A watchdog group within the Vatican said they plan a major crackdown for nuns in the United States, accusing them of taking positions that undermine Roman Catholic traditions and teachings.
On Wednesday, the Vatican issued an eight-page report on the group, Leadership Conference of Women Religious. The report appears to the paint the LCWR as an organization that has disregarded Church teachings and is in dire need of reform. They claim that the group challenges strict church teachings on homosexuality, a male-only priesthood and prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.
The Vatican also said it is critical of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious for making public statements, challenging positions taken by the Bishops, who are the Church's authentic teachers of faith and morals, are not compatible with its purpose, read the report. During the health care overhaul in 2010, American bishops rallied together in opposition of the bill. However many nuns, especially those from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious spoke in favor of the bill, reported the New York Times.
The Leadership Conference is based in Silver Spring, Md. The conference has over 1,500 members in the organization which represents about 57,000 religious sisters or 80 percent of the nuns in the United States, according to the official website. The organization offers many programs geared to leadership training and advocacy for social change on relevant issues.
The presidency of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious was stunned by the conclusions of the doctrinal assessment of LCWR by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said the organization in a statement. Because the leadership of LCWR has the custom of meeting annually with the staff of CDF in Rome and because the conference follows canonically-approved statutes, we were taken by surprise.
Church officials cited a specific example of public statement in the report during a speech made my Sister Laurie Brink, a professor at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. During an assembly of the Conference, she allegedly told her colleagues to move beyond the church and beyond Jesus. The Vatican said in the report that this is a gross rejection of the faith and is a serious scandal.
The reform would include investigating the close relationship between the LCWR and Network, a Catholic organization founded by sisters to lobby for social justice. The Church claimed that both groups were silent on the right to life from conception to natural death, a question that is part of the lively public debate about abortion and euthanasia in the United States.
Network, however, responded to the claims in the report.
I can only infer that there was strong feeling about the health care position that we had taken, said Sister Simone Campbell, the executive director of Network, reported the Associated Press. Our position on health care was application of the one faith to a political document that we read differently than the bishops.
Cardinal William Levada, formerly the Archbishop of San Francisco led, issued the report, as head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. He appointed to Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle to lead the reform effort and implement oversight over the LCWR. Archbishop Sartain will proceed to work with the leadership of the LCWR to achieve the goals necessary to address the problems, according to the report. Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki and Bishop Leonard Blair will assist in the reformation. They led the investigation into the groups.
The three archbishops were given five years to revise the group and implement change that meets the approval of the Vatican. They will also be given the authority to approve the speakers of the group's public programs and revise the handbook that the LCWR uses when addressing issues of the Vatican, reported the New York Times. The archbishops will also investigate LCWR's links to Network and The Resource Center for Religious Institutes, a third organization listed in the report.
Nick Cafardi, a canon lawyer and former dean of Duquesne Law School, said he had worked with many nuns throughout the years and the description of the report does not accurately reflect his experience with them, according to the AP.
I don't know any more holy people, Cafardi said of American religious sisters, reported the Associated Press. I see a lot more holiness in the convents than I see in the chancery.