Monday, June 11, 2012

The Vatican And The LCWR: Is The Gap In Understanding Too Wide?

Tomorrow members of the LCWR leadership council meet in Rome with Cardinal Levada and Archbishop Sartain and the Vatican hopes to seek 'reciprocal understanding'.  I guess that's a start, but I just don't see how this is going to come about when the two sides have such different understanding of what is real in Catholicism and how Christ should be presented to the world. Or, to use the Vatican buzz word, 'evangelized.  Here are two articles which for me underscore this difference in world view.  The first is from Vatican Insider and recounts Pope Benedict's thoughts on the recent Italian earthquakes plus his views on Eucharistic Adoration.  The second is from the Oxford University Press blog and is the work of an Oxford scholar, Carole Garibaldi Rogers, who chronicles the lives of LCWR nuns. A kudo to TheraP for bringing this link to my attention.

Pope feels moved at today’s Angelus: “Jesus is also under the rubble”

Vatican Insider - 6/10/2012
During the Sunday Angelus in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope spoke about the recent earthquake in northern Italy and recalled how “the Eucharistic Body of Christ, in the tabernacles, has also remained in certain cases under the rubble”

Today, Benedict XVI recalled “with emotion" the population of northern Italy hit by the “recent earthquake”, sparing a special thought for “the numerous churches which have been severely damaged.” He also stressed the fact that “the Eucharistic Body of Christ, in the tabernacles, has also remained in certain cases under the rubble.”

The Pope remembered the people and communities affected by the earthquake in Italy’s Emilia Romagna region, “with affection.” He “thanked” Christians “for all that they are doing for the benefit of the entire population” and invited faithful to be “more and more united in the name of the Lord”: from the sharing of the Eucharist “comes the ability to share life and assets, and to bear each other’s burdens.”

During the Angelus, Benedict XVI proposed again a reflection on the Eucharistic mystery for Christians and the value of “adoration”, drawing on what he had said last Thursday when he celebrated a mass for the Corpus Domini, on the steps of Rome's Cathedral Basilica of St. John Lateran.

“Today, Italy and many other countries celebrate the Corpus Domini, that is, the solemn feast of the Body and Blood of the Lord, the Eucharist,” the Pope said. On this day, it is a lively tradition to hold solemn processions through streets and squares with the Holy Sacrament. In Rome, this procession already took place on a diocesan level last Thursday, the day of the feast’s anniversary. Every year, the Corpus Domini renews Christian joy and gratitude for the Jesus’ Eucharistic presence among them.”

“The solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord - he explained – reminds us of the value of Eucharistic adoration. The Servant of God, Paul VI recalled that the Catholic Church professes the worship of the Eucharist, “both during Mass and outside of it, by taking the greatest possible care of consecrated Hosts, by exposing them to the solemn veneration of the faithful, and by carrying them about in processions to the joy of great numbers of the people.”


Here's the second article which I've edited, skipping the introduction to the LCWR investigation since readers of this blog are quite familiar with the investigation itself.  This story represents a very different view of Church. It's the Church of the People of God, not the clerical Church of Jesus in the Tabernacle.

So who are these women who stand in the eye of the storm? 

Meet Sister Rosemarie Milazzo, a Maryknoll Sister whom I first interviewed in 1992. She had just come home from 20 years in the missions of rural Kenya. Eighteen years later, when I returned to the Maryknoll motherhouse, Sister Rosemarie, then 77, had been again to Africa — Tanzania and most recently Congo, serving on a Christian Peacemaker Team:

“It was my first time in a war zone. And I’m with a peace team, whose goal is to get in the way of the violence with nonviolent methods. That was very new for me. The first thing I saw were the United Nations tanks and huge, huge truckloads of armed soldiers. The weapon of war there is rape, definitely the weapon is rape. There’s a whole lot of shooting and killing but wherever we went, women told a story of rape. Every place we went, we talked to the people. The women can’t go fetch firewood. They can’t go to fetch water. They are in danger whenever they leave. 

“We worked with Synergie in Eastern Congo, which is a women’s group that works with rape victims. They were finally able to convince one woman to go to court to tell what happened to her. She needed a place to stay because she lived way out in the village, and two women said, ‘We have room in our house. You can stay with us.’ Shortly after that, the two women were killed.

