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If the Sisters of the LCWR ‘sever ties’ with Rome, then they stop being Sisters

I hope they stay in the Church, even if they have caused it harm

By on Monday, 11 June 2012

Sister Farrell, president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (CNS photo)

Sister Farrell, president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (CNS photo)

The controversy about the American nuns, or more exactly the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, rumbles on, and this weekend it attracted coverage in the Observer. You can read the article here, and while it makes very interesting reading – it is always fascinating to see how non-Catholics see us – virtually every sentence will elicit a “yes, but” reaction from a Catholic.

It depends, as ever, on what you mean by Catholic. The article seems predicated on the supposition that anyone who claims to be a Catholic is one. But this is not so: being a Catholic is not a mere matter of feeling or personal conviction, it is about belief and communion. If one does not share the beliefs of he who sits on the Chair of Peter, then you are not a Catholic. Even Professor Dawkins understands this as he shows by his recent pronouncement that those who do not believe in transubstantiation are not Catholic. Quite so.

So we have to ask, are the Leadership Conference of Women Religious Catholic? Well, I will not answer that question, simply because I would have to investigate them first and that would take time and resources, the type of which I do not have. This is presumably why the Vatican undertook its investigation, to get to the truth; odd to note that the very fact of an investigation is somehow seen as causing – to quote the article – “pain and scandal”. It is as if Cardinal Levada had no right to do his job as prefect of the CDF, namely to ensure the purity of Catholic doctrine.

In fact the coverage given this matter by the Observer seems to indicate a feeling that the papacy ought to have no authority over the nuns, or indeed anyone else. That the Church has no right to self-government, or indeed to be itself. We have heard all this before.

The article contains one gem, and here it is:

Farrell will report back to the leadership conference assembly in August and has not ruled out severing ties between the group and Rome. “The option is always there,” said Farrell, who is a member of the Sisters of St Francis in Iowa, an order founded in Germany in 1864 to care for orphans and the elderly.

In other words, these Sisters can, if they choose, opt out and lose their canonical status as nuns. If they did that, they would be free to act exactly as they please and would have no oversight from the Vatican at all. But, and this is the catch, they would then cease to be Catholic women religious is any public sense; they would merely become private associations of lay women.

This may be the way forward for them. Many before them have left the shelter of the institutional Church to plough a lonely furrow of their own. However, I doubt the Vatican would be overjoyed at this result. One reason is because the LCWR represents the religious superiors of these religious orders. It may not reflect the rank and file of the Sisters’ communities, many, perhaps most of whom, are perfectly mainstream Catholics. These Sisters would then be removed from the Roman fold by their superiors, without their consent, which would distress the pastoral hearts of Cardinal Levada and the Holy Father.

The threat to relinquish canonical status may in fact be a piece of brinkmanship on behalf of Sister Farrell. What future would such a body of women, with vows not recognised by the Church, have?

The Observer is confident in predicting a “clash” between the cardinal and the nun this Wednesday. I hope they can have an intelligent conversation, and that the LCWR will do what all good Catholics should do – accept the authority of the Holy See. Some Catholics would, I suspect, like to see the LCWR effectively leave the Church. I, as a Catholic, want to see people join the Church, not leave it, so I want them to stay in. However, as one born Catholic who wants to live Catholic and die Catholic, I really do not want to see these ladies do further damage to the Church. We have heard enough from them about pain and scandal – it would be great if we could hear something more constructive from them: namely how wonderful it is to be part of the communion of the Church, how much they love and admire the Holy Father, and how joyfully they accept a life of obedience as vowed religious.

  • JByrne24

    The understanding of the meaning of transubstantiation which I posted yesterday (11th June) is not my own one. 
    It is a very common one, and a very old one, welcomed especially by educated people and by many who are not so, but who are thoughtful and honest – and good Catholics.
    I’m really not sure what the present Pope believes, although I’d like to know.

    Some on this website (and Richard Dawkins) don’t seem to understand it, and reject it.

