Blog Post

Dissident Nuns Consider Severing Ties with Vatican

Commentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS

In the wake of the Vatican's move to clean up the dissention in the ranks of the leaders of women religious in the U.S., the Leadership Council of Women Religious (LCWR) is considering letting go of its canonical recognition to become a voluntary organization.

According to the National Catholic Reporter (NCR), the LCWR is conducting a "prayerful" meeting this week to determine how to respond to the recent directive from the Vatican to revise its dissenting positions and place itself under the guidance of an archbishop.

In spite of years of dissension, the group still claims to be "shocked" by the directive and to not understand why it was handed down.

Sr. Teresa Kane of the Sisters of Mercy, the same nun who boldly approached Pope John Paul II in 1979 to ask why women can't be priests, told the NCR that although she is uncomfortable with the idea of giving up their canonical status, she also sees the wisdom in considering this approach.

" . . . (I)f we were to really do a discernment on this to decide if it's more harmful to continue as a pontifical organization or not, we may say it is -- that it's taking too much energy, its taking too much time, or we're misdirecting our energies from the service of people.

"I wouldn't not want to look at it, but I don't find myself saying that should be our position because I think there are forces in the Vatican and the hierarchy that would be happy if we did it. I really do."

Sr. Teresa says she definitely does not want to see the group remove themselves from their current status as a thorn in the Vatican's side.

"I've been in LCWR since 1970. So I'm in the organization 40 years. I'm not sure that I want it to go that quickly. I really don't. They actually could have taken it away if they wanted to. After five years, that may be part of their plan. But who knows? Between now and then there's much of divine intervention and divine providence that can come along," she said.

During this same interview, Sr. Teresa waged the same disingenuous argument being used by many other dissident nuns who insist that the Vatican just "doesn't appreciate what nuns do." They prefer to manipulate the public rather than telling the truth - that the order was directed at only the dissident leadership of women religious, not the rank and file.

Speaking about Vatican officials as well as the U.S. bishops, Sr. Teresa said, "It just seems to be a real blockage. It's almost as if they really do not like us. And don't appreciate what we've done. And don't see the value and the wisdom to what sisters have been doing all these years."

She goes on to blame everything on the fact that the Vatican hates women.

"I really think it is a gender issue here. It is a matter of the men in the Vatican still thinking they can control the women, especially control the women religious because we are pontifical and we are canonical. And they don't realize that we have moved to another whole point of tremendous equality and mutuality. And that we have much to say about our future and what's going on."

She closed the interview with the same issue she's been raising for 30 years - womens ordination.

"We're calling for full participation of women in the church. That means that women have to fully participate and have an equal voice. I don't see that reflected in this whole direction. I do think that's a very serious problem."

In the meantime, the LCWR has said that their meetings this week will be conducted  in an "atmosphere of prayer, contemplation and dialogue" and that it "plans to move slowly, not rushing to judgment."

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