Archive of August 24, 2013

Major appointments awaited after cardinals' October meeting

Vatican City, Aug 24, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Despite rumors about the supposedly imminent appointment of a new Secretary of State, Pope Francis will not be making any major appointments before October, Vatican insiders maintain.

“Pope Francis is not in a hurry to appoint a new Secretary of State, and he could also decide to keep Bertone at his post until he will turn 80,” a source familiar with the Vatican Secretariat of State who asked for anonymity told CNA Aug. 20.

On Oct. 1-3, the “Gang of Eight” group of cardinals on reforming the Roman Curia will meet, and the source disavowed any changes to the secretariat of state before that assembly.

In fact, pressure for the replacement of Cardinal Bertone as Secretary of State began long before Benedict XVI's resignation.

Despite critics, innuendos and accusations, Benedict XVI always want to keep Cardinal Bertone at his post, stating publicly several times his trust in his prime collaborator.

During the pre-conclave meeting in March, cardinals highlighted several criticisms of the secretariate of state, and asked for more collegiality.

Pope Francis responded to the cardinals' suggestions and requests by appointing on April 13 the group of eight cardinals to advise him about a possible Curia reform.

Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, one of the group's members, signaled in a March 4 interview with CNA that the pre-conclave meetings helped the cardinals to discuss “the Church’s governing body.”

A curial reform is needed to improve the relationships among the various departments of the Church’s central governing body and the universal Church, he added.

The appointment of this group of cardinals raised expectation for a curial reform and encouraged speculations about a new Secretary of State to be appointed soon.

It had been strongly rumored that Pope Francis would have made public the appointment of the new Secretary of State on June 29, and since it did not occur it is now rumored that Cardinal Bertone will have to step down in September.

In fact, the anonymous source said in conversation that “Pope Francis does not seem to want to take any major decision before the October 1-3 meeting of the group of cardinals. And even after that meeting, he could decide to keep Bertone at his post.”

“Pope Francis does not want give the impression of repudiating Pope Benedict XVI’s pontificate,” the source asserted.

On the one hand, “getting rid of Cardinal Bertone in the midst of a long-term campaign against him could be seen as an evidence of Bertone’s wrongdoing, and so also as evidence of Benedict XVI’s incompetence in choosing his collaborators.”

On the other hand, keeping Cardinal Bertone at his post would not even damage Pope Francis' image, as the secretariate of state has been exerting less influence during his pontificate.

According to the Vaticanista Sandro Magister, “the State Secretariat continues its routine work, but much more at work is another secretariat, miniscule but highly active, which in direct service to the Pope attends to the matters that he wants to resolve himself, without any interference whatsoever.”

It is also possible that the importance of the secretariat of state will be diminished after the curial reform.

In fact, a possible reform of the Roman Curia has been much discussed during recent years.

A monsignor working in a Pontifical Council who asked for anonymity told CNA Aug. 20 that a draft of such a reform was sketched out in 2005, shortly before Blessed John Paul II’s death.

That draft had suggested creating a committee composed of the prefects of Congregations and some trusted cardinals charged with managing the Church. This committee would take over the first set of duties currently carried out by the secretariat of state.

Thus, the state secretariat would only deal with the relations with states, not Church governance.

Ultimately, the governance of the Holy See would be run by a sort of pyramid structure: on the top, the management committee, a sort of council of cardinals; then the Congregations; and the Pontifical Council, which would become a sort of department in the ministries.

This sketch, the source maintains, “has been quietly proposed” to Pope Francis, and, with some modifications, “can be one of the proposal to be discussed by the group of eight cardinals.”

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No real cooperation from women's religious group, author says

South Bend, Ind., Aug 24, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Despite a shift in tone, virtually no progress has been made toward the Vatican's goals for the reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, says an author who has closely followed the group.

Group members “are making an effort to be more conciliatory, at least verbally,” said Ann Carey, author of the 1997 book “Sisters in Crisis: The Tragic Unraveling of Women's Religious Communities” and the newly-released “Sisters in Crisis Revisited: From Unraveling to Reform and Renewal.”

But even with this change in tone, Carey told CNA, the conference has not signaled a willingness to work with the Vatican in bringing about renewal and reform.

With some 1,500 members, the LCWR constitutes about three percent of the 57,000 women religious in the United States. However, the group says it represents 80 percent of American sisters since its members are leaders of their respective religious communities.

In April 2012, the Vatican released the findings of a multi-year doctrinal assessment of the women's conference, which raised concerns of dissent from Church teaching on topics including homosexuality, the sacramental priesthood and the divinity of Christ.

The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith appointed Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle to lead reform efforts within the conference, giving him a mandate of up to five years to help review and revise the group’s statues, formation materials, presentations, events and links with affiliated organizations.

The archbishop attended the LCWR's 2013 general assembly, held in Orlando Aug. 13-16. At the beginning of the assembly, he told the sisters that he came not only as a representative of the Pope but also “as your brother and friend.”

According to the National Catholic Reporter, he said that he has developed a “wonderful respect” and “friendship” with the leaders of the organization, although one sister who was interviewed said the relationship was not close enough to be considered a friendship.

