A big question for me in assessing the new Pope's performance is whether the admittedly dramatic (and, in my opinion, hopeful) differences between Francis and Benedict are simply matters of style or whether they portend some substantive change in direction for the bureaucracy. One of the litmus tests I set for myself was Francis's treatment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious ("LCWR"). The first reports are now coming in on that front, and style seems to be edging ahead of substance. Today, the Vatican issued a statement that the leadership of the LCWR had met with Cardinal Muller (prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) and Archbishop Sartain (Seattle), the man appointed by the Vatican to keep the nuns in line. According to the Vatican's statement, "Archbishop Mller informed the Presidency [of the LCWR] 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 admittedly still early, and the Vatican statement leaves a lot of room for a future change in direction. It is worth keeping an eye on this in coming months.
Eduardo M. Peñalver is the Allan R. Tessler Dean of the Cornell Law School. The views expressed in the piece are his own, and should not be attributed to Cornell University or Cornell Law School.
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