The Vatican and the Sisters

In Chariots of Fire, two of the elders of Cambridge University invite the young Jewish runner Harold Abrahams to a formal, black-tie luncheon, during which they try to dissuade the upstart undergraduate from using a professional trainer to prepare for the forthcoming Paris Olympics. Abrahams declines to follow Oxbridge athletic orthodoxy and leaves in something of a huff. The Master of Trinity (brilliantly played by John Gielgud) sighs and says to the Master of Caius, “Another God, another mountaintop.”

It’s a scene worth keeping in mind when parsing the recent Vatican decision to take into a form of ecclesiastical receivership the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the umbrella association that represents the majority of American orders of sisters. On April 18, after years of study, the Holy See appointed Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle to oversee the LCWR’s activities, supervise the LCWR’s adherence to the Church’s liturgical norms, review its links to affiliated organizations like the political advocacy group “Network,” and guide a revision of the LCWR’s statutes. Sartain will be assisted by Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Ill. (appropriately enough, a veteran ice-hockey goalie used to taking hard shots), and Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo (whose theological analysis of the LCWR’s activities over the past decade shaped the decision to appoint Sartain as the Holy See’s delegate in charge of the LCWR).

Keep reading this post . . .