Vatican scolds US nuns again

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.


  1. Al Dente says

    The nuns are more concerned with people than with religious ideology. The RCC hierarchy doesn’t care about people but is fanatical about doctrine. It’s a clash of cultures and since Francis is the boss hierarch he’ll support the hardliners like Mueller.

  2. says

    They may simply decide, eventually, that they don’t need the damn “bona fides”. Which would probably be the best thing to do. There seem to be enough parishes which rather ignore the local bishop, never mind Rome. None of them seem to get anything from Rome, it seems to go the other way. So the actual caring sorts of RC people and institutions should just walk. Leave the crazy conservative/traditionalist/hardliner types behind to stick with the Vatican.

  3. brucegee1962 says

    It’s possible to put a charitable reading on this — perhaps what this means is that Francis only has a limited amount of power at the Vatican. He may simply feel as if he has enough support to get rid of some of the entrenched hierarchy. If you want to be conspiratorial, there could even be some kind of “We got Ratzi to ‘retire,’ and if you don’t toe the line, you could ‘retire’ too.”

  4. Matt G says

    Good. The more they pull crap like this, the faster the pews will empty. They make very clear that their priorities are not the well-being of human beings, but loyalty to the church.

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