Report cites ‘serious doctrinal problems’
The Vatican has ordered an overhaul of the most important group of nuns in the United States after an investigation found what Roman Catholic Church officials called “radical feminist themes” that questioned official positions on homosexuality and the ordination of women.
In a bluntly worded report, the Vatican’s watchdog of orthodoxy, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, found what it called “serious doctrinal problems” with some of the comments and actions by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, based in Silver Spring, Md.
The Vatican on Wednesday named Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle to oversee changes in the group, a process that could take up to five years.
The Leadership Conference, which says it has more than 1,500 members representing more than 80 percent of the 57,000 women religious in the United States, stated it was “stunned” by the official assessment.
“This is a moment of great import for religious life and the wider church,” the group said in a statement posted on its website.
“We ask your prayers as we meet with the LCWR National Board within the coming month to review the mandate and prepare a response.”
The Vatican’s actions come at a time when Rome appears to be reasserting its conservative vision over some elements of the church, particularly in the United States.
Nuns have questioned a variety of church positions, including the ban on ordaining women. In 2010, American bishops opposed the Obama administration’s health care insurance overhaul, but some nuns were very visible in supporting the plan, whose constitutionality is now being considered by the Supreme Court.
In its assessment of the Leadership Conference, the Vatican cited letters from some in the group “protesting the Holy See’s actions regarding the question of women’s ordination and of a correct pastoral approach to ministry to homosexual persons.”
“The terms of the letters suggest that these sisters collectively take a position not in agreement with the Church’s teaching on human sexuality. It is a serious matter when these Leadership Teams are not providing effective leadership and example to their communities, but place themselves outside the Church’s teaching,” the report said.