Thursday, April 30, 2015

Religious freedom is under attack around the world

Thomas Reese  |  May. 1, 2015Faith and Justice


Religious freedom is under attack in numerous places around the world, but it is especially bad in 17 countries, according to a report issued by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
Nine of these countries have already been singled out by the State Department as "countries of particular concern" (CPC): Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
The commission recommends that an additional eight countries be added to this CPC list: the Central African Republic, Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, Tajikistan, and Vietnam.
Another 10 countries were listed by USCIRF as "Tier 2" countries, where violations are serious but not as bad as in CPC countries: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Laos, Malaysia, Russia, and Turkey.
The 1998 International Religious Freedom Act requires the U.S. government to designate as a CPC any country whose government engages in or tolerates particularly severe violations of religious freedom that are systematic, ongoing and egregious.
The same act created USCIRF as an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission to advise the president, Congress, and the State Department on international religious freedom. Every year, it publishes a report on the nations it believes should be listed as countries of particular concern by the State Department. This is the 16th report issued by the commission.
Full disclosure: I was appointed to the commission by President Barack Obama a year ago, but the views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the commission.
Although these countries of particular concern all have serious violations of religious freedom, their causes are varied.
For example, in China and Vietnam, although communist ideology no longer governs the economy, it still opposes religion, especially if it is outside Communist control. Officials fear any popular organization that gathers people together and has respected leaders outside their control.
On the other hand, in Iran and Saudi Arabia, the state is used to suppress any views that do not align with the state's theological orthodoxy. Members of other religions are few in these countries, so the religious police target dissidents of their own faith. People can be jailed simply for holding different views.
We also see countries where a particular religion is identified by some as part of the national identity. If you are not of that religion, you are not a good citizen.
Thus, in Burma, Buddhist militants attack Muslims (including the Rohingya) and Christians from the Chin, Kachin, Karen, and Karenni ethnic minorities. They are discriminated against as foreigners even if they have been in the country for generations.
Likewise, Hindu nationalists are telling Muslims to go to Pakistan and Christians to go to Europe if they are unwilling to become Hindus. For them, Indian and Hindu are synonymous.
In some countries, such as India, the state is not so much persecuting religious minorities as not protecting them from fanatics and mobs. The police often stand aside and watch others attack minorities. Here, politicians are often either afraid of the militants or dependent on them for political support.
In Pakistan, lawyers and judges have been assassinated for defending Christians and other minorities falsely accused of blasphemy. The assailants and those making false accusations are rarely punished.
While religious differences are sometimes at the root of religious conflict, often, the dispute begins as a struggle over power and resources. In the Central African Republic, Nigeria, Syria, and Iraq, certain regions, tribes, or portions of the population felt excluded from political power and the economic benefits of their country.
If the people being left out are from a different religion than the governing elite, then the potential for religious conflict escalates to an explosive level. Religious differences in these conflicts can be manipulated by cynical politicians for political purposes, but bringing religion into a political dispute is like pouring gasoline on a fire.
In Iraq under Saddam Hussein, a Sunni minority lorded over a Shiite majority. After the fall of Saddam more than a decade ago, the new Shiite-dominated government discriminated against Sunnis. Matters were made worse by the rise of the Islamic State group in Sunni areas of Iraq and the civilian casualties resulting from the attempt of Iraqi forces and Shiite militias to destroy it.
In Syria, it was the Sunni majority that suffered under an Alawi governing elite led by the Assad family. What was essentially a political conflict was inflamed by religious passions. In Syria, the Assad government's suppression of a pro-democratic movement in early 2011 devolved into a calamitous civil war. The conflict between President Bashar al-Assad and his opponents took a decidedly sectarian turn as the government targeted opponents from the country's Sunni majority and terrorist organizations rushed to exploit the chaos created by conflict.
In Africa, we have seen tribalism, corruption and an unequal distribution of resources at the root of conflict. What are initially political conflicts over resources and power are inflamed by religious passion when regions or tribes following different religions come into conflict. For example, in neglected Muslim areas, those with nothing to lose find attractive the promise that Shariah will end corruption and reduce inequality.
Thus, in Nigeria, a series of corrupt governments have drained the country of its wealth while ignoring the needs of the north. What began in the north as a regional protest soon turned violent and extreme. Religion became intertwined in ethnic, political, economic and social controversies and provided fertile ground for Boko Haram and civil war, which has claimed more than 18,000 lives since 1999.
The same is true in the Central African Republic. After coming to power in March 2013 to fight economic and political marginalization in the northeast, the mostly Muslim Seleka unleashed a reign of terror against civilians generally, and Christians especially. Since September 2013, militias of mostly Christian fighters have responded with massive atrocities of their own, launching brutal assaults against Muslim civilians, committing mass murder, and driving nearly the entire Muslim population from the country.
For the Christians in the Middle East, one of the ironies of their precarious situation is that they were much better off in Iraq under Saddam and in Syria under Assad than they are today. Likewise, things are improving for the Coptic Christians in Egypt under the new military government, even if in general, the human rights situation is terrible.
The complexity of the political, social, economic, and religious situation in CPC countries should warn us against thinking that religious freedom will improve by simply exhorting religious people to be more tolerant. This is important, but not enough.
As long as democracy is seen as a winner-take-all struggle, conflict will be intense and violent, and politicians will exploit religion for their own purposes. The stakes are simply too high for the losers who will be excluded from the jobs and benefits provided by government.
Reducing inequality and corruption will reduce both political and religious tensions.
Most importantly, the police and the judiciary must be seen and experienced as independent of political parties and religious factions. They must serve all the people fairly and equally. If private disputes between citizens of different religions cannot be fairly adjudicated through an unbiased legal system, extrajudicial violence will continue to make matters worse.
Living in a country where religious freedom is enshrined in our political system is a blessing we don't truly appreciate until we see how believers can be persecuted and oppressed in other countries. Freedom of religion is a human right that needs greater respect around the world. As the beneficiaries of such freedom, we have an obligation to help those who lack such freedom in any way we can. 
[Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese is a senior analyst for NCR and author of Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church. Follow him on Twitter: @ThomasReeseSJ.]

