Pope stands firm on reforming "radical feminist" U.S. nuns

VATICAN CITY Mon Apr 15, 2013 11:44am EDT

Pope Francis holds a cross as he leads a solemn mass at Saint Paul's Basilica in Rome April 14, 2013. REUTERS/Max Rossi

Pope Francis holds a cross as he leads a solemn mass at Saint Paul's Basilica in Rome April 14, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Max Rossi

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis has reaffirmed the Vatican's criticism of a body that represents U.S. nuns which the Church said was tainted by "radical" feminism, dashing hopes he might take a softer stand with the sisters.

Francis's predecessor, Benedict, decreed that the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), a group that represents more than 80 percent of the 57,000 Catholic nuns in the United States, must change its ways, a ruling which the Vatican said on Monday still applied.

Last year, a Vatican report said the LCWR had "serious doctrinal problems" and promoted "radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith", criticizing it for taking a soft line on issues such as birth control and homosexuality.

The nuns received wide support among American Catholics, particularly on the liberal wing of the Church, as LCWR leaders travelled around the United States in a bus to defend themselves against the accusations.

On Monday the group's leaders met Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Mueller, the new head of the Vatican's doctrinal department, and Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle, who has been assigned by the Vatican to correct the group's perceived failings.

"Archbishop Mueller informed the (LCWR) presidency that he had recently discussed the doctrinal assessment with Pope Francis, who reaffirmed the findings of the assessment and the program of reform, " the Vatican's statement said.

The Vatican reminded the group that it would "remain under the direction of the Holy See," the statement said.

It was the nuns' first meeting with Mueller, who succeeded American Cardinal William Levada as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Levada, who retired last year, oversaw the Vatican's investigation of the U.S. nuns.

A statement from the LCWR said the "conversation was open and frank" and added: "We pray that these conversations may bear fruit for the good of the Church".

In April 2012, the doctrinal department criticized the LCWR for challenging bishops and for being "silent on the right to life," saying it had failed to make the "Biblical view of family life and human sexuality" a central plank of its agenda.

The nuns supported President Barack Obama's healthcare reform, part of which makes insurance coverage of birth control mandatory, while U.S. bishops opposed it.

Many nuns said the Vatican's report misunderstood their intentions and undervalued their work for social justice.

Supporters of the nuns said the women had helped the image of the Church in the United States at a time when it was engulfed in scandal over sexual abuse of minors by priests. They were praised by many fellow Catholics and the media for their work with the poor and sick.

Monday's Vatican statement expressed gratitude for the "great contribution" American Catholic nuns had made in teaching and caring for the sick and poor.

(Reporting By Philip Pullella)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (8)
abbydelabbey wrote:
The Pope needs to follow the example of the Nuns on the Bus — they are really doing His work — not the men in dresses….

Apr 15, 2013 11:52am EDT  --  Report as abuse
bobber1956 wrote:
Yesterday I posted this little comment about the Popes statement about the CHURCH’S credibility and some added a comment I did not know what I was talking about, well…..”

“Riding yourself of hypocrisy does not mean you change what you believe, do, or say, it means you just get honest about. I believe gay marriage, abortion (except to save a life NOT take one), “special” rights, and suppressing some ones religious beliefs is wrong and I will tell you so in writing or to your face. If you do not like it, too bad. If nothing else I am not a hypocrite. THAT is what the Pope means I am sure. So the secular world should not expect a whole lot of “progressive” changes from the Catholic Church-just more honesty.”

When the Pope made the statement upon his first day in “office” that he would work to return the Catholic Church to its Biblical Roots it was a hint from the Pope that if you want to “predict” what he is up to you need to READ THE BIBLE. Those expecting a “progressive” Pope that will bend to the liberal trends in this world are in for some very big disappointment. He speaks of things like credibility, honesty, honor and God FIRST because he means them. I am not a Catholic nor do I believe (personally) in some of the things the Catholic Church holds to but….one of the things I believe this Pope and I have in common is we are not hypocrites. He means business-GOD’S BUSINESS! He cares more about what GOD thinks than what people think-that is just about as Biblically basic as it gets. Something else he and I have in common. And then agiain I have no idea what I am talking about.

Apr 15, 2013 12:13pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
bobber1956 wrote:

You have that exactly backwards.

Apr 15, 2013 12:18pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.