Members of the leadership of the LCWR

Today as I was driving around town running errands I found myself listening to the Diane Rehm Show on NPR.  The topic was the Vatican and LCWR dialogue that is occurring and garnering much media attention.  I found the discussion and insights of the different guests on the show to be very insightful as they moved beyond a superficial understanding of the issue.  It was a good “give and take”.  Each guest certainly had his or her own particular perspective on the issue but they were willing to acknowledge the valid points of the other guests and did not succumb to the very common temptation of denigrating and belittling the other person and his or her position.  Because of this it was quite refreshing.  (It is always nice to hear mature people discussing an issue.) 

One of the statements that struck me and that I think also allowed for this balanced and respectful approach toward a very complicated issue was when one commentator stated that in regards to Church issues we need to avoid the temptation of thinking in exclusive political terms which tend to divide and separate.  He went on to remind all who were listening that the Church itself does not think in such terms. 

Archbishop Peter Sartain

The Vatican/LCWR dialogue is not about men vs. women nor liberal vs. conservative.  It is a disservice to reduce what is occurring to those stale dichotomies.  This tendency to do so also demonstrates a lack of understanding about the reality of church.  Life and Church are both more than politics.  Sometimes how we view things says more about our own perspectives and biases than it does about the reality of the situation itself.  Maybe people can only see this exchange in political terms not because that is actually what is occurring but because that is how they have chosen to structure (and limit) their own view of reality.   

I would say that this dialogue is about the Church reflecting on what it means to be authentically Church.  In the Catholic Church the Magisterium has a specific role and raising doctrinal concerns is within that role.  In the Catholic Church the Leadership Conference of Women Religious also has a role and purpose as a canonically recognized entity.  But it must be noted that this role and purpose does not put it beyond what it means to be Church in the Catholic sense.  This is what is at issue and from what I have read of the ongoing discussion I believe that both sides are sincere in their desire to authentically dialogue and be brought to greater understanding.

Maybe I am demonstrating my own naive bias here but I believe that the Spirit is at work in this and I think one of the by-products of this discussion between the Vatican and the LCWR could very well be a witness being given to a very polarized and divided society that dialogue and respect is possible.  Mature people can talk to one another while holding to their core convictions and through this exchange be brought to a greater understanding by the movement of the Holy Spirit.  This is what it means to be Church.

Let the secular media and society (very much formed in and fond of the political worldview) keep watching this.  What they witness might very well come to surprise them.