Analyst: Crackdown on Nuns Driven by U.S. Cardinals in Rome

By Cathy Lynn Grossman
USA Today
May 5, 2012

Is the Vatican leaning on U.S. nuns to focus on authentic doctrine -- or bullying them into submission for political purposes?

Religion News Service's David Gibson raised the question in his analysis today of theVatican crackdown on nuns and sisters announced last month. The Leadership Conference of Women Religious is now to be governed by bishops and redirected to focus on battling gay marriage, contraception and abortion, rather than the social justice focus for which it has been known.

Now, further reports reveal, the efforts were pushed by conservative U.S. cardinals in Rome including Boston Cardinal Bernard Law-- who was last in headlines when he was forced to resign as Archbishop of Boston in 2002 for gross mismangement of the sexual abuse crisis.

Gibson has pulled together a look at the figures behind the controversial takeover of the LCWR, writing:

... Vatican observers in Rome and church sources in the U.S. say Law was "the person in Rome most forcefully supporting" the LCWR investigation, as Rome correspondent Robert Mickens wrote in The Tablet, a London-based Catholic weekly. Law was the "prime instigator," in the words of one American churchman, of the investigation that began in 2009 and ended in 2011. The actual crackdown was only launched in April.
The Tablet article is behind a paywall but you can get the gist of it from excerpts at America magazine. Gibson goes on to note:
Law was joined by a former archbishop of St. Louis, Cardinal Raymond Burke, who was named to a top Vatican judicial post in 2008 -- a move that was seen as a case of being "kicked upstairs" because Burke's hard-line views made him so controversial in the U.S.
Gibson points out that dealing with Law and Burke is "like salt in the wound for those who support the nuns."
"American Catholics have not forgotten how long it took bishops to wake up to the sexual-abuse crisis they created. And now they see that the Vatican took just three years to determine that it had no other option but to put 80 percent of U.S. nuns -- whose average age is 74 -- into receivership, an effort led in part by Cardinal Bernard Law," Grant Gallicho, an associate editor of Commonweal, a liberal Catholic periodical, wrote on the magazine's blog.
Gibson also points to reporting by John Allen, Vatican expert for the National Catholic Reporter, who says,
... a senior Vatican diplomat warned his colleagues earlier this year that launching a crackdown from Rome now would play into the "war on women" theme that has been associated with the American hierarchy's campaign against the Obama administration's contraception coverage mandate.
The response from officials in Levada's office, Allen wrote, was that such concerns were "exaggerated."
Meanwhile, conservative Catholics such as Bill Donohue of the Catholic League cheer the move. Theologian George Weigel wondered what was wrong with the Vatican standing for orthodoxy.

At the religion media critique site Get Religion, Terry Mattingly writes of nuns he's known who strayed from from the doctrinal reservation and the new growth of orthodox, habit-wearing religious orders. His headline: Vatican picks sides in U.S. nun wars?


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