ROME, May 8, 2013 ( – The Vatican is vigorously denying the existence of a public quarrel between the office in charge of religious orders and the doctrinal watchdog, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Congregation for Religious issued a Joint Communiqué yesterday which Phil Lawler of Catholic Culture referred to as “a bizarre public statement from the Vatican press office, denying what any intelligent observer recognizes as the truth.” The statement said there is no disagreement over the way the CDF has handled the Vatican’s investigation and reform attempts of the US nuns’ group, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

The hurried denial comes in the wake of a highly unusual statement on May 5th by Brazilian Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, who told an international gathering of religious sisters that his office had not been consulted about the CDF investigation.


The CDF’s report described LCWR, an umbrella group of sisters, as “radical feminists” and laid out a five year plan of reform to bring the group back into line with Catholic teaching on homosexuality, abortion and some issues even more fundamental to Catholicism like the nature of God as a Trinity of Persons.

Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, told the sisters that he hopes for more “dialogue,” with the CDF, “something which did not take place previously,” a situation that caused him “much pain”.

“We have to change this way of doing things,” he said. “We have to improve these relationships. Cardinals can't be mistrustful of each other. This is not the way the church should function.”

In July 2011, Cardinal Braz de Aviz criticised his predecessor, Cardinal Franc Rode for “some positions taken previously” which he blamed for a breakdown of trust between the Vatican and some liberal US religious orders. Rode had been strongly critical of the feminist and politicizing trends in many of the older religious communities since the Second Vatican Council.

At the May 5th meeting in Rome, Cardinal Braz de Aviz echoed the common complaints of the Church by LCWR, saying, “We are in a moment of needing to review and revision some things. Obedience and authority must be renewed, re-visioned.”

“Authority that commands, kills,” he said. “Obedience that becomes a copy of what the other person says, infantilizes.” He added that, “women’s leadership needs to grow a lot in the church.”

The Vatican’s joint statement said that the two prelates have met and “reaffirmed their common commitment to the renewal of Religious Life, and particularly to the Doctrinal Assessment of the LCWR and the program of reform it requires, in accordance with the wishes of the Holy Father.”

The statement said that Pope Francis fully supports and intends to continue pursuing the goal of reform of LCWR, a project started under his predecessor, Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI.

“The concern of the Holy See, expressed partially in the Doctrinal Assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in the United States, is motivated by a desire to support the noble and beautiful vocation of Religious so that the eloquent witness of Religious Life may prosper in the Church to the benefit of future generations.”

The Vatican blamed “media commentary” on Cardinal Braz de Aviz’s remarks that “suggested a divergence between the CDF and the Congregation for Religious”

“Such an interpretation of the cardinal’s remarks is not justified. The prefects of these two Congregations work closely together according to their specific responsibilities and have collaborated throughout the process of the Doctrinal Assessment of the LCWR.”