Sunday, April 22, 2012

The U.S. sister act is too hot for the men of the Holy See.

Sister Mary Clare Millea ,
American nuns are pushing ‘radical-feminist themes,’ according to a damning new Vatican report. For the past three years, Mother Mary Clare Millea has been scouring convents, on the lookout for deviant nuns. The matronly American, who has a doctorate in canon law from Rome’s Pontifical Lateran University, was given this mandate as part of a Vatican-ordered investigation called Apostolic Visitation. She has had no trouble finding sisters on the edge, but the nuns’ main infractions weren’t sins of the flesh or succumbing to vices. Instead, the offending nuns were simply speaking their minds. Based on a summary of her findings, which she submitted to Cardinal William Levada, head of the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for a final, yet-unpublished, report approved by Pope Benedict XVI, the vast majority of American nuns are pushing “radical-feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.” But rather than preaching against church doctrine, the sisters are often just staying silent on the hot-button issues of abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, and the ordination of women. Their silence is interpreted as endorsement, so by not speaking out against such “evils,” the report says the sisters are effectively showing their approval. Millea’s report blasted the LCWR for its lack of guidance on homosexuality and same-sex marriage. “Further, issues of crucial importance in the life of the church and society, such as the church’s biblical view of family life and human sexuality, are not part of the LCWR agenda in a way that promotes church teaching.” Sister Rindler believes the Vatican is focused on the American sisters because they tend to be more independent than their European, Latin American, and African colleagues. While nuns in the rest of the world still wear conservative habits and head covers, the majority of American nuns stopped the practice shortly after the Second Vatican Council reforms. Many American nuns also live independently and reach high education levels—all while still serving the church. Rindler says she believes that the hierarchy in Rome is really worried that the American nuns will influence other sisters around the world. “That’s why the men in the Vatican want control, what they see as influence, we see as enlightenment,” she says, adding that some nuns are brainwashed into thinking they are lesser beings than their male counterparts. “What woman truly believes she is not equal to a man?” The Vatican has given the LCWR five years to clean up their sister act or face harsh consequences. Among the suggestions rumored in Rome is that the American nuns must rewrite some of the basic tenets of their organization, considering everything from a more appropriate dress code that distinguishes them from other women to incorporating the church’s teachings on homosexuality, abortion, and the ordination of women into all of their religious activities—even those that are not directly affiliated with a Catholic church. The archbishop of Seattle Peter Sartain has been assigned by Rome to offer guidance, and when necessary, approval, of the work of the LCWR. The American nuns are not pleased. A statement on their website says, “The presidency of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious was stunned by the conclusions of the doctrinal assessment of LCWR by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.” They plan to huddle next month to formulate a response. Sister Rindler believes that without real dialogue, the two entities—the men at the Vatican and the nuns in America—will stay in a stalemate. “I hope we can continue prayerfully and that somehow the priests will have true dialogue with us,” she says. “Otherwise it will just continue to be ‘we’ and ‘them’. But I think ultimately that’s going to be up to God, not Rome.” - Barbie Latza Nadeau

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