The American nuns who were harshly condemned by the Vatican in April as failing to uphold Catholic doctrine finally responded on Friday in their own strong terms, saying the Vatican’s assessment was based on “unsubstantiated accusations” and a “flawed process,” and has caused scandal, pain and polarization in the Roman Catholic Church.
The nuns issued a statement after six weeks of virtual silence, during which their religious communities across the country mulled over the Vatican’s startling pronouncement, and Catholics across the country rallied to support the nuns. The Vatican had announced it would dispatch three American bishops to lead a complete makeover of the sisters’ principal organization, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents about 80 percent of the nation’s 57,000 nuns.
After three days of discussion and prayer in Washington this week, the 21 national board members of the group decided they could not accept the Vatican’s verdict, and would send their president and executive director to Rome on June 12 to open a dialogue with Vatican officials.
Now that will smoke the Pope’s pipes. Uppity nuns.
Sister Pat Farrell, president of the leadership conference, said in a telephone interview on Friday, “We do want to go and speak the truth as we understand it about our lives.” She said the sisters had been “stunned by the severity” of the Vatican’s pronouncement, which accused them of transgressions that included promoting radical feminism and contradicting the bishops. The sisters were also concerned that the assessment was conducted almost entirely by written communication, she said, with only “minimal contact” with officials at the Vatican office that issued the conclusions, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Among the accusations the nuns considered “unsubstantiated” was the Vatican’s charge of promoting “radical feminist themes,” Sister Farrell said.
“Even large sectors of the church itself have legitimate concern and want to continue to talk about the place of women in the church, and rightful equality between men and women,” said Sister Farrell, who is a member of the leadership team of the Sisters of St. Francis, of Dubuque, Iowa. “So if that is called radical feminism, then a lot of men and women in the church, far beyond us, are guilty of that.”
The Vatican continues to behave like the medieval mens’ club it always has been. The Pope’s flunkies wring their hands over the nuns occasionally hosting speakers who “contradict or ignore” church teaching and focused their efforts on serving the poor and disenfranchised.
Add in support for civil rights, insufficient homophobia and failure to condemn adequately women’s reproductive rights.
They reprimanded the sisters for making public statements that “disagree with or challenge the bishops, who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals.”
RTFA. The nuns are guilty of using democratic discussion to arrive at policy. Even worse, ordinary Catholics are obviously supporting them – yet another challenge to the absolute obedience the princes of the church demand.