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.

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

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Cabinet Maker / Joiner

    £22000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This bespoke furniture and inte...

    Recruitment Genius: Graphic and Motion Designer

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Do you get a buzz from thinking up new ideas a...

    Recruitment Genius: Media Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

    £14500 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: Female Care Worker

    £7 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This expanding, vibrant charity which su...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones