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Vatican waging a war on nuns

Updated: May 23, 2012 8:17AM



You decide if this makes sense.

There is a criminal trial under way in Philadelphia in which a Catholic priest is charged with attempted rape of a minor, and the priest’s codefendant, a monsignor, is charged with covering up clergy sexual abuse.

There is a bishop in Peoria who recently saw fit to compare the actions of President Barack Obama to those of Adolf Hitler.

So how is it that the Vatican last week issued a decree that American nuns are the ones in big trouble for what they’ve said and done? And the nuns need a tighter leash?

Yes, if you thought things could not get more surreal or insulting for the women of the Catholic Church, you may have underestimated the lengths the Curia will go to alienate American Catholics from a faith they love and from a hierarchy that has compromised much of its moral authority.

In a scathing rebuke, the Vati­can ordered the overhaul of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an organization that represents most of the 57,000 sisters in the United States.

What sins have these women committed? According to the Vatican, these nuns have been too focused on issues of poverty, war, health care and homosexuality. And not fixated enough on what the bishops think is most important — women’s wombs.

These nuns — “radical feminists,” says the Vatican — have failed to understand that the bishops are their “authentic teachers.”

Does that include Boston’s Cardinal Bernard Law who, after obstructing justice in one of the most horrific chapters of the pedophile scandal, now lives in Rome as a prince of the church?

Three bishops, including Illinois’ Thomas Paprocki, have been appointed to rein in the nuns’ group by reviewing its policies, approving speeches and monitoring obedience to — you know — the bishops.

A spokeswoman for nuns’ group would say only that they were “stunned.”

“Sisters will respond with sadness but not fear,” predicted Kathleen Sprows Cummings, an expert on women religious who teaches at Notre Dame.

“I don’t know what the sisters will do. It will take some really creative response,” Cummings said, “but they’ve been responding creatively to challenges in the church for a long time.”

Indeed.

One of the recent challenges was the ex-communication of Sister Margaret McBride, an administrator at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix, by Bishop Thomas Olmsted. Her crime was to permit, as a member of the hospital’s ethics committee, a gravely ill mother of four to terminate a pregnancy that would have resulted in the death of her baby and herself.

Those of us who have been educated by Catholic sisters or have witnessed their work know the hierarchy has never given them the respect they deserve.

Surely, there are thoughtful bishops who recoil at what the Vatican is doing here. Why they don’t speak up, I will never know.

At mass this week, one of the readings was from Acts 5:29. The apostles Peter and John were ordered by the temple’s high priest not to teach. And their response was, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.”

The nuns of this church are doing God’s work. They deserve gratitude and respect.

Not the Vatican’s unpardonable scorn.



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