Think of a conflict that’s painful to you. What do you do? How do you choose? Imagine being publicly chastised by the Vatican. Now what?
The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) spent three years in private conversations with the bishop-delegates of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), which led to a joint final report in April 2015. A month later, LCWR issued a statement and spoke at length with National Catholic Reporter, Catholic News Service, the National Catholic Register, The New York Times and other media outlets.
Sister of Loretto Jeannine Gramick suffered more than a decade of Vatican investigation because of the ground-breaking, heroic ministry she co-founded. She chose to share her experiences publicly, believing that, “Through the media, we in the Catholic community can become informed and learn how to deal with conflict in an adult and Christian way.” She found that, “Openness about the discussions during my own investigative process gave me an immense sense of freedom and a loss of fear that have enabled me to be more honest than I have ever been.”
Comparing her experience with that of LCWR, Sister Jeannine states that she believes that LCWR “chose the path of secrecy and self-silencing” because they offer no details of their conversations about the CDF’s charges and because she believes the joint final report will constrain them.
I think Sister Jeannine and LCWR’s choices were each prophetic. LCWR was acting in circumstances that differed from hers with regard to Rome, the structure of LCWR itself and the nature of the Vatican conflict. I offer my observations and speculations about these circumstances.