Fr. Philip Powell kindly gave me his commentary on the situation of the US anti-nuns. I was not able to use much of what he had given me, due to space restrictions, but I thought it was worth posting so:
As I understand it, the LCWR is being assessed by the CDF because the conference has taken some rather outrageous public positions against rock-bottom Catholic teachings in recent decades. Specifically, the CDF is looking into how the LCWR has worked to undermine the Church’s ancient teachings the universal and final effaciacy of Christ’s sacrifice; the apostolic foundation of his Church in the ministry of Peter and his successors; and the proper uses of our sexual gifts within a sacramental marriage.
Keynote addresses and presidential speeches at the LCWR assemblies in recent years have been uniformly anti-hierarchy, anti-clerical, anti-magisterium, and they tend to push an eco-feminist “new cosmology” ideology over and against basic Christian beliefs. They aren’t simply tinkering with the packaging here. They are gutting the gift.
Oddly, conference speakers bemoan the absence of a “diversity of voices” in the “institutional Church.” I say “oddly” because if the LCWR assembly speeches are any indication of their attitudes, they themselves only listen to themselves and those who confirm their dissent. Not one pro-magisterial voice is heard in the theological work of the assemblies. Not one voice challenging the LCWR to reconsider Catholic orthodoxy is heard.
The LCWR is simply deaf to the teaching office of the Church. If the leaders of women religious communities implement the ideas and suggestions of the conference, they will continue to devolve into smaller and smaller envirnomentally-friendly gnostic communes.
Two elements of women’s religious life in the US are particularly worriesome: 1) the claim to be prophetic in the name of the God without obedience to the Church—a form of self-anointment; and 2) the nearly uncritical and enthuastic embrace of neo-pagan practices and New Age cosmologies. LCWR addresses ring with clarion calls to the sisters to live prophetic lives. But they seem to define “being prophetic” as something like “fighting the Church to save the gospel.”
Being self-anointed prophets to the Church gives them and others the false assurance that they are doing something truly prophetic—something that coincides with the movement of the Holy Spirit, which has been given to the Body of God’s People and exercised by the magisterium. When the Church fails to enact their self-anointed prophetic agenda, they accused the “institutional Church” of not listening to “women’s voices.”
The Church is listening, carefully listening, and she’s rejecting these dissenting prophecies as decidedly un-Christian. The Church can both listen and disagree.
It seems that some in the LCWR are on a self-anointed prophetic mission to spread theological falsehood in the Church’s name in the form of pseudo-scientific cosmologies and “new myth-making.” This only adds to the danger posed by those who see themselves climbing a spiritual evolutionary ladder a step or two ahead of the rest of us.
Another worriesome claim made in some of the LCWR addresses is that young people are abandoning the Church in large numbers because the Church refuses to “read the signs of the times.” Wrong. The Church is reading the signs of the times and teaching a counter-cultural gospel that calls us all to sacrifice and service in the face of overwhelming pressure to conform to secular materialism and radical individualism. Young people are leaving the Church because dissenting groups in the Church like the LCWR have told them for thirty-something years now that the Church is unnecessary—even an obstacle—to a healthy spiritual life as a Catholic.
When you teach people that visiting a Native American sweat hut is as sacramental as active participation in the Eucharist, there’s no reason for them to get up on Sunday morning and go to Mass. When you tell young people that their sexual proclivities can be indulged because condoms and abortion are widely and rightly available, and you tell them that marriage is a form of slavery for women, well, don’t be surprised when they co-habitate, refuse to marry, and obtain abortions! Pope John Paul II demonstrated and Pope Benedict XVI is demonstrating now that when the undiminished gospel of life is preached and taught with the Church, young people will pile on. When challenged to live truly holy lives rather than excused for living sinful lives, young people will pack the pews.