During the Great Healthcare Debate of 2010, some brave and influential Catholic nuns stepped forward and stood up
for Americans' right to have access to health care. Again, in 2012, that same group filed an amicus curiae
brief with the Supreme Court in support of the Affordable Care Act.
As we all wait for that verdict, the nuns have received one of their own. The Vatican has judged the nuns to "have serious doctrinal problems", among other things, and therefore have assigned them their own man to smack them back in line.
Via the New York Times:
The Vatican has appointed an American bishop to rein in the largest and most influential group of Catholic nuns in the United States, saying that an investigation found that the group has “serious doctrinal problems.”
The Vatican’s assessment, issued on Wednesday, said that members of the group, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, have challenged church teaching on homosexuality and the male-only priesthood, and promoted “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”
The sisters were also reprimanded for making public statements that “disagree with or challenge the Bishops, who are the Church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals.” During the debate over the health care overhaul in 2010, the American bishops came out in opposition to the health plan, but dozens of sisters, many who belong to the Conference, signed a statement supporting it — support that provided crucial cover for the Obama administration in the battle over health care.
“I’m stunned,” said Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobby founded by sisters. Her group was also cited in the Vatican document, along with the Leadership Conference, for focusing its work too much on poverty and economic injustice, while keeping “silent” on abortion and same-sex marriage.
Oh my, perish the thought. Focusing on helping the poor and needy. [cue sarcasm] How could church leaders possibly justify helping the poor and needy when there are abortions to be stopped and gays to hate? [end sarcasm]
Fear not, nuns. The Bishops will save you. They have a plan. It looks like this:
The verdict on the nuns group was issued by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is now led by an American, Cardinal William Levada, formerly the archbishop of San Francisco. He appointed Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle to lead the process of reforming the sisters’ Conference, with assistance from Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki and Bishop Leonard Blair, who was in charge of the investigation of the Leadership Conference.
They have been given up to five years to revise the group’s statutes, approve of every speaker at the group’s public programs and replace a handbook the group used to facilitate dialogue on matters that the Vatican said should be settled doctrine. They are also supposed to review the Leadership Conference’s links with Network and another organization, the Resource Center for Religious Life.
Sartain may have some difficulty whipping the nuns into shape, since he can't even seem to get the churches in his diocese to bow to his edicts.
Here's what feels so deeply hypocritical to me about the Vatican's smackdown, and make no mistake, it was a hard smackdown. Just yesterday, those very same bishops criticized the Ryan budget (and the House of Representatives for passing it), saying:
“Major reductions at this time of economic turmoil and rising poverty will hurt hungry, poor and vulnerable people in our nation and around the world,” the Rev. Stephen Blaire, bishop of Stockton, Calif., and the Rev. Richard E. Pates, bishop of Des Moines, wrote for the conference. “A just spending bill cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to the poor and vulnerable persons; it requires shared sacrifice by all.”
Dang it. There they go caring about the poor and stuff. I don't see a word in there about same sex marriage or abortion or birth control. Just poor folks. I guess that means it's totally all right for bishops to care about poverty and the downtrodden, but God forbid that women should do it? Well, Pope forbid, anyway.
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