After a Vatican report on the American Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) caused an uproar particularly in the popular press, Pope Benedict offered an olive branch. Addressing visiting U.S. Bishops he said, “I wish to reaffirm my deep gratitude for the example of fidelity and self-sacrifice given by many consecrated women in your country.”
The Vatican report had criticised them as being feminist and politicised.
In a reference to the reaction to last month’s report, he said he hoped that “this moment of discernment will bear abundant spiritual fruit for the revitalization and strengthening of their communities in fidelity to Christ and the Church …”
The report was issued after a Vatican investigation determined that the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, whose 1,500 members represent some 80 percent of American nuns, had “serious doctrinal problems” and promoted “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith”.
Criticism included that the LCWR had been “silent on the right to life” and had failed to make the “Biblical view of family life and human sexuality” central to its mission.
The Pope added, “The urgent need in our own time for credible and attractive witnesses to the redemptive and transformative power of the Gospel makes it essential to recapture a sense of the sublime dignity and beauty of the consecrated life …”
A New York Times editorial called the Vatican’s report “a misreading of the very fine work in schools, charities, prison and impoverished neighborhoods being done by about 60,000 nuns across the nation”.
American nuns and U.S. bishops have disagreed over several social issues. They supported President Barack Obama’s health care reform which the bishops opposed.
The Vatican named Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain and two other U.S. bishops to reform conference’s statutes, programs and its application of liturgical texts, a process it said could take up to five years.
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