“I can’t just be a stranger doing a job in a place. In Congo, I got to know my neighbors very well. I found myself going to visit families. [The militia groups] started to target university students, and so at one of our neighbors, a young man was home studying, and he was shot in front of his family. It was a terrible time. I got there, and I looked at this child on the floor, and I thought, ‘What is this that our children can’t grow up?’ Well, I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. I could not say one word to those people. And then I left. A few days later they came to get me, and they said, ‘Come here, come here. We want to tell these people who you are.’ And I said, ‘For what?’ And they said, ‘This is the one who cried with us.’ 

“That’s the cost of relationships. You’re into their lives. They’re into your life. We enter into the pain of people, and I guess for me it’s become more the pain of the world. It’s so deep. There are so many trouble spots and there are so many people who don’t get a share at the table. I hope my prayers are deeper. I hope my walking on this earth is gentler and more caring and more compassionate. I also feel that I have met the people and they’ve told me their story. So what is now my responsibility?”


I am curious to see how Archbishop Sartain and Cardinal Levada are going to understand the view of Church and the People of God the LCWR understands.  These are men whose Pope is as concerned about Hosts in tabernacles under earthquake rubble than the people under rubble. I can't imagine for the life of me that someone who has lost a loved one in an earthquake is going to be comforted by the Pope's statement on 'Jesus in the rubble'.  For me Jesus is more incarnate in the people in the rubble, which is something Sister Milazzo has experienced first hand in all it's devastation. "What is this that our children can't grow up?"  And I said, 'For what?" And they said, "This is the one who cried with us."

How does one bridge the gap between abstract triumphal clericalism and Christ centered practical compassion?  I guess it's going to be up to the LCWR to figure that out, because I don't think the clerical mindset is capable of even seeing the need to bridge the gap.  Good luck ladies.


  1. This will not be about reconciliation with the nuns, this will be about a power struggle.
    The struggle of the Vatican to regain and maintain control of 'the ladies'.

    I left the church so this is no longer my struggle.
    But I will be angry if the American population will not support the nuns.
    "We the People" will be remembered in history as the people who allowed the vatican, bishops and clergy to get away with one of the most heinous crimes, child sexual abuse.
    We allowed it!
    Americans did not rise up as a group and take a stand and say NO. We continued to allow them to bully us into submission.
    And now Catholics are allowing them to be involved in our politics. We are allowing them to try and control Catholics and others, even though we do not believe what they say and overtly do as we want.

    1. Dianedp, we the laity better start thinking of what we want for our own legacy, because as you point out, right now it's about enabling a great deal of abuse in many different areas.

  2. Perhaps the priest "revolt" in Austria is a sign of things to come. Eventually priests across Europe and North America may have to decide what following Christ and being in the Church really means and who they are going to follow. The option to stay non-controversial and in the middle could be on the way out for more than just the women of the LCWR or men such as Father Bourgeois.

    1. I think the Irish Association of Priests is having the same kind of internal discussion. They are finding out they aren't going to allowed to portray themselves as centrists. Principally because the right is not letting them. To the right there is no center, there is only to the left of them. Which is true as far as the bell curve goes. I wish people who consider themselves centrists would understand this one simple fact.

  3. Nobody will condemn the LCWR for good works, just as orthodox religious get nothing but praise for their good works.

    The problem is that the LCWR take teaching positions in favour of things like the ordination of women, contraception, and even abortion, consequently rendering themselves non-Catholic at risk to their own souls and the souls of those to whom they speak as a legitimate part of the Church.

    Obviously when a group of legitimate Catholics render themselves non-Catholic in teaching, there needs to be some sort of discussion aimed at reconciliation, in order to see what can be saved and what has to be lost.

    1. Invictus_88: Are you an independent internet TROLL or are you on assignment here as Enlightened Catholicism's own official MOLE in residence from one of our notorious in-house Church fascist groups like Opus Dei or perhaps the even more infamous and salacious Legionnaires of Christ??.....are you a part of their "temple police apparatus" that send in periodic reports to the Curia in Rome, who serve as the veritable ALL SEEING eyes and ears of the hierarchy??...I've heard about you guys but gee I've never been this close to one of you before!...when I read reports of the financial bribery/corruption and DOGMA policing functions of Opus Dei and the Legionnaires in the Church I shudder to think that they have incorporated the title "GOD" and "CHRIST" in their names which to me is truly a perverted abomination...these kinds of behavior are anything but Christ-like...