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Seraphim; The Good Shepherd

People seemed to be in search for the good shepherd today. At this morning's children's mass, the First Communion students and their parents answered the question: What qualities do you want to see in your priest?

Here are some answers:

Kindness. We want someone who pays attention to us and treats us well.

Someone who cares. When someone is sick or goes to the hospital, we want the priest to check in on us to see if we are fine or need anything. We want him to ask how we are doing.

Someone who will warn us away from situations in life that could negatively affect our faith while leading us to a place of safety and comfort for our family.

Someone who is good and wants to get to know us.

We want him to be welcoming and non-judgmental. He is to exercise hospitality so that many people can know that the church is their home. We want to be ourselves and to find comfort in our church.


Their responses had nothing to do with intellect, accomplishments, fine clothing or expensive tastes.

When I attended the second mass, the homily was different, but talked about the "Shepherd who has the smell of the sheep on his mind." A priest is credible if he is one with the people and can call them to higher endeavors.

After the mass, I noticed the congregation seemed very happy and engaged. Many wanted blessings; some hugged one another; everyone seemed very happy - and they seemed happy with me. I even heard a couple of confessions - reminding me that I must become more proficient in the language. I am much more comfortable; so are they! Somehow, the grace of God is making this work.

While the day was tiring, a Jesuit friend and I attended a concert in Harvard Square called: Jerusalem: Holy, Disputed, Lamented. It was the balm for my frenetic morning. It was the best value that $20.00 could buy. The quality of the concert merited a $100.00 admission fee. It was that peaceful and inspirational.

The program featured the renowned Seraphim Singers, led by Jennifer Lester, and Kol Arev, the Chamber Choir of Hebrew College, led by Amy Lieberman and Lynn Torgrove. The program began with selections from Biblical texts on Jerusalem, incorporated choral music from modern Jerusalem, and established a framework for peace in A New Jerusalem.

While the songs began strong and hearkened back to the prophets and psalms, the program took on increased intensity and shape. The first part included texts from Isaiah 60, Jeremiah's Lamentations, songs from the Exile, Psalm 21, and poetic descriptions of Holy Jerusalem. The climax seemed to be Avner Dorman's "The Seventy Names of Jerusalem," but the program still intensified. The lyrical enunciation of "V'lirusholayim Ir'cho" was especially haunting and mystical. The program nicely wrapped up with Aaron Copland's "Zion's Walls."

