The mainstream media and the Leadership Conference of Religious Women: “Fair and balanced” reportage?

Monday, July 23, AD 2012


The so-called “mainstream” media had a feeding frenzy immediately after the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) announced its doctrinal assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

If one was to believe the reports, an institution led by patriarchal, misogynists who don’t “get it” are now attempting to strike back by discrediting “the good sisters.”

Bishop Leonard Blair
Diocese of Toledo (OH)

There’s another side to the story not being reported by the main stream media.  It’s provided by Bishop Leonard Blair, who led the initial inquiry into the LCWR.  In an article entitled, “Reality Check: The LCWR, CDF, and the Doctrinal Assessment,” Bishop Blair explores what he calls “the distortions and misrepresentation of the facts being asserted by the mainstream media.

These include:

  • The claim that CDF has no direct authority over the LCWR.  In fact, the LCWR’s function, responsibilities, and statutes have been approved by the Holy See and to which the LCWR remains accountable.
  • The claim that the CDF and the bishops are attacking or criticizing the life, work, and members of women’s Catholic religious congregations in the United States.  In fact, the CDF’s concerns are doctrinal.
  • The claim that the “investigation” is directed at women’s religious congregations and their members.  In fact, the word “investigation” mischaracterizes the doctrinal “assessment” ordered by the CDF.  The assessment was aimed at the LCWR’s operations, including its programs and publications.
  • The claim that the assessment was covert, blindsiding the LCWR and its members.  In fact, the assessment was carried out in dialogue with the LCWR leadership, both in writing and face-to-face, over several months.

For Bishop Blair, the fundamental question was simply this: “What are the Church’s pastors to make of the fact that the LCWR constantly provides a one-sided platform—without challenge or any opposing view—to speakers who take a negative and critical position vis-a-vis Church doctrine and discipline and the Church’s teaching office?”

Suffice it to say, the Church’s pastors had every reason to be concerned about the LCWR’s doctrinal positions.  After listing some causes for concern, Bishop Blair then asks:

[Is] it the role of a pontifically recognized leadership group to criticize and undermine faith in church teaching by what is said and unsaid, or rather to work to create greater understanding and acceptance of what the Church believes and teaches?

Note too, Bishop Blair asserts, that those who are criticizing the CDF and the bishops for assessing the LCWR don’t hold the teachings of the Catholic Church or are Catholics who dissent from those teachings.

A good observation.  Why should those who dissent from Church teaching—Catholic or not—determine for the Church what constitutes a “legitimate cause for doctrinal concern” about the activities a pontifically-approved organization?

More interesting is Bishop Blair’s prognosis about what the future portends.  He writes:

The response thus far is exemplified by the LCWR leadership’s choice of a New Age Futurist to address its 2012 assembly, and their decision to give an award this year to Sister Sandra Schneiders, who has expressed the view that the hierarchical structure of the church represents an institutionalized form of patriarchal domination that cannot be reconciled with the Gospel.

So much for the much-touted, post-Vatican II spirit of “communio.

To The Motley Monk, it’s sounding more and more like heresy and schism.

Call it what it is and be done with it as nature follows its inevitable trajectory.



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