“Radical feminist” nuns in the North Country?

You’ve probably been hearing that the Vatican has sharply rebuked the organization that represents roughly 80% of the nuns within the Roman Catholic church, including those serving here in the Diocese of Ogdensburg.  This from the Washington Post.

In a stinging report on Wednesday, the Vatican said the Leadership Conference of Women Religious had been “silent on the right to life” and had failed to make the “Biblical view of family life and human sexuality” a central plank in its agenda.

It also reprimanded American nuns for expressing positions on political issues that differed, at times, from views held by U.S. bishops. Public disagreement with the bishops — “who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals” — is unacceptable, the report said.

An archbishop from the West Coast has been charged with “reforming” the organization.

This comes at a time when nuns in the North Country are being asked to serve bigger, more influential roles, due to the shortage of priests.

So what do you think?  Have nuns strayed from the path?  Is a course correction needed?

Or is this an overreach, and a sign of continuing tensions within the American Roman Catholic church.

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42 Comments on ““Radical feminist” nuns in the North Country?”

  1. PNElba says:

    Yet Ratzinger at the same time is bringing the “Society of St. Pius X” and excommunicated, holocaust denier, Bishop Williamson back into the fold. Good-bye Vatican II.

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  2. Clarification: who used the phrase radical feminist? Is that the Vatican’s description ?

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  3. Brian Mann says:

    From the LA TIMES:

    “The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents a majority of U.S. nuns, is put on notice in part for promoting ‘radical feminist themes’ and not speaking out against abortion and gay marriage.”

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  4. Pete Klein says:

    The Pope, Bishops and Cardinals have decided they and they alone are the Church and if you disagree with them about anything, including which way the wind is blowing, you are not being a “good Catholic.”
    These males, I won’t call them men, are power hungry. Not only can you not disagree with them about anything, you can’t even talk with them.
    The problems all started with the dispute between Paul and Peter. All the boggy man sex stuff comes from Paul, not Peter.
    It has gotten to the point that the Catholic Church and Christianity in general could be call the Church of Paul.

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  5. Paul says:

    What are the ‘radical feminist’ themes they are supporting? How can we judge it if we don’t know what they are talking about. I don’t think there is any such thing as an “overreach” when it come to how the Catholic Church is run. You do as the Vatican says or you pack your bags.

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  6. Kathy says:

    Radical feminist and nuns in the same sentence? I can’t wrap my mind around it!

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  7. Steve says:

    Is it any wonder to anyone why the Catholic Church has lost as many followers as it has?

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  8. Jim Bullard says:

    Well, before he was Pope, as Cardinal Ratzinger he was the head of “Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith” which is the current name for the Inquisition. Yes, the Inquisition lives on. It has shed it’s old image by changing the name and it no longer burns those it considers heretics alive, but its mission remains the same. Stamp out any opposition or deviation to the edicts of Rome.

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  9. mervel says:

    Two issues, as Paul said if you are Catholic it means that you voluntarily follow the teachings of the Pope and Bishops who hold teaching authority within the church on doctrinal issues, so there is no such thing as overreaching. One of the the whole points of being Protestant was that there was no special teaching authority or spiritual authority of the Church and thus each believer could basically serve as their own pope. So yes all religious orders that want to be called Catholic should follow Church teachings, that is a no brainer.

    The second issue is more complex though and it is a matter of emphasis and degree. Many religious orders have as their mission serving the poor, or education etc. The couple in the North Country have education and serving the poor as their mission for example, so why would they be obsessed with worrying about other issues? I mean you can be pro-life and pro-marriage etc, without spending all of your time and effort promoting those causes. So if this is just a plan to make them pro-actively take on new issues, I think it is probably a mistake.

    I am not sure why this would be a debate outside of the Church though? I am not sure why non-Catholics would care?

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  10. It says a lot about the men who are running the Catholic Church (into the ground). They are not accusing the nuns of actually supporting women’s rights or treating gays like human beings. The nuns’ “sin” is that they are not belligerent enough in demonizing these people.

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  11. PNElba says:

    Mervel, as you correctly pointed out, you cannot be Catholic if you don’t follow the teachings of the Pope. What about those of us who were Catholic at one time and have some major disagreements with the Church? We are no longer legitimate Catholics. So I would say many of us “outside” the church have an interest in this issue.

