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Vatican fist or velvet glove? Sartain meets nuns


Archbishop J. Peter Sartain

Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, charged with getting America’s women religious to toe the line, was making conciliatory talk after a meeting in Rome with Vatican brass and leaders from the nation’s largest organization of nuns.

The session with “Sr. Pat and Sr. Janet” went “fine,” Sartain told the National Catholic Reporter.  “Cardinal (William) Levada and I both listened attentively.  I took some notes, so I didn’t lose track of what they wanted to say.”

Sartain is a man in the middle.  A “doctrinal assessment” by the Council for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed by Cardinal Levada, hit hard at the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) and pronounced the nuns guilty of “serious doctrinal errors” and “doctrinal confusion.”

The Vatican also said the nuns had embraced “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”

The response was an outpouring of support for the sisters from Catholic lay people.  Weekly demonstrations during May on the steps of Seattle’s St. James Cathedral drew as many as 200 people.

The LCWR refused to be cowed, saying the assessment was “based on unsubstantiated accusations” and the product of a “flawed process that lacked transparency.”  It asked to meet in Rome with Levada and Sartain.

In contrast with the assessment’s accusatory tone, and intemperate denunciations of the nuns by Cardinal Raymond Burke — head of the Vatican’s highest court — Sartain says he is about listening rather than judging.

“From the beginning my goal has been to develop good relations with them so the process of renewal can proceed in the spirit of a good relationship,” he told NCR.  “I have not wanted to second-guess them, or to make statements on their behalf, or to interpret anything they have said.” [more]


Seattle Post Intelligencer



  1. Ignatius the Hermit says:

    The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has annointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim a year of the Lord’s favor. (Luke 14: 18-19)

  2. Mickie says:

    Time is on Rome’s side. The 80% of orders represented by LCWR are dying out, and those like the Dominicans of Nashville are growing. (The LCWR pretends this isn’t happening.) Levada & Co. would be better off leaving them alone and let them fizzle out. Who the heck cares? Leave them to their ministries, which in many cases are exceptional. The rest can continue to hold conferences and sing Kumbaya.

  3. Janet says:

    I have heard more than one nun say that in politics there are other issues other than abortion. In recent years that would be most that I have talked to. I attend classes in a convent from time to time so have the opportunity to talk to them one on one. It has to do with liberal social justice and when we talk about justice, where is the justice in snuffing out a life before one breath is taken. That is my main disagreement with the Nuns. Feminism is one thing, abortion is another.

  4. Jo Ann says:

    Would that we could all remember that we have an inherited faith in which we believe that Jesus is the Word Incarnate who, for love of us, was made flesh, was crucified, died, rose from the dead, and will come again. AND, who asked us to love God and one another. To deny Christ, to teach about a “post-Christian” faith is not being willing to pass on the faith we were given. As a Catholic mother and graduate student in religious education, I am appalled at what passes for theology in America today. A little humility might go a long way. BTW, if it is not the Magisterium’s job to point out the narrow path, whose job is it? Just sayin’

  5. joseph Francis says:

    We are living in the post-vatican 11 journey to some form of church for the future in America. In the early church it was said by the non-Christians, about the Christians, “See how they love each other.” Today in 2012 they would say, “See how they hate each other.” Our house is so divided between Arch conseratives, who cling to the past for security, who are so rigid and unbending and the progressive who are open to change and see things differently yet can become so blind to truth and can justify all kings of evil like abortion and Homosexual marriage. Can both sides ever come together? I don’t think so. In time I see the American church becoming like the Episcopalian church in that there will be three branches, High, Low and Broad that will finely have to accept each other, or rather, “Tolerate” each other. They will have to stop fighting with each other.

    • Tony says:

      Joseph Francis, let not your heart be troubled, God is still in charge and will bring this matter to a happy conclusion.

    • David Tilly says:

      Joseph Francis – I agree with your comments. Why the hierarchy does not understand that our Church is being torn apart is beyond me. The reoccuring theme in my prayer this morning was the love of Jesus for ALL his brothers and sisters, and his ability to accept each where they are – not necessarily leave them there, but at least accept them. May God bless all who worship Jesus, no exceptions.

  6. Wayne Macdonald says:

    I’m to the point where I want to turn in my Roman Catholic “membership card”. These clowns in Rome are making me sick in their persecution of women religious in North America. The old men in scarlet and lace need to get a life rather than trying to drag the church back into the 18th century.

  7. Tony says:

    Cardinal Burke acts like a Pompos jerk who is very impressed with himself and reminds me of a neighborhood bully who needs to come down a few pegs.


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