The defense of the actions of the LCWR seem to me to have some interesting parallels. Especially concerning the defense of the good works they do and the heritage of women religious in the United States.
First lets make some distinctions. While on paper the LCWR represent 80% of women religious in the U.S., this does not mean that the leadership’s views are perfectly attributable to the religious they represent. I have seen examples in even the most dissenting of orders of sisters and nuns totally orthodox in their faith who have quite a difficult time of it in the climate of their orders. The points I will be making apply mainly to the leadership of the LCWR and those who follow in their false footsteps. I also think it is not right for them or others to claim the mantle of all the good that vowed women religious have done historically. No doubt some of these women would be quite appalled at the actions of the leadership of the LCWR.
One of the talking points that came out of the Protestant “Reformation” was that Catholics believed in salvation by works alone. There is the famous example of Martin Luther inserting the word “alone” after faith in his translation and taking a dim view of the Book of James when that word combination actually occurs, but is preceded by “Not by”. The Catholic view follows the standard template of “both/and” of works informed by faith. As St. James puts it “Yea, a man will say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith apart from thy works, and I by my works will show thee my faith.”
So in the proper understanding there is no divorce or chasm between faith and works. Though in practice there can certainly be a chasm between the two. The practice of good works can be done by those with no faith at all and as an act of love to some extent. The motives for doing good works can be quite mixed as evidenced by Jesus’s example of the Pharisee’s bragging about their contributions publicly in contrast to the widow’s mite.
The problem with the leadership of the LCWR is that while they can certainly point to good works, what is the faith they point to? When you have talks about going “beyond Jesus” and have a new age keynote speaker at your conference exactly what faith are they proclaiming? You can visit the websites of many vowed religious women in the U.S. and look at their “About” page or “Mission Statement” and find no reference to Jesus at all. The Virgin Mary also seems to have gone missing. In most cases you are more likely to find a link to the United Nations than to the Vatican. You are also more likely to find out information about Reiki than the Rosary. It was not glitch they had a new age keynote speaker as new age practices are fairly common, though disguised behind such things as centering prayer and the Enneagram. A Franciscan convent offers “enlightenment” classes that include Wicca (witchcraft), I Ching (Chinese fortune-telling), and Oriental meditation. The sisters staff “The Christine Center for Meditation,” teaching yoga, astrology, and Tarot card readings. These may or may not be isolated examples, but they are indicative of what you will find. The masters of the contemplative life such as Doctors of the Church St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila strangely do not have the same presence as regards to classes.
Jesus told the Apostles “He who hears you, hears me” and the leadership of the LCWR seems to be a bit hard-of-hearing. Repeatedly they have been in opposition to the Vatican, not just on prudential matters, but dogmatic ones. The Resource Center for Religious Institutes, an arm of the LCWR actually helped some Benedictine women set up a non-canonical order outside the Church and keep all the property. They actually held a workshop later for helping other orders go non-canonical. Sr. Joan Chittister a past president of the LCWR actually recommends that the LCWR also goes non-canonical to escape Vatican interference. Really non-Canonical seems to be code words for non-Catholic. The Gospel has become a limited set of social work and not the Good News of Jesus Christ. There are many that confused Blessed Mother Teresa as just a prominent social worker or a social or social activist. Yet all that she did flowed out of her love for Jesus and his Church. That same accusation towards the LCWR leadership seems to me to have more weight.
Blessed Mother Teresa’s love for the poor and work for them also led to many conversions to the faith. This is not a claim I believe the LCWR can make. Not only can they not bring others to the faith, the orders they represent are shrinking giving proof to the adage that dissent is akin to spiritual mules unable to reproduce. From a pragmatic point of view you could almost just wait for the LCWR to die out rather than having the CDF intervene. But pragmatic points of view ignore the human person and the good that correction brings to conformity to truth – truth himself Jesus Christ. It is quite easy to take the point of view that really that the actions and policies of the LCWR are indistinguishable from modern-day Anglicanism and really they should just leave and quit the pretense of being Catholic. That point of view also quits the pretense of being Catholic. Though the CDF working with the LCWR is almost a form a ecumenical outreach.
What will come of LCWR under the guidance of the CDF is hard to tell. There are competing factions within the LCWR and some that will welcome what others call an intrusion. Jimmy Akin’s interview with Ann Carey is quite interesting considering the research she has done on the LCWR and vowed religious women in the United States. She also does not predict what is going to happen here. Taking the pessimistic view is the easy route for me, praying for them, which I must do, comes less easily — as most worthwhile things tend to be.