US nun group rejects Vatican condemnation

"We haven't violated any teaching," Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobby singled out for supporting women's health rights in a Vatican report

Agence France-Presse
Published 2:10 AM, April 22, 2012
Updated 2:10 AM, April 22, 2012

WASHINGTON DC, United States of America (AFP) - The leader of a group of US Catholic nuns on Saturday, April 21, rejected condemnation from a Vatican report that said it defied Church doctrine.

"We haven't violated any teaching," Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobby, told AFP, insisting the group would not stop "caring for the least among us on the margins of society."

Network was singled out for supporting women's health rights in a Vatican report this week condemning the main US association of Catholic nuns, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

The three-year inquiry by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which oversees Roman Catholic doctrine, criticized the LCWR for taking liberal stances on contraception, homosexuality and female priests.

Campbell said that Network, which works with the LCWR and vocally supported President Barack Obama's healthcare reform legislation, would not shy away from its mission, calling the Vatican's report "painful," and also puzzling.

"It was a total shock for many reasons, no one talked to us" during the inquiry, Campbell said.

"We are a political, not doctrinal, organization: we don't teach theology."

The LCWR has also said it was "stunned" by the report, which pointed to "serious doctrinal problems" and "unacceptable positions" on a range of issues.

The report accused members of the LCWR, which represents around 80 percent of the 45,000 nuns in the United States, of "corporate dissent" with the Church's teachings against homosexuality, and claimed it was pursuing "radical feminist themes."

Campbell lamented that the Washington DC-based Network "could dissipate our energy if we get distracted and caught up in what might be considered a battle" with the Vatican.

After the report was published, Campbell said it was "painfully obvious" the Vatican leadership was "not used to having educated women form thoughtful opinions and engage in dialogue."

"We will keep doing our mission," she insisted in a phone interview Saturday, saying the group was founded to "lobby, organize and educate" in the name of social and economic justice.

LCWR has come under criticism from the Catholic hierarchy for endorsing Obama's US healthcare reform, including its provisions on abortion and contraception, in the run-up to the US election in November.

"There seems to the major disconnect, where (the Vatican) seem to think that faith can only lead to one political approach," Campbell said. The Network group, she said, "speaks for our members, not for a church. Helping others is at the heart of our faith."

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said it has appointed the Archbishop of Seattle, Peter Sartain, to oversee the LCWR and ensure it follows "the teachings and discipline of the Church." - Agence France-Presse