Bishop to Oversee Women Religious: There's 'Legitimate Cause for Doctrinal Concern'

By Joshua J. McElwee
National Catholic Reporter
June 9, 2012

One of the three bishops appointed by the Vatican to oversee the group representing the majority of U.S. women religious says the that the bishops "have a legitimate cause for doctrinal concern" about the group.

Bishop Leonard Blair of the Toledo diocese, who was appointed in April along with Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain and Springfield, Ill., Bishop Thomas Paprocki to oversee the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), made the comments in a column in the Toledo diocesan newspaper Friday.

Appearance of the column by Blair, who undertook the "doctrinal assessment" for the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) which led to the appointment of the bishops to oversee LCWR, comes as two of the LCWR's leaders are expected to meet in Rome with the head of the congregation, Cardinal William Levada, and Sartain June 12.

"Those who do not hold the teachings of the Catholic Church, or Catholics who dissent from those teachings, are quick to attack the CDF and bishops for taking the LCWR to task," writes Blaire in the Toledo Catholic Chronicle, in a column given the headline "Reality check: The LCWR, CDF and the doctrinal assessment."

"However, a person who holds the reasonable view that a Catholic is someone who subscribes to the teachings of the Catholic Church will recognize that the Catholic Bishops have a legitimate cause for doctrinal concern about the activities of the LCWR, as evidenced by a number of its speakers and some of its resource documents," Blair continues.

"A key question posed by the doctrinal assessment had to do with moving forward in a positive way. Would the LCWR at least acknowledge the CDF's doctrinal concerns and be willing to take steps to remedy the situation? "

Regarding the response of LCWR leaders to announcement of the Vatican's move, Blair writes:

"The response thus far is exemplified by the LCWR leadership's choice of a New Age Futurist to address its 2012 assembly, and their decision to give an award this year to Sr. Sandra Schneiders, who has expressed the view that the hierarchical structure of the church represents an institutionalized form of patriarchal domination that cannot be reconciled with the Gospel.

"This situation is now a source of controversy and misunderstanding, as well as misrepresentation. I am confident, however, that if the serious concerns of the CDF are accurately represented and discussed among all the sisters of our country, there will indeed be an opening to a new and positive relationship between women religious and the Church's pastors in doctrinal matters, as there already is in so many other areas where mutual respect and cooperation abound."


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