A group of progressive Catholic organizations writing under the banner of the Nuns Justice Project has sent an open letter to Pope Francis asking him to personally intervene to remove the “unjust mandates” placed on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious by the Vatican.
They say that the recent harsh criticism of the LCWR and Sister Elizabeth Johnson, “one of the most beloved and respected theologians in the world,” by Cardinal Gerhard Müller, “eclipsed any opportunity for public dialogue” and “communicates that faithful Catholic female leaders are disrespected and discounted in our Church.”
All valid criticism, but I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for the Vatican to respond because it’s clear it has a serious hearing problem when it comes to women, a deafness that dates back to the period right after Vatican II, when women began agitating for leadership roles in the church. That’s when the Conference of Major Superiors of Women Religious changed its name to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an upgrade that didn’t go over well with the Vatican, which objected to the nuns’ appropriation of the word “leadership,” which, obviously, is reserved for men.
Sister Margaret Brennan, who was the head of the conference at the time, respectfully requested an audience with Pope Paul VI to explain the conference’s rationale for the change. He not only refused to see Brennan but refused to even respond to a woman directly. He had Cardinal John Krol, head of the U.S. bishops’ conference, deliver the message to Brennan that if she was “more obedient” she might get in to see the pope.
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