Archbishop Sartain met with the group for about an hour and a half in a closed door session during the assembly. Participants were asked not to discuss the meeting with members of the press, who were not permitted to be present at the talk.

After the assembly, the LCWR board released a statement saying that the “session with Archbishop Sartain allowed a profound and honest sharing of views,” and that the archbishop “had been listening intently and heard the concerns voiced by the members.”

Both board members and the archbishop have gained a mutual better understanding of each other, the statement added.

“Although we remain uncertain as to how our work with the bishop delegates will proceed, we maintain hope that continued conversations of this depth will lead to a resolution of this situation that maintains the integrity of LCWR and is healthy for the whole church.”

Carey said that from what she has seen, “the Vatican is certainly trying its best to be very pastoral and very understanding in approaching the sisters.”

Reports that Archbishop Sartain voiced strong support for the sisters' work with the poor and needy are consistent with the Vatican’s approach all along, she added, noting that the doctrinal assessment begins by voicing gratitude for the many contributions of women religious to the Church in the U.S.

At the same time, she said, reports from the assembly gave her the impression that Archbishop Sartain “was not compromising on any doctrinal decisions, but rather trying to be very open and listen to the sisters and get their point of view.”

And while the sisters have adopted a more conciliatory tone, she said, they have not publicly indicated that they are willing to move forward with the Vatican’s requested reforms.

She noted that outgoing conference president Sr. Florence Deacon spoke in her address about the need to discuss larger questions about “understandings of authority, faithful dissent, and obedience.”

“I got the message from that that they are still pretty much sticking to their position of not cooperating with the reform,” Carey said, while adding that they are taking a more “toned-down position with the Vatican, perhaps hoping to continue the dialogue with the apostolic delegates and hoping to avoid any direct reforms being enacted.”

She questioned how productive the discussions on doctrine can be as long as the LCWR is insistent upon the idea of “faithful dissent,” believing that they can reject Catholic teaching if they have thoroughly examined the issues and disagree with them.

“It seems to me an oxymoron,” Carey said. “I don’t know how one can be faithful and dissent at the same time.”

This hinders the Vatican’s goal of “reaching out in a pastoral way to help people who are struggling with some teachings of the Church, to help them learn more about those teachings so that they can accept them,” she added.

In his homily during Mass on the feast of the Assumption – which occurred during the assembly – the archbishop highlighted the Blessed Virgin Mary’s example of “handing herself over completely to the will of God.”

“She’s deeply troubled by what the angel says to her and yet she’s docile to the command of God, even though she has questions,” he observed.

Mary, the archbishop explained, “did not place any obstacles between herself and the grace of God” and shows us how the Lord can work through us when we are surrender ourselves to him.

Carey categorized the homily as “a very not-so-subtle message to the sisters that they need to be more obedient to Church authority,” delivered in “a very pastoral way and certainly in a very Catholic way.”

Sr. Deacon also spoke in her talk of “a paradigm shift” and “new understandings of Church.” In engaging with the Vatican, she said, there is a need for prayer, listening and honest dialogue in order to help bring about renewal “in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council.”

Carey said that the term “spirit of Vatican II” is vague and has been invoked for decades to justify ideas that are not clearly present in the documents of the Second Vatican Council.

“And some people have interpreted that ‘spirit’ to be anything they want it to be,” she said, adding that “false interpretations of Vatican II” continue today.

Fortunately, she continued, Pope Benedict XVI talked during his papacy about the need to return to the actual texts from the conference and examine the documents in order to see the proper interpretation of them, shifting away from the “nebulous” idea of the “spirit of Vatican II.”

Carey also commented on the assembly’s keynote address, saying that while having a Catholic speaker this year is an improvement from the past, the content of the speech reminded her of previous talks, more closely resembling “a new age pantheism” than the teachings of the Catholic faith.

Keynote speaker Sr. Francis Ilia Delio – director of Catholic studies at Georgetown University – spoke in her address about a “rethink” of religion “in terms of cosmology,” encouraging the sisters to adopt an “evolutionary spirit” and recognize that there is “no God without cosmos.”

“We are on the cusp of an evolutionary breakthrough – one that requires our conscious participation as co-creative agents of love, midwives of the new creation,” Sr. Delio said, suggesting that the “awesome” vocation of the sisters is “to give birth to God.”

“This universe will have its future based on our decisions,” she stated. “When the level of our awareness changes, we start attracting a new reality. Our challenge this day is to begin to name that new reality.”

“For too long we have had a sense of Catholic as sameness,” she said, encouraging the sisters “to live from a new center of love.”

During the assembly, the LCWR also presented the annual Outstanding Leadership Award to Sr. Pat Farrell, OSF, who was head of the organization when the Vatican mandate was first announced.

A statement from the conference said that the award was given to Sr. Farrell “for the service she gave in her more than 20 years ministering to victims of violence and trauma in Latin America, and for her role in leading LCWR.”

However, Carey observed that “they normally don’t give leadership awards for ministry in poor countries,” suggesting that the award may have been given for her work as LCWR president.

