Rally supports nuns criticized by Vatican

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Drivers honked support and shouted thanks to the sisters who had taught them as 30 people stood vigil outside St. Paul Cathedral Tuesday to support an umbrella group for nuns that the Vatican says is weak on doctrine and at odds with church authority.

The protesters carried signs saying "Religious liberty for nuns" and "Clean up the Vatican, not the convent."

"As a young person who is in ministry and has worked with the sisters in recent years, I really feel it's important to support them in a time that is uncertain and to pray for their guidance," said Kelly Caddy, 32, a member of St. James Church in Wilkinsburg.

In April the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith ordered an overhaul of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, a Vatican-recognized umbrella group for communities of Catholic sisters in the United States. Its 1,500 communities include about 95 percent of the nation's 68,000 sisters.

The Vatican assessment praised the sisters' service to the poor but said the Leadership Conference had encouraged or ignored "serious doctrinal problems" in some communities.

It accused sisters of a limited view of Jesus' mission and identity and a lack of devotion to the church. It said the sisters were silent about abortion and that some were openly at odds with the church about women's ordination and the morality of same-sex relationships.

The Leadership Conference's executive director is Sister Janet Mock, a Sister of St. Joseph of Baden in Beaver County. She has declined public comment, saying the response must come from the Leadership Conference board, which is meeting this week.

In this week's Pittsburgh Catholic, Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh endorsed the sisters, while saying that the Vatican had raised legitimate questions. He called Sister Janet "a giant woman of the church" and "a dear friend of mine and of the church."

Asked if he believed Catholic sisters had a weak understanding of Christ, he replied, "I have not seen that. I think I'm living proof of that [faith] in terms of all that the sisters did in educating me and seeing what the sisters in education ministry do for students today."

He was aware of the vigil. "I hope their ultimate intent is the same as mine in writing the article, just to let people know what the sisters have done and that they continue to do good work in the church. But, to the extent that a vigil like that slams against the [Vatican] and is about that, it's unfair. I believe the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is doing what it needs to do and that they are handling an important issue in an appropriate way," he said.

Sister Carol Dougherty, a Sister of Charity of Seton Hill, asked everyone to fast and pray for the sisters on Thursday.


Ann Rodgers: arodgers@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1416. First Published May 30, 2012 4:00 AM


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