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U.S. Nuns Crackdown – Why the Fuss?

    May 7, 2014
    Mike Tuttle
    Comments are off for this post.

Why is the Vatican so upset with some of the nuns in the United States? Is there trouble brewing in the sisterhood that has Rome concerned? What could be so bad that it warrants a “crackdown”?

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, or LCWR, is the organization at the center of all this lately. The LCWR is the largest umbrella group for U.S. nuns.

Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, recently addressed the LCWR leadership about the Church’s disappointment in some of that organization’s activities and statements. His comments were based on a previous Doctrinal Assessment, or probationary improvement plan, that had been imposed upon the LCWR by the Vatican.

Back in 2012 Archbishop J. Peter Sartain was tasked with overseeing changes in the LCWR to conform more closely to “the teachings and discipline of the Church.” This action was ordered by Pope Benedict, but has carried on under the leadership of Pope Francis.

But the beginnings of the Church’s displeasure with the LCWR goes back further than Pope Benedict.

Back in 1979, when John Paul II was still Pope, the group asked the Pope to consider ordaining women as priests. The topic was broached by Sister Theresa Kane, then president of the LCWR. She had been invited to publicly address Pope John Paul II during a his visit to the United States.

In a publicly televised moment, Sister Theresa said, “We have heard the powerful message of our church addressing the dignity and reverence of all persons. As women, we have pondered these words.” The Church, “must respond by providing the possibility of women as persons being included in all ministries.”

The Pope did not immediately respond, but the question had made it to the airwaves. The Church asked the group to not ask about it again.

The group was taken to task by Mueller for presenting its Outstanding Leadership Award to feminist theologian Elizabeth Johnson, whose book Quest for the Living God was publicly denounced by the Committee on Doctrine of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2011.

Mueller told the nuns, “It saddens me to learn that you have decided to give the Outstanding Leadership Award during this year’s Assembly to a theologian criticized by the Bishops of the United States because of the gravity of the doctrinal errors in that theologian’s writings. This is a decision that will be seen as a rather open provocation against the Holy See and the Doctrinal Assessment. Not only that, but it further alienates the LCWR from the Bishops as well.”

“I realize I am speaking rather bluntly about this, but I do so out of an awareness that there is no other interpretive lens, within and outside the Church, through which the decision to confer this honor will be viewed.”

Mueller also criticized the LCWR for its talk of “religious moving beyond the Church or even beyond Jesus”. Mueller said that such talk constitutes “a movement away from the ecclesial center of faith in Christ Jesus the Lord.”

In the end, Mueller reminded the nuns that their organization exists at the pleasure of the Vatican, and that they are expected to get back in line.

“The LCWR, as a canonical entity dependent on the Holy See, has a profound obligation to the promotion of that faith as the essential foundation of religious life. Canonical status and ecclesial vision go hand-in-hand, and at this phase of the implementation of the Doctrinal Assessment, we are looking for a clearer expression of that ecclesial vision and more substantive signs of collaboration.”

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  • Shakespeare

    The fuss is because women are thinking for themselves, and trying to further equality and women’s rights….a HUGE no-no with the Catholic Church. See 1 Timothy Chapter 2 : “Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent.”

    • nicecream44

      It has absolutely nothing to do with the fact they are women. It has everything to do with the nuns espousing views that are not in line with the Church. If other bishops were doing this, the Church would respond the same.

      • Shakespeare

        Nice, your gullibility is debilitating. Nothing to do with women? Women being punished for fighting for women’s rights has nothing to do with women? Are you even reading the news? Bishops have had affairs, even children, with women and have had inappropriate sexual relations with men and children…none lost their positions in the church. You are so blinded by misguided faith you are willing to literally turn a blind eye to the misgony and corruption taking place not only in the highest levels of your church, but within the bible itself. I strongly urge you to read Deuteronomy and Timothy if you have any doubt what-so-ever about the clear misogynistic doctrine of the church. Please, Nice, wake up to the reality of it all. You are too smart, too educated and are at a point where your maturity level should be sufficient to stop believing in fairy tails and start thinking for yourself.

