In its latest editorial, National Catholic Reporter addresses the situation of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and the Vatican. NCR proposes that we in the Catholic church are "coming perilously close to a point of rupture," and suggests that the health--and continued life--of the Catholic church depends on the willingness of the current male leaders of the Catholic church to begin treating women as equals:
Our women [i.e., American women religious] are the most theologically educated in the history of the church. The differences between their thinking and our bishops’ thinking has less to do with faith and doctrine than church structure and the applications of church teachings and mission. There is plenty of core common ground.
The first step, however, is to recognize that women carry vital insights necessary to restoring health to the “sick” church of which Francis speaks. Without women participating as equals in engaged discussions there is little hope such health can be found.
Even more fundamentally, then, the Vatican/LCWR issue is really about whether the current male clerical decision-making system can sustain church life in the 21st century. Huge numbers have concluded it cannot.
The Vatican’s current path, which excludes women religious from any semblance of self-determination, ostensibly in a spirit of mutual episcopal cooperation, threatens the continued life of the church. Moreover, it is an assault on all women. In turn, it is an assault on all Catholics.
I think this analysis is correct. I also think that the rupture of the church is and has already been underway for some time now, and that the situation of dire crisis the Catholic church faces is less about a possible schism in which many people may leave suddenly, than about a quiet schism in which many have already walked away in silence. An exodus that will continue precipitously with many younger Catholics as long as the current clerical club excludes women, bashes gays, and allies itself to some of the most blatantly immoral old boys' clubs in business and political communities around the world . . . .