Religious sisters' conference plans to continue Vatican dialogue

Sister Pat Farrell President of the LCWR addresses the annual assembly in St Louis MO Credit Lisa Johnston for CNA CNA500x315 US Catholic News 8 10 12 Sister Pat Farrell, President of the LCWR, speaks during a press conference at the LCWR annual assembly. Photo by Lisa Johnston for CNA.

Sister Pat Farrell told participants in the Leadership Conference of Women Religious assembly that talks with the Vatican will go on so long as the group is not made to change its goals.

"The officers will proceed with these discussions as long as possible," she told the conference's annual assembly Aug. 10, "but will reconsider if LCWR is forced to compromise the integrity of its mission."

Sr. Farrell's remarks were made in response to the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith's April 18 report following a four-year study which revealed "serious doctrinal problems" throughout the group.

"While acknowledging deep disappointment with the CDF report, the members proclaimed their intention to use this opportunity to explain to Church leaders LCWR's mission, values and operating principles," she told conference members at her Aug. 10 address in St. Louis.

The Vatican assessment noted that the group has regularly hosted presentations that demonstrated theological and doctrinal errors, as well as a "prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith."

In response to its findings, the Vatican placed Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle in charge of carrying out a reform of the group.

The conference originally stated April 19 that it "was stunned" to hear about the Vatican's assessment, saying that it already "follows canonically-approved statutes," but that it would take time to prepare a thorough response.

"The assembly instructed the LCWR officers to conduct their conversation with Archbishop Sartain from a stance of deep prayer that values mutual prayer, careful listening and open dialogue," Sr. Farrell said following a series of private talks that were held with members during the annual assembly.

In her presidential address to the conference, entitled "Navigating the Shifts," Sr. Farrell told the assembly that it would be a "mistake to make too much of the doctrinal assessment."

"We cannot allow it to consume an inordinate amount of our time and energy or to distract us from our mission," she told the sisters.

However, she said, "I think it would also be a mistake to make too little of the doctrinal assessment."

Either way, Sr. Farrell said she hopes that the conference can "go forward" in a manner "that contributes to the good of religious life everywhere and to the healing of the Church we so love."

This year's annual meeting hosted futurist author and "conscious evolution" promoter, Barbara Marx Hubbard, who praised the "evolutionary leadership" of the LCWR calling them the "best seedbed" for "evolving the Church."

In light of Hubbard's talk, Sr. Farrell said "it is easy to see this LCWR moment as a microcosm of a world in flux."

"The cosmic breaking down and breaking through we are experiencing gives us a broader context," she said.

Sr. Farrell believes the reason "many institutions, traditions and structures seem to wither" is that "the philosophical underpinnings of the way we hold reality really no longer hold."

"The human family is not served by individualism, patriarchy, a scarcity mentality or competition," she explained.

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Moreover, the LCWR president asserted that the world is "outgrowing the dualistic constructs" of "good/bad" and "domination/submission."

"Breaking through in their place are equality, communion, collaboration, synchronicity, expansiveness, abundance, wholeness, mutuality, intuitive knowing and love," she said.

Archbishop Sartain is expected to meet with the conference's national board on Aug. 11 for a discussion that is expected to last two hours.

National Catholic Register correspondent Ann Carey contributed to this report.

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