Pope Francis Will Follow Through on Benedict's Crackdown on "Feminist" American Nuns

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
April 15 2013 1:13 PM

Pope Francis Will Follow Through on Benedict's Crackdown on "Feminist" American Nuns

162867029
Nuns worship during a Mass at Saint Patrick's Cathedral in February in New York City.

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

New pope, same story—at least when it comes to America's nuns.

Pope Francis announced Monday morning that he will stick to his predecessor's hard-line approach to reforming an umbrella group representing about 80 percent of U.S. nuns, an organization that Benedict XVI believed was promoting "radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith."

Advertisement

Given Francis' Jesuit background, some had speculated that he might take a softer approach to dealing with the more liberal wings of the church. But the new pope, like his predecessor, leans theologically conservative, so his commitment to Benedict's hard line shouldn't come as a shock. In the case of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), that means the continuation of a five-year plan that Benedict set into motion last year aimed at pushing the group back in line with the Vatican's positions on social issues like homosexuality, abortion, euthanasia, and women in the priesthood.

Leaders of the nun's group were informed of Francis' decision at a morning meeting with church officials, according to the Vatican. As part of the ongoing plan, the Vatican has given Archbishop of Seattle Peter Sartain the authority to take the steps he sees as necessary to ensure the group better toes the party line as laid out by the Vatican and echoed by the American contingent of Catholic bishops. Those steps including requiring the nuns to get approval from the archbishop for every speaker they invite to a public event, replace their handbook, and revise their statutes, along with generally ensuring that they don't publicly "disagree with or challenge positions taken by" American bishops or the Vatican.

The women's group, which was formed in 1956 at the Vatican's request, represents roughly 4 in 5 American nuns. The organization speaks out on policy issues, especially those pertaining to social justice and provides leadership training to the approximately 57,000 nuns it represents. The original religious disagreement between the Vatican and the LCWR focused largely on the end-of-life and abortion debates in the U.S., especially in the context of President Obama's health care reform law.

At the time the initial reforms were announced, the nuns were strongly opposed to the Vatican's intervention. Today, however, they took a softer tone (at least publicly), describing this morning's meeting as "open and frank" and adding: "We pray that these conversations may bear fruit for the good of the Church."

Abby Ohlheiser is a Slate contributor.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?
Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
  Business
Buy a Small Business
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 PM Inking the Deal Why tattoo parlors are a great small-business bet.
  Life
Outward
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 9:39 PM Tom Cruise Dies Over and Over Again in This Edge of Tomorrow Supercut
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?