The Leadership Conference of Women Religious meets for its annual conference Aug. 12-16 in Nashville, Tenn. As the meeting approaches, the future is uncertain because the Vatican "mandate" remains unresolved. And for reasons that remain mysterious, Pope Francis has not intervened.
One thing, however, is clear: The Vatican wants to control the speakers and honorees at LCWR national conferences after this year. They objected strongly to this year's honoree, St. Joseph Sr. Elizabeth Johnson. One of her works as a theologian, Quest for the Living God, was panned by the U.S. bishops' Committee on Doctrine in 2011. Of course, theologians at Fordham University where she teaches and across the United States came to her defense. The bishops never had so much as a conversation with her about that book. (I sometimes wonder if they would have understood the theology if they did!) But they continued to protest anyway.
LCWR did not back off. Elizabeth Johnson will receive the award this year. I expect the applause will be thunderous.
The bishops' desire to control LCWR is simply unacceptable. It smells strongly of sexism and patriarchy. Women religious are adult women in the church, quite capable of making their own decisions. In fact, the U.S. bishops might learn a great deal about how to run the church if they modeled themselves after LCWR.