    It’s not like the Catholic church can’t change. They’ve made huge changes throughout the last 2,000 years.

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  12. PNElba says:

    Brian, you hit the nail on the head.

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  13. Brian Mann says:

    An In Boxer suggested that this would be a better illustration for this thread. Check it out:

    http://raisingbipolar.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/NunsHavingFun2007wallcalendar.jpg

    Brian, NCPR

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  14. Jim Frenette says:

    “You cannot be Catholic if you do not follow the teachings of the Pope “T his comment is just another example of ..If you say it loud enough and long enough then in some minds it has the sound of being true. I have been an active catholic for over 80 years.When I exercise my free will and form and follow an educated conscience I know that I have not always agreed with the Pope’s teachings..The Popes have exercised their power to use the mantra of Infallibility but twice I believe, in many many years. Infallibility carries a heavier burden of obedience than other forms of teaching.I remain an active Catholic.

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  15. BJHOF says:

    Why have the terms “radical” and “feminist” become so incindiary when radical means going to the roots and “feminist” means having to do with women. Many arguments could be made that religious women have their faith rooted in the texts and that they have awareness of what has to do with women.

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  16. SirLeland says:

    “it means that you voluntarily follow the teachings of the Pope and Bishops who hold teaching authority within the church on doctrinal issues, so there is no such thing as overreaching…So yes all religious orders that want to be called Catholic should follow Church teachings, that is a no brainer.”

    So, for example, since 97% of all self-identifying Catholic women either have, or currently do use, some form of contraception during their lives, and this is contrary to church teachings and doctrine, so…they’re just not Catholic. That explains it. So, I guess that half of the Catholic ranks we thought as members simply just do not exist.

    Thank you. That clears that one up.

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  17. Terence says:

    What can a person say? The creepy old men at the top seem determined to sink their own church at all costs.

    How did they make this decision? As if they looked around the rapidly emptying building, figured out who was still doing most of the work (the nuns), and then said, ‘Let’s pick on THEM now!’

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  18. mervel says:

    It makes no sense to be voluntarily part of something you disagree with, there are thousands of wonderful Christian Protestant congregations that would welcome those who don’t want to follow the teachings of the Catholic Church. The Catholic Christian Church is a faith not an ethnicity or something you are born with, it is something you voluntarily ascent to do and be part of.

    I mean sure none of us fully follow Church doctrine, particularly me; but that is something we ask forgiveness for, not rebel against the teaching itself. I mean we have been through this before, a guy named Martin Luther said we don’t need to have these guys we can read the bible ourselves and come to our own conclusions, which is fine I love Protestants but they are not Catholic and if you want to make up your own doctrine that is fine also, but it is not part of the Catholic faith.

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  19. mervel says:

    I don’t think most of the nuns have done any of that by the way, it looks like some, a minority have some errant or seemingly errant teachings. We will see what happens, I doubt very much will come of this. It is more of a media deal than anything else, slow news day.

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  20. Paul says:

    “It says a lot about the men who are running the Catholic Church (into the ground).”

    Perhaps, but it doesn’t look dead just yet. Did you see the crowds that came out to see the pope in Mexico? Amazing.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/gallery/2012/mar/26/pope-benedict-visits-mexico-gallery

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  21. SirLeland says:

    Mervel:

    So why bother having any doctrine?

    If it’s completely condonable to not follow it, and you can still consider yourself, and be considered, a member, by the Pope and Bishops in good standing, not excommunicated, etc., just so long as you “ask for forgiveness”???

    I stand corrected yet again. Based on this logic I now suppose we all are, or can become, a Catholic.

    I’m sorry, but with due respect, and I truly mean that, this is one of the reasons why I have a huge problem with organized religion, and in particular, organized conservative religion. It just doesn’t make any sense.

    There are certainly many members, including the nuns mentioned in this article, who do fine, fine work, every day. But until the social policies and structure both within and preached are more inclusive, there will continue to be this pushback and an increasing lack of clergy.

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  22. Pete Klein says:

    Mervel, Paul never said, “Catholic means that you voluntarily follow the teachings of the Pope and Bishops.”
    The reason he never said it is because the term “Catholic” was first used in 110 AD. Paul died around 67 AD. The first use of the word “Pope” didn’t come into use until around 232.
    Now if you want to talk about ex cathedra, papal infallibility, that didn’t come about until 1870 and that only happened once, in 1950 with the definition of the dogma of the Assumption of Mary – the bodily taking up of Mary the mother of Jesus into Heaven at the end of her life.
    So there you have it. Try as some might try, no Catholic is forced to believe everything coming out of Rome lock, stock and barrel.

