Archbishop urges avoidance of politics as LCWR convenes

By Hillary Senour

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Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis, Mo.

As the Leadership Conference of Women Religious gathers for its annual assembly, Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis, Mo. said that talks over the Vatican's report on the group should stay within the context of the Church and not be politicized.

“I realize this is a most important meeting for you and I pray that the dialogue between the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith and LCWR is not politicized,” Archbishop Carlson said, “but worked out within a community of faith.”

Archbishop Carlson, who delivered remarks on the Aug. 7 opening day of the LCWR's annual assembly in St. Louis, said that he is grateful for the “extraordinary work” of the women religious in his archdiocese and he hopes for a “resolution to the challenges” facing them.

An archdiocesan press release clarified that his remarks are not meant to show support for the content of the assembly, but rather serve as an indicator of his “doctrinal concern for the Holy See.”

The LCWR, which is made up of leaders from 1,500 women's religious congregations throughout the U.S., made headlines in April 2012 when the Vatican called for a reform following a four year “doctrinal assessment,” which found a “crisis” of belief throughout the group.

Amid the recent controversy, the archbishop called himself “fortunate” to have been able to work with so many members of religious communities throughout St. Louis and praised their contribution to the local community.

“These are dedicated individuals who minister and serve everyday in this archdiocese,” he said.

The annual meeting will feature author Barbara Marx Hubbard of the Foundation for Conscious Evolution.

Marx Hubbard's talk to the assembly is billed as helping religious communities become “open to the new levels of consciousness, even as that revelation exceeds the boundaries of present day understanding of one’s faith.”

The archdiocesan press release noted that although Archbishop Carlson addressed the assembly, he is “aware” of the controversy surrounding the LCWR and “played no role” in the selection of speakers or the content of the conference.

“My presence only indicates my love for the Church,” he said, along with his “memory of the wonderful religious” who he encountered in his childhood, as well as his appreciation for the “extraordinary work of Sisters today.”

In April, conference leaders said they were "stunned" that the doctrinal assessment found problems within their organization and that the group “follows canonically-approved statutes.”

In order to address concerns raised by the doctrinal assessment of LCWR, Archbishop Peter J. Sartain of Seattle was appointed by the Vatican to help reform the conference.

The archbishop will be aided by Bishop Leonard P. Blair of Toledo, Ohio and Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, along with an advisory group that will include clergy, religious women and other experts.

Archbishop Sartain will work with the conference to revise its statues, which will be submitted for approval by the Holy See, and to review its links to affiliated organizations.

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