The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released a statement today regarding the meeting between its prefect, Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, and the head of the Leadership Council of Women Religious, Sister Florence Deacon, OSF.
Almost a year to the day after the CDF released the findings of its Doctrinal Assessment of the LCWR, today’s meeting was the first time Archbishop Müller—who was appointed prefect of the CDF in July of 2012—met with representatives of the LCWR, which also has a new president since the last Vatican/LCWR meeting (Sister Deacon was named president of the LCWR at the group’s annual meeting in St. Louis last August). Also present at today’s meeting were Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle, the Vatican’s delegate to the LCWR, and other members of the CDF and the LCWR.
The statement released by the CDF on the meeting notes that Archbishop Müller first thanked the LCWR representatives “for the great contribution of women Religious to the Church in the United States as seen particularly in the many schools, hospitals, and institutions of support for the poor which have been founded and staffed by Religious over the years.” The statement continues:
The Prefect then highlighted the teaching of the Second Vatican Council regarding the important mission of Religious to promote a vision of ecclesial communion founded on faith in Jesus Christ and the teachings of the Church as faithfully taught through the ages under the guidance of the Magisterium. He also emphasized that a Conference of Major Superiors, such as the LCWR, exists in order to promote common efforts among its member Institutes as well as cooperation with the local Conference of Bishops and with individual Bishops. For this reason, such Conferences are constituted by and remain under the direction of the Holy See.
Finally, Archbishop Muller informed the Presidency 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.
The LCWR’s statement on the meeting says that the conversation with the CDF “was open and frank.”
Ann Carey, author of the soon-to-be-released book Sisters in Crisis: Revisited as well as several articles for CWR on the on-going controversy involving the LCWR (here, here, and here, to highlight a few), had this to say about today’s meeting between the sisters and the CDF:
This meeting of the LWCR with the CDF was their regularly scheduled annual meeting, and it is reasonable that the CDF assessment was on the agenda. Also it’s reasonable that Archbishop Muller wanted to check with Pope Francis about his opinion of the doctrinal assessment before the meeting with LCWR.
There has been a lot of speculation in the media about how Pope Francis would approach the two Vatican studies of women religious in this country—the CDF doctrinal assessment and the apostolic visitation of women religious. Some of the media even concluded that both Vatican initiatives were in question because of Pope Benedict’s retirement. This statement from the CDF clearly puts to rest that speculation and reaffirms that Church doctrine does not change when a new pope is elected.
The report issued last year by the CDF stated that the Doctrinal Assessment of the LCWR found “serious doctrinal problems…characterized by a diminution of the fundamental Christological center and focus of religious consecration which leads, in turn, to a loss of a ‘constant and lively sense of the Church’ among some Religious.” At the time, the LCWR countered that “the assessment was based on unsubstantiated accusations and the result of a flawed process that lacked transparency,” adding, “The report has furthermore caused scandal and pain throughout the church community, and created greater polarization.”