Nuns 1, Cardinal Müller 0

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Cardinal Gerhard Müller, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith


Cardinal Gerhard Müller, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

Cardinal Gerhard Müller, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

Cardinal Gerhard Müller, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

“Yes, it looks like they backed down,” said a learned nun I know. “But some of us had better not be caught saying so!” So much for the huffing and puffing the Vatican has directed at her and her sisters over the past few years.

In December, an “apostolic visitation” of 350 communities of religious women, undertaken amid charges that they were beset by secularism and feminism, ended with a buss on the cheek for a job well done. And yesterday, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) gave its approval to an anodyne “Joint Final Report on the Doctrinal Assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religion (LCWR).

The LCWR, the nuns’ main umbrella body, had come under repeated attack for embracing ideas at odds with fundamentals of the faith. After the roll-out of the “Joint Final Report,” a four-woman delegation from the LCWR spent fifty minutes chatting with Pope Francis.

Over at the Boston Globe‘s Crux, John Allen characteristically minimized the widespread sense that all this was a big deal. “Both the more sweeping investigation of women’s orders and the LCWR investigation were orphans almost as soon as they were born,” he wrote. They’d been pushed “by a handful of well-placed American cardinals in Rome coming to the end of their careers” who “persuaded friends in the right Vatican departments to set the wheels in motion.”

Well, if the LCWR investigation was an orphan, the head of the CDF was running the orphanage.

Less than a year ago, Cardinal Gerhard Müller unloaded a broadside against the LCWR that convinced a lot of people that the investigation was serious indeed. The organization, he said, had ignored the Doctrinal Assessment’s mandate to get the approval of the three bishops charged with oversight for its speakers and presenters, and had given its Outstanding Leadership Award “to a theologian criticized by the Bishops of the United States because of the gravity of the doctrinal errors in that theologian’s writings.” And he went on to assert that “the issues raised in the Assessment are so central and so foundational, there is no other way of discussing them except as constituting a movement away from the ecclesial center of faith in Christ Jesus the Lord.”

In the “Joint Final Report,” which was signed by the three overseeing bishops and the four LCWR leaders, the LCWR agreed to choose speakers “in a prayerful, thoughtful and discerning manner” and expressed the expectation that speakers and presenters would “have due regard for the Church’s faith and to pose questions for further reflection in a manner that suggests how faith might shed light on such issues.” In yesterday’s press release, Müller purred his approval: “At the conclusion of this process, the Congregation is confident that LCWR has made clear its mission to support its member Institutes by fostering a vision of religious life that is centered on the Person of Jesus Christ and is rooted in the Tradition of the Church.”

Last month, Sandro Magister, chief Vatican correspondent for L’Espresso and a persistent critic of Pope Francis, claimed to see the pope shifting in the direction of his hard-line CDF head. As of yesterday, I’d say it was the other way around.

  • Chaplain Martin

    Mark it looks like a winning situation for the LCWR. Do you think that within twenty years the Catholic Church will ordain women to the position of Deacon?

    I saw a picture today of newly called (hired by churches) pastors and staff ministers listed in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship blog. Looks like at least half were women. If that can happen with Baptists, anything can happen.

    This old (almost 75) preacher is just going to have to admit that women often are better at actually pastoring. They tend to more nurturing which helps not only with the elderly but the young also. In Clinical Pastoral Education, we men were encourage to get in touch with our feminine side in order to be more caring (That was 30yrs ago.). A few of these women are even good preachers.

  • Michael Skiendzielewski

    Mark, I don’t know. From Herr Muller’s photo at the top of this article, he appears to be very open-minded, flexible and easy to get along with…….probably a very democratic style of leadership, participatory management and always willing to listen to and incorporate other points of view in his overall strategy and mission.

    My action plan for the Vatican………………..get the HUBRIS out and get the HUMILITY in.

  • Betty Clermont

    Definitely a “win” for Muller. “LCWR’s publications should ‘address spiritual matters rather than engage in formal theological inquiry’ and be based on ‘sound doctrinal foundations. To this end, measures are being taken to promote a scholarly rigor that will ensure theological accuracy and help avoid statements that are ambiguous with regard to Church doctrine or could be read as contrary to it.’ The group, which had also been criticized for hosting speakers with views that were not fully in line with Church teachings on sexual morality, would see to it that in future they ‘have due regard for the Church’s faith.'”
    Magister usually knows the facts.

  • opheliart

    Just a blimp in RC history, Mark. It appears the nuns have succumbed to institutional bias. They had the opportunity to make a STATEMENT for the women Religious of Catholicism but chose apart from this. Pretense? Will they continue as before but keep things quiet? In their aging status did they choose comfort to remain in their places and positions? Are they waiting for the Mueller’s of the institution to die off? Will they lose the interest of their supporters before this? But what never changes in the Roman Catholic Church, Mark? The greatest fear of the Vatican is that they might appear “wrong”. They can’t have this. Even with the clergy sex abuse (the insidious ordination of Barros in Chile) they drag things out and smokescreen and huff and puff while their own house is revealed—plank by decaying plank. They cannot control the world, Mark 🙂 Or Spirit …
    On to this:

  • opheliart

    correction: Müller

  • Greg

    I don’t get the title of this article. To me, it should read, Nuns and Vatican Reach Compromise. The nuns know quite well that you cannot take your focus off of Jesus, and place it on Radical Feminist Vanity, and continue to call yourself Catholic. That is what they did. But on the Church’s side, they were too heavy handed. So they both took a step back, and corrected in an act of charity, a true virtue. May the sisters continue to follow the ways of Christ, and the Church continue in humility. As for women deacons, well in the early Church they had Deaconesses, but that was not an ordained position, so not likely since the Church has never done it.