Peacefulness. Sadness. Inspiration. Amazement. Hope. Illuminating. Moving. Joyous.

I wish you all had joined us.

Monday, April 20, 2015

A Day of Smiles

Mass yesterday seemed very relaxed for everyone. I have found a way to engage more with the people by planning beforehand. Rather than be taken aback by words I don't quite understand, I write out what I would like to say to them before I get to mass. I feel like I am allowing the fullness of my priestly style to take effect.

As mass began, I welcome visitors to the service and then I asked people to greet one another. They were so happy to do so. Then I told them I bought some language programs to help me with the language and they erupted into applause. I also brought some goodies for the end of mass.

People just seemed happy. Even the guys who seemed distant because I was learning the language fast enough were very social with me. Even the church was decorated in Pentecost furnishings. The Franciscans who reside in the parish suggested to me that they take over the Spanish masses since they are fluent, but both I am the people are reluctant to make a change because we are fond of one another. They certainly would be better homilies if the Franciscans took it over, but I think they are enjoying the spirit of the parish right now. These Franciscans try to live as Francis did - no bed, no shoes (sandals are OK), and very strict adherence to church catechism.

After mass I was told that I had to baptize two children. Surprise! As I did that, one of the church leaders said, "Father, you are the only priest who speaks only in Spanish. Some people here do not know Spanish. Can you insert some English into the homily and baptism?" What a great gift he gave me. I can be free to translate what I mean. It allows me to relax and simply pray at mass.

When I baptized the two young girls, I doused them with the holy water and oils. A couple gasped and then laughed. Then everyone laughed. They said, "Father John likes to get people wet. Remember the sprinkling at Easter?" They laughed more.

So, we laughed and smiled and all was well.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Catholic bishops should learn from the Mormons

Thomas Reese  |  Apr. 17, 2015Faith and Justice

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE. To be posted Friday AMhttp://ncronline.org/node/100406
The U.S. Catholic bishops could take a lesson from Mormon leaders on how to deal with religious liberty and gay rights.
The Mormons have been strong allies of the Catholic bishops in the fight against gay marriage and the protection of religious freedom. But when the Mormons saw they were on the losing side in this fight, they were willing to compromise to protect what they considered essential.

Like the Catholic church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints respects tradition and does not change teaching easily. But Mormons do have a pragmatic side. With the entire nation aligned against them in 1896, they gave up on polygamy as part of a deal to get statehood for Utah. When they see that they are losing, they are willing to make compromises.
In addition, Mormons, like Catholics, are in principle opposed to discrimination, so they wanted to find a way to do the right thing while at the same time protecting their institutions. They did not want to be identified in the public's mind as simply anti-gay.
The Mormon leadership began to rethink their political strategy (but not their theology) after California's Proposition 8 first succeeded in banning gay marriage in California in 2008 and then was overturned by a federal court in 2010. The Mormons had partnered with the Catholic bishops in spending millions of dollars in a bitter fight over the proposition, but they ultimately lost. They, like the U.S. bishops, had been pilloried nationwide for their opposition to gay marriage.

In 2013, the issue arrived in their backyard when a federal court overturned a Utah law banning gay marriage. The Mormon leadership concluded that fighting an interminable but losing battle against gay rights was not good for the church. Better to compromise now than lose everything in the future.

Even before the Utah law was overturned, secret meetings began between church leaders and the LGBT community, according. These meetings included Utah Sen. Jim Dabakis, a Democrat and the state's only openly gay legislator, and Michael Purdy, an LDS lobbyist.

The legislation, signed into law by Republican Gov. Gary Herbert in March, adds sexual orientation to the list of protected classes against whom employers and landlords cannot discriminate. Utah had never had a law outlawing discrimination against gays.
But the bill exempts faith-based schools, hospitals and organizations. It also protects individuals who express their views at work as long as they are not harassing anyone. Gay rights leaders were willing to accept these exemptions in order to get protection against discrimination in housing and employment.
Meanwhile, legislation to protect religious freedom ran into trouble in Indiana and Georgia. These proposals were more expansive than Religious Freedom Restoration Acts passed in other states and were seen by the gay community as last-ditch attempts to protect discrimination. The proposals could not withstand opposition not just from gays, but also from the business community.

The lesson, according to Jonathan Rauch, a supporter of gay marriage and a fellow at the Brookings Institution, is that "the days of the unilateral Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) are over. The best way to move forward on religious liberty is in tandem with some form of gay rights, anti-discrimination laws and not in isolation from it or in opposition to it."
The country is presented with a choice of two models, Rauch said:
There is a Utah model, which can produce a win-win and a consensus outcome and can leave everybody feeling more protected and safer to live according to the lights of their conscience. And then you got the Indiana model, which heightens the contentiousness and to my mind hurts both sides, but especially hurts the religious side. It sets up religious liberty to look like an excuse to discriminate.
The Catholic bishops could learn from the Mormons, who saw which way the country was going and found a way to live with it.
Rauch said he thought it was too late for compromise between religious leaders and the gay community, but Utah proved him wrong. He said he feared that gay organizations would be unwilling to come to the table.
"Utah bought us an extra year or two by showing how it can be done," Rauch said. "If Utah hadn't happened and you had seen one, two or three more of these state mini-RFRA go through or go close to going through with the support of Catholics and Evangelicals, I think it might well have been too late."
Prior to Utah, the gay community saw the state movement for new religious liberty laws as a last-ditch effort to make sure it was legal to discriminate against them. In that case, "gay people would have thrown up their hands and said, 'Look, they have weaponized religious liberty,' " Rauch said.
On the other hand, "you can still get the gay rights side to the table into negotiations to do some stuff that involves a real stretch on the gay rights side," Rauch said, "if there is a brass ring to grab at, namely some more protection against discrimination."
The Mormons have shown that if protection of religious liberty is combined with an expansion of protection of gays from discrimination, then a deal is possible.
Will the Catholic bishops learn from the Mormons?
The Catholic diocese of Salt Lake City was not part of the negotiations over the legislation, but it had for the last two years supported nondiscrimination legislation in the state. According to Jean Hill, the diocese's lobbyist, the diocese supported the legislation at the conclusion of the process when it was being voted on by the legislature and going to the governor for his signature.
After the legislation was signed into law, the diocese issued a statement saying that the legislation ensures "that all people in Utah have equal access to at least two essential services -- housing and employment -- while also protecting religious freedom."
"The teachings of our church are clear -- God loves each of us, regardless of, or perhaps because of, our flaws, sins or failings," the statement continued. "If we believe we are all created and loved by our God, we can do nothing less than support a bill that protects individuals from discrimination when seeking a place to live or a means of supporting themselves. The bill strikes a fair and just balance between providing for these basic needs and protecting the rights of people of faith to exercise their beliefs."
Hill said she believes Utah is a good model for the rest of the country. "For us it was just a matter of it reflected our belief that we don't discriminate against people," she said. "It doesn't force us to do anything that we wouldn't be able to live with nor does is force any other person of faith to do what they wouldn't be able live with."
For her, the key to its success was that "it involved all of the stakeholders and it really did try to create a good balance." It does not work, she said, if "people are just staking out their positions and neither side is willing to really come to the table and talk about how to make this work."
Time is running out for the bishops. They need to take the initiative in supporting legislation banning discrimination against gays while protecting their religious liberty concerns. They have to stop being simply negative. Too much of their talk is legalistic when it should be pastoral. They need to speak like pastors. They need to sit down with gay rights leaders and try to work out a deal.

