… in the CDF vs. LCWR saga is not, George Weigel notes, the faux shock of the LCWR leadership, but
that the Vatican had finally acted, decisively, after three decades of half-hearted (and failed) attempts to achieve some sort of serious conversation with the LCWR about its obvious and multiple breaches of the boundaries of orthodoxy.
Weigel makes several observations about the general lack of orthodoxy and orthopraxy among LCWR ladies:
Yes, many sisters continue to do many good works. On the other hand, almost none of the sisters in LCWR congregations wear religious habits; most have long since abandoned convent life for apartments and other domestic arrangements; their spiritual life is more likely to be influenced by the Enneagram and Deepak Chopra than by Teresa of Avila and Edith Stein; their notions of orthodoxy are, to put it gently, innovative; and their relationship to Church authority is best described as one of barely concealed contempt.
Some communities of LWCR sisters no longer participate regularly in the Eucharist, because they cannot abide the “patriarchy” of a male priest-celebrant presiding at Mass. Thus faux Eucharists celebrated by a circle of women are not unknown in these communities. Even those LCWR-affiliated communities that hold, tenuously, to the normal sacramental life of the Church regularly bend the liturgical norms to the breaking point in order to radically minimize the role of the priest-celebrant; at one such Mass I attended years ago, the priest did virtually nothing except pronounce the words of consecration.
He also points out something most knowledgeable Catholics have known for a while but is usually ignored in the general media account: the LCWR congregations are dying. Literally. The fact is, few women are interested in joining communities that are either self-centered, focused on rejecting Church teaching, or a combination of the two (after all, if the goal is self-fulfillment or men-bashing, there are plenty of exciting secular alternatives):
So the LCWR orders are becoming greyer and greyer, to the point where their demise is, from a demographic point of view, merely a matter of time: perhaps a few decades down the road, absent truly radical renewal. (Meanwhile, the congregations of religious women that have retained the habit, a regular prayer life, and a commitment to Catholic orthodoxy are growing.)
Drawing upon the work of Ann Carey, whose book, Sisters in Crisis (1997), was squarely based in research of LCWR documents and sources, Weigel notes this sad fact:
Moreover, Carey discovered that the beginnings of this “reform” were largely designed by men: priest-consultants brought in to advise the LCWR’s predecessor organization, address its annual conferences, and help redesign sister-formation programs. Ironically enough, it was men, not liberated women, who charted the path to the radical feminism that eventually led too many LCWR sisters and the LCWR itself into a mental universe unmoored from even the minimal requisites of Christian orthodoxy.
Meanwhile, Fr. Z. has a listing of some of the key “Who’s Who” in LCWR history.