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Set phasers on meh.

Were you surprised by the news that the Vatican planned to install a delegate with sweeping authority over more than 80 percent of American women religious? Non-nun, non-Catholic Get Religion blogger Mollie Ziegler certainly wasn't. She saw this thing coming a mile away. What did surprise her, apparently, was the series of headlines explaining that nuns were "stunned" by the Vatican's decision. She even collected a bunch of them to help you understand:

How about the Sydney Morning Herald: "Nuns left stunned by Vatican rebuke for radical feminist tendencies" and Chicago Tribune/Reuters: "Catholic nuns group 'stunned' by Vatican slap" and Press Herald: "Nuns group 'stunned' by Vatican order for overhaul?" and MSNBC: "Catholic nuns group stunned by Vatican scolding for radical feminist ideas" and Bangor Daily News: "American nuns stunned by Vatican crackdown." And that doesnt count the stories that merely mentioned up high that the nuns were stunned, such as this one by the Los Angeles Times.

Sure, a Washington Post article has the president of the Sisters of Mercy saying that her nuns are "stunned." But Ziegler dismisses it: "There is no doubt that this is the media response that some nuns in the LCWR are going with." Media response. That sounds a lot like "talking point," doesn't it?Given Ziegler's familiarity with "the theological drift on display among some women religious," those quotes won't do. She needs more "specifics." Maybe I can help.

Are they saying they didnt know the Vatican was concerned?

No. They were made fully aware that Rome was conducting two investigations: one on their "quality of life" and another on matters related to doctrine.

That people had reported many concerns about the speakers at various conferences?

Well, now I need specifics. Which people? U.S. bishops? Curial officials? And what concerns?

Are they saying they didnt realize theyd been silent about sanctity of life issues?

No. Mainly because they haven't been.

Are they saying this is the first they heard about any theological disagreements between the moving beyond the church, even beyond Jesus folks and the Vatican folks?

This presumes that "moving beyond the church, even beyond Jesus" has been endorsed by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. As Mollie Wilson O'Reilly has shown, that's hogwash.Ziegler takes issue with that Post story for claiming that "the Vatican report didnt focus on public positions" taken by members of LCWR.She quotes the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's report:

The documentation reveals that, while there has been a great deal of work on the part of LCWR promoting issues of social justice in harmony with the Churchs social doctrine, it is silent on the right to life from conception to natural death, a question that is part of the lively public debate about abortion and euthanasia in the United States. Further, issues of crucial importance to the life of Church and society, such as the Churchs Biblical view of family life and human sexuality, are not part of the LCWR agenda in a way that promotes Church teaching. Moreover, occasional public statements by the LCWR that disagree with or challenge positions taken by the Bishops, who are the Churchs authentic teachers of faith and morals, are not compatible with its purpose.

After which Ziegler writes:

If the group took a public position of silence on important church teachings regarding abortion and euthanasia and family life and human sexuality and so on, and if they were called out specifically for that public position of silence, wouldnt you say that the Vatican report did focus on the public positions the women took rather than their private conversations and letters?

No, I wouldn't. Because the "public positions" referred to in the document follows a "moreover." Leaving aside the question of whether "a public position of silence" is a genuine concept, isn't it clear that the "public positions" refers to the USCCB's analysis of, say, the Affordable Care Act and the contraception mandate? Ziegler even mentioned that dispute in a previous post, so it's odd that she doesn't see the CDF's meaning here.But back to Ziegler's question:Of course LCWR sisters know their relationship with the hierarchy hasn't exactly been rainbows and butterflies. That's why, as Mollie noted, Sr. Brink, in her much-maligned address to a 2007 LCWR conference, endorsed reconciliation as "my choice, because it is also my church." You won't find that in the CDF statement. Or this:

If there is to be a future for women religious that upholds our dignity as reflections of the divine equal to that of our brothers, respects our baptismal promises, and honors our commitment to the Mission of Jesus, we must first be reconciled with the institutional Church.

Or this:

These words [of invitation to reconciliation] must first begin with the address, My brother bishops Until we as congregations of women religious initiate a process of reconciliation with our ecclesiastical brothers, we cannot hope to have much of an impact elsewhere.