        • nicecream44

          Kevin, the nuns are proclaiming views different than the religion they’re in. In response the leaders are telling them to stop proclaiming views different than the religion the nuns are in.

          Male or female, if you proclaim views different than the religion you are in, a reasonable resolution is for the leaders to tell you to stop doing that.

  • ecb

    There is a reason the average age for a catholic nun is >70. A few more years and this will be a non issue. Only orders faithful to catholic teaching are thriving.

  • Bonne Kennedy

    Nothing has not been the same since the death of our beloved Sister Theresa. Many of us are still trying to find balance without her and although we know there is no one to replace her the void is just at times overwhelming. What can we do but pray and hope to be able to do better for it all?

    • Shakespeare

      My goodness, I REALLY REALLY hope you’re talking about “Mother” Theresa. If you are you VERY BADLY need to do some homework. And not just the Hitchens piece…the university studies about her are even worse.

  • stonrdude

    I agree, Nuns are off the reservation and speaking up for themselves. Leave the nuns alone. The are doing more for people and get paid less. Nuns do all the work and priests just sit back. Leave them alone to do good work. They are worth more than bake sales.

  • Paulguad

    Three very obvious reasons
    1) They are females
    2) They actually think
    3) They are intelligent

    Reason enough to burn them at the stake

    • Aleteia

      Good old victim mentality…
      I would add to the list:
      4) They renounce to submissiveness
      5) They are deceived
      6) They do not take into account the teachings
      Obs. some “philanthropists” such as Soros finances Christian organizations to divide the church from inside.

    • nicecream44

      The nuns are teaching things contrary to what the Church they’re in subscribe to. I’m not sure why the bishops shouldn’t say something to them.

      It also has nothing to do with the fact they’re female, and everything to do with what the nuns are saying.

  • nicecream44

    The nuns are making comments that are directly against the Church’s teachings. So the Church is saying, “hey don’t do that.” I’m not sure why people think the Church is out of line here.

    If they don’t want to follow the Church’s rules they don’t have to be part of it. So long as the nuns are in the Church nobody should complain about the Vatican’s reasonable criticisms.

    • Neil Klein

      Religion is about oppression. Why one would join a group that considers them unequal while expecting you to believe in fairy-tales is baffling.

  • Neil Klein

    t’s time to let these stone-age superstitions and mythologies go!

  • http://www.realestateforlife.org/ theisenhomes

    New Age, lesbian, abortion, pantheism, etc.–this is a lost generation of nuns (unless you like this list, then you are simply outside the Body of Christ, the Church)

  • Pam

    Jesus Christ became man to restore man to God’s grace and to show man how much He is loved by God and how a holy life is lived. The Church has passed on His teaching intact for two thousand years. The nuns have decided they know better than God Himself, what is best for men and women. They have rejected His truth. Many people who have all kinds of faults do good works. Doing good works is not at all corollary to being right about anything else in your life. Doing good does not make an immoral or amoral person not immoral or amoral. Doing good doesn’t make a rebellious person less rebellious. If the nuns or sisters have developed their own “faith” or belief system and it isn’t the one handed down by the Church, they are apostate. They have left the faith by their actions.

  • Anthony Montini

    The only possible response that the Church can make in this situation is to excommunicate the LCWR and all nuns associated with it. By their heresy and their open insubordination they have placed themselves outside the Church. It is that simple.

  • gecota

    “…..they are expected to get back in line” This simple phrase explains the issue with the men of the hierarchy in the church. Church officials do love control, and for centuries the easiest to control was women, this is coming to an end and they are having great difficulty with the change.

  • Dan H

    Jesus upset the spiritual leaders of his day. Perhaps the sisters are following his example.

  • Bonne Kennedy

    FYI: I am referring to my own identical twin sister Theresa. Mother Theresa was only a small part of our relationship. (and she was huge).