Catholic nuns gather to discern path forward

Catholic nuns maligned by the Vatican are gathering this week in St. Louis. From the National Catholic Reporter:

The much-anticipated gathering of 900 U.S. Catholic sisters who make up the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) opened here Tuesday night with song, prayer, and references big, small, and in-between to the Vatican’s attempted take-over of the group.

References to the Vatican’s critique of the group, which came in an April 18 announcement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, came early in the two-hour event, with LCWR president Franciscan Sr. Pat Farrell telling the assembled that “we don’t have to remind you that our gathering this week is an historic time in the life of this organization.”

The opening of the annual assembly of LCWR, which represents some 80 percent of U.S. women religious, also included a welcome by St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson and details about how the group’s members would discern steps forward during the gathering, which continues through Friday night.

In its April critique, the Vatican congregation identified a “prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith” in the group’s programs and “corporate dissent” in the group regarding the church’s sexual teachings.

In a statement June 1, LCWR’s national board criticized the Vatican’s move, saying it was “based on unsubstantiated accusations and the result of a flawed process that lacked transparency.”

Thoughtful commentary on this from Tobias Winright and John Gehring in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

It’s always a mistake to simplify a global church. Pope Benedict XVI offers a bold critique of free-market fundamentalism and challenges world leaders to better regulate international financial markets in the wake of a global economic crisis. The Vatican has been a leader in drawing attention to the impact of climate change and the plight of refugees. Catholic bishops in the United States deserve credit for participating in an interfaith campaign to protect government safety-net programs for the most vulnerable now targeted by conservative political leaders like Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. But these laudable efforts are easily obscured when the Vatican and Catholic bishops lash out at nuns, theologians and Catholic justice leaders who are increasingly under scrutiny from a conservative hierarchy.

At a time when positive headlines about Catholic leaders are hard to find, the Catholic Church has no better ambassadors than women religious. Americans have signed petitions, organized demonstrations and opened their checkbooks to show support to these women of uncommon grace and grit. We stand with them now as they face a trial by fire from a church they have served with inspiring dignity.

Read the entire column here.

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