The organization which represents the majority of U.S. Catholic sisters said Friday afternoon it would continue discussions with church officials regarding a Vatican-ordered takeover, but “will reconsider” if it “is forced to compromise the integrity of its mission.”
The statement by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents some 80 percent of U.S. sisters, came at the end of the group’s annual assembly, held this week in St. Louis.
The sisters were responding to an April 18 mandate by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that ordered the group to revise and place itself under the authority of three U.S. bishops.
Reading aloud from a prepared statement, which came after approval from the 900 sisters gathered at the assembly, LCWR’s president, Franciscan Sr. Pat Farrell, said LCWR membership wanted to use the occasion of the Vatican order “to explain to church leaders LCWR’s mission, values and operating principles.”
As part of the Vatican’s mandate, LCWR has been ordered to place itself under the authority of an “archbishop delegate,” Seattle’s Archbishop Peter Sartain.
LCWR national board is expected to meet with Sartain in St. Louis Sunday for about two hours. The focus of that meeting “will be on beginning to process with him and see how that unfolds,” Farrell said at a press conference.
The LCWR expect “open and honest dialogue” with Sartian that “may lead not only to increasing understanding between the church leadership and women religious, but also to creating more possibilities for the laity and, particularly for women, to have a voice in the church,” the statement said.
“Religious life, as it is lived by the women religious who comprise LCWR, is an authentic expression of this life that must not be compromised,” it said.
“The assembly instructed the LCWR officers to conduct their conversation with Archbishop Sartain from a stance of deep prayer that values mutual respect, careful listening and open dialogue,” the statement said. “The officers will proceed with these discussions as long as possible, but will reconsider if LCWR is forced to compromise the integrity of its mission.”
The statement was approved by a wide majority of the membership, two members of the group told NCR.