The result is in: now the LCWR must prove it can change its ways

Nuns sing during a prayer service for men and women religious in New York (CNS)

The Vatican and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), the umbrella body that represents most American nuns, have announced the conclusion of the seven-year investigation that the Vatican undertook into the LCWR.

Reading the report, everything seems to be happily settled. But only time will tell if the LCWR will now start acting as a recognisably Catholic body, as opposed to one that is Catholic in name only. While I am sure there are many good Sisters in the orders represented by the LCWR, there have certainly been some who have caused grave scandal and damage to the Church.

Some years ago one of them made headlines when her work as an abortion clinic escort came to public attention. Nor is this all: as recently as 2012 she was advocating so-called “choice” with regard to abortion, and, as recently as 2013, advocating same-sex marriage.

All of that is perfectly fine (though profoundly wrong). It is after all, as the saying goes, a free country. But it is absolutely not fine to do so while being a nun.

The investigation into the LCWR was occasioned by people like this, and is really a no-brainer in its conclusions.

The Vatican is now insisting that the LCWR act in a Catholic manner: in other words, they should do what it says on the tin. What could be simpler?

As one case closes, another controversy rages, surrounding the Archbishop of San Francisco, which presents a parallel case. Archbishop Cordileone recently insisted that those who taught in a Catholic school should act as Catholics and sign a behaviour clause to that effect.

As a result of this, he now faces an insurgency in his diocese from some very well-heeled and well-placed people. But all the -archbishop is doing is asking that Catholic schools should be Catholic in fact, rather than Catholic in name only. He is just doing his job, and defending the faith.

The behaviour of his critics – claiming he is divisive – recalls opponents of the Vatican’s investigation into the nuns. People who oppose Catholic teaching from within the Catholic Church, particularly from within the institutional Church, always feel a huge amount of pain when challenged, and are never reticent about sharing it. They usually ignore, however, the pain they cause to ordinary believing Catholics in the pew.

May God give Archbishop Cordileone strength as he restores the faith in San Francisco. He is certainly going to need it. He is a brave and good man to take on the entrenched interests in his diocese. And let us pray that the investigation into the LCWR will bear fruit, and not just be a purely cosmetic exercise.