Brother bishops. Commitment to the mission of Jesus. Reconciliation with the institutional church. Radical feminists are terrifying, aren't they?Why should 90 percent of American women religious be stunned by the CDF's statement?Maybe because something like this has never happened before.Maybe because installing a bishop with wide-ranging authority over LCWR sisters' democratically elected leaders was not the only option available to the Vatican. Because it's, you know,the Vatican. Instead, Rome put them into receivership. No one should be surprised by the sisters' response. Least of all those who purport to get religion.

About the Author

Grant Gallicho is an associate editor of Commonweal. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.



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"Public position of silence" - that is amazing.

At the end of a somewhat lengthy article in USA Today several days ago (around April 20th, I believe), David Gibson reported that Pope Benedict XVI gave the OK for the CDF to proceed with the critique of the LCWR in January 2011.From various sources I've read about this flap, I've gotten the impression that meetings (I don't know how many) were held in the Vatican involving Vatican officials (I assume that they were from the CDF) and representatives of the LCWR.From one of the earliest stories that I read in NCR about this flap, I've gotten the impression that the word "stunned" was being used regarding the timing and manner in which this matter was made public by the Vatican. In other words, the LCWR representatives were having good-faith meetings with the Vatican representatives regarding the CDF's concerns.So the speaker(s) who claimed to be stunned was(were) not stunned to find out about the CDF critique, because the leadership of the LCWR already knew about the CDF critique.However, evidently, they were "stunned" by the timing and the way in which the CDF critique was made public by the Vatican.Evidently, the Vatican release of the CDF critique came as a surprise to the USCCB. NCR has a new story about this just this afternoon.Now, if I am mistaken in anything I've just said, I will be happy to be corrected.

Grant:I thought the main point of Ziegler's piece was about the press coverage of the affair, not whether the nuns should be stunned or not. However, being a very cynical person, I cannot help thinking that the word may also have been chosen (perhaps unconsciously) precisely to produce that crop of headlines... and distract people from really "stunning" story, which is that the Vatican waited a half of a century to issue a correction for problems that first surfaced before 3 or 4 Popes ago.

As far as I can see, the "stunned" part was related to the timing and had nothing to do with the Sisters trying to be disingenuous. Please see the Future Church petition in support of the LCWR and the Sisters; the intro there indicates quite clearly that Benedict-Ratzinger signed the mandate for the overhaul of the LCWR over a year ago. I am sure they are not stunned because they thought the bishops love them. Except for a very few courageous men among them worldwide, the bishops do not love anyone who does not agree with them, who questions them, who refuses to submit blndly to them, who has a few doubts about their status as "the authentic teachers of faith and morals," and who has even more doubts that they handled their scandalous sex-and-power abuse misbehavior in a strong and shining fashion, consonant with the Gospel's call to repentance. I will try to cut and paste the Future Church petition link here, but I am working from an iPad and I don't find it terribly easy to use sometimes.I will try to cut and paste

In baseball when a pitcher deliberately throws and hit the batter's head with a bean ball, the media says the batter was 'stunned'. The bean ball is used when the batter shows 'disrespect '. In the next inning catch-up is called for.

Mollie is one of the main contributors to "Get Religion," a site not know for its empathy toward religious news that is not right-leaning.Her commentary reported above is true-to-form for GR's approach to things Catholic.She gets one big "meh" from me.

"....from really stunning story, which is that the Vatican waited a half of a century to issue a correction for problems that first surfaced before 3 or 4 Popes ago."Carlo, If you knew your history you will know that Pius X condemned Americanism over a century ago. The real stunner are your posts which contain words without substance. Give us a reference once in a while just for appearances sake. The printing press created the Protestant revolution. The video tape created the fall of Communism. The internet will change Rome more than anything and already is. This action by a Vatican, which worshiped the sex abuser Maciel, may be the last straw. People are really riled up the action against the nuns and with this story now on 900 million strong Facebook, the papal legates might be reaching for their swords.!/SupportOurCatholicSisters

Thanks Grant and Commonweal for doing the hard work investigating the details behind this issue. Catholic investigative journalism at it's best !Keep up the good work.God Bless