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  23. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Go nuns!

    There is an analogy to Islam here where the Shia act very much like Catholics with a rigid hierarchy and the Sunni essentially believe each person must understand their religion in their own terms guided by written and oral tradition and by scholarly research.

    Other than that I’m staying out of this one. You guys knock yourselves out.

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  24. SAM says:

    Mervel, you said…
    The Catholic Christian Church is a faith not an ethnicity or something you are born with, it is something you voluntarily ascent to do and be part of.

    Technically you are correct, but as someone from an Italian Catholic family I feel it WAS something I was born into. It was expected that I follow the Church’s teaching and rules, and if you had asked my parents and extended family, I did not have a choice on the matter.
    When I “left the nest” and followed my own mind as an adult I decided that I could not maintain a strong faith in the Catholic Church when I could not reconcile my own beliefs with some of the Catholic Church’s, and I saw too much hipocracy in the very fallible (human, not God ruled) bureaucracy of said church.
    I doubt the pope would call me a Catholic now and the only time I go to a mass is to honor family members and friends, still, the label of “Catholic” lingers in my identity to the world and in some part of how I relate to it.

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  25. Ken Hall says:

    A “good on ya” for the Noth Country Nuns and the LCWR.

    As most religions support “the right to life” mantra; is there anyone who is surprised that the Earth currently is host to more than 7 billion humans avoracely consuming her finite resources at an exponential rate?

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  26. Pete Klein says:

    Ken,
    Could it be the religions are plotting to over populate the earth in order to bring on their hoped for end of the world?
    Of course, the end of human life does not spell the end of the Earth as many species have found out the hard way.

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  27. Paul says:

    “Based on this logic I now suppose we all are, or can become, a Catholic.”

    I think that based on the teachings of the church that is correct.

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  28. Ken Hall says:

    “Noth”? Not so good on me.

    Pete, Undoubtedly you are correct.

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  29. tootightmike says:

    Stop listening to the Catholic Bishops. Stop quoting John McCain. Who gives a s—what Sarah Palin thinks? These people are irrelevant to those of us engaged in real life.

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  30. giovanna says:

    These nuns are under the jurisdiction of the church, not themselves. They are free to view their opinions with the bishops, but need to follow the doctrines of the church–NOT Their own personal doctrine.
    In scripture, the Israelites built the golden calf to worship instead of God. God was furious. Jesus himself, said give up positions of [the world] and follow me. Yet, these nuns choose to leave the Triune teaching and make their own rules. Paul, reprimanded the Corinthians for saying they were Christian’s in one breath and turning to enjoy pagan rituals in another. A true Christian cannot have it both ways. If we respect the Pope as our earthly leader serving in Christ’s name, and his leadership follows scripture, then we are obliged to honor him as is stated in the 4th commandment, “Honor your FATHER…”

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  31. Lily says:

    “Radical Feminist Nuns”? We can only hope.

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  32. j.g.king says:

    There is no doubt that in cannon law Catholic bishops (including the Bishop of Rome) are those “who are the Church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals”. However, bishops truly teach rarely, and most often delegate the task. Affixing nihil obstat by a bishop’ Censor and an impramatur by a bishop authenticates a work to be free of doctrinal or moral error. Note that both in direct teaching and by the impramtur the bishop’s writ is limited to “faith and morals” for Catholics. When a bishop steps into the realm of what non-Catholics believe or the morality of their behavior, even Catholics may ignore him.

    The Catholic Church’s polity is built on the model of a monarchy, but the Church’s congregants are no longer serfs. When the Church lost its civil power, it lost the ability to arbitrarily impose the monarch’s or his vassal’s will. It seems that Rome has missed the change.

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  33. Mervel says:

    Pete no one is “forced” to do anything or believe anything, the doors to the Church are open and all are welcome.

    I do think words have to have some meaning though, as sirleland correctly points out why have doctrine at all? Why have any teachings about what we share as a common faith?