  • JByrne24

    Transubstantiation is another matter, in addition to miracles etc., where the Church (and many other religious people) abandon the quasi-doctrine of Non-Overlapping Magisteria – often employed elsewhere.

  • JabbaPapa

    Answered below, and (of course) ignored by you :

    No.

    To be a Catholic, you need to share ALL of the Reposit of the Faith with the Pope.

    Which you personally fail to do.

    Your slander concerning the Faith of Catholic priests is OTOH utterly typical of your gross manner of personal heterodoxy.

  • JabbaPapa

    How on *Earth* can the deceased be “ordained” ????

    Do you imagine the Church to be like the Mormons ???

  • JabbaPapa

    The account I gave above is not my own – it is the
    bog-standard understanding of this matter by sane people in the Catholic
    Church.

    Transsubstantiation is NOT in fact properly explained nor “understood” by consulting philosophical texts written by a pagan of 2600 years ago.

    In actual fact, the bog standard understanding of transsubstantion is that ordinary bread and wine are transfigured during Holy Eucharistic Mass by the Real Presence of the Christ to become the Flesh and Blood of the Christ.

  • JabbaPapa

    Carry on congratulating your own heterodoxy !!!

  • JabbaPapa

    It’s the truth.

  • JabbaPapa

    WTF are you gibbering on about now ????!!!??

  • JabbaPapa

    :-)

  • JabbaPapa

    Lunatic waffle, spiritual procrastination and doctrinal doubt are not the “holy trinity” of catholicism.

  • Sweetjae

    You JByrne24 should not call yourself a catholic because you’re NOT! If a student joins a fraternity and must abide by the rules and its bylaws in order for him to be in good standing and rightly called under by their official name, if not then the  fraternity has the right to expel him, any group or clubhouse has that right, what you are doing ,Byrnes24 defies logic, human decency, decorum and civility.

    If you are catholic which you claim and not going to abide her rules, why stay? Why join a club that the rules and principles you hated? You   are just being dishonest and fooling yourself. You are a joke.

  • Sweetjae

    This prove that you are really a joke JByrne24, what Fr. Lucie was driving at is Catholicism at its finest. The belief of the Pope with Bishops in communion with him on matters of Faith and Morals are BINDING to all catholics including unfortunately yourself. That what they have declared to the Universal Church as “X” being sinful is still true regardless of how many catholic priests and  laity disagree/disobedient with it.

    Look at abortion which the Pope and the church declared as gravely sinful yet you JByrne24 directly and willfully disobey and reject. Calling yourself by the name of catholic, make you a catholic? Can’t fool even my kindergarten kid and….  God? hmmm

  • Sweetjae

    Huh???

  • rjt1

    Since Christ is both man and God, his essence, as a man, involves having a (resurrected) body as well as a soul, i.e. you cannot be a man unless you have a body and soul.

    We believe that he is present “body, blood, soul and divinity” in the Eucharist, do we not? He is present bodily therefore, even though the properties of his resurrected body are not detectable.
     
    The term transubstantion was described as a “fitting” term by the Council of Trent, I think. It may not be necessary to subscribe to Aristotelian philosophy but it is necessary to subscribe to the reality which terms taken from that philosophy were used to express. The doctrine is not conditional, its mode of expression may be.

  • rjt1

    Fr Lucie-Smith: it may be useful to distinguish between formal and material heresy. If someone is in error about a point of doctrine while being committed heart and soul to communion with the Church, I would question whether they should be described as ‘not Catholic’.

    Moreover, it might be useful to use the concept of partial communion or impaired communion when it comes to the different levels of doctrine or different levels of intention from ill-thought-out comments made off-the-cuff to conscious denial of de fide doctrines. There is a lot of muddle around these days.

  • rjt1

    The works of mercy also include instructing the ignorant.

  • JabbaPapa

    Fr Lucie-Smith: it may be useful to distinguish between formal and
    material heresy. If someone is in error about a point of doctrine while
    being committed heart and soul to communion with the Church, I would
    question whether they should be described as ‘not Catholic’.

