US nuns push back against Vatican crackdown

2012-06-01 16:16

Vatican City - The largest organisation of US Catholic nuns on Friday rejected a Vatican assessment that they had fallen under the sway of radical feminism and needed to hand control of their group over to a trio of bishops.

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, whose members represent about 80% of nuns in the United States, issued a sharp statement calling the Vatican's rebuke "unsubstantiated" and "the result of a flawed process that lacked transparency".

The nuns said the Vatican's report has "caused scandal and pain throughout the church community and created greater polarisation".

Tensions between US nuns and church authorities, both in Rome and in the United States, have been simmering for decades as nuns have taken an increasingly independent and outspoken role in politics and social outreach.

The Leadership Conference has aired frank discussions of issues that deeply discomfit the Vatican, from ministry to gays and lesbians to the patriarchy of church culture. Some nuns have made public calls for the church to relax its stance against contraception; others have worked to ordain women as priests, in ceremonies the Vatican does not recognise as valid.

The Vatican also complained that the nuns have focused most of their attention on social justice issues, such as poverty, and have not spent enough time promoting the church's view on divisive political questions such as abortion and gay marriage.

Public support

To bring the sisters into line, the Vatican announced earlier this spring that it would put the Leadership Conference under the effective control of a trio of bishops, who would have the power to rewrite its statutes, its meeting agendas and even its liturgical texts.

In their response on Friday, announced after three days of discussion and prayer in Washington, DC, the conference board called the punishment "disproportionate" and said it "could compromise their ability to fulfil their mission".

The nuns have drawn strong public support in the United States since the Vatican made its move to rein them in. In the past few weeks Catholics have organised vigils outside churches from Anchorage, Alaska, to Lady Lake, Florida, and in major cities including Boston, Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles, as well as outside the offices of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, DC.

Knots of demonstrators - sometimes a handful, sometimes several dozen - pray, sing and give thanks for nuns. More than 50 000 have signed an online petition asking the Vatican to withdraw its order.

The Leadership Conference cited that support in its tough response to the Vatican, saying the board "believes that the matters of faith and justice that capture the hearts of Catholic sisters are clearly shared by many people around the world".

Shaping response

The Leadership Conference president, Pat Farrell, and the group's executive director, Janet Mock, said they would fly to Rome in little over a week to meet with Cardinal William Levada and the US bishop assigned to reform their group, Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle.

That meeting is scheduled to take place one day before US bishops gather in Atlanta for wide-ranging discussions on issues from clergy sex abuse to the federal mandate that all health insurance plans cover contraception.

Following their discussions in Rome, the nuns will convene a national convention in St Louis in August to further shape their response to the Vatican.

"This response shows Catholic sisters are not backing down from their social justice mission and are handling a troubling situation with great dignity," said John Gehring, the Catholic program director for Faith in Public Life, a liberal advocacy group.

  • Bruce - 2012-06-01 17:41

    Good for the women! I am not a catholic, but I salute them standing up to these .old men with their patriarchal and outdated ideas.

      mark.d.barnard - 2012-06-01 23:38

      Not to mention their overreligious and incorrect theology! I'm fairly sure the Jesus I've read about said and did FAR more about poverty and injustice than He did about homosexual marriage or contraceptives. They've lost sight of the big picture and what's truly important in the faith they profess to follow.

      Peter - 2012-06-02 09:53

      Jesus just didn's just come to this world to feed the hungry, He also gave us a moral code which we should live by. Alleviating poverty is only one of the churches mission in the world, in addition to preaching the truth. Just because the secular world deems certain issues to be acceptable, the catholic church will not budge on these issues, as it would go against the very thing which it stands for, and that is preserving the teachings of its founder, which is Jesus Christ.

  • patrick.saunders123 - 2012-06-01 17:45

    by all means ignore poverty and focus on fighting abortion and gay marriage. Will someone pleeeeeez ban catholicism?

      Peter - 2012-06-02 09:49

      @ Patrick and Mark. Seriously, go and google catholic charities and you'll see its one of the biggest, if not the biggest organisationsin the world, trying to alleviate poverty as we speak. In SA alone, we are the biggest charity at this moment, caring for aids patients. So before you shoot off your mouth, get some facts. As for abortion, it is intrinsically evil, how any sane person can justify the murder of person in the womb is beyond me. This is not a religious issue, its a moral one, which is based on the natural law. Secondly, catholics are the most tolerant of homosexuals of all religions in the world, it however, believes in the sanctity of marriage where there is a possibility of life between the sexual act.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-06-02 10:08

      Peter, To say the RC Church is a charitable organisation is plain absurd. The RCC is run by a bunch of corrupt peadophiles, who STEAL from the poor!! And, most abortions would not be an issue, if this criminal institution would tell their followers to wear a condom while having sex. This pope should be in jail for crimes against humanity !!!!

      Peter - 2012-06-02 11:04

      Generalise much Anthony, hmmm. Lets for argument sake say that due to apartheid we should all paint each and every white a racist bigot. Truelly now, just because less than one percent of catholic priests are considered peadophiles, lets just assume every catholic priest is one. The church preaches abstinence first and foremost, if you ever bothered to read the catechism of the catholic church. Why would someone need to wear a condom when you in a monogomous relationship. Its because of people's inclination to sleep with multiple partners, that condoms have become an issue. The secular world have deflected the church's true message which is abstinence and better yet, having sex within a marital union. As for abortions, since contraceptions have been introduced, abortion has spiked consdierably, so don's try and use flawed logic on this one. Secondly, the churcg hates the sin not the sinner, why would it be so active in taking care of aids patients. furthermore, we as catholics are one of the poorest contributors to the church. It does not care if you dont contribute or not. And as for 99 percent of its priests when they retire, they are the poorest of the poor, because of the vow of poverty the church each and every priest should take.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-06-02 16:19

      Peter, ""Why would someone need to wear a condom when you in a monogomous relationship"" Ok, let me go slowly; Husband and wive are in the nude, they go up and down, no condom, no pill, no anti pregnancy injection=========== BABY!! Now, they either have a family of twenty children, or they abort the pregnancy OR they do what any sensible person in the world should do, "have protection" , BUT that is forbidden by the RCC. Any further details, and News24 will put a 18NSL restriction on this comment!!!

  • zaatheist - 2012-06-01 18:18

    The god hates women. All the Vatican is doing is following instructions. All Christians should commend them for it. "No wickedness comes anywhere near the wickedness of a woman... Sin began with a woman and thanks to her we all must die"Ecclesiasticus 25:19,24 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Ephesians 5:22-24 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. Corinthians 14:34-36 When a woman has her regular flow of blood, the impurity of her monthly period will last seven days, and anyone who touches her will be unclean till evening. Anything she lies on during her period will be unclean, and anything she sits on will be unclean. Whoever touches her bed must wash his clothes and bathe with water, and he will be unclean till evening. Whoever touches anything she sits on must wash his clothes and bathe with water, and he will be unclean till evening. Whether it is the bed or anything she was sitting on, when anyone touches it, he will be unclean till evening. Leviticus 15:19-20

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