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Pope Francis Reaffirms Reprimand of U.S. Nuns

Pope Francis Reaffirms Reprimand of U.S. Nuns

April 17, 2013 — Pope Francis on Monday reaffirmed a reprimand issued under his predecessor against U.S. Catholic nuns and expressed his support for a "program of reform" for the group, the New York Times reports (Goodstein, New York Times, 4/15).

In April 2012, 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 (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/31/12).

In a statement responding to the report, LCWR leaders said they would "dialogue" with church leaders about potential changes but would not "compromise the integrity" of their mission (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/13/12).

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The Vatican's announcement on Monday followed a meeting in Rome between LCWR leaders, Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Mueller -- head of the Vatican CDF -- and Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle, who was appointed to oversee the reforms (Pullella, Reuters, 4/15).

In a statement issued after the meeting, LCWR described the conversation as "open and frank." However, the Times reports that the Vatican's announcement "dashed the hopes" of the nuns and their supporters, who had hoped the new pope "might not want to meddle with women's religious communities" (New York Times, 4/15).

Sister Simone Campbell of the Catholic social justice lobbying group Network, said, "The censure (of the LCWR) has always been about politics. And politics are shifting in the church right now," adding, "We know when politics shift, there are opportunities and there are risks" (Grossman, USA Today, 4/15).