      And pray tell what is with your moniker: INVICTUS!!!....The UNCONQUERED!!....might I ask, the UNCONQUERED what???...I hope you are not referring to any type of religious self-identity that you might personally have...if you are this would certainly be a very revealing insight and leave you open to accusations of anachronistic medievalist triumphalism, not to even mention just plain old sophomoric megalomania...

      Colleen, to her credit, exhibits a certain patience and charity toward you and your parroting of the official patriarchal line that you so obviously delight in spewing forth automaton like...I on the other hand clearly see you as a direct OPPRESSOR of women...deluded of course by your chosen false ideology but never the less you are an oppressor....I believe that to you your involvement here is like an intellectual exercise - akin to playing a game of chess where you know all the rules and can quote them on demand...perhaps we should call the game "Frustrated Medieval Theologian"...what you miss in your clever repartee and stated concern for other's souls is a very human feeling of compassion for the lived, incarnate lives of women in our Church and in the world at this day and age for you to actually choose to believe that it is God's direct will, now touted as being infallible doctrine by the last two Popes, that women should not be allowed to become priests, for you to actually stand in their way in realizing their call from God to serve humanity just like men, and for you to live in these times and know what we as human beings have discovered and come to understand about how sexism, patriarchy, and male power dynamics work to control half of the human race, is to me inexcusable ignorance and places you squarely in the camp of the oppressors of live in this day and age and not know or conveniently ignore the negative health effects for women in not having access to proper birth control in this country and especially in the 3rd world is outrageously immoral....not to mention the prohibition on contraception to prevent AIDS especially in poor 3rd world countries...this is all an intellectual game to you and to the hierarchy it's all a power game...with women paying the soul crushing and health destroying consequences....the entry from "dianedp" above talks about how we Catholic laity have allowed the hierarchy to get away with child abuse and interference in our democratic system of too I believe it is OUR responsibility to make sure that women's spiritual and health needs are defended against the Church's damaging teaching...and as far as I'm concerned INVICTUS_88 you and your defense of the hierarchy's inhuman ban on contraception and women priests needs to be fought and challenged every time it rears its ugly head....I hold you and the hierarchy personally responsible for the suffering you cause women in this world....your game is up....

    2. Michael,

      I agree, this person who calls himself invictus sees himself as legitimate but spews, anti christian and anti Christ like expressions and actions. He is not at all legitimate but is only a man or woman stuck in adolescent thought. May the Lord have mercy on his soul as he spews his vindicate nature all about. Perhaps we might think of changing his name from invictus 88 to vindicates 13.

    3. Whoa, you two. Chill out.

      Read what I've said and address that, and don't spin off into conspiracy theory.

      After all, I'm talking about good works and Church teaching. It's hardly appropriate to call those things "anti Christian and anti Christ like" or to start rambling about groups I am not even a member of.

    4. I88 The CDF went off the deep end about a couple of speakers they didn't even understand, and less than a dozen nuns who are engaged in work the CDF objects too, and the USCCB egos are all in a tither because the LCWR has more political capital and they use it as their consciences dictate, not as the bishops want.

      From the Vatican's perspective, certain congregations have more clout in Africa and South East Asia than the Vatican wants or needs. The bottom line is the LCWR has more clout in the minds of the Faithful than the boys feel they can tolerate. The LCWR has that clout because they work in the trenches side by side with the faithful--without judgment or discrimination.

      Or to address your point, good works trump church teaching in the minds of the People of God. That was my whole point in juxtaposing these two stories. While Benedict bemoans tabernacles in church rubble, Sr Milazzo sheds tears and grieves with rape victims and the families of senselessly murdered college kids. Who really represents the Face of Jesus to the people?

    5. I don't remember seeing any statements about political capital, but only statements about teaching.

      Good works and Church teaching go together; when you forget Church teaching one's good works easily go awry.

      Hopefully, we all represent that face. This "us vs them" line you take here is not helpful.

    6. Those statements were there. Levada stated the 'influence' of LCWR orders in the South when he first addressed the results of Blair's investigation. Various USCCB bishops have stated the political capital issue in the States, but only off the record.

      Good works fuel authentic teaching. That is why the LCWR is authentic and the USCCB just teachers of wrote catechism. And no we don't all represent the face of Jesus to others, especially when our faces are twisted in the condemnation of others, as we fancy ourselves 'saving their souls'. Jesus saves, all we are capable of doing is making another persons way towards choosing that love less inviting. It is a fundamental misunderstanding of the Gospel to think any of us can 'save' another. That is above our pay grade.

