Leaders representing most of the nation’s 57,000 Catholic nuns on Friday (June 1) answered a Vatican crackdown on their group by charging that Rome’s criticisms of the sisters were “unsubstantiated,” caused “scandal and pain” and “greater polarization” in the church.
“Moreover, the sanctions imposed were disproportionate to the concerns raised and could compromise their ability to fulfill their mission,” the 22-member board of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious warned in a statement issued after a special four-day meeting in Washington.
The LCWR board meeting followed the surprise announcement in April that Pope Benedict XVI wanted a Vatican-led makeover of the group on the grounds that it was not speaking out strongly enough against gay marriage, abortion and women’s ordination.
Rome also chided the LCWR for doctrinal ambiguity and sponsoring conferences that featured “a prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”
The unexpectedly strong pushback to the Vatican may be an indication of how much backlash the campaign has sparked among Catholics, who value the sisters’ longstanding ministry in education, health care and social services, and who bristle at Rome’s demands to focus instead on sexual morality and enforcing orthodoxy.
Friday’s statement specifically noted the outpouring of support the nuns have received, from petitions to protests to prayer vigils, which continued to pour in after Friday’s statement from the LCWR.
“We commend the sisters on their prayerful discernment of the Vatican’s mandate,” said Jim FitzGerald of the Nun Justice Project, a lay-led church reform group that was created after the April takeover was announced. “It speaks to the faithfulness of the sisters and the reason why Catholics across the country continue to stand behind them.” [More]