Nuns’ leader seeks dialogue with Vatican to plead case

Sister Janet Mock, a Pittsburgher at the center of the dispute between the Vatican and an umbrella group for nuns, is perplexed at the order for an archbishop to oversee her work.

She acknowledges that a few sisters have moved so far outside church tradition that it’s difficult to recognize them as Catholic. But the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, of which she is the executive director, didn’t encourage that, she said.

“I have been actively involved in LCWR for over 20 years and, for the life of me, I don’t know what the myth is that makes it such an ogre in the church,” said the Sister of St. Joseph of Baden.

On Tuesday she will meet in Rome with Cardinal William Levada of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle, who is slated to oversee a reform of the LCWR. They will discuss the sisters’ concerns that the evaluation is unfair.

“Somebody, and we don’t know who, is behind all of this questioning of our organization,” she said. “If we could just sit down with whoever has a question, I think it would be easier. This comes close to maligning the organization, painting everybody in it with the same brush.”

The Vatican chartered the LCWR in 1956. Its 1,500 members represent 80 percent of 57,000 sisters in the United States. Complaints of theological laxity date back decades. In 1992 the Vatican chartered an alternative group for more conservative orders.

In 2001 Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — now Pope Benedict XVI — issued a doctrinal warning about the LCWR. In 2008 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith ordered an investigation. The findings were released April 18 and the Vatican ordered a five-year reform.

The assessment praised sisters’ service to the needy. But it cited “serious doctrinal problems.” It complained of dissent and radical feminism, accusing the sisters of silence on abortion and failing to promote church teaching on ordination and sexuality. [More]


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette