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August 11, 2014
Online Petition Urges Pope to End Mandate Against US Nuns
    by Robert Kropp

Despite the compassionate message of Pope Francis publicized widely by the Vatican, the effort to put Women Religious in their proper place in a patriarchal hierarchy persists.

It seems insane for a group of male bureaucrats holed up in the Vatican for the duration of their presumably sexless lives to pass judgment on women half a world away who want to use their religion to help make the world a better place for all. Nevertheless, in 2012, 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), an organization which includes more than 80% of the nuns in the US.

According to the Vatican, “These sisters collectively take a position not in agreement with the Church's teaching on human sexuality.” Furthermore, "a prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith" was noted as well.

As readers of well know, nuns in the US have been at the forefront in engaging with corporations on issues relating to social and environmental justice. "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,” Laura Berry, Executive Director of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), said. “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."

Despite the various humanitarian positions taken by Pope Francis, the LCWR remains under scrutiny more than two years later; when the organization met with Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the CDF, in April of least year, it reported him as stating that the Pope had “reaffirmed the findings of the assessment and the program of reform for this Conference of Major Superiors.”

And as recently as May of this year, Archbishop Müller stated , “The Assessment is concerned with positive errors of doctrine seen in the light of the LCWR’s responsibility to support a vision of religious life in harmony with that of the Church and to promote a solid doctrinal basis for religious life.”

He was especially critical of the LCWR awarding its 2014 Outstanding Leadership Award to St. Joseph Sr. Elizabeth Johnson, a theologian at Fordham University and author of the 2007 book Quest for the Living God. Sr. Johnson, the Archbishop said, is “a theologian criticized by the Bishops of the United States because of the gravity of the doctrinal errors in that theologian's writings.” The “doctrinal errors” referred to by the Archbishop relate to the concept of conscious evolution, an ackowledgement of evolution in the natural world that places the process in a spiritual context.

A grassroots organization named the Nun Justice Project has published an open letter to the Pope, calling on him to “personally intervene with Cardinal Müller...and remove the unjust mandates imposed on LCWR over two years ago.”

“On numerous occasions you have expressed a desire to expand leadership opportunities for women,” the letter continues. “We respectfully suggest that the place to begin is to listen to faithful women who are already exercising leadership.”

The Project has also posted an online petition in which it states, “The unjust mandate forced upon the nuns, which threatens their works of justice, is a prime example of how the hierarchy in the Roman Catholic Church misuses its power to diminish the voice of women.”

“Catholics deeply value the prophetic witness of women religious and appreciate their commitment to social justice,” the petition continues. Thus far more than 15,000 people have signed it.


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