Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church


Once in a While: Good News! LCWR Reform!

April 21st, 2012, Promulgated by Diane Harris

It seems like good news to me, even though  “long overdue”!    Zenit reported on April 18th the long awaited reform decision of the “Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR),”  which investigation had been in progress since early 2008.   And the ladies without veils now seem a bit bent out of shape.  How ironic that the Vatican should have issued this decision during the Rochester Diocesan Convocation, when a speaker more LEM-ish than the Bishop was said to be the keynote!  (And that during a time of great  crisis in our country over Freedom of Religion, when there are many subjects of much greater importance to discuss!)  I choose to take this timing of the Pope’s decision as a good sign, and to relish that God still has His sense of humor!  and that He hasn’t forgotten how we suffer.

The  Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has now called for reform of the LCWR and named Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle as its delegate (aka babysitter, overseer, go-between, monitor, etc.)  Bishop Leonard Blair (Toledo, OH) and Bishop Thomas John Paprocki (Springfield, IL) also were named to assist in this effort.

The archbishop delegate’s role is to provide “review, guidance and approval, where necessary, of the work of the LCWR,” for up to 5 years, according to a document titled “Doctrinal Assessment  of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious” by the CDF.  There is also to be a formal link to the USCCB.

The document notes that speeches and presentations given at LCWR meetings contain serious theological and doctrinal error and lack of agreement with Church teachings on matters such as women priests and homosexuality.  The news release also mentions the issue of radical feminism.

While the Prefect of the CDF, William Cardinal Levada, apparently tried to soften the blow with words such as Zenit reported: “The findings  …  are aimed at fostering a patient and collaborative renewal of this conference of major superiors in order to provide a stronger doctrinal foundation for its many laudable initiatives and activities,” the results were not taken softly by those in the crosshairs. 

The statement by Cardinal Levada is also on line. 

Key findings:

“…the talks, while not scholarly theological discourses … do have significant doctrinal and moral content and implications which often contradict or ignore magisterial teaching.”

“the LCWR publicly expressed in 1977 its refusal to assent to the teaching on the reservation of priestly ordination to men.   This public refusal has never been corrected.”  

“Several of the addresses at LCWR conferences present a vision or description of religious life that does not conform to the faith and practice of the Church.”

“Some speakers claim that dissent from the doctrine of the Church is justified as an exercise of the prophetic office. But this is based upon a mistaken understanding of the dynamic of prophecy in the Church….”

“Some of the addresses at LCWR-sponsored events perpetuate a distorted ecclesiological vision, and have scant regard for the role of the Magisterium as the guarantor of the authentic interpretation of the Church’s faith.”

“The analysis … reveals … a two-fold problem.  The first consists in positive error (i.e. doctrinally problematic statements or formal refutation of Church teaching given at LCWR-sponsored conferences or General Assemblies). The second level of the problem concerns the silence and inaction of the LCWR in the face of such error, given its responsibility to support a vision of religious life in harmony with that of the Church and to promote a solid doctrinal basis for religious life.”

” … the CDF intends to assist the LCWR in placing its activity into a wider context of religious life in the universal Church in order to foster a vision of consecrated life consistent with the Church’s teaching. …. the CDF notes the absence of initiatives by the LCWR aimed at promoting the reception of the Church’s teaching, especially on difficult issues such as … Church teaching about homosexuality.”

“…a neutral model of Congregational leadership that does not give due attention to the responsibility which Superiors are called to exercise, namely, leading sisters into a greater appreciation or integration of the truth of the Catholic faith.”

“Other programs reportedly stressed their own charism and history, and/or the Church’s social teaching or social justice in general, with little attention to basic Catholic doctrine, such as that contained in the authoritative text of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. … it may … be concluded that confusion about the Church’s authentic doctrine of the faith is reinforced, rather than corrected, by the lack of doctrinal content in the resources provided by the LCWR for Superiors and Formators.”

The Mandate to the Archbishop Delegate:

1) To revise LCWR Statutes to ensure greater clarity about the scope of the mission and responsibilities of this conference of major superiors. The revised Statutes will be submitted to the Holy See for approval ….