Brother bishops. Commitment to the mission of Jesus. Reconciliation with the institutional church. Radical feminists are terrifying, arent they?That whole passage was talking about reconciliation between "victims" and "oppressors," with nuns being the former and the Church being the latter. For example, she claims that she is a victim of "priests, who, formed in a spirit of domination and dogma, become not servants of Christ but stalwart soldiers of the Vatican." What she seems to mean by "reconciliation" is sticking around so as to keep working to fight against the "hierarchys abuses of power, shameful behavior and deafness to your cries for equality." Whatever you think of the merits of her objective here, it can't fairly be portrayed as suggesting reconciliation in the sense of being more fully obedient as per her vows.

Stuart, Reconciliation does not mean obedience. So your post really added zero to the conversation. I guess you are fishing for straws. Reconciliation is always to the gospel first. People of spirit within the church have constantly reminded the hierarchy about this throughout history.

I see hope and joy in the slow but inexorable, the astringent and refreshing, effects of orthodoxy returning to the members of the Body of Christ. I understand the anguish felt by many who inhabit the percolating margins of the Faith; I was once there. But I believe that we all will someday thank God for this "2nd chance" as it were. Do not think that conservatives like myself will be exempt from these changes: We won't. I just try to pray everyday for a humble, contrite, and grateful heart, and ask Mary Queen of Angels to help us all out.Bless you brothers and sisters.

Bill,Before correcting Carol's history, you should check your own. Pius X did not condemn what Msgr. Ellis used to refer to as the pseudo-heresy of "americanism." Leo XII did in his 1895 encyclical "Longinqua oceani."

And let us not forget "Testem benevolentiae" the pastoral letter of 1899, with which Leo rejected Americanism definitively.

"Brother Bishop."Grant --This usage is a violation of a cardinal rule of Vaticanese: Never refer to a brother bishop as "Brother Bishop". Refer to him as "Your Excellency" in recognition of his Christian humility.

Well, Bill, the point is that Brink's "reconciliation" does not consist of her being willing to set aside her vigorous disagreement with various Church teachings, as some people might imply. It's more the opposite.

This order is probably the most active in Michigan, attracting a lot of young nuns to the order in Ann Arbor. It doesn't exactly look like a hotbed of progressive reform to me, and it's hard to imagine that LCWR is going to have much impact on how they operate. met a bunch of them up north at Taco Bell. They were very sweet and friendly, exactly like the Dominicans who lived across the street from us when I was little. They used to give our cat Fred handouts and let us play baseball in the schoolyard. Sr. Pierre from Montreal used to pitch for us sometimes.When our house burned up in the summer of 1964, Sr. Venard came over and told my parents they were saying prayers for us every night. My mother was highly offended that they didn't offer any "useful" help, but I remember that summer that we lived in a house trailer while the house was being rebuilt as one of the times our family was happiest. Useless indeed!

Stuart Buck doesn't know the first thing about Sr. Brink's agreement or disagreement, vigorous or otherwise, with church teaching. Stuart: if you are going to continue in this presumptuous vein, don't post here.

Bill:I think you are old enough to know that some major cultural and theological development took place in the late 1960's...

we must first be reconciled with the institutional Church.Sr. Brinks own words demonstrate that there is a break in the relationship between the 'institutional Church' and the LCWR. If not, there is no need for a 'reconciliation'. And it doesnt appear that the LCWR made much effort to 'reconcile' since this process started years ago. Comments about the ACA and recent political developements are a red-herring.

Grant, just read her speech: she expressly says that married men and women should be priests. I'm pretty sure the Church has some sort of teaching as to who can be priests. In addition, anyone who fully agreed with Church teaching wouldn't speak so uncritically of the "courage" and "inspiration" found in those who leave the Church. Only someone desperate to whitewash her speech would disagree.

Jean,The order in Michigan that you linked to is not a member of the LCWR. It is a member of the CMSWR, a canonically approved organization founded in 1992, to promote religious life in the United States because these women religious felt the Leadership Conference of Women Relgious (LCWR) did not represent their views.Here is a list of the other CMSWR communities: are not the nuns the CDF is talking about. In fact, many of these nuns were likely sources for complaints about LCWR as some are still members of LCWR and a few of these orders broke away from their original orders when they embraced the liberal feminism discussed by the CDF.

