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The Catholic Church's inquisition of American nuns | Victori...

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The Catholic Church's inquisition of


American nuns
Victoria Bekiempis
Though castigated by their own Church authorities, US nuns are far more in tune
with the actual views of American Catholics
Thursday 24 May 2012 19.11BST

So, did you hear the one about the American nuns?
No, this isn't the beginning of a joke. In April, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the
Faith the Catholic Church's current iteration of the Inquisition, if you will issued
an assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents
80% of the US's 57,000 nuns.
Some key context here: the conference was formed 56 years ago at the behest of the
Holy See, to provide "a unied voice" for US nuns who helped the poor, nursed the
sick, taught students, worked as missionaries, and fought violence. (Another
important bit of background: the congregation is the same arm of the church that
bullied Lavinia Byrne, feminist theologian and former British nun, for arguing in
favor of female ordination in a 1993 book.)
The conference, according to the Vatican, was spending too much time doing good
and not enough time enforcing church teaching (against abortion, homosexuality
etc). So, the nuns actually got in trouble for being, well, nuns. So troubled was the
church by this and the women's alleged "radical feminism" that the assessment
demanded the appointment of an archbishop delegate to make them behave.
Nope, no joke.
At rst, many members of the conference reacted with silent shock. They didn't speak
out against the Church because of their vows of obedience. Many have since shot
back, however, calling the charges wrongful criticism and a distraction from the
Church's failure to address adequately child molestation charges against clergy.
The Vatican might have gotten one thing right about these women: compared to the
rest of the Pope Benedict XVI's ultra-conservative administration, they are radical
feminists. But the Church has also gotten something terribly wrong: US Catholicism
desperately needs "radical" feminist nuns and should embrace, not criticize them
if it's going to remain relevant to American society.

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The Catholic Church's inquisition of American nuns | Victori...

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/cifamerica/2012...

A 2008 Pew forum on religion and public life study determined that nearly a third of
Americans were brought up Catholic, but that "less than one in four remained so"
meaning the faith had shed "the greatest" proportion of US-born believers. Perhaps
even more startling:
"Roughly 10% of American adults, or 22.5 million, are former Catholics. That would
qualify lapsed Catholics as the second-largest single US denomination, behind Catholics,
at 54.8 million, and just ahead of the Southern Baptist Convention's 15.1 million
members."
In addition, a study conducted by the center for applied research in the apostolate at
Georgetown University indicates that "42.7 million Catholics, or two-thirds of US
Catholics, are not going to mass." Only some 33% attend regularly. Another
approximately 33% attend occasionally, and the rest never go, Catholic advocacy
groups report. And the only reason the percentage of Catholics in the US population
still hovers around 25%, Pew notes, is because of a steady stream of Latino
immigrants.
The denomination's leaders worry so extensively about the hemorrhaging of
parishioners that a group called Catholics Come Home launched a $3.5m ad blitz last
December, according to the Denver Post, and had sponsored similar marketing
campaigns in the past. The non-prot hoped that the 400-plus planned ads, with an
estimated audience of 250 million viewers, would boost these sluggish numbers. If
you look at lapsed Catholics' reasons for leaving the church, it doesn't seem like a lack
of televised adverts quite tops their list.
Researchers at Villanova University's center for the study of church management
recently reached out to several hundred lapsed Catholics in the diocese of Trenton,
New Jersey. They wanted to gure out why they stopped frequenting mass. They
were specically asked "what issues they would raise if they could speak to the
bishop for ve minutes," according to the Newark Star-Ledger.
Their complaints included haughty clergy, "conservative haranguing", excessive focus
on homosexuality and birth control, as well as negative attitudes toward female
ordination. They also "didn't like the church's handling of the clergy sex abuse
scandal and were upset that divorced and remarried Catholics are unwelcome at
mass."
A key point is that some 66% of respondents "were female, and the median age was
53". This demographic detail has troubled Church leaders, who recognize that it is
this group that has in the past tended to indoctrinate younger generations their
children and grandchildren into the church. Anyone else see what's going on here?
The Catholic Church is shedding US members. Those who have left they church say
they don't like the Church's conservative approach toward birth control,
homosexuality, and female ordination. The Church has decided not to reconsider
these policies a move that could help maintain membership. Instead, the Holy See
has decided to attack the one prominent and popular group among the clergy because

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The Catholic Church's inquisition of American nuns | Victori...

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/cifamerica/2012...

they back the modern ideas demanded by believers.


Thus, rather than defending the faith, the Vatican's strategy works only to hasten the
extinction of the very institution it's seeking to preserve.
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