The board members charged that the Vatican’s report on the organization has “caused scandal and pain throughout the church community, and created greater polarization.”
The LCWR announced that its president and executive director will travel to Rome on June 12 to discuss their concerns with Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Archbishop Sartain.
After that meeting, the organization’s members will gather in regional meetings and at an August assembly to develop a response to the Vatican’s report.
With some 1,500 members, the LCWR members make up 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 average age for members is 74.
The group had initially said that it was “stunned” by the assessment.
However, Ann Carey, author of the 1997 book “Sisters in Crisis: The Tragic Unraveling of Women’s Religious Communities,” said that problems have existed between the LCWR and the Vatican since the group revised its statutes 40 years ago.
Carey told CNA that members of the LCWR have shown a clear intent to change “the nature of religious life” and abandon some of its essential elements, such as communal life and prayer, a corporate apostolate and distinctive religious garb.
She explained that the drastic changes led some women to leave the organization and form an alternative group, the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, which adheres to the traditional elements of religious life and is attracting the bulk of young vocations today.
Archbishop Sartain spoke about his upcoming assignment with CNA on April 23.
He recognized the “great, great gift” of women religious and said that he hopes to “work in a positive way” that demonstrates “our continued love and support for their extraordinary contribution.”
The archbishop stressed that the role of women religious in the U.S. “has been important from the very beginning.”
“I think it is such a wonderful witness to the world and something I have had the benefit of seeing throughout my whole life and the four dioceses that I have served,” he said.