    7. UNCONQUERED...AKA: your roll as our resident internet TROLL - you actually have joined the site I see - you really can't be serious in stating that you want rdp46 and me to chill out....certainly your game here would not be as interesting to you....

      So you're not from Opus Dei or the Legionnaires of Christ...but you must understand that you sound so much like them to me ...was I advancing conspiracy theories about you?, seriously I was not positing any conspiracy theories about you...I was just trying to use some humor (golly gee didn't you pick that up?) to MODERATE my response to your original statement about the LCWR "rendering themselves non-Catholic" which struck me as being just so pompous, arrogant, and so off the mark and which gave me, quite frankly a good in LOL...."rendering themselves non-Catholic"?...sounds like some new form of suicide....did they jump (or were they pushed ?) into a frying pan and got melted down as in chicken fat being RENDERED into schmaltz like my Jewish step-Mom would do when making matzoballs?...BTW, rendered chicken fat is still chicken fat just in a more clarified form....

      Now UNCONQUERED, as your oft spoken mantra says "read what I say and address that"...I want to point out to you that Colleen has especially addressed your comments, patiently and often I would add, but you aren't know what this website is about, you obviously don't agree with the criticism you read here of the hierarchy or of the many differing interpretations of Catholicism that you encounter here and yet you continue to TROLL here for some reason...over and over again re-stating your fundie is obvious in following this blog that in the areas of contraception, women's ordination, gays in the Church, sexual theology, and LCWR that you must obviously think we have "rendered ourselves non-Catholic"....why are you is high time to be really honest with us, UNCONQUERED!....tell us once and for all just what do you see as your roll here on Enlightened Catholicism??...please, seriously do explain yourself...inquiring minds want to know...."READ WHAT I'VE SAID AND ADDRESS THAT."

      And to quote & redirect your last line to us from your response above:

      "This "us vs them" line you take here is not helpful."

    8. Colkoch,

      I did not realise. Would you point me to the source of that? I'm not disputing what you say here, but I'd be interested to see if reservations over LCWR "influence" arose because of their impact by their good works, or because of their impact by their non-Catholic teaching.
      I would expect the latter, as the former would surely be applied to all those canonical groups out there who engage in good works - yet such groups face no corresponding censures.

      Actually, I was perfectly serious. Until you relax a bit, and reflect more carefully before pouring out these long, shouty posts, it will be more-or-less impossible to have any kind of dialogue.
      I have no role here, this is not my turf and I am no part of it. I have an intention; to stop by when I've a bit of time spare, and drip a few drops of orthodoxy and reality into the place.
      Not to "save souls", obviously, just to hold contributors to account. A number of times I've picked Colkoch up on muddled reasoning, dodgy doctrine, and libelous assertions, and so matters have been clarified a bit.
      But I'm not a 'fundie', I'm a Catholic. A typical, Ordinary Form, bloke on the street.

    9. Invictus: you say "relax a bit and reflect more carefully before pouring out these long, shouty posts, it will be more-or-less impossible to have any kind of dialogue."...sounds like what men typically say to women while they ignore their specifics all the while appearing to retain their oh so COOL disposition...actually more people need to become "shouty" and NOT COOL regarding these issues in the face of the real suffering these doctrines and their enforcement by our hierarchy is bringing on the People of God...what you are saying to me is certainly the same thing the hierarchy is essentially saying to the LCWR...just relax sisters, we can't "dialogue" otherwise..."dialogue" meaning, of course, accept our "orthodoxy and reality" or else....obviously many of us here do not find certain Church teaching "appropriate" to use your word...many teachings that I have mentioned above I believe are at base "anti-Christian and not Christ-like"...just because the Church holds something as a teaching now doesn't mean it's "appropriate"...and history contains lots of examples of teachings that were considered appropriate back then but have become inappropriate in our day and age...and that's the crux of our disagreement isn't it?

      Re fundies=conservative Catholics - I'll explain though I think the situation is the same in your country, that the Church hierarchy is in bed with conservative Protestant evangelicals and fundamentalists here in the US we have had to widen the definition of the term fundie to include conservative literalist Catholics as well.....used to be the social gospel was the primary focus of our hierarchy which put them at odds in so many ways with conservative Protestants...but JPII and Benedict changed all that to an emphasis on sexual issues and obedience - social gospel is out along with Vatican II principles - thereby putting them squarely together theologically and politically with right wing Protestants...

