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Catholic nuns gather to discern path forward

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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Bill Dilworth

Clint, to say that Barbara Marx Hubbard is a terrible choice of keynote speaker seems like a bad case of understatement. It’s not only a bad way to stare down the Magisterium, but her particular form of woo-woo (with a heaping serving of hooey on the side) seems designed to damage their credibility in general.

Clint Davis

I’m all for the nuns, go nuns go and all that, but I find it a terrible idea to have booked Barbara Marx Hubbard as their keynote speaker:

I mean, if you’re looking to face down the Roman Magisterium, this ain’t the way to do it, sisters.


There is an article in Sojourners ( about the women’s religious meeting in St. Louis. The Vatican’s demands are just one issue they are facing. The other is whether or not they have a future, period. (“Do The American Nuns Have a Future?”)

RC nuns stand at about 56,000; in 1965, they stood at 186,000 or so. No order is experiencing anything like growth, Vatican claims to the contrary. The two organizations of nuns – the liberal one and the conservative one – experience the same number of new memebers and the same drop-out rate. (see article for details).

Women continue to approach parity with men in most fields outside of the RCC, so their options for a future are far greater than 50 years ago…except in the RCC. They are still second-class citizens in their own denomination. Traditionally, they have escaped this paternalism via religious orders, which essentially ran themselves, separate from the all-man hierarchy of the RCC. The current crowd in the Vatican want to change that.

Kevin McGrane

Leslie Scoopmire

The nuns focus on the message of the gospel. Jesus had plenty to say about social justice, charity, and the Kingdom of Heaven. But I have yet to have anyone point out Jesus’ words about contraception or abortion.


Sorry, forgot my signature.

– Eric Bonetti

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