Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Mueller, who heads the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, met on Monday (April 15) with the LCWR’s leadership for the first time since Francis’ election on March 13.
According to a Vatican statement, during a recent discussion of the case with Mueller, Francis “reaffirmed the findings” of the Vatican investigation and the “program of reform” for LCWR that was announced on April 18, 2012.
In what was seen as one of the defining acts of Pope Benedict XVI’s papacy, the Vatican’s doctrinal office issued a “doctrinal assessment” that criticized the LCWR for not speaking out strongly enough against gay marriage, abortion and women’s ordination.
The Vatican also chided the women for “serious doctrinal problems” among many LCWR members, and said LCWR conferences suffered from “a prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”
Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain was appointed to overhaul the group’s practices and perceived theological ambiguities.
Monday’s meeting was Mueller’s first with the LCWR since Benedict appointed him to the post last summer, and he thanked the nuns for their “great contribution” to the Catholic Church in the U.S., especially “in the many schools, hospitals, and institutions of support for the poor” that were founded and staffed by religious sisters.
But the Vatican’s doctrinal chief also emphasized that organizations such as the LCWR remain “under the direction of the Holy See,” and that their task is to promote “cooperation” with local bishops and bishops’ conferences.
The LCWR, which represents most of the 57,000 Catholic sisters in the U.S., had called the accusations “unsubstantiated” and expressed “deep disappointment” with the Vatican makeover. In a statement issued after Monday’s meeting, LCWR leaders called the meeting “open and frank.”
“We pray that these conversations may bear fruit for the good of the Church,” it added.
LCWR had congratulated Francis on his election for his “great dedication to the mission of the church during his leadership in Argentina.” The group said it looked forward to “working with him in carrying forward the Gospel message.”
Some Catholic observers said Francis’ background in a religious order — the Jesuits — could impact his views of women in religious orders, both in the U.S. and around the world.
Beyond the Monday meeting, the Vatican appears to be getting down to business as Francis crossed the one-month mark of his papacy. On Saturday, he named an informal cabinet of eight cardinals to advise him on running the church and on reforming the scandal-ridden Roman Curia, the church’s central administration.