VATICAN CITY — Two days after the head of the Vatican office overseeing religious life said he had not been consulted by the Vatican's doctrinal office about a controversial investigation of American nuns, the two bodies affirmed their "common commitment" to reform of the U.S.-based Leadership Conference of Women Religious.
Brazilian Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, told an international gathering of sisters May 5 that his office had not been consulted about the doctrinal congregation's investigation of the LCWR and he expressed hopes for "a dialogue, something which did not take place previously."
In newspaper reports, a video of the cardinal's homily and a video interview, Cardinal Braz de Aviz was not quoted as disagreeing with the doctrinal congregation's final assessment of the LCWR or challenging the congregation's decision that the group's statutes must be revised. He did, however, say the way the process was handled personally caused him pain.
Cardinal Braz de Aviz's remarks were an unusual example of a Vatican official speaking publicly about the lack of communication and coordination among Roman Curia offices, which many cardinals tried to address during the meetings before the conclave that elected Pope Francis.
The statement released by the Vatican press office May 7 was more in line with standard Vatican practice when differences between Vatican officials become public. It said Archbishop Gerhard Muller, the doctrinal prefect, and Cardinal Braz de Aviz met May 6 and agreed that the media's interpretation of the cardinal's remarks were "not justified."
"The prefects of these two congregations work closely together according to their specific responsibilities and have collaborated throughout the process of the doctrinal assessment of the LCWR," the statement said.
During their meeting, it said, Archbishop Muller and Cardinal Braz de Aviz "reaffirmed their common commitment to the renewal of religious life, and particularly to the doctrinal assessment of the LCWR and the program of reform it requires, in accordance with the wishes of the Holy Father."
Initially, the statement was released only in English. Most of the news coverage -- including the most thorough piece by the National Catholic Reporter -- were written in English.
The Maryland-based LCWR is a Vatican-recognized organization that includes about 1,500 leaders of U.S. women's religious communities, representing about 80 percent of the country's 57,000 women religious. In April 2012, the Vatican ordered a major reform of the organization, citing "serious doctrinal problems which affect many in consecrated life."
During a mid-April meeting with LCWR officers, Archbishop Muller said he had "recently discussed the doctrinal assessment with Pope Francis, who reaffirmed the findings of the assessment and the program of reform for this conference of major superiors."
The statement issued by the Vatican May 7 said the doctrinal congregation and the congregation for religious "have for some time been collaborating on a renewed theological vision of religious life in the church."
The doctrinal assessment of the LCWR, it said, was "motivated by a desire to support the noble and beautiful vocation of religious so that the eloquent witness of religious life may prosper in the church for the benefit of future generations."
Religious life and the passion for justice and the work of charity that characterize the ministry of so many religious flows from their Catholic faith and the doctrinal congregation's actions were motivated by ensuring that the LCWR's activities were in line with the faith of the church, it said.