So the Congregation for the Doctrines of the Faith (CDF) had a great deal negative to say about the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). The part of the document from the CDF that got my attention, though, was the reference to the social justice activities of the LCWR. Here’s the pertinent text:
On June 25, 2010, Bishop Blair presented further documentation on the content of the LCWR’s Mentoring Leadership Manual and also on the organizations associated with the LCWR, namely Network and The Resource Center for Religious Institutes. The documentation reveals that, while there has been a great deal of work on the part of LCWR promoting issues of social justice in harmony with the Church’s social doctrine, it is silent on the right to life from conception to natural death, a question that is part of the lively public debate about abortion and euthanasia in the United States. Further, issues of crucial importance to the life of Church and society, such as the Church’s Biblical view of family life and human sexuality, are not part of the LCWR agenda in a way that promotes Church teaching.
This really needed to be said. Network was founded in 1971 by 47 sisters in the U.S. who wanted to create an advocacy group that lobbied Congress based on the social teaching of the Catholic Church. On its website, they bill themselves as “A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby.”
Well, during the last election, while Network and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and Center of Concern were colluding to get Senator Obama elected president of the United States, I called up Network and asked them a simple question. If they are a Catholic Social Justice Lobby then do they lobby for the sIake of pro-life issues? I then stipulated that “pro-life issues” refers to abortion, euthanasia and embryonic destructive research. I got a simple, “No,” from the lady on the other line. It was followed up with the point that the U.S. Bishops already address those issues. Riiiiiight.
This practice of claiming the mantle of social justice while ignoring the most pressing issues of our time – and yes abortion is the most pressing issue of our time – has got to stop. When at an event in Omaha some years ago the head of the Center of Concern said that one can still be “pro-life and vote for President Obama” because all the issues of poverty were pro-life issues. When he was asked if he had anyone on staff who covered pro-life issues, he hemmed and hawed. Then he had to admit they did not.
I’m also glad the CDF included human sexuality under the social justice heading. It is a social justice issue and it sounds like the LCWR has not been fulfilling their duty here either. The parameters of the social teaching as it touches on the political issues we face is part of why CatholicVote.org started I imagine. All the better, then, that the Vatican’s CDF is being so clear about these matters.
We’ll see what change will look like for women religious in the U.S. and how all of this unfolds, but the upshot is hopefully that faithful articulations of the social teaching of the Church will flourish. Then perhaps we can get rid of the heretical drivel that usually passes for social teaching. And then we can avoid the mistaken view that a pro-abortion candidate that sees abortion as a fundamental right can be the real “social justice” candidate.