Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR)

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Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) (www.lcwr.org )


  1. LCWR represent more than 80 percent of the approximately 57,000 women religious in the United States. Founded in 1956, the conference assists its members to collaboratively carry out their service of leadership to further the mission of the Gospel in today’s world.

1.1.collaborating in Catholic church and societal efforts that influence systemic change,

1.2.studying significant trends and issues within the church and society,

1.3.utilizing our corporate voice in solidarity with people who experience any form of violence or oppression

1.4.creating and offering resource materials on religious leadership skills.

  1. In 1995 the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR) was set up by Pope John Paul 2. They represent about 20% of the women religious in the U.S. They are loyal to the Magisterium and wear recognizable women’s habits.
  2. On October 7, 1979, Sister Theresa Kane R.S.M., former president of the LCWR, issued a formal plea during Pope John Paul II's Apostolic visit to the United States at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for "providing the possibility of women as persons being included in all ministries of the church.”
  3. The LCWR were asked, ‘Please don’t talk about expanding ordination beyond celibate men.’ But the LCWR never withdrew a 1977 statement about women’s ordination, which concerned those doing the doctrinal assessment.
  4. In February 2009 the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) announced it would be conducting a Doctrinal Assessment of the LCWR because of the tenor and content of various addresses at the organization's annual assemblies since 2001. LCWR said that the Vatican had not fully disclosed the reasons behind the investigation.
  5. In April 2012, the CDF released the findings from the Doctrinal Assessment and announced that it was appointing Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of the Archdiocese of Seattle as an Archbishop Delegate with a mandate to oversee changes in the LCWR to reform its statutes, programs, and affiliations to conform more closely to "the teachings and discipline of the Church.”
  6.  The assessment may have happened because the sisters were in favour of President Barack Obama's health policies while the bishops were against that reform.
  7. Sr Florence Deacon addressed a WAC Ireland meeting here in May 2013. LCWR a group of radical feminists? "I was surprised by us being called radical feminists. I could introduce them to some real radical feminists”. Sister Florence Deacon also stated the LCWR did not speak out over abortion, contraception, gay marriage and similar issues because all human beings have weaknesses and no one consistently acts well and Jesus welcomed sinners. (2012)
  8. With the election of Pope Francis in March 2013 it was thought he might call off the CDF’s doctrinal assessment of the LCWR. But he reaffirmed the CDF’s assessment. And early in 2014 he further confirmed it by making the head of the CDF Gerhard Mueller a Cardinal.
  9. The LCWR met with Cardinal Gerhard Mueller in the Vatican on 30 April 2014 and he was very critical of the LCWR:

10.1.              They were not abiding by the CDF’s reform agenda

10.2.              They had promoted “Conscious Evolution” since Barbara Marx Hubbard was the keynote speaker at the 2012 LCWR Annual Meeting. “The fundamental theses of Conscious Evolution are opposed to Christian Revelation.”

10.3.              The LCWR outstanding leadership award for 2014 has been given to Sr Elizabeth Johnson who has been criticized by the U.S. bishops “because of the gravity of errors in that theologians writings.”

10.4.              From August 2014 LCWR must have their Annual conference programs approved by the Vatican’s Delegate.

       11.              Barbara Marx Hubbard replied in an article in the NCR:

11.1.           I am grateful to Cardinal Gerhard Müller for raising concerns about conscious evolution and its relationship to Catholic teaching. I hope his focus on this issue will stimulate many, both within the Catholic church and outside it, to deepen human understanding of conscious evolution and how we might advance our own evolutionary action for the good of the whole of Earth life.

11.2.            I am not a Catholic nor a theologian, yet I have been deeply inspired to help develop the meaning of conscious evolution through my studies of Teilhard de Chardin, Diarmuid O'Murchu, and others. And of course, from the New Testament itself.

11.3.             For me, the most vital source of meaning of conscious evolution is the Catholic understanding of God and Christ as the source of evolution, as its driving force as well as its direction. As Ilia Delio puts it, we experience in evolution the Emergent Christ and God Ahead.

11.4.               Through science, research, technology communications and virtually every other area of human activity, we are weaving a delicate membrane of consciousness, what Teilhard called the "noosphere" or the thinking layer of Earth that is embracing and drawing into itself the entire planet. It will infuse the whole of humanity with a feeling of relationship and resonance. He called this potential experience "the Christification of the Earth."

        12. Sr Elizabeth Johnson is a very reputable Fordham University theology professor, who has written that women are uncomfortable with “the dominant images of God as father, lord and king” and would prefer “non-authoritarian” female language for God.

        13. Cardinal Walter Kasper who has been called the "pope's theologian" said fresh Vatican criticism of American nuns was typical of the "narrower" view that officials of the Roman Curia tend to take, and he said U.S. Catholics shouldn't be overly concerned. He also said he held Elizabeth Johnson in great esteem and noted that St. Thomas Aquinas, the medieval theologian now considered one of the greatest minds in the church, was condemned by his bishop and lived under a shadow for years. So Elizabeth Johnson is in good company!

14. But Pope Francis did not come out with any statement about the LCWR.

15. Fundamentally its about two different views of authority: the Vatican wants strict obedience whereas the LCWR seeks understanding and collaboration.

16. No men’s order is under investigation like the LCWR. The Vatican still operates from the mindset that women have a different role from men, that women’s role is to serve and obey.

17. LCWR Press Statement (8 May 2014): “During the meeting it became evident that despite maximum efforts through the years, communication has broken down and as a result, mistrust has developed…….. At our meeting with the CDF officials, we experienced a movement toward honest and authentic conversation on some of the matters that lie at the heart of our faith and our vocation. We have come to believe that the continuation of such conversation may be one of the most critical endeavors we, as leaders, can pursue for the sake of the world, the Church, and religious life.

18. Both WAC-Ireland and IMWAC have sent letters of support to the LCWR and received acknowledgements and thanks for both. All WAC-Ireland members are encouraged to send letters of support to LCWR.


Colm Holmes presentation to WAC-Ireland meeting on 19 May 2014