The Vatican’s press office has released a statement saying the media misreported a cardinal’s remarks about the ongoing reform of a group of American sisters, but an inside source at the doctrine department says it is confused because the matter is their "exclusive responsibility."
An official at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith told CNA May 7 on the condition of anonymity that it is “perplexed” by Cardinal João Braz de Aviz saying it did not discuss with him their decision to require an American group of religious superiors to undergo reform.
“We are perplexed because the matter is the exclusive responsibility of the congregation and we aren’t stepping on anyone’s toes,” the source said early on Tuesday afternoon.
The decision was the outcome of a four-year assessment that found the Leadership Conference of Women Religious promoted “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith” and dissent from Church teaching on topics including the sacramental male priesthood and homosexuality.
On the afternoon of May 7, the Vatican press office released an official statement that said “media comments” on Cardinal Braz de Aviz’s May 5 remarks “suggested a divergence” between the two offices and that “such interpretation of the Cardinal’s remarks were not justified.”
The prefects of these two congregations “work closely together according to their specific responsibilities and collaborated throughout the process of the Doctrinal Assessment of the LCWR,” the statement underscored.
The doctrine congregation’s head, Archbishop Gerhard Müller, and Cardinal Braz de Aviz also met on May 6 and “reaffirmed their common commitment to the renewal of Religious Life, and particularly to the Doctrinal Assessment of the LCWR and the program of reform it requires,” it added.
Cardinal Braz de Aviz, who heads the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, made his claims on Sunday during the general assembly of the International Union of Superior Generals in Rome, one year after the doctrine congregation’s reform mandate was issued.
The cardinal also revealed that Pope Francis allowed him to choose his secretary and said this demonstrated the Pope’s trust in him.
Commenting on his statements about the doctrine congregation, the inside source said, “One does not do this. I don’t know how his comments benefit him or the Church, and he makes it seem that injustice is being done.”
“This was a very slow and objective process and our members are extremely professional theologians and philosophers who consult weekly with the Pope,” he explained.
But according to the source, “there is a lot of pride and one always wants to believe they are right.”
“People are very misinformed theologically, philosophically and academically” about the positions taken by the LCWR, he added.
The doctrine official believes that “the most important part has already happened, which is that Catholics have been informed that these women are wrong.”
He explained that the LCWR follow the “gender ideology” and “have developed an exacerbated ultra feminism which makes them reject all type of male authority.”
“They have been fired in many parishes because they teach things that provoke great discomfort within communities,” he said.
Referring to a April 15, 2013 statement from the doctrine office in which Pope Francis confirmed the finding that the sisters’ conference must be reformed, the source underscored that “this is not an issue about a Pope being spoiled.”
Attempts by CNA to obtain comment from the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life were referred to Cardinal Braz de Aviz who was unavailable.
Corrected on May 9, 2013 at 11:11 a.m. Rome time. Due to a reporting error, the original story attributed the official May 7 statement to the CDF instead of the Vatican press office.