ONTD Political

Leader of 'radical' US nuns rejects Vatican criticism

7:25 am - 04/21/2012
The leader of a group of US nuns the Vatican accuses of flouting Church teaching has rejected the claims.

"I've no idea what they're talking about," Sister Simone Campbell, head of Network, a Catholic social justice lobby, told the BBC.

"Our role is to live the gospel with those who live on the margins of society. That's all we do."

On Wednesday the Vatican announced a crackdown on US nuns long considered too liberal by the church hierarchy.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly known as the Office of the Inquisition, issued a highly critical report that accused US nuns of engaging in "corporate dissent" and of ignoring, or worse, challenging the church's teachings on abortion, homosexuality and an all-male priesthood.

'Radical feminist themes'

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), which represents 80% of America's 57,000 nuns, was the subject of a lengthy of investigation led by Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo, Ohio.

The resulting report noted the good work they did with the poor and in running schools and hospitals, but also documented what it called a "grave" doctrinal crisis.

It said the sisters were promoting radical feminist themes and criticised US nuns for challenging the bishops, who it said were "the church's authentic teachers of faith and morals".

The Archbishop of Seattle, Peter Sartain, is to lead a reform of the LCWR.

This will include a review of ties between it and its close partner, Network, a social justice organisation involved in healthcare and poverty programmes.

Network was singled out for criticism in the report for "being silent on the right to life" and other "crucial issues" to the church.

Sister Campbell suggested that her organisation's vocal support for President Barack Obama's healthcare bill was behind the slapdown.

"There's a strong connection," she said. "We didn't split on faith, we split on politics."

American Bishops saw the Obama administration's Affordable Care Act as backing state-funded abortion. The nuns disagreed.

The Vatican said that the mandate to carry out reforms of the nuns' leadership "will be for a period of up to five years, as deemed necessary".

Archbishop Sartain said, "I hope to be of service to them and to the Holy See as we face areas of concern to all."

But Sister Campbell suggested a difficult time ahead: "It's totally a top-down process and I don't think the bishops have any idea of what they're in for."


Catholic nuns group "stunned" by Vatican slap

(Reuters) - A prominent U.S. Catholic nuns' group said on Thursday it was "stunned" that the Vatican reprimanded it for spending too much time on poverty and social justice concerns and not enough on abortion and gay marriage.

In a stinging report on Wednesday, the Vatican said the Leadership Conference of Women Religious had been "silent on the right to life" and had failed to make the "Biblical view of family life and human sexuality" a central plank in its agenda.

It also reprimanded American nuns for expressing positions on political issues that differed, at times, from views held by American bishops. Public disagreement with the bishops - "who are the church's authentic teachers of faith and morals" - is unacceptable, the report said.

The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a "doctrinal assessment" saying the Holy See was compelled to intervene with the Leadership Conference of Women Religious to correct "serious doctrinal problems."

The nuns' group said in a statement on its website, "The presidency of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious was stunned by the conclusions of the doctrinal assessment."

It added the group may give a lengthier response at a later date.

The conference said it represented 80 percent of America's 57,000 Catholic nuns. It is influential both in the United States and globally.

Academics who study the church said the Vatican's move was predictable given Pope Benedict's conservative views and efforts by Rome to quell internal dissent and curtail autonomy within its ranks.

"This is more an expression of the Church feeling under siege by trends it cannot control within the Church, much less within the broader society," University of Notre Dame historian Scott Appleby said.

That includes a steady drumbeat of calls to ordain women as priests, which the pope has reasserted was an impossibility.

The Vatican named Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain and two other U.S. bishops to undertake the reforms of the conference's statutes, programs and its application of liturgical texts, a process it said could take up to five years.


