The Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, Michigan have released
what is, to the best of my knowledge, the first statement by an
American order of women religious
that openly criticizes the response of
the LCWR to the Vatican’s recent doctrinal assessment.
The Religious Sisters of Mercy
of Alma (founded in 1973) are “dedicated to the Spiritual and Corporal
works of Mercy” and operate Sacred Heart Mercy Healthcare Center, which,
according to its website, “provides care for the whole person, working to heal
those who are suffering from physical, psychological, intellectual, and
The statement touching on the recent actions of the LCWR is from
those members of the Religious Sisters of Mercy who are physicians and
physicians-in-training, and presents the community’s “vision of the
religious woman in medicine” in addition to taking issue with the statements of
the LCWR that “have created confusion, polarization, and false representations
about the beliefs, activities, and priorities of a significant number of women
religious in the United States.”
The doctrinal assessment from the Congregation
for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) regarding the LCWR is in the language of
faith. The responses of opposition are being expressed using the language of
politics. There is no basis for authentic dialogue between these two languages.
The language of politics arises from
the social marketplace. The Sisters who use political language in their
responses to the magisterial Church reflect the poverty of their education and
formation in the faith.
The sisters’ statement describes a call to the religious life as “a
gift from God, not a right,” and emphasizes, “A woman religious…cannot separate
her work from the Church.”
We praise the generosity and service
of religious women who have gone before us. We see great hope for the future of
religious life within the Church and for a continuation of its health care
mission in the service of all people. This hope lies in remaining within the
deposit of faith and the hierarchical structure of the Church. We cannot
separate ourselves from sacred Tradition or claim to advance beyond the Church.
Catholic News Agency’s article
on the order’s statement includes an interview with Sr. Jane Mary Firestone,
RSM, one of the sisters involved in drafting the statement:
“[The LCWR has] taken this into the public political arena and it
no longer stays in the dialogue of faith. Representation is always possible,
dialogue is always possible, but it’s with the reverence towards the
Sr. Firestone said that while Catholics do not believe the bishops
are canonized saints, they are “not just ‘a bunch of men.’”
Those who live as religious women should, “live in the dimension
of faith all the time” and recognize when they fail to do so, she said.
Religious Sisters of Mercy belong to the Council of Major Superiors of Women
, a Vatican-approved congregation of women religious superiors
established as an alternative to the LCWR in 1992.