Carey said that after Vatican II, members of many religious orders began to live in apartments and find their own jobs, separate from a corporate apostolate such as teaching or care for the sick.
In addition, they threw off the “loyalty and faithfulness to the Church” as well as the “deference to the hierarchy” that had previously characterized religious life.
The changes were so drastic that they caused some women to leave the LCWR, Carey said. These women formed another group, which eventually became an alternative superiors’ conference known as the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious.
This more traditional group, which requires its members to adhere to the essentials of religious life as understood by the Church, is attracting the bulk of young vocations today, she noted.
If the conference is to undergo a true renewal, Carey said, its members must re-examine the Church’s understanding of religious life and make a firm commitment to live as “representatives of the Church,” in union with the local bishop.
She emphasized that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is not trying to return to the pre-Vatican II days but is instead promoting an “accurate interpretation of those documents” and the life they portray.
Carey said it will be “very interesting to watch” as the situation progresses. While she does not know what will happen, she said there are ultimately only two possible outcomes.
It is possible that the LCWR will cooperate with the Vatican’s reform efforts and see that they have gotten away from Church teaching, she explained.
However, she is unsure whether that will happen, because some of the group’s members are “very convicted that what they’re doing is the right thing.”
The other option is for the conference to relinquish its canonical status and simply continue as a professional group, which Carey believes will cause them to “lose a lot of their members.”
She said that some of the group’s members value their canonical standing and have simply continued their membership with the conference over the years because they had always done so.
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
No matter what the organization decides, “there will be dissenting voices,” predicted Carey.
She explained that the LCWR consists of the leaders of various religious orders, so it is actually only made up of about three percent of the religious women in America. She said that she knows many individual sisters with no say in decisions of the conference who are “very unhappy” with the organization and “welcome this move” by the Vatican.
Carey also commented on the possibility of the group asking the Vatican to establish a new category of consecrated life that would better fit them.
While other types of consecrated life – such as hermits and consecrated virgins – do exist, she said, there would still be a pressing need to address the theological problems exhibited by the conference.
“For vowed religious to be embracing teachings that are dramatically opposed to the official Church teaching is very scandalous and damaging,” she said.