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The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), America’s largest organization of nuns, remains at odds with the Vatican since a church-issued controversial review charged the group with promoting “radical feminism,” among other issues.
According to The Washington Post, the report stated that the LCWR “was focusing on social justice issues at the expense of promoting Rome-sanctioned doctrine on issues like abortion and gay marriage.”
In response to the findings, Pope Benedict XVI, who authorized the report, appointed three bishops to inspect the LCWR, which is comprised of 80 percent of the more than 57,000 U.S. nuns.
“Neither side is prepared to budge,” USA Today reported John Allen, a Vatican specialist for National Catholic Reporter and CNN, as saying.
The media outlet added, “This is not just about the Vatican vs. the nuns, Allen says. It’s about ‘what it means to be Catholic in the 21st century.’”
If the nuns choose to reject the bishops’ authority, they may face having their canonical recognition revoked, which has financial and religious implications.
Many American Catholics have jumped to support the women and scold Vatican leadership.
“More than just a psychological shot in the arm, that support also seems to have emboldened the sisters to compose a forceful response that would let Rome know that the nuns are tired of decades of criticism and that they are not going to blindly comply with the hierarchy’s demands,” a separate USA Today article stated.
The future of Vatican relations was the topic of discussion at this year’s national LCWR assembly, held in St. Louis, Missouri.
According to The New York Times, “What is in essence a power struggle between the nuns and the church’s hierarchy had been building for decades, church scholars say. At issue are questions of obedience and autonomy, what it means to be a faithful Catholic and different understandings of the Second Vatican Council.”
“These same conflicts are gripping the Catholic Church at large,” the newspaper added. “Nearly 50 years after the start of Vatican II, which was intended to open the church to the modern world and respond to the ‘signs of the times,’ the church is gravely polarized between a progressive wing still eager for change and reform and a traditionalist flank focused on returning to what it sees as doctrinal fundamentals.”