So, Stuart, you read her speech after you pronounced on her "vigorous disagreement with various Church teachings," and declared that for her reconciliation meant "more the opposite"? Nice.For those of you who understand the genre of Brink's speech, have a look at the paragraph Stuart believes supports his claim that she is in vigorous disagreement with various church teachings:

This congregational commitment recognizes what has gone unsaid for too long. We have lost sight that we are ecclesial women. We have tired of the condescension, and we have opted instead for ministry outside the Church. We may have some members who continue as persistent widows before an unjust judge, but those sisters are few, andlargely unsupported by the congregation as a whole. We may not avail ourselves of theSacraments, because we are angrynot about the Eucharist itselfbut about theecclesial deafness that refuses to hear the call of the Spirit summoning not only celibate males, but married men and women to serve at the Table of the Lord. We are on the verge of extinction, not because of some cataclysmic event, but because for the last thirty years or so, we have slowly removed ourselves from Church circles, and have failed to recognize when we were no longer needed as a work force, that perhaps the Spirit had a new call for us.

That is not a statement of her beliefs, but a description of the beliefs and attitudes that may be held by members of the LCWR. The CDF also failed to pick up on the difference between description and endorsement.

Studebaker --You "just read her speech", yet you've been sounding off against Sister for several days?Sheesh.

Stuart Buck (aka Studebaker) is part of the conservative noise machine in the United States. He makes noise.

Um, I told Grant to "just read her speech" to see that she disagrees with Church teaching. I didn't say that I had "just read her speech." I read the speech before I ever made a comment about her. Read more carefully, people. (Grant, if she's just using a collective "we" there to mean, "Other people may believe this, but I don't personally," you'll have to come up with some evidence, because that certainly isn't the most obvious interpretation, given how she elsewhere is a bit scornful towards more traditionalist nuns while lavishing praise on nuns who disagree with Church teaching so much that they leave the Church).

"shes just using a collective we there to mean, Other people may believe this, but I dont personally, "I do think this is a genuine ambiguity. I would have read the passage as Grant suggests, but that interpretation would be even clearer is she had surrounded the descriptive passage in single or double quotes. I can see that her use of "we" could suggest to a reader that Sr. Brink includes herself among those who have opted for ministry outside the church, who no longer avail themselves of the sacraments, and so on.

No, you continue to misunderstand the nature of the talk. Rita has explained this elsewhere. She is describing paths women religious could take.

We may have some members who continue as persistent widows before an unjust judge, but those sisters are few, and largely unsupported by the congregation as a whole. We may,/em> not avail ourselves of the Sacraments, because we are angrynot about the Eucharist itselfbut about the ecclesial deafness that refuses to hear the call of the Spirit summoning not only celibate males, but married men and women to serve at the Table of the Lord. We are on the verge of extinction, not because of some cataclysmic event, but because for the last thirty years or so, we have slowly removed ourselves from Church circles.

Emphases mine. Please take special note of the fact that she places blame for the near-extinction of women religious on their decision to slowly remove themselves from church circles.

Please take special note of the fact that she places blame for the near-extinction of women religious on their decision to slowly remove themselves from church circles.Well, the implication I took from that (in the context of the rest of her talk) was something like this: We disagree with Church teachings on the priesthood and sexuality, but rather than leaving, we should continue to work within the Church to try to change those teachings. Why are you so eager to claim that she doesn't disagree with any Church teachings? Shouldn't disagreement with a male-only priesthood be a point of pride in your view?

Point of pride? I have no idea what you're talking about. What's clear to me is that you are making hostile assumptions about Brink's commitments and motives.

