John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter, in an exclusive interview, quizzed Cardinal William Levada of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith about what would happen if the LCWR remains intransigent in their refusal to cooperate with the Vatican. It's interesting on several accounts.
First of all, everybody knows that the Reporter, aka "the fishwrap" by orthodox Catholics, is the paper of the dissenters. Several of them, including Sr. Joan Chittister, write for NCR. So by interviewing with John Allen, Cardinal Levada guaranteed the unfaithful nuns would get the message and the warning that they are walking on thin ice. Here it is by the way:
NCR: LCWR has said it's considering its response. What happens if they say, "We won't go along with this"?
I mentioned to the sisters today that we shouldn't look at this primarily from the angle of who's in charge here, what's the authority, and so forth. We should start with the issues, and how we can come to an understanding about the issues and the needs. There's a great deal of subsidiarity in the church, and religious communities are a classic example.
Of course, if you look at the church as a hierarchical structure -- whether you see that as benign, or something else -- ultimately, the pope is the superior. If he says, "Sisters, I want you to do this, I want you to take a look at these things, and so forth," that's what I hope will be the outcome.
I suppose if the sisters said, "OK, we're not cooperating with this," we can't force them to cooperate. What we can do, and what we'd have to do, is say to them, "We will substitute a functioning group for yours," if it comes to that.
NCR: What would such a "functioning group" look like?
Good question. I hope it would look like a conference that focuses on the priorities of religious life, the life of holiness, which is the fundamental call of all of us in the church, and the good that can come through the apostolic works that many of these orders are committed to and the prayers that others are committed to. I would like to see religious as champions of the mission of Jesus Christ in the church and the world.
NCR: So if the response is not satisfactory, the result could be decertification of LCWR?
It could be. We only have so much information, and what we've outlined is based on the information we have received. But as I mentioned to the sisters, if one or more parts of that is not correctly perceived, they will tell the bishop delegates, and that won't be a problem....
NCR: What's to prevent LCWR from making this decision for you, by deciding to reincorporate under civil law and cutting their ties with the official church?Secondly, along with the warning, Levada reiterated that the action is being taken solely against the LCWR and not the religious orders associated with them. He also indicated the unfortunate situation of the nuns lack of cooperation when he answered this question:
I suppose nothing, assuming they could satisfy civil law concerns and pay for it. The Holy See, however, isn't going to give its patronage to it.
NCR: What would count for you, in the short term, as evidence that the LCWR is moving in the right direction?Not only has it not happened, but the dissenting nuns have already made it clear nobody, especially those old men in Rome, can tell them what to do. Having pointed that out, Levada ended the interview discussing obedience.
Enter into a sincere, cordial and open dialogue with the delegate that has been named, Archbishop Sartain. That certainly has not happened so far.
NCR: Is there any other point you would like to make?So Levada established in the interview that 1) the assessment has indicated serious problems related to LCWR and its denial of truths taught by the Church; 2) the nuns so far are obstinate in their refusal to cooperate with the assessment; 3) if they take the action some have threatened of reincorporating under civil law, they will be replaced with a group that WILL cooperate.
I'd like to say a word about obedience. In the church, the pope is the superior, ultimately, and obedience has been an integral part of the evangelical counsels and of religious life from the beginning. This process is also an invitation to obedience for the sisters in LCWR as representatives of their groups. They call their own sisters to obedience when they need to, and that's an appeal I would want to make to them now, to look at this as a deeper living out of their own vowed life and the vow of obedience.
The question now is who will blink first? Obviously, if the nuns win on this, dissent will get a big green light. (It is a fact of human nature that if you reward a behavior, you get more of it.) If, on the other hand, there is a serious crackdown, it will send a strong message that dissent to fundamental Church teachings will not be permitted. Obviously, from the point of view of the faith, the crackdown is essential. As Jesus taught, a house divided against itself cannot stand. What's happening to the LCWR is long overdue. We are in de facto schism in the U.S. and the LCWR has been among the leaders fomenting it following in the footsteps of Martin Luther. The only thing that can save whatever faith still exists in the U.S. is to defend the truth vigorously. Let's pray the Vatican doesn't back away from the battle with the neo-protestant nuns who are being supported, among others, by the gay Catholic priests' blog. Check it out. There's an old saying that you can know people by the company they keep. In view of LCWR's connections with active homosexuals, dissenters, new-agers, proponents of women's ordination, etc.....well, it certainly doesn't testify to their orthodoxy. Conversion of the LCWR seems unlikely so, frankly, it will warm many orthodox hearts if the LCWR goes belly up.
Full interview here.