2) To review LCWR plans and programs, including General Assemblies and publications, to ensure that the scope of the LCWR’s mission is fulfilled in accord with Church teachings and discipline.  In particular:

-Systems Thinking Handbook will be withdrawn from circulation pending revision. 

– LCWR programs for (future) Superiors and Formators will be reformed.

– Speakers/presenters at major programs will be subject to approval by Delegate.

 3) To create new LCWR programs for member Congregations for the development of initial and ongoing formation material that provides a deepened understanding of the Church’s doctrine of the faith.

4) To review and offer guidance in the application of liturgical norms and texts. For example:

-The Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours will have a place of priority in LCWR events and programs.

5) To review LCWR links with affiliated organizations, e.g. Network and Resource Center for Religious Life.

Reply from LCWR:  while quotes are not yet widespread, USA Today did report that a Sister Simone Campbell attributes the slapdown to her group’s support of Obamacare and of  HHS’s so-called “compromise.”  But it seems more like a symptom of the disease than a cause of the cure. 

Here is an excerpt:  “The Vatican announcement said that ‘while there has been a great deal of work on the part of LCWR promoting issues of social justice in harmony with the church’s social doctrine, it is silent on the right to life from conception to natural death.’  It added that ‘crucial’ issues like ‘the church’s 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 church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals, are not compatible with its purpose.’  …  The LCWR also said that assertions made by speakers at LCWR conferences are not necessarily their own.  The Vatican called that response “inadequate” and unsupported by the facts…. Sister Simone Campbell, Network’s executive director, said she was ‘stunned’  that the Vatican document would single out her group, probably over its support for health care reform. ‘It concerns me that political differences in a democratic country would result in such a censure and investigation,’ Campbell said.  Campbell also strongly defended LCWR. ‘I know LCWR has faithfully-served women religious in the United States and worked hard to support the life of women religious and our service to the people of God.'” 

What about serving God?  and His Church?  It is not reported that Sister Simone Campbell offered any such defense.

Seattle pi snagged a quote from Benedictine Sr. Joan Chittister, former president of the LCWR, who made her accusations to  the National Catholic Reporter:  “When you set out to reform a people, a group, who have done nothing wrong, you have to have an intention, a motivation that is not only morally biased, but actually immoral.  … Because you are attempting to control people for one thing and one thing only — and that is for thinking,  for being willing to discuss the issues of the age . . . . If we stop thinking, if we stop demanding the divine right to think, and to see that as a Catholic gift, then we are betraying the church no matter what the powers of the Church see as an inconvenient truth in their own times.”   (This Sr. Joan is a frequent contributor to NCR, and is elsewhere cited for her support of Call to Action and for ordination of women.)

Seems like a whole lot of wriggling going on. 

Question for Further Discussion:  should Archbishop Sartain get some communications out of Rochester about LEM’s and priestesses?  About having priests “report” to them?  About the similarities in focus to the areas of his present concerns?  Or not? 


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25 Responses to “Once in a While: Good News! LCWR Reform!”

  1. avatar Raymond F. Rice says:

    Archbishop Sartain himself should be invited to physically come to Rochester and interview a few of our ecclesiastical leaders and visit some of our Church institutions (SBI) and view some “fringe” liturgies. This will give him some perspective on the situation in the DOR. Sending them letters is like trying to hit them with popcorn and responses from Rome are as scarce as hen’s teeth. Let them see with their own eyes and hear with their own ears and not have to rely on “heresay” (see 1979 meeting with Clark for hearsay data) for their information.

    You cannot put out a fire if you are a 1000 miles away from it.

  2. avatar Bernie says:

    “When you set out to reform a people, a group, who have done nothing wrong… ”
    Sister, you DID do something wrong; don’t play dumb with us.

