“A church that does not go out of itself, sooner or later, sickens from the stale air of closed rooms,” Pope Francis wrote a few days ago in a letter to the bishops of Argentina. He had delivered the same message to the cardinal electors before the conclave.
Francis acknowledged that in “going out” the church always risks running into “accidents;” but added: “I prefer a thousand times over a church of accidents than a sick church.”
A church of accidents rather than a sick church? I guess that means a church that sticks its neck out.
On April 14th, in an official communique, the Austrian bishops stipulated that the only permitted translation of the Latin words “pro multis” in the Eucharistic Prayer is “for all,” despite Pope Benedict XVI’s one year ago informing the German-speaking bishops that their new translation of the Missal would have to translate the phrase “for many.” Bravo for the Austrians.
On April 15th Sister Florence Deacon, OSF, LCWR president; Sister Carol Zinn, SSJ, LCWR president-elect; and Sister Janet Mock, CSJ, LCWR executive director; met with Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF); Archbishop Luis Ladaria, secretary of CDF; and other members of the CDF dicastery. Archbishop J. Peter Sartain was also present. The LCWR officers reviewed the activities of this past year since receiving the highly critical report of CDF’s doctrinal assessment of LCWR in April 2012. In his opening remarks, Archbishop Müller informed the group that he had met with Pope Francis who “reaffirmed the findings of the assessment and the program of reform for this Conference of Major Superiors.”
So what’s going on here? It looks to me, to use the pope’s words, like the old sick church of “stale air” in “closed rooms.” LCWR women religious have been pastorally and courageously sticking their necks out; but now, I fear, the old clerical boys club has picked of Vatican axes and Archbishop Müller, with Papal baking (?) is saying it’s time to start chopping. Is there no group of US bishops willing to “go out” and take risks on behalf of LCWR?
The National Catholic Reporter, in its April 19th editorial “LCWR approaching critical crossroads” stresses: “A church of accidents … a church willing to take risks on the edges … a church dedicated to service of the most needy … a church working on behalf of mercy, peace and justice…This sounds a lot like the church U.S. Catholic sisters have been building in recent decades. Not only U.S. women religious, but also women religious around the world have been at this work. It is the women who have lived closest to the marginalized; it is the women who have worked on the ‘peripheries;’ it is the women who have gone precisely where Francis is encouraging others to go.”
NCR warns: “Even more fundamentally, then, the Vatican/LCWR issue is really about whether the current male clerical decision-making system can sustain church life in the 21st century. Huge numbers have concluded it cannot….At issue is not obedience. It is rather the dignity of every person and the rights of every person in the church, stemming from his or her baptism.
“We are coming perilously close to a point of rupture. Some, of course, would relish such a break. However, their satisfaction would be short lived. For such a break would send out a loud signal, one that would echo through history, that the most significant U.S. women religious body had concluded fidelity to conscience and fidelity to the values of the Gospels required separation. It would be a stunning blow to all Catholics.”
Yes indeed, as Pope Francis said: ““A church that does not go out of itself, sooner or later, sickens from the stale air of closed rooms.”