Nuns on the Run

An excellent article here by the always insightful Colleen Carroll Campbell that sets the record straight about the media misrepresentation of the Vatican’s comments on the dissident nuns in America (with my comments in red). Sorry about the American spellings by the way!

Catholic religious sisters as a group are rightly revered for their faith and good works. If the Vatican were bullying them, or criticizing their organizations without cause, such moves would and should backfire.

But that’s not what’s going on. Contrary to the prevailing news media narrative about do-gooder nuns persecuted by mean old grumps in Rome, [which, let’s face it, is nothing more than the usual media bias] the Vatican’s recent moves to discipline dissident religious sisters are not groundless reprimands or patriarchal power grabs. Nor are they intended to paint all American religious sisters with the same broad brush.
Catholic officials are free to object when certain writings or actions misrepresent or contradict church teaching. [Surely this is what we expect them to do. It is important that they do this, as they are saving us from being led astray by erroneous theology].
Both the Vatican’s proposed reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and its rebuke of a controversial book written by the theologian Sister Margaret Farley are targeted critiques intended to fulfill one of the Catholic hierarchy’s most vital functions: defense of the deposit of faith. That defense necessarily entails public clarification about what does and does not constitute authentic Catholic teaching. [In fact, this is the job of the Pope; to hold the deposit of faith, as given to us by Christ and the Apostles, until the Parousia].

It’s not surprising that leaders of the conference and ideological allies of Sister Farley would resent such clarification. [It's extraordinary that so called 'liberals' within the Church hate being critiqued, seems contrary to their demands to be heard!] It’s easier to complain about imagined persecution from the Vatican than to explain how the Leadership Conference of Women Religious – which was formed at the Vatican’s request and officially answers to the Vatican – can justify its decades-long drift from fundamental Catholic doctrine. On everything from the sanctity of human life to the centrality of Jesus and the validity of the Mass, the conference has been moving, as a keynote speaker at its 2007 national assembly put it, "'beyond the church' or even beyond Jesus," for decades. Many lay Catholics – not to mention those American religious sisters whose vibrant, growing and overwhelmingly youthful religious orders left the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in 1992 to form an alternative umbrella organization – believe it’s high time that Rome called the conference to account.

The same goes for Sister Farley’s book. [This is a particularly good bit (emphasis mine)] American academics are free to write what they wish about Catholic teaching, but Catholic officials are free to object when those writings misrepresent or contradict church teaching. In doing so, they are serving Catholic parents and students who have a right to know which theological works faithfully represent Catholic doctrine and which do not. 

Catholic religious sisters enjoy renown not only because of who they are as individuals but because of what they represent as a group: a public witness to the truths of the faith and the unity of the church. When their individual actions contradict that witness, church officials have a duty to speak up – even when doing so makes for problematic public relations.[Well said indeed Colleen!]

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