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


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.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Games Developer - HTML5

    £28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With extensive experience and a...

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

    £26000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Product Manager

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Due to on-going expansion, this leading provid...

    Recruitment Genius: Shift Leaders - Front of House Staff - Full Time and Part Time

    £6 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a family ...

    Day In a Page

    A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

    A Very British Coup, part two

    New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
    6 best recipe files

    6 best recipe files

    Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

    I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
    Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

    Margaret Atwood on climate change

    The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

    What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
    Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

    The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

    Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
    Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

    Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

    The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
    Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

    Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

    The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
    Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

    Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

    Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

    Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

    The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
    10 best waterproof mascaras

    Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

    We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
    Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

    Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

    Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
    Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

    England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

    The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
    Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

    Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

    British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open