ST. LOUIS (CNS) — Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle “listened carefully” to the concerns and feelings of board members of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and asked for the board’s help in learning more about “members’ experience and understandings of religious life,” the LCWR said after an Aug. 11 meeting with the archbishop.
Archbishop Sartain was charged with overseeing the group’s reform after an assessment issued in April by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith questioned the organization’s fidelity to Catholic teaching in areas including abortion, euthanasia, women’s ordination and homosexuality.
An Aug. 13 statement from LCWR said the board had been charged by its membership at an Aug. 7-10 meeting attended by 900 sisters in St. Louis with articulating “its belief that religious life, as it is lived by the women religious who comprise LCWR, is an authentic expression of this life that must not be compromised.”
The board also told Archbishop Sartain that “the expectation of the LCWR members is that open and honest dialogue may lead not only to increasing understanding between the Church leadership and women religious, but also to creating more possibilities for the laity and, particularly for women, to have a voice in the Church.”
In his own statement after meeting with the LCWR board, Archbishop Sartain said he remained “committed to working to address the issues raised by the doctrinal assessment in an atmosphere of prayer and respectful dialogue.”
“We must also work toward clearing up any misunderstandings, and I remain truly hopeful that we will work together without compromising Church teaching or the important role of the LCWR,” he added. “I look forward to our continued discussions as we collaborate in promoting consecrated life in the United States.”
The LCWR, an umbrella group of 1,500 leaders of U.S. women’s religious communities representing about 80 percent of the country’s 57,000 women religious, said the board planned to meet again with Archbishop Sartain “later in the fall.”
The recent St. Louis meeting included several closed sessions where members discussed how they would respond to the Vatican’s doctrinal assessment.
At the start of the meeting Sister Farrell announced that the gathering would be “like no other” because of the particular focus on the doctrinal assessment.
At the close of the assembly, Franciscan Sister Florence Deacon, president-elect, was to succeed Sister Farrell. Sister Carol Zinn, a Sister of St. Joseph, was chosen president-elect.
The gathering was the first time the organization had assembled since the assessment was released April 18. The organization’s canonical status is granted by the Vatican.