    I thought about my comments here and they may have come across as harsh, I did not wish that to be so, but I honestly in my heart have the most respect for someone like SAM who made an honest decision to follow what she/he truly believed and since that belief was no longer Roman Catholic chose to follow another path, at least for now.

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  34. Terence says:

    Wait, Giovanna: you have actual proof that these nuns (AKA 80% of the nuns in the USA) have chosen — as you put it so thrillingly — “to leave the Triune teaching and follow their own rules”?

    Amazing. From your perch in the North Country, you’ve discovered a massive anti-Trinitarian conspiracy brewing among almost all of the nuns of the USA.

    You must have excellent sources, because I’m sure a strong advocate of Christianity like yourself would never presume to pass judgement on thousands of nuns that she’s never actually met. Good job on not slandering them or anything, too.

    Call Dan Brown at once!

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  35. Walker says:

    I like the end of the Washington Post article cited but not linked:

    “NETWORK, a nun-founded Washington lobbying group that focuses on poverty, immigration and health-care issues, was singled out in the report as “silent on the right to life.”

    “I think we scare them,” NETWORK’s executive director, Sister Simone Campbell, told my Post colleague Liz Tenety, referring to the male hierarchy.

    American sisters do outnumber the priests, and it’s the women who have the troops, too – at schools and hospitals the bishops couldn’t close if they wanted to. The nuns no longer only empty the bed pans, you see, but now also own the institutions where they work. And you have to wonder whether that’s the real problem.”

    Washington Post: The instructive timing of the crackdown on nuns

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  36. Pete Klein says:

    The charge is “silent on the right to life?”
    Right to life – what a fascinating concept! What is meant by the right? Did I have a right to be born? I sure didn’t have any right to be “conceived” because I didn’t exist prior to being “conceived.” And is that what my parents were doing in bed (just using that to avoid the censors)? They were all naked and just going about “conceiving” good old me!
    If I have the right to life, does that mean I also have the right to death? I mean I know I will die but logic requires that if you have one right, you also have the opposite right, as in the right to stand or sit, run or stand still.
    If I were on Death Row, would I have the right to kill anyone trying to kill me? If I haven’t shot at a cop, do I have the right to shoot back and kill him?
    It seems to me that when it comes to “right to life,” we are very selective as to where that right begins and where it ends. Okay for governments to kill. Not okay for people to kill. Okay to decide who can get (afford) medical care and who can’t (no money or insurance).
    Right to Life – nice slogan with absolutely no factual basis in society.

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  37. Walker says:

    “Not okay for people to kill.”

    Well, thanks to the good work of the Koch funded ALEC, states with Stand Your Ground laws, it is OK for people to kill one another.

    Desmoines Register: Where model laws like ‘stand your ground’ originate’?

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  38. Mervel says:

    Certainly many women who are called to religious live in the Catholic Church hold positions of great authority. Indeed they often run large hospitals, charities and hold executive positions within the diocese. In the north country this is certainly true.

    The media is playing this up because it works “politically” and once again makes for good anti-Christian-Catholic copy; however in general most nuns of course are fully Catholic, they have given their lives to the Church, which is guided by the spiritual descendents of St. Peter, who Christ Himself gave the Office of the Key’s.

    So I think in my opinion this will come to nothing. Sure if some sisters are out there openly opposing Catholic doctrine they need to stop or leave, but this really is just not the case for the majority of religious orders.

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  39. Mervel says:

    jg, that is not true locally.

    Bishop LaValley teaches quite a bit. He travels all over the diocese teaching, being a a part of our confirmations and baptisms etc. we love him.

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  40. Pete Klein says:

    Mervel, Surprise, surprise! I do agree with you about the anti-Catholic stuff and to a certain extent the anti-Christian stuff. Where I differ is in not feeling any need to defend the Church. If you want a really good example of what I’m trying to say, just remember how Jesus didn’t bother to defend himself.

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  41. Mervel says:

    I can’t help it! But you are probably right.

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  42. Chris LaRose says:

    Why does the NCPR always frame topics to put the Church as bad? And frankly, unless one is a Catholic, all comments listed here are simply moot and unworthy of reply.

    Now from an orthodox Catholic convert, this reprimand from the Vatican is long overdue. This particular conference has been straying since Vatican II. Also, when referring to women religious, they are not all nuns, but are all “sisters.” Nuns refer to cloistered sisters only, so technically would not even figure into this report.

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