Vatican censures 'feminist' nuns for supporting US healthcare reform

Holy See faces new PR disaster as it orders a crackdown on what it views as liberal dissenters

Rome

The Vatican, already battered by child abuse and financial scandals, faces another public relations disaster after censuring "feminist" nuns in the US, allegedly for their support of the Obama health reforms.

Leaders at the Holy See are demanding radical change at the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), which represents the majority of women's religious orders in the US, after it backed the new health policy, including controversial rules on abortion and contraception, in what observers see as part of a growing crackdown on liberal dissenters. It also accused the group, which has around 1,500 members, of "certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith". It noted the rebellious sisters were daring to "disagree with or challenge positions taken by the bishops... the church's authentic teachers of faith and morals".

The Vatican's key watchdog, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, made this week's portentous declaration following an investigation by Bishop Leonard Blaire, of Toledo, Ohio. The Congregation said that the LCWR "does not promote Church teaching" on questions of human sexuality, in addition to being "silent on the right to life from conception to natural death, a question that is part of the lively public debate about abortion and euthanasia". No one at the Vatican was available to comment yesterday. The LCWR, meanwhile, said its presidency "was stunned by the conclusions of the doctrinal assessment".

Vatican sources, reported in Italy's La Stampa, said the stance of the nuns had caused such concern that Archbishop Peter Sartain from Seattle had been appointed as a special delegate to review the rules, organisation and liturgical texts of the women's group, as well as scrutinise its affiliation to other organisations. The affiliated group thought to be causing the most concern is Network, a Catholic social justice lobby, based in Washington. Network backed the Obama administration's healthcare overhaul, despite the bishops' warning that the bill would provide government funding for abortion.

Sister Simone Campbell, the group's executive director, told the Christian Science Monitor she thought the report was prompted by the healthcare changes, noting that the review began in 2009 and continued until June 2010, coinciding with the bill's passage. "Our position on healthcare was the application of the one faith to a political document that we read differently than the bishops," she said. Vatican expert Robert Mickens of The Tablet newspaper said the situation followed attacks on dissenting Irish priests and formed part of "a crackdown against any forms of dissent particularly in the US and Western World". "Make no mistake, these crackdowns come from the very top," he said. "And what's so frightening is that while these attacks on the liberal leftwing are going on, Pope Benedict continues to cosy up to the far-right, anti-semitic Society of Saint Pius X's."

The Society, founded in 1970 by the French archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, was kicked out of the Catholic church and shunned by moderate and mainstream Catholics. But observers believe Pope Benedict, 85, sympathises with many of the radical group's policies.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Key Account Manager

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A really exciting opportunity has arisen for a...

    Recruitment Genius: Multi Trade Operative

    £22000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An established, family owned de...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Services Assistant

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An exciting position has risen for a Customer ...

    Recruitment Genius: Tour Drivers - UK & European

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...

    Day In a Page

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project