Well, not explicitly, because nuns don’t use use that kind of language, at least in public. But that is how I read the subtext of the statement that was released yesterday following the annual national meeting of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious that represents 80% of the 57,000 US nuns. (Clarification thanks to Irreverend Bastard.) The assembly was attended by 900 of the 1500 nuns who make up the LCWR.
This statement was in response to the Vatican reprimanding them for being too concerned about economic justice and the poor and not sufficiently enthusiastic about enforcing the Vatican’s doctrines on abortion, contraception, and homosexuality. The reprimand was delivered by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), the Vatican’s version of an enforcer. The Vatican has appointed an archbishop to essentially act as an overseer of the nuns and make them see the error of their ways.
The LCWR statement said that they were willing to talk with the archbishop but will not compromise on their sense of what their fundamental mission in life is.
While acknowledging deep disappointment with the CDF report, the members proclaimed their intention to use this opportunity to explain to church leaders LCWR’s mission, values, and operating principles.
The assembly articulated its belief that religious life, as it is lived by the women religious who comprise LCWR, is an authentic expression of this life that must not be compromised.
The assembly instructed the LCWR officers to conduct their conversation with Archbishop Sartain from a stance of deep prayer that values mutual respect, careful listening and open dialogue. The officers will proceed with these discussions as long as possible, but will reconsider if LCWR is forced to compromise the integrity of its mission.
The members reiterated the importance and value of LCWR’s mission to its members and its role as a voice for justice in the world. They urged the officers not to allow the work with CDF to absorb the time, energy, and resources of the conference nor to let it distract the conference from the work its mission requires.
In other words, try to push them too far and they will walk away from the negotiating table.
The Vatican will lose a public relations battle with nuns. They have no hope of winning the hearts and minds of parishioners and seem to have backed themselves into a corner where their only options are to crack down hard on the dissenting nuns or make a humiliating retreat.