Right now I'm torn between anger and a sort of unholy glee that the over-privileged bastards in the church hierarchy are actually feeling enough pressure in order to warrant a crackdown in the first place. Also, my response to any man who feels attacked or threatened by anything to do with feminism or with women having even marginal autonomy remains utterly unprintable to this day.
jwaneeta 21st-Apr-2012 06:38 am (UTC)
No, actually: she was okay, in terms of having an actual mission and sticking to it. She walked the walk, and so did her recruits. I actually find the slander about Mother Teresa tiresome: the Hitchens-inspired hated of MT is based on a desire to sell books and a basic misunderstanding of her theology and mysticism, which saw Christ in the poor, and ministered to the poor as an avatar of Christ. I've never seen anything at all that suggests that MT's sisters are rancid. (but give it time, now she's dead)

But I can understand why people disgusted with the usual cynical, bloated, poor-hating, cadillac driving religious in the US. I hate them, honestly. I can spot a foursome of nuns at a mall at twenty paces, despite their civilian clothes, and I want to bust them all in the mouth.

maenads_dance 21st-Apr-2012 07:34 am (UTC)
There is nothing inherently virtuous about poverty, and Christianity's fetish for suffering disgusts me.
jwaneeta 21st-Apr-2012 08:15 am (UTC)
It's not fetishizing either: it's about recognizing God, and honoring God, in God's every expression, in reality -- and especially in what human tribalism generally shuns and views as abhorrent: poverty, weakness, sickness. It's also about extending justice and understanding to people outside the tribe, and even going above and beyond that.

To love poverty, btw, is to free one's attachment to illusion and greed, which has done no end of harm in this country, to this day, so I can't understand why you find that disgusting. Greed is horrible.

It is a VAST misunderstanding of Christ's teaching to say that it fetishizes suffering, or promotes social injustice. That's madness.

To say that the Catholic Church is abandoning or perverting that teaching: well, that's fair. They are.
maenads_dance 21st-Apr-2012 10:16 am (UTC)
So Mother Teresa's hospices didn't routinely neglect to provide painkillers to the dying? To triage patients between the incurably ill and those who could recover? Mother Teresa did not in fact say that suffering was a blessing that brought the sufferers closer to Christ? Because I've sure read a lot of criticism of her to that effect.

I'm not saying she and her sisters weren't sincere - I truly believe they intended to help the poor and the disenfranchised, and that they loved their god with all their hearts. I'm saying that I fundamentally disagree with any philosophy which thinks deprivation is a path to illumination.
kaowolfie 21st-Apr-2012 08:20 pm (UTC)
I'm saying that I fundamentally disagree with any philosophy which thinks deprivation is a path to illumination.

To which I'd add depravity as a path, too, since it's pretty fucking depraved to refuse to provide medical treatment to those under your "care", especially when you're receiving topflight care yourself.
jwaneeta 22nd-Apr-2012 01:19 am (UTC)
No, they did not. The basic misunderstanding here is this: MT felt that the poor, the sick, and the suffering were actual incarnations of Christ and deserved to be served and revered as such. And that it was her duty -- indeed her privilege -- to serve Christ by serving him in the poor. That meant relieving that suffering by any means available. There was no deliberate withholding of painkillers. Maybe some times they didn't have any, but there was no deliberate withholding of any of their resources.

The poor were already considered one with Christ, so this canard that she "wanted to make them more like Christ by making them suffer" is just nonsense, and a slander.

I have zero love for religious orders and the Catholic church at this point, but fair's fair. The same guy (Hitchens) who criticized MT for living with her nuns in luxury (!) also condemned her, mere pages later, for living no better than her patients did, and making her nuns do the same.
tabaqui 21st-Apr-2012 04:02 pm (UTC)
This. I loathe the 'suffer on earth because it's so awesome in heaven!!' mind set. How about making earth awesome? What's the harm?
grapesheezy 21st-Apr-2012 05:00 pm (UTC)
Not to mention that I've never met a Christian who walked the walk when she/he talked the talk about not being greedy or attached to material items. Every holiday has turned into a reason to exchange gifts and glut oneself on candy and rich foods. I don't see how someone could be a truly devoted Christian without giving up their material possessions and volunteering to help the poor. /pet peeve rant
kishmet 21st-Apr-2012 09:18 pm (UTC)
Just because you have a mission and stick to it doesn't mean it's an admirable one though. AFAIK Mother Teresa was very anti-birth control and anti-choice, two of the things that hurt poor women the most, so I'm still uncomfortable with the way she's presented as a paragon of goodness.
stevie_jane 21st-Apr-2012 10:55 pm (UTC)
Oh, please. You're going to pretend that none of her sisters ever came forward and admitted just what was going on? That millions in donations that were intended to help the sick was funneled away and people were left to suffer with shockingly bad care.

She was disgusting, if you're going to defend that bullshit I don't even know what to say.
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