An American nun responds to Vatican criticism
In April, the Vatican announced that three American bishops (one archbishop and two bishops) would be sent to oversee the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, a member organization founded in 1956 that represents 80 percent of Catholic sisters in the United States, to get them to conform with the teachings of the Church.
In its assessment of the group, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said the leadership conference is undermining Roman Catholic teachings on homosexuality and birth control and promoting “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.” It also reprimanded the nuns for hosting speakers who “often contradict or ignore” church teachings and for making public statements that “disagree with or challenge the bishops, who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals.”
In their own statement, the nuns said the Vatican’s doctrinal assessment of the group was based on “unsubstantiated accusations” and may “compromise” the ability of female nuns to “fulfill their mission.”
“I would say the mandate is more critical of positions we haven’t taken than those we have taken,” says Sister Pat Farrell, the president of the Leadership Conference. “As I read that document, the concern is the issues we tend to be more silent about when the bishops are speaking out very clearly about some things. There are issues about which we think there’s a need for a genuine dialogue, and there doesn’t seem to be a climate of that in the church right now.”
Farrell tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross that the leadership organization is currently gathering the perspectives of all of its members in preparation for its national assembly in August.
“We’re hoping to come out of that assembly with a much clearer direction about [the Vatican's decision], and that’s when the national board and presidency can proceed,” she says.
Among the options on the table, she says, are fully complying with the mandate, not complying with the mandate or seeing if the Vatican will negotiate with them.
“In my mind, [I want] to see if we can somehow, in a spirited, nonviolent strategizing, look for maybe a third way that refuses to define the mandate and the issues in such black and white terms,” she says. [More]