Vatican cracks down on ‘radical feminist’ nuns

Published April 19, 2012

The Vatican is cracking down on nuns who depart from accepted church teaching on women’s ordination and homosexuality. Photo: Eyalos

The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has called for sweeping leadership reform of the largest group of Roman Catholic nuns in the U.S., the Maryland-based Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). The body represents 45,000 nuns, about 80 per cent of the total.

Citing “serious doctrinal problems which may affect many in consecrated life” on issues ranging from right to life and euthanasia to homosexuality and women’s ordination, the watchdog body has appointed Seattle’s Archbishop Peter Sartain to oversee the initiative. The congregation outlined its concerns in “Doctrinal Assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious” released on Apr. 18. The report said the LCWR promoted “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”

The assessment criticized positions espoused at LCWR annual assemblies and in its literature, as well as the absence of LCWR support for accepted church teaching on women’s ordination and homosexuality.

The CDF said that the documentation “reveals 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, a question that is part of the lively public debate about abortion and euthanasia in the United States.”

It also said that issues of crucial importance in the life of the church and society-such as the church’s biblical view of family life and human sexuality-are not part of the LCWR’s agenda “in a way that promotes Church teaching.” Moreover, occasional public statements by the LCWR disagree with or challenge positions taken by the bishops, the church’s “authentic teachers of faith and morals.”

During the recent debate on President Obama’s overhaul of American health care, for instance, many sisters signed a statement supporting it, while the bishops opposed it.

The assessment called the LCWR situation a crisis “characterized by a diminution of the fundamental Christological center and focus of religious consecration.”

In a statement, the LCWR said it was “stunned” and “taken by surprise” at these conclusions, noting that it meets annually with the congregation in Rome. “We ask your prayers as we meet with the LCWR national board within the coming month to review the mandate and prepare a response,” the statement said.


  • Diana Swift

    Diana Swift is an award-winning writer and editor with 30 years’ experience in newspaper and magazine editing and production. In January 2011, she joined the Anglican Journal as a contributing editor.

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