  3. avatar JLo says:

    I’ve seen Sr. Joan Chittister quoted on the front page of Fr. Tanck’s bulletin in his pastoral letter to the people of Blessed Kateri. Two millennia of saints to draw from, and he chooses her. It made me wonder enough to leave and never return to that parish. Reading her is like falling onto an island with a very different take on Catholicism, so be very suspicious of anyone who amiably quotes Sr. Joan C. Just a look at her quote sited by Diane at the end of her posting here tells us how humble Sr. Joan C. is. Lashing out at critics, even those charged with safeguarding ones faith, is a featured characteristic of such as she and all those who adhere to that group’s (and others!) driving force… grasping pride and power. As to your questions, Diane, wouldn’t it be wonderful if Rochester COULD get the attention of such as Archbishop Sartain! +JMJ

  4. avatar Monk says:

    More good news…..Fr. Tanck announced this weekend that he is leaving Blessed Kateri parish! The springtime is upon us!

  5. avatar Dr. K says:

    Fr. Paul English CSB to Pastor of Blessed Kateri.

    May this priest have a generous heart!

  6. avatar Diane Harris says:

    To Richard Thomas:

    Do you mean next week or ultimately? I believe there are opinions on the latter. 🙂

    Meanwhile, I cherish a hope that his departure might indicate the potential of a favorable reply from Rome on STA, and he doesn’t want to deal with loss of face in being there for an announcement.

    Just an idea. Just a hope.

  7. avatar Richard Thomas says:

    Diane, I was just wondering where his next assignment was going to be located.

  8. avatar Diane Harris says:

    Thanks for your clarification, Richard. Since he is a Basilian, I don’t think he has to be going to another diocesan assignment. But I don’t know. Will post if I learn anything. Diane

  9. avatar annonymouse says:

    Diane – good post. The shepherds must, on occasion, discipline the sheep that have strayed too far…for their own good and the good of the other sheep. Sister Joan’s comments are the poster child for the mindset that precipitated this action.

    One thing I’m confused about – what does this have to do with LEMs? They seem to me to be unrelated. Are nuns even considered “lay”?

    With respect to where Father Tank is “ultimately” going – oughtn’t we leave that to the eternal Judge who sees each man’s heart and not speculate?

  10. avatar Richard Thomas says:

    Thanks, Diane

  11. avatar Diane Harris says:

    Hi Annonymouse,

    You make some good points. It took a while, but I am very glad that the shepherds are taking action.

    Yes, nuns and sisters and brothers are religious, but they are laity. Only priests and deacons are “ordained.” Obviously, religious vocations, faithfully followed, bring much to the life of the Church, and to the soul of the person so called. They deserve respect and dignity and appreciation, and people look up to them for guidance. This group (LCWR) has much influence on 55,000 nuns/sisters in the US but also upon lay perception of the Church as well. So discipline and faithful teaching are vital. Wolves have indeed broken into the sheepfold.

    Yes, you are right. Where Fr. Tanck “ultimately” goes is completely up to his choices and the Lord’s judgement. I was asking Richard Thomas what he meant by his question, and also acknowledging that there are some among us (I am one) who believe the needless closing of churches is serious sin. And I am also of the OPINION that most closings are needless, that it is for money and not for souls. Nevertheless, I would never want to say (or imply — sorry if it seemed this way) that any particular individual is going to hell. It is my concern, but not my business, if I can make a fine point here. Fr. Tanck needs prayers. Don’t we all?

    LEM’s who have become parish administrators are not in accordance with the Canon Laws of the Church, have no right to make priests subservient to them, or to parade rank in the church. They are no more than any other member of the laity, just on a salary from contributions from the pew. Since the LEM’s (as can be seen subvertly in Bishop Clark’s book) usually support female ordination, they have received much support in that endeavor from the “preachings” of LCWR regarding wanting (even demanding) female ordination. The LEM is as far as the Bishop dares to go to put women into the Sanctuary as much as possible. The documents I have read so far do not mention LEM’s specifically, but it would be hard to see how LCWR hasn’t aided and abetted the LEM situation. Eliminating LEM’s is part of the reform that is needed. Maybe we can piggyback onto the current reform mandate? In Justice, it is due to those who have been so badly mislead by the scandalous advocacy of the LCWR.

