Wednesday, December 4, 2013
The Associated Press
American nuns accused of straying far from Roman Catholic doctrine will decide at a national meeting next week whether they should accept or resist a Vatican-ordered overhaul.
The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents about 80 percent of the 57,000 U.S. sisters, will gather for the first time since the Vatican said the sisters have been promoting "radical feminist themes" about the priesthood, artificial contraception and homosexuality. The report, issued in April, prompted an outpouring of support for the sisters nationwide, including parish vigils, protests outside the Vatican embassy in Washington and a resolution in Congress commending the sisters for their service to the country.
The nuns will discuss their next steps in private sessions at the assembly, starting Tuesday in St. Louis.
"One of our concerns is that questioning is seen as defiance. It's not healthy as a church," Sister Pat Farrell, president of the Leadership Conference, said.
The Vatican's orthodoxy watchdog, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, began its review of the religious sisters' organization in 2008, following years of complaints from theological conservatives that the nuns' group had become secular and political while abandoning traditional faith and ignoring key issues such as abortion.
After the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s, many sisters shed their habits and traditional roles as they sought to more fully engage the modern world. The nuns said prayer and Christ remained central to their work as they focused increasingly on social justice teaching, such as fighting poverty and advocating for civil rights.
Vatican investigators praised the nuns' humanitarian work, but said the conference had "serious doctrinal problems." Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain has been appointed to oversee a full-scale reform of the conference, including rewriting the groups' statutes, reviewing its plans and programs, approving assembly speakers and ensuring the group properly follows Catholic ritual.