who make key decisions in matters of faith and morals. (This is more affirmation that the USCCB is embarking on a path which makes voting a question of following Catholic morality as taught by the USCCB.)
Addressing the doctrinal assessment, the letter indicated the women expressed surprise as some of the materials requested by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith “go beyond the scope of a doctrinal assessment.” The letter did not elaborate on what those materials are.
The Vatican requests, the letter stated, caused the women to ask if the process “had moved beyond an assessment and into an investigation of LCWR.”
The letter did not indicate how Levada responded to the question.
Levada told the women, the letter stated, that once Blair sends his final report to the congregation, his assessment will be sent for review to different groups, including “a subcommission, the American cardinals in Rome, and perhaps some others.” Levada explained he will then consult with Rodé and develop a final report that will be presented to Pope Benedict XVI. (Cardinals who are no longer bound by US tax law as it pertains to promotion of political causes.)
Blair’s diocesan director of communications, Sally A. Oberski, said the bishop has a policy of not speaking with the media about the assessment.
According to the letter, the leadership team met the next day, April 24, with Rodé and members of his congregation. Again, Vatican officials queried the women about the conference’s support for the health care legislation.
The meeting moved on to discussions about the apostolic visitation and to a Leadership Conference statement approved at its 2009 national assembly in New Orleans. That statement, “LCWR Call,” was intended to set a five-year course for the organization.
“We discussed at length the LCWR support of the health care bill. The cardinal stated his belief that we cannot defend our position because it was contrary to the bishops,” the letter went on. “We again clarified that we do not support abortion and that we are quite aware that we are citizens of our country who must take action, and we base our actions upon our understanding of all the moral imperatives brought to the table within this particular piece of legislation.”
The letter said Rodé instructed the women that “LCWR cannot declare a pastoral direction since this responsibility belongs to the episcopal conference alone and, he noted, that by our actions we broke unity. We reiterated our view that we do not support abortion and our belief that the moral imperative of providing health care for more than 30 million uninsured was an action we had to support.” (Again Rode equates political with pastoral.)
According to the letter, the women noted “some the benefits we have experienced [in the apostolic visitation], including the support and appreciation women religious have received from the public, as well as the opportunity to learn more about the rights and duties of religious within the church. We also noted that the process has caused confusion among our members because neither we nor the U.S. bishops were well-informed about all aspects of the apostolic visitation.” (Yes, the vast majority of the US Bishops were left in the dark by their American brethren in Rome.)
The letter stated Rodé spoke of “his serious concern over the many congregations that did not complete the entire apostolic visitation questionnaire.”
It stated that a doctrinal congregation staff member, Passionist Fr. Leonello Leidi, reiterated that Mother Mary Clare Millea, in her position as apostolic visitator, “is the vicar of the pope,” and that the actions of some religious communities that did not fully comply in answering visitation questionnaires last year were acting in “open opposition” to Rome.
The letter stated that Leidi spoke of “possible consequences for leaders who may be judged as disobedient.”
The women religious leadership team asked Rodé what he hoped would be the final outcome of the visitation, the letter noted.
“He responded by saying that he understands that women religious have historically worked for migrants and persons who are poor, and acknowledged that we have built schools and hospitals and have provided services to many people. He expressed a desire to get a clear, objective view of religious life as it is lived today and that a focus be placed on values, life in community, prayer, and living the evangelical life.”
The letter stated that the meeting ended with the cardinal making two recommendations: that the Leadership Conference of Women Religious be clear about its position on abortion, and that it invite members to collaborate with the apostolic visitation process.
“He again stated that LCWR has influence and we must use it to support the church and its efforts. He further indicated that he has spoken with Pope Benedict about the apostolic visitation and noted that the pope is concerned and may be making a statement about the process or may ask Cardinal Rodé to issue a statement.” (There's the real rub. Why do I get the feeling the LCWR can do what ever they want with the sick and poor as long as they do not drag those concerns into political views which impact the wealthy and powerful.)
The letter ended with the leadership team saying it will keep members informed about other aspects of the visit.
This is such an interesting article. It's pretty obvious, at least to me, that the real concern of the Cardinals in Rome, especially the American ones, is that the LCWR demonstrated they have serious political influence. Forget the gibberish about pastoral confusion. That's not the issue. The issue is political influence. This whole thing is about power politics, not Roman Catholic orthodoxy. If there's an orthodoxy in current Catholic politics it seems to be that it's OK to do anything you want for the poor as long as you leave the wealthy and powerful alone. Stay in the soup kitchens and out of Congress like the True Catholics do. Believe it when we tell you your vote is a moral issue over which we have Christ's teaching authority. If we can't trust you to do that we might just put you back behind convent walls where you can't be such a political rival.
What's good for the wealthy and the powerful must be good for everybody the thinking seems to go. That's been pretty traditional thinking for eons and it's been supported by the Vatican for eons. Liberation theology was fine and dandy until it got political and it's politics pointed to the wealthy as the political problem. Communism was way worse than fascism because unlike fascism, communism didn't include a place for the Church and had no intention of sharing the wealth. No quid pro quo with those atheistic godless commies. Indulgences and death bed confessions aren't worth too much in the Communist system.
Since I've gotten a tad cynical I guess I will stop here. Keep up the good work LCWR because you really do speak pastorally and politically for a whole bunch of us.