American nuns have refrained from reacting to the Vatican crackdown on them but a former Missionaries of Charity nun has criticised the move and termed it as an “insult.”
Mary Johnson, author of An Unquenchable Thirst, a book on her 20 years life as a Mother Teresa nun, says the activism and autonomy of America’s nuns has not gone down well with the Vatican.
“The main complaint is that sisters are thinking for themselves. No one says it in those words, but that’s the bottom line: you’re thinking for yourself, and we don’t like that.”
A Vatican probe of American nuns, which began three years ago, has accused the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR])in the U.S. of being “radical and diverging from several core pillars of Catholic faith.”
The LCWR, established by the Vatican, represents around 80 percent of Catholic nuns in the States.
The report stated that though the nuns have contributed greatly in serving the poor, in teaching and hospital ministries, they have “stayed silent” over issues of contraception and homosexuality.
It also noted that "issues of crucial importance to the life of the Church and society, such as the church’s biblical view of family life and human sexuality, are not part of the LCWR agenda in a way that promotes Church teaching.”
The report cites a reluctance among some sisters to embrace the “reservation of priestly ordination to men.”
Johnson, 54, who joined the Missionaries of Charity as a 19-year-old and left it for "more intimacy," said “the sisters have been grounded.”
She said she joined Missionaries of Charity because she “wanted to belong to a group that was significant. But I never expected I wouldn’t be allowed to bring my intelligence and creativity to my work.”
She said, “I might still be a sister if I had joined a more progressive group. I didn’t see the point in remaining in a group that didn’t want anything of me but my obedience.”
On the Vatican contention that nuns take a vow of obedience which “calls for the religious submission of intellect and will,” she said while sisters do take a vow to obey, but it’s time for the Church to modernize.
She added, “the Catholic Church has long recognized that an individual’s first duty is to obey his or her conscience, but the bishops say that any conscience that conflicts with their teaching is a conscience in error.”
She says nuns had “a chance to explore new ideas” at their general assemblies, but now, with a Vatican-appointed overseer, their freedom to explore will be seriously curtailed.
The Vatican has appointed Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain as overseer to accomplish reform of the Maryland-based leadership conference, which represents 57,000 nuns in the U.S.
The appointment of the archbishop is “disrespectful” , she said adding sisters “deserve to be treated as adults.”
“The average age of an American sister is 65. They are influential throughout the world. Telling these women what to say and think is insulting.”
She points out that there are more nuns in the U.S. than priests, with 55,944 sisters and 39,466 priests.
Johnson says she has been in touch with many nuns in the wake of the Vatican crackdown. Their response at first, she says, was shock.
“But there is such a sense of centeredness. I get the sense that the sisters are women with vision,” she says. “They aren’t going to be bullied”.
Source: the daily beast
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