US nun not welcome at Australian Catholic Conference

A well-known American nun, feminist and scholar has been sent an email which she claims tells her not to come to the Catholic education conference she was to have spoken at in Australia next year.

The email says the Archbishop of Melbourne, Peter Comensoli, had not endorsed 83-year old Sister Joan Chittister’s invitation.

No reason was given, Chittister says.

However, Jim Miles, who is helping organise the National Catholic Education Commission’s annual conference where Chittister had expected to speak in September 2020, says the dispute about her attendance at the conference is a result of a communications failure.

No one, including Chittister, had yet been formally invited to address the gathering, he says.

Nonetheless, Chittister and her supporters are reported as believing the real reason for her exclusion is that the church leaders don’t like her ideas — especially her call to empower women and laypeople — so they plan to suppress them.

“It is pathetic. These teachers for the next generation of thinkers are being denied the right to pursue ideas,” Chittister says.

“I see it as a lot bigger than one conference … I see it as an attitude of mind that is dangerous to the church.”

“Comensoli has made a serious mistake,” says Gail Grossman Freyne, a family therapist, author and friend of Chittister’s in Melbourne.

“This ban will in no way hinder Sister Joan in pursuing her apostolate. In fact, it will only increase the number of people in Melbourne, in all of Australia, who will come to hear her speak and buy her books.

“What kind of threat is this 83-year-old Benedictine who has spent her life preaching the gospel?”

The Archdiocese of Melbourne did not respond to requests for comment.

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