Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, charged with getting Americaâ€™s women religious to toe the line, was making conciliatory talk after a meeting in Rome with Vatican brass and leaders from the nationâ€™s largest organization of nuns.
The session with â€œSr. Pat and Sr. Janetâ€ went â€œfine,â€ Sartain told the National Catholic Reporter.Â â€œCardinal (William) Levada and I both listened attentively.Â I took some notes, so I didnâ€™t lose track of what they wanted to say.â€
Sartain is a man in the middle.Â A â€œdoctrinal assessmentâ€ 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 â€œserious doctrinal errorsâ€ and â€œdoctrinal confusion.â€
The Vatican also said the nuns had embraced â€œradical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.â€
The response was an outpouring of support for the sisters from Catholic lay people.Â Weekly demonstrations during May on the steps of Seattleâ€™s St. James Cathedral drew as many as 200 people.
The LCWR refused to be cowed, saying the assessment was â€œbased on unsubstantiated accusationsâ€ and the product of a â€œflawed process that lacked transparency.â€Â It asked to meet in Rome with Levada and Sartain.
In contrast with the assessmentâ€™s accusatory tone, and intemperate denunciations of the nuns by Cardinal Raymond Burke â€” head of the Vaticanâ€™s highest court â€” Sartain says he is about listening rather than judging.
â€œFrom 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,â€ he told NCR.Â â€œI have not wanted to second-guess them, or to make statements on their behalf, or to interpret anything they have said.â€ [more]