In addition, the bishops need to make clear that while a priest cannot officiate at a gay wedding, there is nothing morally wrong with a Catholic florist, photographer, or baker serving a gay marriage. It's a job, not a blessing. On the other hand, while there is no excuse for exempting nonreligious corporations from discrimination, gay activists should be willing to be generous in exempting individuals who would be wet blankets at their weddings anyway.
No matter what kind of exemptions are provided to church institutions, the bishops still need to rethink their attitude toward their gay employees. It is totally inconsistent to punish gays for violating the church's teaching on sex if the church does not also punish heterosexual employees for sexual sins.
The church employs Catholics and others who have been divorced and remarried, and it even gives benefits to their new spouses. Church institutions also do not normally fire unmarried employees who are having sex. No one thinks that these actions by the church imply its endorsement of its employees' lifestyles. Treating gay employees the same as heterosexual employees would not make people think the church has changed its teaching. 
It is time for bishops to stand up and say, "There is nothing Christ like about discriminating against gay people, firing them from their jobs, turning them down for housing, so let's work to protect them, and let's also get some of the protections we need." It is time for the bishops to follow the Mormons. 
[Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese is a senior analyst for NCR and author of Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church. Follow him on Twitter: @ThomasReeseSJ.]

Vatican ends controversial three-year oversight of US sisters' leaders


  • Pope Francis meets with representatives of the U.S. Leadership Conference of Women Religious in his library in the Apostolic Palace on Thursday at the Vatican. (CNS/L'Osservatore Romano)
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VATICAN CITY
A controversial three-year program of Vatican oversight of the main leadership group of U.S. Catholic sisters has come to a curt and unexpected end, with the sisters and the church's doctrinal office announcing that the goal of the oversight "has been accomplished."
The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has accepted a final report of the doctrinal assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, "marking the conclusion" of the oversight, the Vatican announced Thursday.
The lengthy process saw the Vatican issue what the sisters called unsubstantiated sharp critiques of their work and life while appointing Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain to oversee a program of reform for LCWR. Thursday's news release says the Vatican and the sisters both noted the "spirit of cooperation" of the ordeal.
The end of the mandate, the Vatican release says, came in a meeting Thursday morning between LCWR officers, Sartain, and officials of the Vatican's doctrinal congregation. Sartain and the LCWR officers presented a joint report on the implementation of the mandate, which the doctrinal congregation approved.
LCWR leaders also had a 50-minute meeting with Pope Francis later Thursday during their annual visit to Rome to visit Vatican offices.
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LCWR president Immaculate Heart of Mary Sr. Sharon Holland said in a statement that the oversight process brought the sisters and the Vatican to "deeper understandings of one another's experiences, roles, responsibilities, and hopes for the Church and the people it serves."
"We learned that what we hold in common is much greater than any of our differences," Holland said.
Cardinal Gerhard Muller, the prefect of the Vatican doctrinal congregation, said in a statement that his congregation is "confident that LCWR has made clear its mission to support its member Institutes by fostering a vision of religious life that is centered on the Person of Jesus Christ and is rooted in the Tradition of the Church."
LCWR issued a statement about the papal meeting, saying the opportunity "allowed us to personally thank Pope Francis for providing leadership and a vision that has captivated our hearts and emboldened us as in our own mission and service to the church."
"We were also deeply heartened by Pope Francis' expression of appreciation for the witness given by Catholic sisters through our lives and ministry and will bring that message back to our members," the leaders said.
Thursday's news seems to bring to an end what had been an especially contentious period between the women religious and the Vatican.
The period began in April 2012, when the doctrinal congregation criticized the sisters' group and appointed Sartain to his role, releasing a statement that LCWR's work contained "a prevalence of certain radical themes incompatible with the Catholic faith."
The women religious criticized the Vatican's move, saying in June 2012 that it was "based on unsubstantiated accusations and the result of a flawed process that lacked transparency."
The Vatican move also spurred unprecedented nationwide protests of support for the women religious, who many, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, have experience with in their various ministries -- such as teachers, doctors or theologians.
The final report on the oversight issued Thursday by the women religious and the Vatican congregation says that the process has "borne much fruit, for which we give thanks to God."
"The very fact of such substantive dialogue between bishops and religious has been a blessing to be appreciated and further encouraged," the report states.