    That suggestion is obviously dependent on *which* doctrine.

  • JByrne24

    And you get 3 “likes” for your North American grunt. Read about it Sweetjae.

    “I think we are in rats’ alley 

    Where the dead men lost their bones”.

  • JByrne24

    “Your slander concerning the Faith of Catholic priests”

    There is no slander.
    Whether you are aware of it or not there are differing views about many things among the clergy. 
    Even a Cardinal (and I’m sure there are more) expressed a view about transubstantiation (which i gave above) and Adam & Eve a few weeks ago on network TV with which probably you and Fr. Lucie-Smith do not agree. 

    And do look up non-overlapping magisteria.

  • JByrne24

    Look it up Jabba!

  • Patrick_Hadley

    You are of course totally correct. “Nytor” pointed out this basic error in understanding shortly after the blog was posted. Should I be surprised that such a misleading article has remained on this board for so long without a correction being made? Surely the blogger is not more interested in making a point than whether or not what he is telling us is true.

  • Patrick_Hadley

    I am sure they perfectly understand what it means.

    The LCWR is at present approved by the Holy See. If the Holy See removes its approval, or the leaders of congregations of women religious decide for themselves that they no longer seek the approval of the Holy See for their organisation, then the ties between the LCWR and Rome will have been “severed”. But as the guest above says this will not have any effect on the status of either the leaders of the congregations or the members of the congregations.

  • renming328

    tinyurl.com/cyrj7eu

  • Leslie Wetter

    Well this is very interesting to me as I am a Jewish-Convert.  Now from what I understand we as a Jew I come from the same blood line as Jesus.  There were many of us who turned their backs on the messiah, the church & the apostle St. Peter,(the first pope).We Jews can be grafted back into the olive tree because our branch was connected by blood and spirit.  You gentiles have harder time in that your branch is not connected to the roots and when broken will remain that way.  
    Where am I getting with all of this.  Unfortunately even if you disagree you have to suck it up.  You took a vow of poverty and obedience.  It’s just that simple.  I may not agree with the popes opinions. I may be disgusted with the many scandals but I have taken my own vow as a woman who is racially Jewish and spiritually Catholic.  
    I volunteer regularly in the community for women in shelters, a food bank, and wherever I can.  I am poor, disabled, and chaste. I understand the sisters plight very much so.  My heart goes out to them yet you must pay the piper if you want to be a part of the band.
    One more thing, I was in the OSSM and had drop out because I could not be subjected to mean remarks on the Shoa.  It broke my heart as my love for the Holy Mother is what brought me to the Church.  Yet I was not willing to succumb.  I think a similar thing is happening with the sisters. 

  • Jae

    JByrne24, why do you easily believe this or that from who said this or that? If you really are searching for truth and seeking the official teaching of the Catholic Church, go no further than the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) and its Compendium. This wonderful book was written primarily to avoid this kind of confusion spread mostly by modernist clergy to advance their novelties. Look at the index or table of contents about the Eucharist and the principle behind the doctrine of Transubstantiation.

    So the next time you encounter a priest or so called catholic that teach and say not in conformity with the CCC, DON’T BELIEVE HIM! Go test the idea according to the official teaching of the Church so you won’t be led astray!

  • OMartinH

    If Fr Lucie-Smith wants to argue that agreement with the Pope is a definitive measure of one’s Catholicism, then he should be able to quote Church teaching stating that supports his argument. He cannot do that, of course, because no such teaching exists; he simply looks very, very silly when he tries to substitute the support of somebody who detests our Faith and regards us as delusional idiots for holding on to it, even accusing us of being child abusers for passing our Faith onto our children.

  • OMartinH

    JabbaPapa, you say “To be a Catholic, you need to share ALL of the Reposit of the Faith with him.” and further down in the comments, Sweetjae says “The belief of the Pope with Bishops in communion with him on matters of Faith and Morals are BINDING to all catholics“.

    You are both correct but neither of you is saying the same thing as Fr Lucie-Smith who simply stated ” If one does not share the beliefs of he who sits on the Chair of Peter, then you are not a Catholic.”

