The Vatican this week attacked America’s nuns for spending too much time working to help the poor and fight poverty, and not spending enough time attacking same-sex marriage. The criticism, considered formal disciplinary action against the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), which represents over 55,000 nuns in the United States, also labeled as “grave and a matter of serious concern,” that the nuns are not sufficiently denouncing abortion, Obamacare, and women’s ordination.
“The directive, which follows a two-year investigation by Rome, also comes as the Vatican appeared ready to welcome a controversial right-wing splinter group of Catholic traditionalists back into the fold, possibly by giving the group a special status so that they can continue to espouse their old-line rites and beliefs,” The Washington Post reports:
“The current doctrinal and pastoral situation of the LCWR is grave and a matter of serious concern, also given the influence the LCWR exercises on religious congregations in other parts of the world,” said the eight-page statement issued by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which Benedict led for a quarter century before his election.
The CDF, now led by American Cardinal William Levada, appointed Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain to lead the process of overhauling LCWR’s governance and reviewing its plans and programs and its relationship with certain groups that the Vatican finds suspect.
One of the groups singled out in the criticism is Network, a social justice lobby created by Catholic sisters 40 years ago that continues to play a leading role in pushing progressive causes on Capitol Hill.
The Vatican announcement said that “while there has been a great deal of work on the part of LCWR promoting issues of social justice in harmony with the church’s social doctrine, it is silent on the right to life from conception to natural death.”
It added that “crucial” issues like “the church’s biblical view of family life and human sexuality, are not part of the LCWR agenda in a way that promotes church teaching. Moreover, occasional public statements by the LCWR that disagree with or challenge positions taken by the bishops, who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals, are not compatible with its purpose.”
While LCWR did not respond to repeated requests for comment, Sister Simone Campbell, Network’s executive director, said she was “stunned” that the Vatican document would single out her group, probably over its support for health care reform.
“It concerns me that political differences in a democratic country would result in such a a censure and investigation,” Campbell said.
The Post also notes that the “number of nuns in America has dropped from 179,954 in 1965 to just 55,000 today,” and adds:
Throughout church history, and in particular in the United States, women in religious communities who take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience have directed their work toward charitable and educational ministries — running schools, hospitals, orphanages and a range of social services that have become as much a hallmark of Catholicism as the moral doctrine that the bishops oversee.
Increasingly, however, the hierarchy in Rome and the U.S. is focusing on promoting doctrinal orthodoxy and curbing dissent.
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