The Vatican Reprimands U.S. Nuns for Being Radical Feminists Who Are Too Concerned About the Poor

U.S. nuns are being taken to task by the Vatican for having The Vatican this week reprimanded the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), the group to which most nuns in the United States belong, for promoting "certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith," publicly disagreeing with church Bishops, and spending too much time focusing on poverty and social injustice instead of promoting a "Biblical view of family life and human sexuality," according to a Reuters report.

In an eight-page investigative report issued by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Holy See cited "serious doctrinal problems which affect many in consecrated life" and worried that the nuns' "commentaries on 'patriarchy' … undermine the revealed doctrines of the Holy Trinity."

Sister Simone Campbell -- whose organization, NETWORK, a Catholic social justice lobby that works with the LCWR, was named in the Vatican's report -- told NPR: "The leadership doesn't know how to deal with strong women."

"I wish I knew what was in their brains," she said of the Vatican's report. "What we do as women religious is minister to people everywhere who are suffering, who are being discriminated against, and we don't ask to see baptismal certificate. We serve everyone we find in keeping with the Gospel of Jesus. That's what we're doing."

"When you don't work every day with people who live on the margins of our society, it's much easier to make easy statements about who's right and who's wrong," Campbell added. "Life is way more complicated in our society, and it's probably way easier to be 8,000 miles away in Rome."

In the report, the Vatican chastised the nuns for not taking a strong public stance against abortion, contraception, and euthanasia, and for making public statements that "disagree with or challenge positions taken by the bishops, who are the church's authentic teachers of faith and morals, are not compatible with its purpose."

Worth noting: Some of these "authentic teachers of faith and morals" are the same ones accused of refusing for decades to report cases of sexual abuse of minors by priests, choosing instead to reassign accused priests to other locations, where more children were molested. The issue wasn't publicly addressed by the Vatican until well after The Boston Globe's 2002 Pulitzer prize-winning series about the abuse and, even then, the Vatican insisted that the accused priests weren't pedophiles but ephebophiles -- people with a same-sex attraction to adolescent males -- and blamed their actions on the evils of homosexuality.

"The presidency of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious was stunned by the conclusions of the doctrinal assessment," the LCWR said in a statement. The LCWR represents about 80 percent of the 57,000 Catholic nuns in the United States.

"The idea that Women Religious in the United States is not being faithful to the Gospel is just shocking," Campbell told NPR. "The fact is that our lives are committed through these vows to living the Gospel and while we have amazing richness in the spiritual life, we give up a lot to do this."

"Pope Pius XII urged women religious, way before I was in the community, to be educated in theology, to get educated in advanced degrees," she explained. "So, we took it seriously and we did it. The leadership doesn't know how to deal with strong women. And so, they're way is try to shape us into whatever they think it should be, not realizing that we've been faithful to the call this whole time."

Though the Vatican praised nuns in the U.S. for their "great contributions… particularly in the many schools, hospitals, and institutions of support for the poor," the Holy See is sending a representative to "assist in the necessary reform" of the LCWR. According to the Catholic News Service, the nuns will not be allowed to choose speakers at major programs, publish teaching material, develop programs, make plans, or work with their affiliated organizations without the Archbishop's approval for "up to five years."

"It's a challenge," Campbell told NPR. "It makes us mad. It makes us upset. May make us wonder about where on God's green Earth all this is going, and why on God's green Earth might just be necessary. But we're faithful."

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