The board of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), which represents most nuns in the United States, rejected a report from the Vatican that found they were running afoul of church doctrine.
They completely rejected the Vatican’s claim of radical feminism. According to Sister Maureen Fiedler host of the public radio show of “Interfaith Voices” to promote feminism is to promote equality between men and women and in her opinion that is Gospel 101 when it comes to a promoting social justice.
In their response on Friday, announced after three days of discussion and prayer in Washington, D.C., the conference board called the punishment “disproportionate” and said it “could compromise their ability to fulfill their mission.”
Sister Fiedler believes this is more than a debate about nuns it runs to the heart of what it means to be a Roman Catholic. The Vatican mandate against the nuns is the voice of the Church of the 19th Century that preceded Vatican II in the 1960’s.
During the time of the Vatican II conference it was accelerating to be a Catholic, the windows were opened and fresh air was let in to the Church. The vision of the Church of this Council was not a dictatorial, but rather a collaborative in nature.
The LCWR leadership will meet with Cardinal Levada, and U.S. bishop assigned to reform their group, Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle in Rome next week.
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.
Joe Murray, Executive Director of the Rainbow Sash Movement said “these women have served the Church faithfully to be treated in this manner is a slap in the face, and calls for a public apology from the Vatican.”
Murray further said “that if membership of the various women’s religious orders was to be standard by which this matter is to be judged, than that same standard should also be applied to men’s religious communities and all the US Arch/dioceses that have seen a dramatic fall off of vacations.
But Russell Shaw, former spokesman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said a decline in women’s religious communities in the United States shows there has been a “serious problem” under the Leadership Conference’s watch.
“I am glad the meeting in Rome will take place, but I hope the sisters are prepared to listen,” Shaw said. “So if the Leadership people don’t accept the Vatican’s analysis of the problem, what is theirs and what are they going to do about it? And does it occur to them that they might need some help?”
Bob Anderson Rainbow Sash Movement