The whole sad doctrinal assessment from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and oversight mandate of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious is history. Alleluia!
We should all feel a sense of relief. There's been reconciliation, and this follows months of difficult and, as best we know, honest dialogue between the LCWR leadership and Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain. From what's been made public, it appears there's been some form of a meeting of minds, and, no doubt, this represents further evidence that Pope Francis is changing the overriding spirit and even perhaps the course of the church. Again, this is good news.
The end of the mandate, a Vatican release says, came in a meeting Thursday morning among LCWR officers, Sartain and officials of the Vatican's doctrinal congregation. Sartain and the LCWR officers presented a joint report on the implementation of the doctrinal congregation's mandate, which it approved during LCWR's annual spring visit to Rome.
Afterward, LCWR leaders had their first meeting with Pope Francis. The group's subsequent statement applauded the meeting, saying the opportunity "allowed us to personally thank Pope Francis for providing leadership and a vision that has captivated our hearts and emboldened us as in our own mission and service to the church."
"We were also deeply heartened by Pope Francis' expression of appreciation for the witness given by Catholic sisters through our lives and ministry," the sisters said, "and will bring that message back to our members."
If all of this is upbeat, the other side of the coin is that it's been six years, one month, three weeks and six days since Feb. 20, 2009. That was the day Cardinal William Levada, then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formally initiated the doctrinal assessment. Notice of that LCWR investigation took two weeks and four days, until March 10, 2009, to reach LCWR leadership, an inauspicious lapse that quickly came to characterize the separation between the prelates and the women, a gulf dating back to at least 2001, as well as the largely inoperative process that was to follow.