|Some of those crazy Franciscans who support the LCWR. In spite of the religious apparel, I'm not sure these men are Bill Donohue's kind of Catholic.
An Op Ed piece in the NY Times by Bill Keller has been generating a lot of commentary today. In this piece Keller basically agrees with Wild Bill Donohue that it's time progressive and centrist Catholics abandon ship. The battle over the soul of the Church has been won by the righteous right and these winners will not tolerate the presence of the losers. Wild Bill will gladly hold the door open for us as we exit.
In my own mind I actually see this split differently. It is really a tussle between those who have a need to be validated and motivated by an external authority structure and those who have fought through that and operate from an internalized structure. The two don't necessarily wind up in different places as far as behaviors, but they most certainly present an entirely different attitude towards others and towards ones self. One is based in absolute truths defined by an accepted authority, and one is based in process dynamics in which one moves towards the ideal and is motivated internally because they have validated the 'rightness' of a particular behavior in their own experience.
This, it seems to me, is what Cardinal Levada may mean when he describes the dust up between the CDF and the LCWR as a potential 'dialogue with the deaf'. Most members of the LCWR don't operate from a need for external validation concerning their faith and therefore don't have much need for the CDF. The CDF, on the other hand, owes it's existence as the source of Catholic authority precisely for those who need external validation---unfortunately this includes most of it's own members. The seeming indifference of the LCWR becomes a real threat precisely because it eats at the core reason for the CDF's existence.
But more than that, if members of the LCWR, who are all women, have internalized their value system and Faith expression, this very trait undercuts the Vatican's teachings on sexual complimentarity, which in it's core language implies women need to account for themselves to eternal male authority. I think it's this recognition on the part of the CDF which necessitated accusing the LCWR of 'radical feminism' amongst a list of other sexual disciplinary issues---because according to the theory of gender complementarity, it IS a form of radical feminism if women are answering to themselves or their own leadership rather than their male superiors. In this sense, it is the very existence of the LCWR as a leadership conference and the independent thinking it represents, that is the real issue. It undercuts so much of what Pope Benedict teaches about gender and sexuality. Hence Cardinal Levada and Archbishop Sartain are going to great lengths to separate their criticism of the leadership organization from the vast majority of sisters it represents. They seem to be saying it's the idea of independent female leadership that's at issue, not individual women who don't hold leadership positions. The CMSWR is not at fault because their leadership is content to be a funnel for the words of wisdom cascading down from male leadership and they are quite willing to subordinate their leadership role to men.
I suspect Cardinal Levada is correct, and this will be a dialogue of the deaf if the CDF and LCWR don't admit to the real issues and road blocks between them. The male leadership of the Roman Catholic Church is demanding a true Catholic is one whose behavior is determined and whose salvation is procured by obeying and being rewarded by external authority--especially for Catholic women. I call this the 'merit badge or military school' form of spirituality. Uniforms and titles, ranked clerical dress, religious habits etc. are big issues for this mindset. It's all external and has a lot of visual validation. It's pretty far from the LCWR or Vatican II mindset which was all about internalizing Catholicism and living it reflexively because it was who you were--and it was not dependent on one's gender. It was not something you had to think about much less wear like some merit badge which separated you from the sinful masses.
In the long run I don't think it will make much difference in the mission of LCWR congregations if the CDF decides to follow through on Cardinal Levada's veiled threats. People will know the LCWR women exactly as Jesus told his followers they would be known, not by their uniforms or subservient female obedience, but by their love.