Vatican to Nuns: Spend Less Time on Social Justice, More on Abortion and Gay Marriage


Fel1ks /

April 20, 2012; Source: Reuters

It’s no secret that Pope Benedict XVI is very conservative on social issues, so perhaps it is not surprising that the Vatican recently reprimanded the Leadership Conference of Women Religious for giving too little attention to the issues of combating abortion and gay marriage in the U.S. What is perhaps more surprising is that the Vatican also faulted the American nuns’ group for, according to Reuters, focusing too much of their energies on “poverty and social justice concerns.”

A report from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith detailed “serious doctrinal problems” with the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents approximately 80 percent of Catholic nuns in the U.S. In response, the nuns’ organization released a short statement on its website, noting that the group was “stunned” and “taken by surprise” by the Vatican’s doctrinal assessment.

The report specifically called out a Washington, D.C. social justice organization, Network, that is operated by nuns and the Resource Center for Religious Institutes, which provides financial and legal resources. In order to rid the sisters of “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith,” the Vatican has named Archbishop J. Peter Sartain to take charge of the Leadership Conference. According to Reuters, the new, male leader of the nuns’ group will be “rewriting its statutes, supervising its meetings, and investigating its relationships with politically active groups.”

What do NPQ’s Catholic readers—or non-Catholics, for that matter—think of the Vatican’s rebuke to the nonprofit religious organization representing most American nuns? –Mike Keefe-Feldman

  • Frida

    I will not give one penny more to the institutional Catholic church. If every woman (and supporting males – please!) took this stance, if every woman religious refused to comply with this edict, then we would prevail. We must resist this oppression, we must call the church back to its true roots of love and acceptance. They are “missing the mark” and we must resist.

  • cassiej6261

    It’s a sad when condemning people for who they love is more important than helping those in need ..I say the pope needs to step off his throne and walk among us mere mortals! SHAME ON HIM for chastising nuns for following the teachings of Christ!

  • Tim

    Aa a member of the Catholic diaspra, I am appalled at the Vatican (once again). The office of the inquisition is alive and well. Totalitarianism is not a Christian virtue, but these guys don’t seem to understand that.

  • Margot H Knight

    One of the saving graces, literally, of the catholic church has been its commitment to poverty and social justice. It’s no accident that the nuns, their hearts like Mary’s have always gotten the message and the action right. This is a shame. The work of man, not a compassionate god.

  • Nancy

    I completely agree with Frida’s sentiments about not giving one penny more to the institutional Catholic church. If every woman (and supporting males – please!) took this stance, if every woman religious refused to comply with this edict, then we would prevail. The arrogance of the Vatican is staggering and to insult the Sister by saying “the authentic teacher” are the bishops is repugnant. I would suggest that they all look back to see who taught them in their formative education. Yes, we must resist this oppression, we must call the church back to its true roots of love and acceptance. They are “missing the mark” and we must resist. It’s easy to see why (Catholic Priest) Martin Luther’s outrage planted the roots of what is now the Lutheran Church.

  • Joe Miller

    I stand with my Catholic sisters who for over a millienia have truly been the shapers and standard-bearers of Christ’s message – to love your neighbor – to love one another – while many of their brethern have used scripture (and interpretation) and their own evil feelings of inadequacy to oppress women, children, and men. I encourage the members of the Leadership Conference to remain united and resolved to continue their work in “poverty and social justice” and to not fall to the misguided and divisive hand of the Vatican. Shame on these so-called “men” who perpetuate centuries of hate and abuse in the World. Sisters, rise up and demonstrate that in these hard economic times your work is more needed by all people rather than focusing on issues which are combative and issues which really the majority of all faithful (Catholic and non-Catholic) do not agree with the Roman church’s male leadership.

    If you must stop your work or even take pause encourage / negotiate the focus to be not pro v. anti-abortion but rather on the responsibilities of creating life and of parenthood; and rather against gay marriage, how about focusing on the responsibility and meaning of commitment. Show the Catholic Church that perhaps their place in history should be the work to reduce the numbers of unwanted children and to decrease the number of single-led families and decrease the number of divorces.

    Stay strong and lift your voices . . . young women are watching and listening to you – their brothers and husbands are as well.

  • Gregory

    It seems to me that we may be on the cusp of an exodus of Nuns from Roman Catholic orders. The leadership in Rome just can’t stand it that [I]women[/I] within its organization should be thinking and acting on their intuitive knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which (a close reading will find) is all about the poor and disadvantaged, and not so friendly towards controlling religious institution. So, once again, the Vatican rolls out the “big guns” to cow those rebellious women. Shame on the Vatican! I sincerely hope that the religious women will choose to follow their heart-led following of the commands of Jesus, even if it means that they become outcasts of the Roman Catholic church. Come to think of it, that’s what happened to the disciples of Christ in the first couple of centuries, before Constantine “tamed” the church.

  • Pat

    Appalling. Unbelievable. Misguided. Arrogant. Oppressive. Misogynistic. Unchristian. Just plain wrong.

  • zasspa

    I’m not Catholic but I went to an all-girls Catholic school (graduated more than 20 years ago so it was a while back). The nuns who taught me had wisdom and grace and love in their hearts. They challenged us, taught us, and learned from us. They taught us to love one another and to care for those who were in need.

    Maybe the Pope and the Bishops should have gone to Catholic school, too.

  • Lisa

    I think the church has surely lost sight of its true mission and purpose. But I’ve been thinking that for some time now.

    This is what the nuns were afraid of last year or so when the Vatican began its investigation of them (aka inquisition).

    The Vatican isn’t the only organization that’s vocally opposing abortion and gay marriage. There are some loud fundamentalists and polliticians saying the same thing, even more fiercely sometimes.