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In Blow To Right-Wingers, Pope Francis Ends Crackdown On American Nuns

The Vatican and the American bishops were eager to resolve an episode that was seen by many Catholics as a vexing and unjust inquisition of the sisters who ran the church’s schools, hospitals and charities.
In Blow To Right-Wingers, Pope Francis Ends Crackdown On American Nuns
Pope Francis talks with a delegation of The Leadership Conference of Women Religious. Image from: news.yahoo.com

Very happy to see this resolution, since the whole mess started when a handful of the right-wing American bishops decided they wanted to punish these nuns for being too liberal and uppity and all those other things women are. I was disappointed when Pope Francis seemed to be going along with the program, but no, he didn't. Glad to hear otherwise, since these social justice nuns are the heart and soul of the American church:

The Vatican has abruptly ended its takeover of the main leadership group of American nuns two years earlier than expected, allowing Pope Francis to put to rest a confrontation started by his predecessor that created an uproar among American Catholics who had rallied to the sisters’ defense.

Anticipating a visit by Francis to the United States in the fall, the Vatican and the American bishops were eager to resolve an episode that was seen by many Catholics as a vexing and unjust inquisition of the sisters who ran the church’s schools, hospitals and charities.

Under the previous pope, Benedict XVI, the Vatican’s doctrinal office had appointed three bishops in 2012 to overhaul the nuns’ group, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, out of concerns that it had hosted speakers and published materials that strayed from Catholic doctrine on such matters as the all-male priesthood, birth control and sexuality, and the centrality of Jesus to the faith.

But Francis has shown in his two-year papacy that he is less interested in having the church police doctrinal boundaries than in demonstrating mercy and love for the poor and vulnerable — the very work that most of the women’s religious orders under investigation have long been engaged in.

Ending the standoff with the nuns is one of several course corrections that Francis has set in motion. He has also worked on reforming the Vatican Curia, the Vatican’s central administration, instituting tighter oversight of Vatican finances, and has created a commission to deal with sexual abuse by clergy members.

He has made no changes in doctrine — on Wednesday, he reiterated the church’s teaching that marriage can be only between a man and a woman — but Catholics worldwide say he has done much to make the church’s tone more welcoming.


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On Thursday, that included calling an unexpected meeting with four of the leaders of the Leadership Conference. The four women were photographed in his office and said afterward in a statement that they were “deeply heartened” by Francis’ “expression of appreciation” for the lives and ministry of Catholic sisters.

“He met with them himself for almost an hour, and that’s an extravagant amount of papal time,” said Eileen Burke-Sullivan, a theologian and consultant for women’s religious orders and vice provost for mission and ministry at Creighton University, a Jesuit school in Omaha. “It’s about as close to an apology, I would think, as the Catholic Church is officially going to render.”

Francis has never talked explicitly in public about the imbroglio with American nuns. But he has spoken about creating “broader opportunities” for women in the church, and the value of nuns and priests in religious orders. He is a member of the Jesuit order.

[...] The news came in a brief report issued jointly by the Leadership Conference and the three American bishops who had been appointed by the Vatican three years ago to take over and overhaul the organization.

[...] The friendly resolution came as a great relief to the sisters and their supporters, who had feared that the Vatican could dissolve the Leadership Conference or take permanent control of it, said the Rev. James Martin, editor at large with the Jesuit magazine America, who wrote often about the conflict. “What you see with the sisters is true courage, which is being faithful to the church authority and also to who they are,” he said.

He said that there was no way to know how involved Francis was in the resolution, but that “as a member of a religious order who himself felt under the gun many times by his superiors, he would have some natural sympathy toward the sisters.”

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