Is this possible, asks a US nun in a radio interview
WASHINGTON – Conflict between the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) in the US and the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith boils down to whether one can “be a Catholic and have a questioning mind”, the conference’s president said in a radio interview.
Franciscan Sr Pat Farrell also told National Public Radio’s Fresh Air programme host Terry Gross in the July 17 interview that she would like to see discussion about whether “freedom of conscience in the Church [is] genuinely honoured”.
“One of our deepest hopes is that in the way we manage the balancing beam of this position we’re in, if we can make any headway in helping to create a safe and respectful environment where Church leaders, together with rank-and-file Catholics, can raise questions openly and search for truth freely with very complex and swiftly changing issues that we face in our day,” she said.
“That would be our hope,” she added. “But the climate is not there.”
Sr Farrell was discussing the Vatican-ordered doctrinal assessment of LCWR, which has about 1,500 leaders of US women’s Religious communities as members and represents about 80 percent of the country’s 57,000 women Religious.
The assessment said reform was needed to ensure LCWR’s fidelity to Catholic teaching in areas that include abortion, euthanasia, women’s ordination and homosexuality.
Archbishop J Peter Sartain of Seattle was named in April to provide “review, guidance and approval, where necessary, of the work” of the organisation, with the assistance of Bishop Leonard P Blair of Toledo, Ohio, and Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois.
In the Fresh Air interview, Sr Farrell said LCWR was in the “process of gathering the perspective of all our members” in anticipation of its Aug 7-11 national assembly.
“We’re hoping to come out of that assembly with a much clearer direction about where the national board and presidency can proceed.”
Asked about the organisation’s options, she said “some of the options would be to just comply with the mandate that’s been given to us or to, you know, say we can’t comply with this and see what the Vatican does with that, or to remove ourselves, form a separate organisation or, hopefully, in my mind, to see if we can somehow, in a spirit of nonviolent strategising, look for some maybe third way that refuses to just define the mandate and the issues in such black-and-white terms.”
Sr Farrell, whose term as president ends at the close of the assembly, said she thought the Vatican’s concerns focused more on “the issues we tend to be more silent about”, such as abortion and same-sex marriage, rather than on particular stands taken by the LCWR.
“We have been in good faith raising concerns about some of the Church’s teaching on sexuality,” she said.
“The teaching and interpretation of the faith can’t remain static and really needs to be reformulated, rethought in light of the world we live in and new questions, new realities as they arise.”
On the issue of abortion, she said the work of US women Religious is “very much pro-life”. - CNS