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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 9 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 19
U.S. nuns not off the hook yet, Vatican official says
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U.S. nuns not off the hook yet, Vatican official says

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The Vatican official charged with overseeing the Catholic Church's crackdown on U.S. nuns reminded them that they are still under discipline in an April 30 meeting with nun leaders.

Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, the Vatican's Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), told officials of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) that their decision to honor feminist theologian Elizabeth Johnson was unacceptable to the Church hierarchy.

Johnson's popular book Quest for the Living God was publically denounced by the Committee on Doctrine of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2011. The bishops' group alleged that the text reaches many 'theologically unacceptable' conclusions.

'It saddens me to learn that you have decided to give the Outstanding Leadership Award during this year's Assembly to a theologian criticized by the Bishops of the United States because of the gravity of the doctrinal errors in that theologian's writings,' Cardinal Mueller told the nuns.

'This is a decision that will be seen as a rather open provocation against the Holy See and the Doctrinal Assessment. Not only that, but it further alienates the LCWR from the Bishops as well.'

The Prefect of the CDF is the Vatican's 'enforcer' when it comes to issues of church doctrine.

Before becoming Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, held that post. After assuming the papacy, he initiated disciplinary action against the U.S. nuns, charging them with asserting 'radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.' Seattle's Catholic Archbishop J. Peter Sartain was appointed to ride herd on the nuns.

Johnson is a Distinguished Professor of Theology at Fordham University, a Jesuit college in New York. The LCWR is the largest group of nuns in the U.S., representing about 83% of the total.

The nuns tried to soft-pedal Mueller's remarks, saying only that they 'accurately reflect the content of the mandate communicated to LCWR in April 2012. As articulated in the Cardinal's statement, these remarks were meant to set a context for the discussion that followed. The actual interaction with Cardinal Mueller and his staff was an experience of dialogue that was respectful and engaging.'

Mueller was appointed to his post at the CDF by Benedict XVI. It is not clear whether the current Pope supports his view of U.S. nuns. Pope Francis reportedly told a group of South American priests and nuns 'not to worry' if the CDF sent them letters criticizing their behavior.

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