When in Rome, Speak up for Reality

New York Times
June 1, 2012

The nation’s Roman Catholic nuns are pushing back against the Vatican’s unjustified attack on their fidelity. The president and the executive director of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents about 80 percent of the nation’s 57,000 nuns, intend to go to Rome and fully rebut the accusations that the group has “serious doctrinal problems” and a tendency toward “radical feminist themes.”

Catholic laity immediately and rightly decried the attack as an insult to the high professionalism of the sisters and the vital importance of their good works. To many, the Vatican’s decision to appoint three American bishops to oversee and remake the conference seemed to be retaliation for the group’s endorsement of President Obama’s health care reform. The nation’s bishops were opposed.

It’s heartening that after six weeks of official silence and spirited discussion in the ranks of the sisterhood, the leadership conference is finally speaking out in its own defense. On Friday, the national board said the Vatican’s assessment of its works was based on “unsubstantiated accusations” and a “flawed” review process.

This is obvious to anyone familiar with the sisters’ record of charitable, educational, health and social services work that has also been a badly needed bulwark for the church through the worst years of the child-abuse scandal by rogue priests.

The nuns are asking for nothing more than the opportunity to confer with Vatican officials and “speak the truth as we understand it about our lives,” as Sister Pat Farrell, the leadership conference’s president, aptly explained.

Raising the cry of “radical feminism” seems a particularly dated canard to anyone familiar with the nuns’ actual life and role in the nation. No one is denying their holy vows or demanding the overthrow of the male hierarchy at the Vatican. They are asking basic, nonheretical questions about gender equality in the church.

The same questions are being pressed by the laity, who have been busy organizing nationwide rallies and petitions to defend the sisters they truly know and value.








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