“I think it certainly tells us that they were happy with the way she led them last year,” she said.

During Sr. Farrell’s tenure as president, the LCWR board released a statement saying that it would proceed with discussions with Vatican representatives “as long as possible, but will reconsider if LCWR is forced to compromise the integrity of its mission.”

Now, a year and a half after the Vatican mandate was initially released, Carey said that “there have been no indications that any reforms have even yet begun or that the sisters are even open to new reforms beginning.”

She noted that even simple requirements in the mandate have not been carried out, such as the removal of a controversial formation handbook on the conference’s website until it can be revised.

“I do wonder how long the CDF will continue to be patient when there have been no signs of progress for almost a year and a half now,” she added.

Despite the continued challenges surrounding the LCWR, Carey is hopeful about the future of women’s religious life in the U.S., which she discusses in the updated version of her book, “Sisters in Crisis Revisited.”

She explained that the first version of the book came out in 1997, and a lot has happened in the last 16 years, including the doctrinal assessment and the apostolic visitation of U.S. women religious, each of which is given a chapter in the newest edition of the book.

Carey has also included updates throughout the book to reflect news and developments, as well as explanations of different events that were later referenced by the doctrinal assessment.

In addition, she said, the book ends on a more optimistic note. At the end of the first edition, “religious life for women seemed to be in such a state of disarray,” she explained. But the last 16 years have seen the growth of orders – both new and already established – that adhere to a “classic model of religious life,” incorporating life and prayer in community, a corporate apostolate and distinctive religious garb.

She pointed to a recent study of new vocations which found that young people are looking for orders that provide opportunities for spiritual growth, fidelity to the Church, and joyful life in community.

“The young people are finding their way to these orders, and I think that’s going to be the future of religious life,” she said. “So I rewrote the ending chapter to reflect this phenomenon.”

Carrey suggested that the numbers of women religious in the U.S. will sharply decline for several years, due to a heavy concentration of sisters over the age of 70.

However, she predicted, the numbers “will eventually stabilize because of these newer vocations coming in to the orders” that live a classic style of religious life, renewed for the 21st century while maintaining a clear religious identity in communion with the Church.

“I think the future of religious life will be once again through this classic model,” she said.

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New LCWR head says assessment is about Church's future

Orlando, Fla., Aug 24, 2013 (CNA) - Sister Carol Zinn, the newly elected head of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, said the Vatican’s doctrinal assessment of the conference is “much more about the future” of the Catholic Church and not primarily about the conference itself.

“As women of the Church, we will discern how to move through the turbulent aftermath of the doctrinal assessment,” Sr. Zinn, a member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, said during her remarks to the LCWR Leadership Assembly, held Aug. 13-16 at the Caribe Royale Hotel in Orlando, Fla.

“The processes of inclusion and dialogue needed today may demand great suffering on our part as we work to create such processes,” she added, according to the website of the U.S. Federation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph.

Sr. Anne Myers, president of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, praised Sr. Zinn’s new position.

“Sister Carol’s calm articulate presence, love for religious life and the Church, and her global perspective are invaluable gifts that she brings to the LCWR Presidency,” she said in an Aug. 22 statement.
“She cherishes our congregation’s charism of unity and approaches the important and complex work of LCWR with this significant attitude of mind and heart.”

Sr. Zinn had been part of her order’s leadership team and was the congregation’s representative to a consultative non-governmental organization with the United Nations.

She said she looked forward to serving the leadership conference as it continues to “discern the signs of the times, remain faithful to the Gospel message of Jesus and the dreams of our founders and foundresses while responding to the needs of the people of God in our day, for the life of the world.”

With some 1,500 members, the LCWR constitutes about three percent of the 57,000 women religious in the United States. However, the group says it represents 80 percent of American sisters since its members are leaders of their respective religious communities.

The change in conference leadership comes at a time of continued controversy over the leadership conference’s Catholic identity.

An April 2012 doctrinal assessment by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith found that the conference has not been faithful to the message of Christ’s Gospel.

The assessment found need for significant reform. It noted “serious doctrinal problems” in the conference, including denial of Christ’s divinity. It raised concerns over “certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith” that were prevalent in some presentations sponsored by the conference.

The assessment also pointed to a lack of adequate doctrinal formation offered by the group. Additionally, it cited letters from LCWR officers suggesting “corporate dissent” from Church teaching on topics such as the sacramental male priesthood and homosexuality.

Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle, who is leading efforts to reform the conference, attended the assembly at which Sr. Zinn was installed.

Sr. Zinn told the LCWR assembly that “we are privileged to live in a time of unprecedented challenges and grace.”

“In deep solidarity with each other, our sisters in other countries beyond our own, and our other lay sisters and brothers around the world, we hear the call to respond to the God of the Future who invites us into waters of new life. This places us in situations of possibility and peril at every turn.”

She added that  “our fidelity to and love of God’s people and our commitment to the Gospel and our vocation directs our path and that our way of being in the world is one of compassion and love. Thus, in the next three years, the critical issue(s) before us is to be who we say we are and who God calls us to become, for the life of the world, keenly aware of the costly graces.”

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