The Vatican orthodoxy watchdog announced a full-scale overhaul of the largest umbrella group for nuns in the United States today, accusing the group of taking positions that undermine Roman Catholic teaching on the priesthood and homosexuality while promoting “certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”
An American archbishop was appointed to oversee reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which will include rewriting the group’s statutes, reviewing all its plans and programs — including approving speakers — and ensuring the organization properly follows Catholic prayer and ritual.
The Leadership Conference, based in Silver Spring, Md., represents about 57,000 religious sisters and offers programs ranging from leadership training for women’s religious orders to advocacy on social justice issues. Representatives of the Leadership Conference did not respond to requests for comment.
The report from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released today paints a scathing portrait of the Leadership Conference of Women’s Religious as consistently violating Catholic teaching. The report went on to say that the organization faced a “grave” doctrinal crisis, in which issues of “crucial importance” to the church, such as abortion and euthanasia, have been ignored.
Vatican officials also castigated the group for making some public statements that “disagree with or challenge positions taken by the bishops,” who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals.”
Investigators cited a speech by Sister Laurie Brink at an annual assembly that argued that religious sisters were “`moving beyond the church’ or even beyond Jesus.” Brink is a professor at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said the Leadership Conference had submitted letters that suggest that sisters in leadership teams “collectively take a position not in agreement with the church’s teaching on human sexuality.”
In programs and presentations, investigators noted “a prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”
Church officials said the reform would include a review of ties between the Leadership Conference and NETWORK, a Catholic social justice lobby. NETWORK played a key role in supporting the Obama administration’s health care overhaul despite the bishops’ objections that the bill would provide government funding for abortion. The Leadership Conference disagreed with the bishops’ analysis of the law and also supported President Obama’s plan.
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