Officers of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious said that their June 12 meeting with Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith officials was “difficult” because of “differing perspectives” but they were able to express their concerns “with openness and honesty.”
The conference president Sr. Pat Farrell and executive director Sr. Janet Mock briefed conference board members about the Vatican meeting in a special session on June 15 in Silver Spring, Md.
The conference said in a June 18 statement that its officers and the congregation officials hold “differing perspectives” on the assessment from the Vatican’s doctrinal department.
U.S. bishops associated with the assessment and Vatican officials have said that the report is directed only at the leadership conference and does not reflect on all U.S. sisters.
However, the board said in its June 18 response that the congregation’s actions are “keenly felt” by “the vast majority” of Catholic sisters who have elected their leaders and “therefore feel a close identity” with them.
The four-year doctrinal assessment, released on April 18, concluded that there is a “crisis” of belief throughout the ranks of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. It recommended greater emphasis on the conference’s relationship with the U.S. bishops and on the need for “a sound doctrinal foundation in the faith of the Church.”
The leadership conference said its members will continue “careful, prayerful discernment” throughout June and July and at the conference’s annual assembly in August.
The conference’s choice for keynote speaker at its annual assembly, Barbara Marx Hubbard, has raised concern in some quarters. Hubbard is a non-Catholic, New Age author who advocates a worldview called “conscious evolution.”
Assembly registration materials say Hubbard will help religious communities become “open to the new levels of consciousness, even as that revelation exceeds the boundaries of present day understanding of one’s faith.”
The conference represents the leaders of 80 percent of the 57,000 Catholic religious sisters in the U.S.