      I do appreciate your being so clear about your intentions here today...

    10. I think the crux of our disagreement isn't even over doctrine, but about the purpose of a dialogue.

  4. Answer to question in title - "Yes", probably.

    See also this piece of fantasy fiction:

    - yes, the "Irish Church is on the path to renewal, Church leaders tell pilgrims". That is what it says. WTF do these idiots think would count as horrendous & catastrophic, for Christ's sake ? And I do mean "for Christ's sake" - these people are supposed to be Christ's bishops, and shepherds in His Church, looking after His faithful.

  5. "“the Eucharistic Body of Christ, in the tabernacles, has also remained in certain cases under the rubble”"

    ## Which is a shame - but, what of it ? (I do believe in tranbsubstantiation BTW; just so that is clear).

    That the Eucharistic Body of Christ is under the rubble, in no way means that Christ is. To say "“Jesus is also under the rubble”", is bad theology, because it is untrue. He is not affected by what happens to His Eucharistic Presence in Consecrated Hosts, because He is not reducible to the manners in which He is Present in His world. This is pretty basic Christianity, and needs to be explained at length.

    What people forget is that He is present in the faithful. And it is crazy that this is forgotten. The real challenge, as Caryll Houselander pointed out in 1944 or so, is to believe that He is present in our fellow-Christians: to believe in His Presence in the Consecrated Host, is child's play. To believe that He is Present in our neighbours, who are living and faulty & flawed & infuriating, just like each of us, takes much greater faith. And belief in the Eucharistic Presence is incomplete, if it does not mean, once we leave Mass & go out into the outside world again, that we love Christ in our neighbours.

    1. Rat, you are absolutely right. Believing in Jesus present in the Host is child's play for those who grew up as cradle Catholics. Doens't mean it isn't true, because I know it is, but to see Him in others is the task of adults. I know that is true as well. I keep my childlike faith in the Eucharist, but I act on my adult understanding with the people I interact with and most especially, the people I serve. This is why I have a visceral attachment to sisters of the LCWR, and strive so hard to find it in the USCCB.

  6. "A kudo to"

    ## POI - *kudos* is a Greek noun, in the singular, meaning "glory". It's become a loan-word in English, with the same meaning.

    Talking of Greek nouns, the plural for octopus - apart from "octopusses", that is - is "octopodes", not (as often supposed) "octopi". "Octopi" is a pseudo-Latin plural, that treats Greek "okto + pous" (= "eight + foot") as a Latin word. This is close to the Gollum English "fisheses" :)

  7. This article reminded me of a little story told in my former community (an international congregation, who at the time had an Indian Mother Superior):

    The community in India had an esteemed Hindu Yogi visiting one of the convents, As Mother Superior was touring him around the convent, they came across the chapel. He asked to see this Jesus that they pray to and worship. When Sister showed him the Tabernacle and explained to him how Jesus is present in the Host kept inside, he exclaimed "You are so afraid of your God, you keep him locked in a box!".

    Western religion in a nutshell.

    1. I guess that explains why the Vatican is trying to keep the Holy Spirit locked up in their own minds.

    2. ...except, we don't keep Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament locked in a box, we eat him, weekly, daily, year on year, century upon century. So apparently, locking him away is not a what we do.
      Eucharistic Adoration is a good counter to such a misunderstanding, also.

  8. Imagine how the Pope might have narrowed that gap and bettered the world a bit. Suppose he had adjusted his travel for the grand World Meeting of Families in Milan just enough so that he could visit and pray nearby in Emelia with mourning families in rubble-strewn streets and in a camp of newly homeless families, ignoring the collapsed buildings. Jesus under the Rubble and the LCWR world probably would have understood it. I see no signs that he could.

    1. Jack, I don't see any signs that he really thinks it's important, which is what alarms me about his concern for Tabernacle Jesus under the rubble.

  9. The wonderful picture of Sr. Rosemarie with the children and adults in Africa says so much about what it means to be really Christ like. The Maryknoll order has always had a special place in my heart - even during the years when I had to separate my self from the Church and try to find God in other paths. I was young and poor but always tried to keep my subscription to the Maryknoll magazine up to date and send them a few bucks when I could. They were doing what Catholics should have been doing - living their life in Christ by sharing life with the poor. Take this picture of Sr. Rosemarie and hold it next to one of Benedict sitting on his gold throne and remember the verse in the Bible: "and Jesus wept".