Nuns: questions are not defiance

The leader of the American nuns in a battle with the Vatican is challenging the reasons for disciplining her organisation.

The President of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Sr Pat Farrell, said that Catholics should be able to search for answers about faith without fear and that raising questions of doctrine should not be seen as a rebellion.

“I don’t think this is a healthy environment for the church,” Farrell said in a phone interview with Rachel Zoll of Associated Press.

“We can use this event to help move things in that direction – where it’s possible to pose questions that will not be seen as defiance or opposition.”

These are the first public comments Farrell has made in over a week, since leaving her meeting with Cardinal William Levada, Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Archbishop of Seattle and charged to oversee the nun’s reform, Peter Sartain, at the Vatican.

At that time Farrell described the meeting open but difficult, saying the nuns will take things “one step at a time.”

“I don’t yet feel that we’re any further than just the initial conversation,” Farrell said.

In response to criticism that he and his office were attacking the nuns, Levada wanted it to be known that some of his best friends are sisters, and this process is not about the sisters.

Levada said the Vatican’s issue is with the organisation’s leadership which calls itself Catholic but takes up viewpoints in opposition to Catholic teaching.

In an interview with NCR’s John Allen, Levada reflected on the four years of dialogue with the sisters’ leadership, saying it was “like dialogue with the deaf.”

Earlier yesterday Italian newspaper La Stampa reported Levada’s possible resignation, as early as the end of the month.

La Stampa’s Vaticanologist Marco Tosatti suggested the Holy Father is likely to replace Levada with German Archbishop Gerhard Müller, the Bishop of Regensburg, and a sitting member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.


  • Boston Globe
  • CathNews – Nuns leave Vatican and return home to consider next move
  • CathNews – Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith head to resign
  • CathNews – Vatican head says it’s not about the nuns, but about the nun’s leadership
  • Image: The Mirror

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