FWIW, Sr. Brinker prefaced the entire talk with the wholesale critique of modernity and its reliance on objectivity and western assumptions that there is one obtainable Truth is that we are more readily able to recognize the place of subjectivity.Other than mentioning her personal choice at the end of the talk, she seems to consider the four outcomes equivalent as evidenced by this statementwhatever direction our various congregations chooseDeath with Dignity and Grace, Acquiescence, Sojourning or Reconciliationthat we go there with authenticity and integrity. And that we go there together.Perhaps my Catholic education was too dogmatic, but if I'm not mistaken, Catholics do believe that reason can recognize the one obtainable Truth and that all choices are not equivalent. To preface her talk on that erroneous foundation, to me, brings the entire content and her underlying intent for delivering it into question. and not in a good way.

" -- she expressly says that married men and women should be priests. Im pretty sure the Church has some sort of teaching as to who can be priests. "Ah, yes: the old "Roma locuta; finita est" argument.Not convincing, persuasive nor compelling. Not then, not now.

I suppose I don't understand the "progressive" Catholic mindset. On one hand, it often seems that one of their defining characteristics is disagreement with certain Church teachings (male-only priesthood, for example, or contraception), along with regular attempts to undermine bishops or Vatican officials who defend those teachings. But if anyone says, "So you disagree with Church teaching, then?", the response is to get all high and mighty and indignant, as if it's the most churlish and hostile insult in the world to be suspected of disagreeing with one iota of Church teaching.

Jimmy --your response is completely irrelevant as a matter of basic logic. The question wasn't whether Rome is right or wrong, but whether Brink's speech indicated disagreement with Rome or not. (If she does disagree with Rome on that point, then you'd obviously take that as a reason to praise Brink . . . but you can't do so unless you first decide what Brink is actually saying, and THAT was the only point of discussion).

Do any of the folks who offered that absurd misreading of my earlier comment (and accused me of failing to read Brink's speech before now) want to retract?

Not even a little.

Well, it was as plain as day that I said you should "just read her speech," and then out of nothing, you conjure up the accusation that I hadn't read her speech before interpreting it. Knowing how to read: a very good thing.

You omitted the (explicit) subject, and the past tense of "read" looks like the present. I should have known that you were writing in your preferred mood: command.

Now that you mention it, it's absurd that the present and past tense of "read" are the same in spelling. Yet another reason that it is frustrating to try to teach one's children how to read (present tense).

MikeD, thanks for the explanation about LCWR and CMSWR. I have not followed this story carefully and didn't realize there were different groups. Just thought a nun was a nun was a nun ...

Studebaker ==You do admit that "Just read her speech" is thoroughly ambiguous, so I don't think I owe you an apology. But I am *sorry* that there was this semantic glitch.

Even if you take my comment as having meant, "[I] just read [past tense] her speech," even then it would NOT mean the uncharitable and malicious interpretation that you and Grant offered: "I just read her speech for the first time." Instead, it would more obviously have meant, "I just read [past tense] her speech again, just to be sure I wasn't missing something." Which was, in fact, true (although I didn't mean the sentence that way).

Re Studebaker at 4:46 on 4/25.I'm a regular reader of Commonweal, but now a first-time poster.I am a progressive Catholic, unable to summarize what that means of course, but will readily admit that there are certain Church teachings I disagree with. The umbrage or offense people take (or "getting high and mighty") is not because it's revealed that they disagree with any facet of Church teaching, but that they are subsequently asked "why do you even call yourself Catholic then?", as if the questioner is the arbiter. It's all a bit presumptuous.

Carlo, The laity has always criticized the hierarchy for their malfeasance. Origin complained that the people only cared about "Christ Crucified." Boniface VIII noticed that the hostility of the people was from the beginning, "ab initio." But I understand you want the Inquisitors to kill those who call Rome on their errors.

Rome is at it yet again. Fr. Bryan D'Arcy, a popular Irish priest=journalist, has been censured for his views on celibacy, etc., and must submit his writings to a censor before publishing them. I wonder why this crack-down now. Has a putsch begun? There are 6 other Irish priests who have been censured. Does it have something to do with the Pope's being described regularly as "very tired"?

Here's an article from today's NCR about the other censure Irish priests. Poor Irish priests. They are now being required by Irish law to report confessions of sexual abusers or face 10 years in jail. (And isn[t that a hornet's nest.)

