John Allen skrev sent i går kveld (nesten litt dramatisk må jeg si, det er alvorlige spørsmål det dreier seg om) om lederne i The Leadership Conference of Women Religious i USA, som i går møtte kardinal William Levada, leder av vatikanets troskongregasjon, etter å ha blitt informert noen uker tidligere om at deres organisasjon skulle gjennomgår en “læremessig vurdering”. Og han skriver videre:
… The Vatican spokesperson, Fr. Federico Lombardi, confirmed to NCR that the meeting took place, describing it as “very serene,” and said that the officers of the conference “now have all the elements for understanding the nature of this initiative.” Any further comment, Lombardi said, should come from the sisters as they pass along the information to their members.
… In the absence of public statements about the motives and scope of the new inquiry, observers have raised three basic questions:
* What prompted the investigation?
* Why is it being sponsored by the Vatican, and why by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith?
* What are the possible outcomes?
Officials both in the Vatican and in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, as well as sources in religious life, spoke to NCR about these questions on background, because the officials involved are not authorized to speak publicly.
… the fact that the leadership conference is now the target of a separate doctrinal inquiry is virtually unprecedented. Vatican officials told NCR that they are not aware of another case in which the congregation has conducted a doctrinal assessment of a national-level association of religious orders.
Regarding the motives for the review, one source with the U.S. bishops’ conference said the concern is “entirely” about speakers the Leadership Conference of Women Religious has invited to address their annual assemblies in recent years, based upon the texts of those presentations posted on the conference’s Web site.
Though this official did not cite specific speakers or topics of concern, Levada’s letter pointed to three areas of doctrine that he said the congregation first flagged in a 2001 meeting with officers of the leadership conference: the ordination of women, the theology of religious pluralism, and homosexuality. Most observers believe that a principal aim of the assessment is to ensure that future speakers at the conference’s assemblies will be screened for their positions on those issues.
… In terms of process, the Vatican’s involvement has raised eyebrows for two reasons: First, because the assessment is being conducted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as opposed to the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, which normally has jurisdiction in matters involving religious orders; and second, because the Vatican is doing it at all, as opposed to allowing it to be handled by the American bishops. The latter is particularly striking in light of what has seemed an informal policy of the doctrinal congregation in recent years of preferring that disciplinary matters be resolved at lower levels.
… By way of explanation, officials said that the reason for the doctrinal congregation’s involvement is because the issues touch on matters of theological orthodoxy. Moreover, the leadership conference is not itself a religious order. …
As to why the Vatican is sponsoring the inquiry rather than the bishops’ conference, observers point out that the Leadership Conference of Women Religious has been recognized by the Vatican as an official entity under the church’s Code of Canon Law since 1959. The Vatican thus has the capacity to issue official recommendations or mandates, whereas the bishops’ conference can present only non-binding guidance.
In 1995, the Vatican also granted recognition to another group, the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, which is generally seen as a more conservative alternative to the leadership conference. “The implied threat is that Rome could leave the council as the lone official representative of women religious in the United States,” one source told NCR.
While the bulk of women’s orders in America currently belong to the leadership conference, some observers believe that an alteration in its canonical status could change that picture significantly.