Monday, April 15, 2013

Pope Francis Concurs With EPBXVI: The LCWR Must Have Male Coaches

Pope Francis will continue to rule with aid of 8 elder men in red and the LCWR will remain in the CDF dog house.  Oh well, I didn't expect change in either of these areas.

Yesterday I wrote about my angst concerning Pope Francis and today it was confirmed.  Under Francis nothing will change for the LCWR.  They will continue to be under the direction of three male coaches because Francis believes the CDF was correct in it's assessment--the LCWR was not playing the Catholic game by the rules. 

From the Vatican website: 
 Today the Superiors of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith met with the Presidency of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) in the United States of America. Most Rev. J. Peter Sartain, Archbishop of Seattle and the Holy See’s Delegate for the Doctrinal Assessment of the LCWR, also participated in the meeting.
As this was his first opportunity to meet with the Presidency of the LCWR, the Prefect of the Congregation, Most Rev. Gerhard Ludwig Müller, expressed his gratitude for the great contribution of women Religious to the Church in the United States as seen particularly in the many schools, hospitals, and institutions of support for the poor which have been founded and staffed by Religious over the years.
The Prefect then highlighted the teaching of the Second Vatican Council regarding the important mission of Religious to promote 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 (Cf. Lumen gentium, nn. 43-47). He also emphasized that a Conference of Major Superiors, such as the LCWR, exists in order to promote common efforts among its member Institutes as well as cooperation with the local Conference of Bishops and with individual Bishops. For this reason, such Conferences are constituted by and remain under the direction of the Holy See (Cf. Code of Canon Law, cann. 708-709).
Finally, Archbishop Müller informed the Presidency that he had recently discussed the Doctrinal Assessment with Pope Francis, who reaffirmed the findings of the Assessment and the program of reform for this Conference of Major Superiors.
It is the sincere desire of the Holy See that this meeting may help to promote the integral witness of women Religious, based on a firm foundation of faith and Christian love, so as to preserve and strengthen it for the enrichment of the Church and society for generations to come.
The LCWR has released a statement, which confirms the above and concluded:
The conversation was open and frank. We pray that these conversations may bear fruit for the good of the Church.


This confirms some of my thinking from yesterday. It's not so much that the LCWR is a group of women leaders, it's that they have an authority to their witness in direct competition to the authority which has been severely eroded in our male leadership. This authority is not seen as appropriately complementary.  It if for this reason I dismiss the complaints about a few sisters engaging in acts and speculation which cross doctrinal boundaries.  At bottom it isn't about those few sisters, it's about the real authority carried in witness of the LCWR member communities.  Even Mueller has to admit the face of the Catholic Church in the US is a product of the historic and continuing efforts of these congregations.

In tandem with this authority of witness, Francis also spoke yesterday on careerism in the clergy.  He made the point that one must live their witness. One's walk must match their talk and that all Christians must root out the idols that prevent them from emulating the teachings of Jesus.  Personally I think Roman Catholicism should root out the idol of male entitlement which precludes the clergy from truly understanding women are capable of being much more than spiritually dependent children or fertility gardens for boys bound for the priesthood. This kind of 'rooting out' is not going to happen under Francis and never was going to happen. He will encourage his clergy to live more like the sisters, but he will never encourage the sisters to share rule with the clergy.  So while the culture moves further and further away from women being dependent on men, Catholicism will not.  It will keep it's women sacramentally and spiritually dependent on ordained men.  It will keep it's gender definitions rooted in only the second creation story in Genesis and it's sexual morality defined by acts and not relationships.  It will become less and less relevant as a cultural insitution, even if Francis is capable of making a dent in clerical careerism.  In the end though, if the relationship between men and women does not change to reflect a true equality, all the reform in the world in the exclusively male clerical structures will be futile and ephemeral.  The collective consciousness of humanity is moving away from patriarchy and hierarchy and making equal space for the feminine impulse towards creativity and mutual consensus.  

Am I disappointed in Francis?  Not really.  Before this Conclave I had very little hope that underlying gender issues would ever be on the table.  Too much of Catholic theology is wrapped up in unexamined male entitlement.  As Mary Hunt states it:  If God is male, males must be gods.  The idea that God has no gender never computes.  The idea voiced by St Paul in Galatians that--There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus--has evolved to the point we no longer make distinctions between Jews and others and we no longer approve of slavery, but 2000 years later we still haven't gotten the last part.  We still have huge distinctions in gender expectations and Catholicism still insists women are spiritual dependents rather than active agents in their own right.

I can easily believe the LCWR leadership when they write that their conversation was open and frank. I suspect that kind of conversation about women will continue all through the papacy of Francis and most likely beyond him.  For me, I will be very happy if all he manages to do is close the Vatican Bank and institute meaningful collegiality because I suspect any change in the place of women is not coming from the top.  It will come welling up through the bottom.  Decentralization of Vatican authority can only help that bottom up change.  So while the men still insist on their rightful place as coaches to the ladies, I do see a future in which this changes.  And of course, this explains my observation from yesterday about why so many men hold coaching positions in women's highschool and college athletics--it sends a very real message about traditional male authority over women.


  1. I am wondering if the use of the phrase gender politics doesn't create more inclusive thinking (whereas the use of female/male or man/woman get swiftly lost in stereotypical mind numbing cliched crap)--not enough attention was brought, for instance, to the gender politics of the trans vaginal probe legislation issues even though the sensational edge of using such language got attention...pairing gender with politics illuminates the problem for lots of folks--power and politics are every day realities--around the kitchen table

  2. Methinks our dear sisters are being called by the Holy Spirit Herself to bear witness before the Magisterium to the Truth... It seems that in facing this Truth, the Magisterium can either move toward a more universal (meaning embracing the whole aka gender balanced) collegiality than they ever envisioned during Vatican II or lock themselves back up in their city-state defending themselves against the Church Herself...

    This will happen as the Truth of the matter is out of the bag. We most likely won't be around this sphere of existence to see how this unfolds or how beautiful it could be at the other end... Nonetheless - Ooh for the Possibilities! - we must do our part to bare witness to this Fabulous Truth...

  3. "lock themselves back up in their city-state defending themselves against the Church Herself.." That's a very profound observation as the magisterium is attempting to defend mother church against her own daughters. That's kind of whacked.

    I hope the LCWR manages to 'win' this particular confrontation strictly by having the patience to let their witness transcend the confrontation.

  4. I am glad to read this--just want to add that many indigenous folks recognize more than 2 genders --up to 7 or so-- and that seems closer to reality and truly communal....with the millions of humans today it makes me laugh a little to think of the mess at the DMV

  5. I personally think the whole question is mute. Soon there will be no Sisiters to "oversee." But then who will pour the coffee?