Thursday, December 23, 2010

Vatican official says no punishment expected for dissenting nuns under investigation

by Matthew Cullinan Hoffman

ROME, December 22, 2010 ( - After decades of dissent by large numbers of American nuns against Catholic doctrines on life and family, including the Church’s condemnation of abortion and homosexuality, a Vatican official says that they will not be punished, and that Rome should pursue a “strategy of reconciliation” with the wayward religious.

In an interview with the National Catholic Reporter, a newspaper dedicated to promoting left-wing dissent against Catholic teaching, the Secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life said that an ongoing Vatican investigation of American nuns was unlikely to result in disciplinary action.

“I can say that I would be very surprised if anybody would purport to give any punitive or overly prescriptive norms as a result of this visitation,” said Archbishop Joseph Tobin. “If the visitors, in dialogue with the sisters, have identified some specific issues that need to be dealt with, okay. But forcing people into habits or something like that? That’s not what this is about.”

The Archbishop was referring to the fact that many American nuns do not wear the habit of a religious.

Tobin also said that a major shake-up of women’s religious orders “would be really disrespectful of what women religious in America have accomplished,” and that the “depth of anger and hurt that exists among the sisters ... can’t be ignored.”

The Archbishop’s words are in sharp contrast to statements made by then-Archbishop, now-Cardinal Raymond Burke, in a speech earlier this year, in which he condemned American nuns who have promised “resistance” to the Vatican and have endorsed the Obama health care plan despite its potential to fund abortion procedures.

Denouncing “the public and obstinate betrayal of religious life by certain religious,” Burke asked: “Who ever could have imagined that religious congregations of pontifical right would openly organize to resist and attempt to frustrate an apostolic visitation, that is, a visit to their congregations carried out under the authority of the Vicar of Christ on earth, to whom all religious are bound by the strongest bonds of loyalty and obedience?”

“Who could imagine that consecrated religious would openly, and in defiance of the bishops as successors of the Apostles, publicly endorse legislation containing provisions which violate the natural moral law in its most fundamental tenets, the safeguarding and promoting of innocent and defenseless life, and fail to safeguard the demands of free exercise of conscience for healthcare workers?” he added.

High-profile acts of public dissent against Catholic doctrine on life and family by American nuns in recent years include public speeches given by the leading figures in the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, implying that homosexual behavior should be accepted by the Catholic Church. They also include the actions of nuns like Sr. Joan Chittister, who openly “questions” the Catholic Church’s teaching on abortion, as well as Sr. Donna Quinn of the Sinsinawa Dominican community, who acted as an escort for an abortion clinic and continued to defend her activities even after she was removed by her congregation.

Contact information:

To respectfully contact the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life:

His Eminence the Cardinal Prefect +39. 06. 69884121
His Excellency Archbishop Secretary +39. 06. 69884584
receptionists +39 06. 69884128 and +39. 06. 69892511
FAX +39. 06. 69884526
E-mail: (Prefect) (Secretary) (information)

To respectfully contact the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith:

His Eminence William Joseph Levada, Cardinal, Prefect
His Excellency Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, S.J., Secretary
Piazza del S. Uffizio, 11, 00193 Roma, Italy

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