The Tablet article says: "The action against the priest was taken by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) last year after an anonymous complaint. " If that was decided last year, why is it coming to light only now?Did you see D'Arcy's wikipedia entry?"D'Arcy hosts a weekly radio programme on BBC Northern Ireland[13] called Religion and Ethics on the air. Since July 1976 he has written the "Father Brian's Little Bit of Religion" column for the Sunday World.[14]On Sunday 15 April 2007, D'Arcy replaced Canon Roger Royle on the long standing BBC Radio 2 Show, Sunday Half Hour.[15] He left the show on Sunday 29 January 2012.On Wednesday 8 September 2010, Fr D'Arcy appeared on the primetime BBC 1 programme "The One Show" discussing the Pope's upcoming trip to the United Kingdom.On January 23rd, 2012, the BBC announced that D'Arcy would step down from this role, and Diane-Louise Jordan would succeed him[16]."Ref [16]:"Father Brian DArcy, presenter of Sunday Half Hour,[...] has decided to leave the show on 29th January after a five year tenure. [...] On leaving Sunday Half Hour Father Brian DArcy says: Ive enjoyed presenting Sunday Half-Hour immensely since 2007 but Ive decided that this is an opportune time to move on.""Also, from bbc news website, about the censorship:"The action came after Fr Ottaviano D'Egidio, the Passionist Superior General, was summoned by Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the CDF, 14 months ago. "Some time ago the CDF was in touch with our General about some of Brian's views and since then Brian has been co-operating to ensure that he can continue to make a contribution to the religious journalism that he is involved in," Fr Pat Duffy, the Irish provincial of the Passionists told the Tablet."Another item from bbc news website March 15 2012 (I can't link, or else my comment will be sent to Junk): Fond farewell to Enniskillen for media priest Father Brian D'ArcyOne of Ireland's best-known priests has said he will probably be leaving his Enniskillen home this summer. "I'll be sad, but that's life," he tweeted. The Irish Passionist priest is Rector of St Gabriel's Retreat in the Graan, but his term there is due to end soon and he will probably be sent elsewhere. "My term as superior is up. I have done 12 years in total at the Graan which is longer than anyone should. "My presumption would be that I won't be reappointed to the Graan and I have to prepare for that," he said. The move would probably happen in the summer. Father Brian comes from County Fermanagh and said his return to the Grann in 2001 felt like a real homecoming. "It has been very much a home to me again. It will be very difficult to leave," he said. "I'm nearer 70 than 60. I would like to continue with my media work too. But I have to accept that it has come to the end of my term and I'm not likely to be in Fermanagh - but if they asked me to stay I would."In other words: he's been forced to quit one program, he is threatened of being sent to some place especially chosen to try to make him unhappy, and he'd better watch his words from now on, else he'll have to also quit the rest of the things that he has been doing for 35 years.That is why we should not come down too hard on priests who do not speak up. I hate censorship.

That censorship is also why we always need to keep in mind that what a priest says, especially on controversial topics, may be merely what he has been told to say and not what he really thinks, so we should be suspicious and not give it too much weight. Only when he veers away from the party line do his words become clearly worth paying attention to. Unfortunately there may be things on which the CDF happens to be right, and for those, its censorship, by biasing us against it, hinders us from seeing what is true.

Ann, Claire -- Fr. Brian D'Arcy's column from the 4/22 Sunday World is at the Irish Association of Catholic Priests' site. He gives one small glimpse of the Church turmoil in Ireland amid six priests more or less silenced, reports out from several major gov't investigations on clerical abuse, criticism from the Vatican Visitation by Dolan et al., and hundreds of priests joining the ACP. On the diplomatic (?) front, the Prime Minister blew off the Vatican in a now-famous speech, the Nuncio left under pressure, and Ireland closed its Vatican embassy. The old days are long gone. Serious efforts like Sr. Brink's and the LCWR's at forward-looking thinking to sort out and evaluate possible futures and identify a feasible path ahead to survival wouldn't hurt in Ireland. Institutional efforts to move backwards and restore the past suffer from a time-warp problem.

