Who really won? The sisters or the Vatican?” | Ann Carey | CWR blog
The various "LCWR vs. The Vatican" news stories have misunderstood or misrepresented many of the basic facts
A French journalist I know called me for help on an article she was writing about the reform plan for the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) accepted April 16 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).
She said she was confused by all the articles on the topic in the U.S. press and wanted to ask me “Who really won? The sisters or the Vatican?”
At first I was stunned by this win-lose terminology, and I wondered why she would have considered the doctrinal reform of a canonically-erected entity to be a conflict of some kind, with the outcome producing a winner and a loser.
My own impression of the outcome was that everyone won because the CDF had helped the LCWR to be a better organization for sisters by refocusing its role to be “centered on Jesus Christ and faithful to the teachings of the Church,” according to the final report.
Then I took time to read several media stories on the topic and discovered that some of the articles made it sound as if the CDF’s reform of the LCWR indeed was adversarial, akin to “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” or a new “Star Wars” sequel.
Consider, for example, this headline from the April 16 New York Times: “Vatican Ends Battle With U.S. Catholic Nuns’ Group.” Writer Laurie Goodstein then went on to use such inflammatory language as “confrontation,” “vexing and unjust inquisition” and “standoff.”
Several other articles used similar language, saying the reform effort was a “takeover” of the group, and some simply declared that the sisters had won a battle with the Vatican. Miriam Krule writing for Slate called the reform agreement a “victory and vindication for LCWR.”
It seems as if some writers simply shaped the outcome to reflect their own hopes and expectations. No wonder my French friend was confused.
Adding to her confusion were articles that contained downright incorrect information on the topic, making me wonder if the writers had actually read the CDF-LCWR joint final report. Perhaps accurate research is just not their thing.
For example, several articles reported that the reform was ended “abruptly” or “early,” an indication that the Holy See just wanted to be done with the matter.