Saturday, June 2, 2012

No, LCWR, the Church does not hate women.

I had thought that the Vatican-ordered reformation of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) had passed out of the public arena. A conversation today, though, showed me that the truth still needs to be spread.

Americans love the underdog fighting for what is right. The story of women religious (aka nuns), who have dedicated their lives to service of others, being oppressed by the male chauvinist Catholic Church was just too good of a story to let go. Unfortunately, the tale told in many popular media outlets was incomplete and full of misleading information. (I know. Who could believe that mainstream media would distort a story just to sell it?!)

Huffington Post Headline

The popular story goes something like this: Nuns are being told to go back to their convents, stop spending so much time serving the poor, and start condemning homosexuals. This is happening because the Church, a male-dominated ego-tripping cultural dinosaur, hates women and is completely out of touch with reality.

If you're looking for the facts, go here. The full doctrinal assessment of the LCWR is available for anyone to read, so you don't have to take isolated quotes as the whole story.

What is the Church actually saying? First, repeatedly, that women religious are of utmost importance to the life and faith of the Church. Their contributions are meaningful and powerful. That's why this is a big deal. The Vatican doesn't get involved over a few people promoting a heresy. The Church needs the particular gifts of women religious; we need their lives to be authentic witness to the Gospel.

Secondly, the Church values to efforts for social justice and care for the poor. These forms of outreach are meant to enhance the Gospel, though, not supplant it. The LCWR has neglected their duty  to maintain fidelity to the Gospel message, promoting messages that are in direct opposition to Church teaching and Scripture. This has happened through neglect in some cases and through deliberate action in other cases.

And here's what is missing from the cultural understanding of the doctrinal assessment. The LCWR is not a company, a committee, or a lobby. They do not exist as an independent entity, free to make whatever policy and decisions seem right to them. Women religious take a vow of OBEDIENCE and are required to submit to the teaching authority of the Church as expressed through the Magisterium.

These women aren't being arbitrarily controlled and scolded. They knowingly disobeyed the vows they made and are being held accountable to those vows.

Also, these are leaders of the Church. The LCWR is held to a higher standard than I am (pretty sure no one at the Vatican reads my blog) because Catholics look to them to explain and live out the Gospel. LCWR's disregard for Church authority affects themselves, the women religious whom they lead, and unconsecrated laity (Catholics like me, not ordained or consecrated to religious life).

Allowing the LCWR to continue their past practices has the potential to lead many astray, including, I would argue, non-Catholics who assume that a nun is an accurate model of authentic Catholic life. The Church is not promoting a male-dominated world. It is protecting the Gospel of Christ.

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