Jack B. --Thanks for the site. Are the bishops ever going to admit to themselves that "the dissenters" now include the great majority of the Irish, the Americans, the French, the Germans, the Italians, and the English and Scots? No, not everyone disagrees totally, but a majority everywhere reject some teaching(s) or other. I've never seen any surveys of African and Latin American Catholics, but can they be far behind? Just look at the conversions to the Evangelical churches in South America. And birth control is gaining in Africa. I have seen some figures for the Filipinos, and they're no different.Is there any country in the world where a majority of Catholics agree with Rome about all the hot button issues? I mean about celibate clergy, women priests, birth control and gay marriage?

John Allen explains why the LCWR was "stunned" by the announcement from the CDF:It's an open secret that the tones emanating from these two departments about women religious in America are rather distinct.Under Brazilian Cardinal Joo Brz de Aviz and American Archbishop Joseph Tobin, the Congregation for Religious in the last couple of years has attempted to calm anxieties generated by a wide-ranging apostolic visitation of women's religious communities in the United States, which recently reached conclusion. (That's a separate process from the doctrinal review of LCWR; more on that in a moment.) Brz and Tobin have signaled that they want dialogue, not confrontation, and have made clear there won't be any immediate earthquake as a result of the visitation.When the LCWR initially said it was "stunned" by the assessment from the Congregation for the Faith, there was swift blowback. Critics said the tensions outlined in the document have been brewing for decades, so what's the surprise? Vatican insiders also insisted that Levada had written to LCWR in late February to inform them that results of the assessment would be discussed in an April meeting.Yet the shock was nonetheless understandable, given the more conciliatory signals LCWR and other leaders in women's religious life had been receiving from the Congregation for Religious."

Ann -- You ask the right question though answers are as hard to estimate as the Vatican's and bishops' options if they were to come to an accurate, honest assessment of the Church's situation today. The LCWR is an example of worldwide occurrences. The people being heard dissent but adamantly intend to stay for reform. We are Church is a frame of mind as well as an an international organization. In addition to the common issues you name, other hot topics include dealing with priest shortages (e.g., priestless Eucharist, lay preachers, adequately inculturated foreign priests) and, perhaps most important of all, Vat-II-inspired lay involvement in decision processes. Furthermore, challenges are not limited to teachings, and past customary immunities have faded away. This month in the US, 20,000 signed an objection delivered to Bp. McManus for his forcing Vicky Kennedy's disinvitation from a commencement in Paxton. Some (6-25?) of Bp. Sartain's Seattle parishes openly rejected his request to collect signatures at church for his anti-samesex marriage campaign. Bp. Janky's outspoken homily was soundly criticized in public by 130+ ND faculty and many others. Bp. Finn's criminal trial for not reporting suspected child abuse was set for September. Fr. Schaeffer, SJ, was forced off the BC Board and 3 other boards for past abuse mismanagement. The Philadelphia trial on clerical sexual abuse and coverup discussed roles of 2 cardinals, a bishop, and a monsignor. Cdl. Mahony again avoided testifying on abuse coverup when Bp. Blaire suddenly agreed to a $3.75M award to one victim in court. USCCB disclaimers that it's not about contraception bump into their 40-year record of teaching accomplishments on the subject. Meanwhile, three US bishops were named to oversee the contentious reform of the leadership of most US nuns. Leadership looks like a good subject for attention.

NYTimes Op-Ed "We Are All Nuns" by Nichols "CATHOLIC nuns are not the prissy traditionalists of caricature. No, nuns rock!They were the first feminists, earning Ph.D.s or working as surgeons long before it was fashionable for women to hold jobs. As managers of hospitals, schools and complex bureaucracies, they were the first female C.E.O.s.They are also among the bravest, toughest and most admirable people in the world. In my travels, Ive seen heroic nuns defy warlords, pimps and bandits. Even as bishops have disgraced the church by covering up the rape of children, nuns have redeemed it with their humble work on behalf of the neediest.So, Pope Benedict, all I can say is: You are crazy to mess with nuns."

Nichols = Nicholas Kristoff

John H.--What a fine tribute to the nuns. We complain about the self-satisfaction of the Times, but there are times when its moralizing gets things exactly righ :-)

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