I do not expect the Catholic church under pope Francis to change any of the major doctrines of the church such as on contraception, abortion, same-sex marriage, and celibacy. However, given his expressions of wanting to create a kinder, gentler image for the church, I did expect him to back off on some of the non-doctrinal harsh measures that his predecessors had taken.
But at least in one of those areas, it seems like he is just like the old pope and that is in their desire to crack down on those uppity US nuns who have been more concerned about social justice issues pertaining to the poor than opposing with gusto hot-button doctrinal issues such as gay marriage and abortion.
Catholic nuns in the U.S. have been thumbing their nose at Rome’s demands to toe the doctrinal line and they need to obey or face serious consequences, the Vatican’s enforcer of orthodoxy said in a surprisingly tough talk to women representing most American sisters.
[Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith] said the LCWR [Leadership Conference of Women Religious] — which represents about 80 percent of the more than 50,000 Catholic nuns in the U.S. – is dependent on the Vatican for its bona fides as a church body. He indicated that the group’s status, and the Catholic faith of the sisters, was at risk if they did not heed Rome’s directives.
Francis seems to want to have it both ways.
Last June, he told a group of priests and sisters from Latin America not to worry too much if they get a critical letter from Mueller’s office, but to deal with it and move on. The pope also retained officials at Vatican congregations who are seen as more sympathetic to the LCWR.
But Francis also kept on Mueller, who was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI soon after the action against the LCWR was unveiled.
If pope Francis is going to keep on hardliners and not change policies even on non-doctrinal issues, then his words will be seen as increasingly hollow even by some of the faithful.