July 31, 2012 — U.S. Catholic nuns during an annual meeting next week will decide how to respond to recent criticism from the Vatican, the New York Times reports (Goodstein, New York Times, 7/28).
In April, the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in a report accused the Leadership Conference of Women Religious -- the largest group of Catholic nuns in the U.S. -- of promoting "radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith" and ordered the group to implement reforms. In particular, the Vatican criticized the nuns for making public statements that "disagree with or challenge positions taken by the bishops" and for focusing too heavily on helping the poor and disenfranchised and too little on fighting abortion and same-sex marriage.
LCWR President Pat Farrell and Executive Director Janet Mock in June visited the Vatican to discuss the report (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/14).
During next week's conference, the group will consider at least six options, ranging from "submitting graciously" to the Vatican's demands, to creating a new organization independent of Vatican control, according to the Times.
Farrell said that she sees the nuns' questions on public health and same-sex marriage as a form of faithfulness, not defiance. A document called Perfectae Caritatis approved as part of the Second Vatican Council, also known as Vatican II, called on members of religious orders to reevaluate and renew their mission for modern times, and the sisters said they are trying to implement that instruction (New York Times, 7/28).