Legacy of Vatican II at heart of dispute between Vatican, U.S. nuns
Fifty years after Pope John XXIII convened the Second Vatican Council to modernize the Roman Catholic Church, the legacy of that watershed summit that revolutionized Catholic life is at the core of a dispute between the Vatican and American nuns.
In April, the Vatican accused the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), the umbrella group that represents the majority of American nuns, of “doctrinal confusion.” As LCWR leaders meet this week (Aug. 7-11) to plot their response to the Vatican, many of the sisters say they are just following the spirit of Vatican II.
“This is not just about the Vatican versus the nuns. This really is about the future of how we interpret the message of the Second Vatican Council,” Sister Maureen Fiedler told the PBS program “Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.”
Fiedler, a member of the Colorado-based Sisters of Loretto, hosts the weekly radio program “Interfaith Voices” from Washington. She entered religious life 50 years ago, just before Vatican II got underway, and said the spirit of the three-year Vatican summit had a profound impact on how she viewed her calling.
Fiedler became involved in a series of social justice causes, including a 37-day fast in support of the Equal Rights Amendment, and rallies in support of women’s ordination.
“It simply made sense to try to alleviate the suffering of the poor, to end wars, to overcome discrimination,” she said. “That, for me, was Christianity.”
But some critics say many Catholic sisters have been using the Second Vatican Council to justify positions and activities that are in conflict with official church teachings.
“This idea that having this Second Vatican Council and pronouncing that there’s this amorphous spirit that gives us license to pretty much throw the baby out with the bath water so to speak when it comes to Catholic doctrine, it’s simply wrong, and I think we’ve heard over and over from Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI that it’s wrong,” said columnist and author Colleen Carroll Campbell. [More]