VNC Statement: The Vatican's Crackdown Against the Nuns Is Unacceptable and Deplorable

We, the Violence is not our Culture Campaign, stand in solidarity with the US-based Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) who has been the target of an unprecedented crackdown by the Vatican. The LCWR is a world-renown highly respected organization of women religious individuals and groups who has a track record spanning decades in promoting human rights and social causes in the United States and abroad. The Vatican subjected the LCWR to a long-drawn investigation and is now using its findings to justify asserting control over the organization.  The LCWR leadership said that the move by the Vatican has taken them by surprise.

The Vatican, through its Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, announced that the investigation of the LCWR which began in April 2008 concluded that "the current doctrinal and pastoral situation of LCWR is grave and a matter of serious concern”, more so given the LCWR’s influence on religious congregations in other parts of the world.  The Vatican criticized the LCWR for its silence on the Catholic Church position on the “right to life from conception to natural death”; a question that is part of the lively public debate about abortion and euthanasia in the United States.  The Vatican also questioned the absence of the “church's biblical view of family life and human sexuality” in the LCWR agenda. The Vatican further found that the LCWR issued public statements disagreeing with or challenging positions taken by bishops whom the Vatican considers as “the church's authentic teachers of faith and morals”, claiming that these statements were not compatible with LCWR’s original purpose.  It viewed the LCWR’s actions as having deviated from Catholic Church teachings therefore causing a “crisis characterized by a diminution of the fundamental Christological center and focus of religious consecration." It also accused he LCWR of promoting "radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith”.  US Archbishop J. Peter Sartain will now have full control over the running of the LCWR to ensure the LCWR  will toe the line of the "teaching and discipline of the church". Sartain will also lead further investigations into LCWR’s links with two networks of independently progressive Catholics.

The LCWR is an umbrella organization representing about 1,500 U.S. women's communities leaders  and about 80 percent of the country's 57,000 women religious. The LCWR was founded in 1956 as the Conference of Major Superiors of Woman after the Vatican's Congregation for Religious asked U.S. nuns to form a national conference. The organization changed its name in 1971 to the Leadership Conference for Women Religious.  In 2010, the LCWR wrote an open letter to US President Barack Obama supporting his health reform initiative, which American bishops opposed because of its support for women’s right to reproductive health. The LCWR’s letter served as an important catalyst in the passing of the US healthcare reform law. Unfortunately it also triggered the Vatican’s crackdown on the LCWR.

The VNC Campaign views the Vatican’s actions as deplorable and unacceptable. The Vatican resorted to condemnation, backlash and control instead of dialogue and diversity of ideas within and outside the Catholic Church. Such actions confirm, once more, how divorced the Vatican has become from social realities especially of its women constituents. The Vatican’s attempt to keep a tight leash on this major influential force betrays the desperation of patriarchal forces within the Vatican to maintain control in the midst of growing challenges to its relevance in temporal affairs. The Vatican’s actions are not consistent with the essence of Christian teachings of love, compassion and justice.  

We commit ourselves to join hands with individuals and groups who resist these actions by the Vatican to discredit the LCWR and similar groups within the Catholic faith who defy control and censorship in the name of truth, justice and dignity for all.   

30 April 2012