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Dublin: 9 °C Thursday 24 April, 2014

Vatican says nuns’ group spends too much time on social justice

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith says US nuns are too silent on matters such as the right to life.

File photo of New York's Cardinal Archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan, greeting some nuns.
File photo of New York's Cardinal Archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan, greeting some nuns.
Image: Pier Paolo Cito/AP

THE HOLY SEE’S main theological watchdog has criticised the organisation which represents the majority of nuns in the United States, saying they spend too much time discussing issues like social justice and not enough time upholding Church teaching.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said the Leadership Conference of Women Religious will be asked to rewrite its statues and review its plans and programmes, including inviting guest speakers, in order to follow Catholic ritual.

The Conference represents 57,000 nuns in teh US, and offers leadership training programmes as well as advocacy services on social justice issues.

The Vatican’s body said the Conference faced a “grave” doctrinal crisis, in which issues of “crucial importance” to the church, such as abortion and euthanasia, have been ignored.

Officials also castigated the group for making some public statements that “disagree with or challenge positions taken by the bishops,” who are the church’s “authentic teachers of faith and morals.”

Church officials did not cite a specific example of those public statements, but said the reform would include a review of ties between the Leadership Conference and NETWORK, a Catholic social justice lobby.

NETWORK played a key role in supporting the Obama administration’s health care overhaul despite the bishops’ objections that the bill would provide government funding for abortion.

The Leadership Conference disagreed with the bishops’ analysis of the law and also supported President Barack Obama’s plan.

Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, said in a phone interview with AP that the timing of the report suggested a link between their health care stand and the Vatican crackdown. The review began in 2009 and continued until June 2010, a few months after the health care law was approved. The report does not cite Obama or the bill.

She later told NPR that the “visceral” report was “like a sock in the stomach” to the lobby. “The idea that Women Religious in the United States is not being faithful to the Gospel is just shocking,” she said.

The fact is that our lives are committed through these vows to living the gospel and while we have amazing richness in the spiritual life, we give up a lot to do this.

Additional reporting by the AP

Read: Pope Benedict’s Easter urbi et orbi address

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