"The Commitment of LCWR leadership to its crucial role in service to the mission and membership of the Conference will continue to guide and strengthen LCWR's witness to the great vocation of Religious Life, to its sure foundation in Christ, and to ecclesial communion," it concludes.
The final report addresses two main issues: updating the organizational statutes of LCWR and the process for which the group chooses speakers and writers for its annual conferences and publications.
Regarding the statutes, the report notes that LCWR approved new statutes in 2014 that were given a "positive review" by the doctrinal congregation and approved by the Vatican's congregation for religious life.
On the issue of LCWR speakers and writers, the report goes more in depth, stressing the need for such people "to have due regard for the Church's faith."
Stating that LCWR publications "need a sound doctrinal foundation," the report states that "measures are being taken to promote a scholarly rigor that will ensure theological accuracy and help avoid statements that are ambiguous with regard to Church doctrine or could be read as contrary to it."
The report also states that LCWR manuscripts "will be reviewed by competent theologians, as a means of safeguarding the theological integrity of the Conference."
The report says that "a revised process" for choosing the winner of the group's annual Outstanding Leadership Award "has been articulated."
The report gives no details for what processes might be used to review LCWR speakers or writers. LCWR director of communications Immaculate Heart of Mary Sr. Annmarie Sanders said both their leaders and officials of the Vatican congregation have been asked not to speak on the conclusion of the mandate for 30 days.
"When a topic explicitly addresses matters of faith, speakers are expected to employ the ecclesial language of faith," the report states.
"When exploring contemporary issues, particularly those which, while not explicitly theological nevertheless touch upon faith and morals, LCWR expects speakers and presenters to have due regard for the Church's faith and to pose questions for further reflection in a manner that suggests how faith might shed light on such issues," it continues.
The doctrinal mandate and oversight of the women religious group was ordered by the doctrinal congregation's previous leader and former San Francisco archbishop Cardinal William Levada with the approval of Pope Benedict XVI.
Under the mandate, Sartain was a given a five-year mandate to oversee reforms of the sisters' group as its archbishop-delegate. Thursday's news concludes the oversight -- which was announced on April 18, 2012 -- after almost exactly three years.
Thursday's report also tacitly criticizes the women religious on several other issues, stating briefly that attention during the three-year process also focused on other matters, including "the importance of the celebration of the Eucharist" and "the place of the Liturgy of the Hours in religious communities."
LCWR represents about 80 percent of the some 57,000 Catholic sisters in the United States. Headquartered in Silver Spring, Md., it traces its beginnings to the papacy of Pope Pius XII and first formally organized as a conference in 1956. Its members are the leaders of the various orders of women religious around the country.
Launching of the Vatican mandate in 2012 had led to serious and probing questions among members in the group about whether they could comply with the Vatican order, which effectively gave Sartain complete authority to revise their statutes, review their programs and evaluate their partnerships with other groups.
The day of the announcement of the mandate, former LCWR leader Benedictine Sr. Joan Chittister said: "Within the canonical framework, there is only one way I can see to deal with this. They would have to disband canonically and regroup as an unofficial interest group."
Process of implementation of the Vatican mandate over the past three years was opaque, with little public news of how Sartain was treating his role or working with the group.
The only discussion known to have occurred between the archbishop and the group's members came in a closed-door session with some 800 sister leaders at LCWR's annual assembly in August 2013.
At that point, many of the sisters, who were told not to discuss the matter with the press, told NCR that they felt frustration over the slowness of the process and at the feeling that the Vatican had unfairly tarnished their reputation.
The final joint report on the mandate is signed by Sartain along with the two bishops who were appointed to help him in his oversight of LCWR: Hartford, Conn., Archbishop Leonard Blair and Springfield, Ill., Bishop Thomas Paprocki.
Signing on behalf of LCWR were Holland, past president St. Joseph Sr. Carol Zinn, president elect St. Joseph Sr. Marcia Allen, and executive director Holy Cross Sr. Joan Steadman.
Allen, Zinn and Steadman met with Francis on Thursday along with St. Joseph Sr. Janet Mock, who served as the group's executive director until the end of last year.
The Vatican mandate against LCWR was one of two concurrent and controversial investigations of U.S. sisters in recent years. The other was an apostolic visitation into individual orders of women religious, launched by the Vatican's religious congregation in 2008. A final report on that investigation was issued in December.
[Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent. His email address is jmcelwee@ncronline.org. Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.]
This story is being updated.
The full Vatican press release on the end of the mandate for LCWR and the joint statement is embedded below.