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‘Radical feminist’ nuns ruffle feathers in the Vatican

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Heather Kennedy
WVoN co-editor

A group of ‘radical’ nuns have been accused of ‘corporate dissent’ and criticised by the Vatican for undermining the church on social justice issues such as abortion, priesthood and homosexuality.

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), based in Maryland USA, whose work includes teaching, running hospitals and advocacy for vulnerable groups have been accused of promoting “feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith”.

Last week the Vatican vowed to crack down on the nuns who they view as too liberal.

Vatican officials for Pope Benedict said the LWCR had been taken a stance that challenged “positions taken by bishops, who are the Churches’ authentic teachers of faith and morals”.

But the LCWR have hit back, calling the the Vatican’s report misogynistic.

Sister Simone Campbell said there was no split on faith, only on politics.

“I’ve no idea what they’re talking about,” she  said.  “Our role is to live the gospel with those who live on the margins of society, with the hungry, the poor, the ill. That’s all we do.”

LCWR are closely linked to the Catholic lobby group Network which supported Barak Obama’s health care reform plans, roundly opposed by Bishops on the grounds they would provide funding for abortion.

Their split with the bishops on this politically contentious issue is thought to be the reason the LCWR have ignited such critical attention from the Vatican.

“We have a male hierarchy [in the church] and they don’t develop their leadership skills with strong women around.” said Sister Campbell.

“The [Church’s teaching] told us to get educated and get involved in the world. And we did, but they don’t know how to deal with the consequences, with our straight forward conversation, our willingness to explore where the edges of our faith are”.

Archbishop Peter Sartain has been assigned to oversee the reform of the LCWR, which will take place over a period of five years.

But Sister Campbell says the group will not sit back and watch the bishops undo the work they regard as their mission:

“It’s totally a top-down process and I don’t think the bishops have any idea of what they’re in for” she said.

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