Denver Archbishop Recalls “Progressive” Nuns to Obedience to the Church

By Hilary White

DENVER, August 7, 2008 ( – At a meeting of leaders of US Catholic religious orders, Denver’s Archbishop Chaput has urged members to return to the principle of “holy obedience” to the teaching and authority of the Church. The meeting, held this year in Denver, was for the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), a group notorious among faithful Catholics for their disregard for Catholic teaching on moral and doctrinal issues, especially sexual morality.

Citing the example of saints and founders of religious orders, Archbishop Chaput called obedience the “yardstick of love,” especially for people who have taken the three religious vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

“Christian discipleship,” including the religious life, he said, “demand more than a polite relationship with Jesus and His Church.” “He is our Lord and GodâEUR¦What he deserves is our love – a love that is expressed in our worship, in our service to others and in our obedience to the Church.”

In his brief welcoming address, Chaput spoke to about 800 members of LCWR and the Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM), at the annual meeting that in 2004 unapologetically hosted Mary Robinson, the former Irish President and United Nations Human Rights Commissioner noted for her international abortion crusading.

Chaput’s message was of a radically different kind than is usually heard at the LCWR/CMSM meetings. “The kind of radical love expressed in obedience – an obedience that can make our hearts ache and bruise our vanity – is the seed of renewal in every age of the Church,” he said. Conceding that obedience to religious authority can be difficult, Chaput said, “I entered religious life because I wanted to be one of those seeds, because I knew my own happiness depended on it. I am sure you want to be those seeds of renewal too.”

This year, after Archbishop Chaput’s brief welcoming address, the meeting featured Richard Rohr, a priest whose “spirituality centre” and books promote a number of occult practices including the enneagram, and whose writing is notorious for supporting homosexuality as a legitimate “lifestyle choice.” At the 2001 Religious Education Congress in Los Angeles, Father Rohr stated, “Everything the Catholic Church offers in the way of its sacramental rituals and moral and doctrinal teachings is an obstacle to having a relationship with God.”

LCWR is an umbrella organization for religious orders, founded in 1956, that has become one of the leading bodies of hard left political lobbying in the Catholic Church in the US. At the same time, the actual religious communities it represents are rapidly dying out, with aging sisters and virtually no new vocations.

LCWR and its member communities are well known for their hostility to the new “conservatism” of younger Catholics who embraced traditional Catholicism under the papacy of John Paul II. While the numbers in men’s orders have remained relatively stable, the ideologies of radical feminism that infiltrated the women’s orders represented by LCWR have been shown to be instrumental in the collapse of women’s vocations. While thousands left their orders in the 1960s and ’70s, the number of young women applying to enter the LCWR communities dropped to nearly nothing and has not significantly increased.

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, the editor of the Catholic periodical First Things, wrote that the LCWR took a prominent role in the 1960s and ’70s in “getting women religious to follow the lead of progressive theologians in ‘renewing’ themselves into virtual oblivion.”

“Among [communities] associated with the LCWR,” Neuhaus wrote, “many of the active remnant are among the most aggressively disaffected groups in the Church, and some publicly declare that the vocation of their community is to go out of business”.

Archbishop Chaput, himself a member of the Franciscan religious order, said, “The Church belongs to Christ, the Church is His spouse and we find His peace through love and obedience to His Church, which is finally not an institution or corporation or bureaucracy, but our mother and teacher.”

Chaput’s comments about religious obedience have been proved in many of the newer and more faithful communities being founded and developed in the US Church. The Sisters of Life in New York, the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecelia in Nashville and Mother Theresa’s Missionaries of Charity, have experienced a steady influx of young vocations, and are all examples of his principle that obedience to and love of the authority of the Catholic Church are the “seeds of renewal.”

Meanwhile, LCWR continues to focus its activities on its usual leftist “social justice” issues such as anti-war protests, environmentalism, and anti-poverty political work based on heavily left-leaning economic theories. While the organisation does not officially concern itself with abortion, position papers emphasize immigration, “empowerment of women”, wetlands and water resources, “climate change”, opposition to the death penalty and “Incorporating the Principles of the Earth Charter.”

Earlier this year, Pope Benedict XVI, made a similar appeal as Archbishop Chaput to a group of women religious, saying they were undergoing “a difficult crisis due to the aging of members, a more or less accentuated fall in vocations and, sometimes, a spiritual and charismatic weariness.”

The Pope reminded them of their fundamental duty, in accordance with Canon Law, of “keeping the harmony with the magisterium, which avoids creating confusion and bewilderment among the people of God.”