Vatican questions aims of U.S. nuns
The Vatican issued a statement last week, on Wednesday, April 18, in which it questioned an incredibly influential group of nuns in the United States for views that the Church has deemed incompatible with Catholicism.
According to their website, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious is an “association of the leaders of congregations of Catholic women religious.” Founded in 1956, the organization currently has more than 1,500 members.
The Vatican announced that the group has been promoting “radical feminist themes” by challenging the Church’s teachings on homosexuality and male-only priesthood.
Although officials did not cite a specific example of these themes, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith argued that the Conference was facing a doctrinal crisis in debating issues considered crucial to the Church.
This conflict was set in motion in 2009, when the Conference backed President Barack Obama’s health care plan, which would provide government funding for abortions. The official report stated that there would be an extensive review of the relationship between the Conference and NETWORK, a Catholic social justice lobby group that also supported Obama’s legislation.
In presentations on this matter, investigators on behalf of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith noted that the Conference had portrayed “a prevalence of certain radical feminist themes” in their work.
Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, of Seattle, Wash., has been appointed by the Vatican to head the reforms, which are estimated to take place over a five-year span. As stated in the National Catholic Register, Sartain will be expected to “review and offer guidance in the application of liturgical norms and texts.”
Sartain will work will the Conference to revise its statutes, which will then be submitted to the Holy See, the location of the ecclesiastical authority of the Pope for approval. He will also have to approve every speaker at the group’s public programs, and will replace a handbook used by the group to encourage dialogue on matters that the Vatican considers “settled.” He will conduct this process with the help of Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki and Bishop Leonard Blair, who headed the initial investigation of the group
“I’m stunned,” said Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK. “We [NETWORK and the Conference] haven’t violated any teaching. We have just been raising questions and interpreting politics.”
In addition to the inquiries into the work of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the Vatican has also conducted separate, widespread investigations of all women’s religious orders and communities in the U.S.
The results of their research has not yet been made public.