(The Blaze/AP) — The Vatican’s orthodoxy watchdog announced Wednesday a full-scale overhaul of a group representing most U.S. nuns and named an American archbishop to oversee the reform. The timing of the announcement is intriguing, especially considering ongoing angst within faith communities about the Obama administration’s contraceptive mandate, among other related issues.
The Vatican agency cited the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), the largest umbrella group for Roman Catholic religious sisters in the United States, for using materials that “do not promote church teaching” on family life and sexuality, for sometimes taking positions in opposition to the nation’s bishops and for being “silent on the right to life from conception to natural death, a question that is part of the lively public debate about abortion and euthanasia in the United States.”
Representatives for the women’s group, based in Silver Spring, Md., did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain will manage the five-year reform, which will include rewriting the group’s statutes, reviewing all its plans and programs — including approving speakers — and ensuring the group properly follows Catholic prayer and ritual.
The report specifically cites a social justice group associated with the conference called NETWORK, which played a key role in supporting the Obama administration‘s health care overhaul despite the bishops’ objections. The announcement Wednesday made no direct mention of President Barack Obama’s health care law, but said Sartain will review the Leadership Conference’s ties with NETWORK.
A screen shot from the LCWR web siteThe review, which began in 2008, was a “doctrinal assessment” by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. When the inquiry was initially announced, many religious sisters and their supporters said the inquiry reflected church officials’ misogyny and was an insult to religious sisters, who run hospitals, teach, and play other vital service roles in the church.
Conservative Catholics, however, have long complained that the majority of sisters in the U.S. have grown too liberal and flout church teaching.