  12. avatar JLo says:

    If the replacement Fr. Paul you mention as Fr. Tanck’s replacement is the same Fr. Paul who has sometimes resided at that rectory in between trips he takes on Basilian business, he is the same Fr. Paul who said the Mass at the end of their 2011 R&R for married couples. At that Mass, that Fr. Paul called all the people from the pews onto the altar to surround him during the Consecration (the five of us left in the pews could barely see the elevated host… all we could see were a sea of grinning faces surrounding It). Those people stayed on the altar until the end of the Mass. Not exactly a paragon of Orthodoxy, that Fr. Paul. Pray, indeed. +JMJ

  13. avatar annonymouse says:

    Thanks, Diane, for the detailed and thoughtful response.

    My question regarding LEMs did not address the use of LEMs as currently practiced in the Diocese of Rochester, only how that issue pertains to the Vatican’s discipline of the sisters’ organization.

  14. avatar Raymond F. Rice says:

    Richard Thomas :”Where is Fr. Tanck going?”

    He will be returning to Canada. He will also be addressing some health problems.
    The Basilians are a Canadian founded order.

  15. avatar JLo says:

    Thanks, Raymond. I well remember JP2 staying on their island during a visit to N.A. They’ve since sold that property up there. As to Fr. Tanck, since he’s a Rocheter native, I thought they’d have him living out his time in Rochester (like Fr. Travato). Perhaps the health issue that is pulling him to their headquarters is a gift from the Lord, a turning away from things he’s been caught up in here to center himself on God once again. I’d like to think so, and will keep Fr. Tanck in my prayers always, of course. +JMJ

  16. avatar Jim says:

    Jim M. here: Ray, I heard that Fr. Tanck is not going to Canada, but will be residing here in the Rochester area at St. John Fisher College. He is taking up a new position of director of vocations for the Basilian Order.

  17. avatar Monk says:

    It is interesting to note that before the dust even settles on the destruction of the five Irondequoit parishes, all three Irondequoit pastors, Frs. Horan, Leone, and Tanck, have now moved on to new positions. They leave Irondequoit parishioners with one huge unmanageable parish that is in “financial crisis”, that must rely on retired priests for the sacraments, has unused property all over town, has two “open” Churches where the Blessed Sacrament resides alone in darkness, where parishioners had to appeal to Rome to for the redress of their grievances and where many faithful parishioners have fled to neighboring parishes or don’t go to Church at all. Where is the new vibrant parish they promised Irondequoit?

  18. avatar JLo says:

    Jim M., that makes sense (about Fr. Tanck being put in charge of vocations), because I believe that was/is Fr. Paul’s role in their order… it’s my understanding that Fr. Paul merely resided at CTK in between trips to their sites in various cities. Looks like they’re switching roles and that it is felt the former pastor needs to be out of the way of the new pastor; hence residing at SJF. The whole thing smacks of a PR maneuver. As I’ve written before, neither priest loves Orthodoxy, and Orthodoxy is what draws people, keeps them alive and engaged and in love with the Church, and makes the Church Catholic. +JMJ

  19. avatar Jim says:

    Jim M. here: Boy, Monk, in reading your blog, I realize just how much in shambles the BKT cluster is! You are right in that all of the pastors involved have either left Dodge, or will soon be leaving. I hope that Fr. English has the skills to help put Humpty Dumpty back together again! I’m praying that the Bishop doesn’t act upon the closure of any of the churches. Unfortunately, I heard from a pretty reliable source that Bishop Matthew isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. He will submit his resignation to Rome in July, but he could still be acting Ordinary for some time to come, as they have to accept the resignation, and get the ball rolling from there. He may not actually leave until sometime next year. If anyone out there has heard differently, please let me know.

  20. avatar Richard Thomas says:

    And was much of the motive to destroy St. Thomas? It seems that someone bit off his nose to spite his face. Destroy St Thomas and the whole community gets trashed.

  21. avatar Jim says:

    Jim M. here: To Richard Thomas…the answer is YES…I guess you haven’t been following many of the blogs here over the past three years!

  22. avatar Wayne says:

    The further removed the church becomes from the mission of Jesus to care for the poor and the vulnerable the less people you will see in the pews.

  23. avatar militia says:

    You might want to know that Msgr. Shannon passed away today. The story is at

  24. avatar Raymond F. Rice says:


    I am learning more about computers!! Check my post! I hope it works!!!!

  25. avatar Hopefull says:

    Beautiful. Thanks for posting.

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