  • Adam Rasmussen
  • Greg

    Thanks, Adam. That just about a year ago. I’m happy things turned for the better.

  • Thanks, Adam; it’s just that the original URL ( was changed. I’ve taken out the sentence as well as the link to the speech.

  • opheliart

    Better? Hmm … some might see it as better in that it allows the world to see the RC Hierarchal Institutional as a FASCIST Institution. “Come to Rome,” they say, “and we will ‘discuss’ this.” Do as the Romanists do? If this had been another century, Greg, what would have happened to those women?

    But many ask, “Why is the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA doing business with Fascists on AMERICAN soil?” Where in America does it say that this type of governance is permitted? Freedom of Religion? Freedom to practice any and every act of legalism? But what if this legalism contradicts foreign policy? What if this legalism contradicts OUR Constitutional Rights as Americans? What if this legalism is interfering in the health and well being—-and GROWTH—-of billions of people?
    What say you?

  • opheliart

    The question then becomes:

    Who votes for ‘American’ political candidates worshipping and practicing Fascism?

  • Greg

    I think if you would clarify your allusion to “fascists” I might be able to answer. Aside from that, though, I’m trying to understand why correcting nuns who are joined to the Catholic Church by sacrament & vow, would be problematic? They began drifting deep into the New Age Movement, which is diametrically opposed to both the Catholic Faith, as well as Christianity as a whole. The Church only stated the blunt truth that they had a decision to make: either continue on their present path, or come home. And if they continued, then they would have to sever ties with the Church. I find that to be quite fair and reasonable, and within the context of Christ: Read Matthew 18:15-18.

  • opheliart

    Greg: Allusion to Fascism
    I don’t need to explain the principles of a Fascist Agenda to you. Your Institution has exercised this in every way imaginable to silence opposition, competition … and to maintain control, especially control over the female. You refuse the TRUTH shown to you in the actions of your superiors because you are ignorant of their vices … and you like it this way. It serves you. Makes you look somehow impenetrable, but you serve as your own stumbling block.

    17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;

    18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.

    19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:

  • Greg

    Opheliart, This is the institution God has established. He began with 12 Apostles, one of which was a traitor, yet He chose each of them anyway. That is how Our Lord goes about his business. He mixes the sheep with the goats, yet gets his work done regardless. We have to trust in his Promises, and not look at individuals. God overcomes all obstacles. And as for women, well, aside from the God, the Trinity, Our Lord has given us his very mother as our advocate, the Woman Clothed with the Sun (Rev 12). She is the greatest of all Christians, and deservedly so. But try reading First Clement, that was the first letter the Bishop of Rome wrote to the Church in Corinth around AD 96. It is rather lengthy, but worth the read. He is addressing a discord that went on for far too long in Corinth. There he addresses them in Charity, but with forcefulness, especially in Chapter 57.

  • opheliart

    “Opheliart, This is the institution God has established. He began with 12 Apostles, one of which was a traitor, yet He chose each of them anyway. That is how Our Lord goes about his business.”

    It’s my turn to say “nonsense” after reading it so much in these comments. God did not “establish” any Institutions … you willfully ignore SCRIPTURAL PASSAGE for BIASED DOCTRINE. Sometimes I am just astounded at how little you care to discern in the Word. Jesus was calling those OUT of the segregated an institutionalized settings where lapidation was law, and women were treated as property and … He wasn’t telling people to ingest dogmatic appeal; He was inciting elements of Spiritual Wellness—ascending heart to mind for higher INTELLECT: gnosis.

  • opheliart

    … prophetic religion and priestly religion … We see a distinction being made already in the Old Testament, in books such as Isaiah, Amos, Micah, Zachariah and Psalms. Prophetic religion puts emphasis on justice and mercy; it is of moral character, whereas the priestly (sacerdotal) religion puts emphasis on sacrifice and ritual (Micah 6: 6-8). Priestly religion tends to oppose change, reform and support the status quo; it is usually in alliance with the socio-political establishment. The prophets spoke in the name of God denouncing injustice and oppression and demanding justice and mercy. The priests persecuted the prophets and the two groups were often in conflict.

    Jesus stood in the prophetic tradition …

    Enslaving people to your ideal of what is God through institutionalized doctrine, or indoctrinating within set belief and practice does what?

  • Greg

    Opheliart: Well let’s take a look at what are saying: Our Lord came to establish “Spiritual Wellness” and not a dogmatic Church. Well I would say both: Truth must be at the Center of our Faith, but the actions of the Church should result in Spiritual Wellness. John 14 “the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” Matt 28: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”Matt 16: “you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” 1Tim3 “the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” Eph 3 “through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known.” I contend that without Truth, no spiritual…

  • Chaplain Martin

    I knew a Catholic man who had taken the required religious training required by the church and was ordained as a Deacon of the church in the Atlanta area. This was over thirty years ago and it was something new then. Now that I think of it, I’m sure his ordination was below what a Priest would have been.