May 15, 2012
ICCR Responds to Vatican Investigation of US Nuns
by Robert Kropp
The all-male Church hierarchy apparently wants less social justice work by women religious in the
US, and more outspoken opposition to homosexuality, abortion, and women's ordination.
Readers of SocialFunds.com are surely aware of the work on behalf of social justice performed for
the last 40 years by the Interfaith Center on Corporate
Responsibility (ICCR) and its members. A search on articles posted here will reveal a history
of successful corporate engagements that have improved corporate responsibility while furthering
the organization's faith-based mission to enhance the quality of life of the most vulnerable among
In the last month alone, ICCR and its members have spoken out about allegations
of widespread bribery and corruption by Wal-mart's Mexican subsidiary, and have called for steps to
eliminate human sex trafficking at this year's Olympic Games in London.
Many of the
members of ICCR are Catholic nuns responsible for the investment decision-making of their religious
orders. "There isn't a single justice issue, be it social, environmental or economic, or a single
sector in the business world, that hasn't been positively influenced by the determined work of the
ICCR sisters," Rev. David Schilling, ICCR's Program Director for Human Rights and Resources, stated
in a recent press release.
"Since the early days when our coalition first formed during
the campaign to end apartheid over 40 years ago, they have been on the forefront of this movement,
exhorting companies to consider the impacts - on the planet and its people - of their operations."
ICCR's press release was published in the aftermath of an announcement that the Vatican's
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has launched an investigation
into the activities of the Leadership Conference of
Women Religious (LCWR), which includes more than 80% of the nuns in the US.
sisters collectively take a position not in agreement with the Church's teaching on human
sexuality," the Vatican stated. Furthermore, "a prevalence of certain radical feminist themes
incompatible with the Catholic faith" was noted as well.
When ICCR and its members began
engaging with corporations on issues concerning social justice more than 40 years ago, the concept
of investors guiding corporations toward a role of greater social responsibility was revolutionary.
While investing according to personal values has existed in the US since the 19th century, ICCR's
corporate engagement activities rank among the most influential developments in the practice of
One need not be observant to conclude that the work of Catholic
women religious aligns with the teachings on social justice found in the gospels. "The sisters of
ICCR have had a tremendous impact on our organization's ability to be prescient, often seeing the
risks and hearing of the injustices way before they hit the headlines," said Kathryn McCloskey,
Vice Chair of ICCR.
One does not need to be overly cynical either, to observe that
attacking nuns for their social justice work serves as a distraction for a Vatican patriarchy
rocked by widespread child sex abuse scandals. It has been widely reported that former Boston
Cardinal Bernard Law, who fled to the Vatican in disgrace following the sex abuse scandal there,
"was 'the person in Rome most forcefully supporting' the LCWR investigation," according to Religious News Service.
Responses to the Vatican's
announcement, by LCWR and even by ICCR, have been cautiously worded, no doubt reflecting concerns
over the power wielded by the Vatican patriarchy. LCWR stated that it would begin
its discussions of the crackdown at a meeting of its board later this month.
conference plans to move slowly, not rushing to judgment," LCWR stated. "We will engage in dialogue
One of the more forceful responses to the crackdown on US nuns came in a
from 15 women who were once members of religious communities.
"There is no room for
dissent," the former nuns wrote. "Women religious leaders need to keep their ideas to themselves
and simply follow the dictates and directions of Rome. Anything less than this position will be met
with censure, public embarrassment, heavy-handedness, and even potential expulsion."
missions of service, education, healthcare, and spiritual ministry are alive through these women
even when their approaches to ministry may change to meet the needs of the people they serve," the
letter continued. "Their spiritualities, ministries, and services are shaped and are changed by the
ever evolving challenges of culture and history."
Laura Berry, ICCR's Executive Director,
said of the women religious in ICCR's membership, "Through their shareholder advocacy on behalf of
the world's most vulnerable, they have earned a place of respect in the boardrooms of some of the
world's most powerful and influential corporations. Through their efforts to redress business tolls
on human rights, environmental health, food and water safety and economic justice, they have been a
cornerstone of our organization's work and are an enduring voice for justice in our world."