Guess Who the Vatican Is Picking on Now

Forget the pedophile priests. Uppity nuns are the Catholic Church's issue du jour.

As if the Catholic Church didn’t have enough on its plate, it just announced that it’s appointing an archbishop to whip its wayward American religious sisters into line. That’s right! Instead of worrying about, say, which of its clergy are repeat pedophiliac abusers, or its latest money-laundering scandal, or the “Vatileaks” corruption kerfuffle, the Holy See sees fit to drill down on those rowdy, rambunctious women in black and white.

Actually, they don’t wear black and white much anymore, which is part of the problem, apparently. A few years back, the New York Times ran a piece on the Vatican’s multi-year investigation, known as an “Apostolic Visitation,” into whether American nuns were going astray. That article stated that some sisters “surmise that the Vatican and even some American bishops are trying to shift them back into living in convents, wearing habits or at least identifiable religious garb, ordering their schedules around daily prayers and working primarily in Roman Catholic institutions, like schools and hospitals.” How you gonna keep ’em down on the farm once they’ve seen American social injustice, right?

Specifically, the church was looking into the doings of the Leadership Conference of American Religious, which represents some 80 percent of the country’s 57,000 nuns. (I know! So many as that!) The LCAR says it was “taken by surprise” by the investigation’s finding of “serious doctrinal problems” among its membership. Problems such as? Well, the LCAR, while promoting what even the Vatican acknowledges are “issues of social justice in harmony with the church’s social doctrine,” hasn’t spoken out “on the right to life from conception to natural death.” In other words, the nuns are too busy doing God’s work to get all hot under the habit about abortion. And the LCAR doesn’t promote the church’s teachings—i.e., bigotry—when it comes to gays.

I never knew I liked nuns so much.

An AP story on the nun crackdown theorizes that the sisters ran afoul of church doctrine when the NETWORK social justice lobby, which has ties to LCAR, supported the Obama administration’s plan for health-care reform despite the objections of Catholic bishops that the plan promotes abortion. The investigation’s official eight-page report doesn’t mention Obamacare, but NETWORK’s executive director, Sister Simone Campbell, notes that the timing looks suspicious, since the review began in 2009 and lasted until just a few months after the bill was approved in 2010: “I can only infer that there was strong feeling about the health care position we had taken.”

Oh, and also? “The Cardinal noted a prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith in some of the programs and presentations sponsored by the LCWR.” Yeah, that. So hey, you Catholic Church faithful? Aren’t you glad to know that while your priests hole up and abuse children and launder money, the women are going to get “reformed” from their work in the trenches with the poor, the downtrodden and the disenfranchised? For heaven’s sake, pass that collection plate.