This week the Vatican confirmed that Pope Francis supports an ongoing crackdown on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), a group that represents about 80 percent of nuns in the United States.
A year ago, under the leadership of Pope Benedict, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith issued a report accusing the nuns of “radical feminism” for focusing on social justice rather than spending that time condemning abortion. From the report:
The documentation reveals that, while there has been a great deal of work on the part of LCWR promoting issues of social justice in harmony with the Church’s social doctrine, it is 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 in the United States. Further, issues of crucial importance to the life of Church and society, such as the Church’s Biblical view of family life and human sexuality, are not part of the LCWR agenda in a way that promotes Church teaching. Moreover, occasional public statements by the LCWR that disagree with or challenge positions taken by the Bishops, who are the Church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals, are not compatible with its purpose.
In response to the report, several male Vatican officials were tasked with imposing a program of reform upon the nuns. This Monday, Archbishop Gerhard Mueller met with the nuns, saying he had discussed the matter with the new pope, who agreed with the findings of the report and to continuing the reform.
“We expected Pope Francis to dismiss the mandate against the nuns but instead he broke the hearts of Catholics everywhere,” Erin Hanna, executive director of the Women’s Ordination Conference, told RH Reality Check. Hanna is also spokesperson for NunJustice.org, a coalition of Catholic groups calling for an end to the nun crackdown.
Hanna referenced St. Francis, who the new pope chose as his namesake. “St. Francis worked collaboratively alongside his sisters rather than against them. We pray Pope Francis will do the same,” she said.
Last year, vigils in solidarity with the nuns took place in cities including Cincinnati, Seattle, and New York, and more than 64,000 people signed a Change.org petition asking the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith to withdraw the campaign against the nuns.