    Did St. Paul forfeit his right to be regarded as a Catholic when he not only disagreed with but publicly chastised St. Peter for his attitude to the Gentiles?

  • JabbaPapa

    So Fr Lucie-Smith used a shorthand version of the same thing.

    And ? That still does not justify any heresies…

  • OMartinH

    @
    JabbaPapa:“So Fr Lucie-Smith used a shorthand version of the 
    same thing
    “.

    No he didn’t, he claimed something that is simply not true as the foundation for his article. That means his article itself is badly founded.
    FWIW, I regard my own Catholic Faith as far too important to be expressed in shorthand or sound bites.

  • OMartinH

    @Leslie Wetter: “Unfortunately even if you disagree you have to suck it up.  You took a vow of poverty and obedience.  It’s just that simple.

    Perhaps you would answer the question I asked JabbaPapa but he ignored: Did St. Paul forfeit his right to be regarded as a Catholic when he not only disagreed with but publicly chastised St. Peter for his attitude to the Gentiles?

  • JByrne24

    ” the question I asked JabbaPapa but he ignored: Did St. Paul forfeit his right to be regarded as a Catholic when he not only disagreed with but publicly chastised St. Peter……?”

    Jabba has given his reply to this several times and all over this website, you really cannot expect him to continue giving it ad infinitum:
    To be a Catholic you have to agree with the Pope. Ms Phillips has said this too, as has Fr. Lucie-Smith – and others.

    So, OMartinH, even though you THINK you are a Catholic, like St Paul, you…….. ……..etc

  • JByrne24

    As you know, I do not want an answer from you Jabba, but from Fr Lucie-Smith who wrote this in his article.

    After-all, I would be very amiss if I took advice about Catholicism from you.

  • JByrne24

    It is not I who is being led astray. 

  • JByrne24

    Why don’t you TRY to answer OMartinH’s question? (his last 3 lines)

    (As if we all didn’t know!)

  • JByrne24

    I believe Fr. Lucie-Smith has probably noticed that his remark is unsustainable and unjustifiable.
    He has been invited several times to either clarify and correct it – or to explain why he is still hanging onto it, if that is the case

  • JByrne24

    “Transsubstantiation is NOT in fact properly explained nor “understood” by consulting philosophical texts written by a pagan of 2600 years ago.”

    I did not say it was.

  • OMartinH

    @JByrne24:disqus : So, OMartinH, even though you THINK you are a Catholic, as St Paul THOUGHT he was, you, with St Paul are (and were) no such thing.
    Err … no disrespect but I’d kind of value St Paul’s opinion over yours.

  • JabbaPapa

    To be a Catholic you have to agree with the Pope.

    Comprehension failure — AGAIN !!!

    To be a Catholic, you have to be in full agreement with the Pope regarding the Reposit of the Faith, is what I said.

    Not *everything* that the Pope believes is in the Deposit of the Faith.

    But of course, the both of you here are simply being willfully obtuse ; for the clear purpose of attempting to mount a case to justify heresy.

  • JabbaPapa

    No, it’s all of those that you provide your views to.

  • JabbaPapa

    Aristotle is a pagan philosopher of 2600 years ago, whose philosophies (you claim) “explain” transsubstantiation.

  • rjt1

    St Paul criticised Peter for not living up to what he believed, which was the same as what Paul believed. He did not criticise him for holding a false belief.

  • Jae

    Well said! Peter already knew full well that circumcision is not a requirement to be a Christian but because of his fear of the judaizers, he went along with them in their merrymaking that had caused a scandal within the early church. In other words, Peter didn’t live up to his beliefs and teachings of the First Council of Jerusalem to which he himself presided over found in the Acts of the Apostles.

    This is not the case pf overlapping Magisterium as JByrne would like to suggest. JByrne24 has a hidden agenda and would like to exegete some verses of the Bible that would fit and justify his novel, twisted idea. A typical protestant mind.

  • Jae

    Really? Are you joking? Then can you give any support to your idea that abortion is not morally grave sin? Quote any OFFICIAL and AUTHENTIC Teaching of the Church NOT from this clergy or that clergy or from this clown to that clown, then let’s see who is being led astray!

  • JByrne24

    You are 100% correct OMartinH.

    I don’t think you understood my posting. I agree wholeheartedly that St Paul was a good Catholic and I think you probably are too.I think too that St. Paul’s comments about St Peter were well-founded.

    I was simply posting something that somebody like Jabba might believe (and post).

    Please read it again – with the preceding posts – I think you just read those 2 lines in isolation.

    If I were you I would still ask Jabba for his reply to your original question to him.

  • JByrne24

    Yes he did (some rather “way-out” things).
    PS: Do your homework.

  • Jae

    Yes there are a lot from Sacred Tradition and Holy Bible that supports Fr. Lucie though I must admit that what he had said was not elaborate enough to convey the Teaching. Look no other than Matthew 16-ff on the ROCK of the Church and the POWER OF THE KEYS ordained by God Himself to Peter’s Office. For the Tradition there are numerous but look no further than the documents of Vatican I on the Primacy of Peter and the solemn authority he alone has to guide the Universal Church that whoever wish to be part of that Church should always submit their will and obedience to. Or if you want start with the Canon Law 735 (if Iam not mistaken) about the definition of SCHISM…that whoever withdraws obedience to the Holy Father and the churches in communion with him are therefore schismatic, meaning outside of the Church, meaning no longer a catholic to that effect, look at it!

  • Jae

    Yes there are a lot from Sacred Tradition and Holy Bible that supports Fr. Lucie though I must admit that what he had said was not elaborate enough to convey the Teaching. Look no other than Matthew 16:18- ff on the ROCK of the Church and the POWER OF THE KEYS ordained by God Himself to Peter’s Office. For the Tradition there are numerous but look no further than the documents of Vatican I on the Primacy of Peter and the solemn authority he alone has to guide the Universal Church that whoever wish to be part of that Church should always submit their will and obedience to. Or if you want start with the Canon Law 735 (if Iam not mistaken) about the definition of SCHISM…that whoever withdraws obedience to the Holy Father and the churches in communion with him are therefore schismatic, meaning outside of the Church, meaning no longer a catholic to that effect, look at it!

  • Jae

    Yes there are a lot from Sacred Tradition and Holy Bible that supports Fr. Lucie though I must admit that what he had said was not elaborate enough to convey the Teaching. Look no other than Matthew 16-ff on the ROCK of the Church and the POWER OF THE KEYS ordained by God Himself to Peter’s Office. For the Tradition there are numerous but look no further than the documents of Vatican I on the Primacy of Peter and the solemn authority he alone has to guide the Universal Church that whoever wish to be part of that Church should always submit their will and obedience to. Or if you want start with the Canon Law 735 (if Iam not mistaken) about the definition of SCHISM…that whoever withdraws obedience to the Holy Father and the churches in communion with him are therefore schismatic, meaning outside of the Church, meaning no longer a catholic to that effect, look at it!

  • Jae

    Geesh, your position on about everything is unsustainable! You offer no solid proof and evidence, what you have is just your idea, that is twisted idea influenced and in agreement from another twisted idea by loonies!

  • Jae

    Yes there are a lot from Sacred Tradition and Holy Bible that supports Fr. Lucie though I must admit that what he had said was not elaborate enough to convey the Teaching. Look no other than Matthew 16-ff on the ROCK of the Church and the POWER OF THE KEYS ordained by God Himself to Peter’s Office. For the Tradition there are numerous but look no further than the documents of Vatican I on the Primacy of Peter and the solemn authority he alone has to guide the Universal Church that whoever wish to be part of that Church should always submit their will and obedience to. Or if you want start with the Canon Law 735 (if Iam not mistaken) about the definition of SCHISM…that whoever withdraws obedience to the Holy Father and the churches in communion with him are therefore schismatic, meaning outside of the Church, meaning no longer a catholic to that effect, look at it!