THE CANONICAL DISCIPLINE OF SISTER LOUISE LEARS, S.C.
After a canonical process of several months, Archbishop Raymond Burke has, today, decided the
case of Sister Louise Lears, S.C., a member of the “pastoral team” at Saint Cronan Parish, who was
accused of four delicts, all connected with her encouragement of, promotion of and participation in
the attempted ordination of two women to the Sacred Priesthood at a local synagogue in November
of last year. Delicts, which must be published in the Church, are grave and external violations
against the Catholic faith or moral teaching. A list of several delicts is found from cann. 1364 to
1399 of the Code of Canon Law.
The delicts of which Sister Louise Lears is accused are: 1) the obstinate rejection, after written
admonition, of the truth of the faith that it is impossible for a woman to receive ordination to the
Sacred Priesthood (cann.750, §2; and 1371, 1º); 2) the public incitement of the faithful to animosity
or hatred toward the Apostolic See or an Ordinary because of an act of ecclesiastical power or
ministry (can. 1373); 3) the grave external violation of Divine or Canon Law, with the urgent need to
prevent and repair the scandal involved (can. 1399); and 4) prohibited participation in sacred rites
Throughout the canonical process, Sister Louise Lears and her canonical advocate have been given
ample opportunity to review all of the proofs and arguments in the case, and to respond to them. In
other words, Sister Louise Lears’ right to defend herself against the accusations was carefully
Archbishop Burke thoroughly reviewed, with the help of two expert assessors, all of the proofs and
arguments pertaining to the delicts of which Sister Louis Lears is accused. He has found Sister
Louise Lears, S.C., guilty of the first three delicts. Because there is a question of the competence of
the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the matter of the fourth delict of which Sister
Louise Lears is accused, the Archbishop has referred the matter of the fourth delict to the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
As a result of his judgment of the case, Archbishop Burke has also imposed the following canonical
penalties upon Sister Louise Lears: 1) the penalty of interdict and 2) the prohibition of receiving any
mission in the Archdiocese of Saint Louis, effective immediately. Interdict prohibits the reception
of the Sacraments. The prohibition of receiving any mission prohibits the holding of any Church
position or the exercise of any apostolate of the Church in the Archdiocese of Saint Louis.
The penalties are imposed for the purpose of bringing Sister Louise Lears to repentance for the
delicts which she has committed and to reconciliation with the Catholic Church.
Archbishop Burke expressed his sadness in imposing the canonical penalties which were
necessitated by the refusal of Sister Louise Lears, even after repeated admonitions, to withdraw her
statements and repudiate her conduct which have constituted grave delicts in the Church. The
Archbishop asks all of the faithful of the Archdiocese to pray for the reconciliation of Sister Louise
Lears with the Church.
The penalty of interdict seems harsh and divisive.
An interdict is really an urgent call to reform one’s conduct in the future. It’s classified as
a “medicinal penalty” by the Church precisely because its main purpose is to bring about
reform in the individual. Having certain actions punished by interdict demonstrates that
certain actions are gravely wrong in themselves and cause deep harm both to their
perpetrators and to others. The hope of this interdict, and all interdicts, is that the parties
will be awakened to their offenses and seek to return to full Communion in the Church.