Earlier this spring, it came to the Vatican’s attention that a group of U.S. nuns had gone off the leash of the church’s teachings on some traditional doctrines including the evils of homosexuality, the imperative of male-only priesthood, and other such “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.” The Vatican was none too pleased, and publicly reprimanded the nuns in April.
Now, the nuns are raising the bar and hitting the road with a bus tour to protest the Republican proposals for the budget.
The group under scrutiny is an affiliation of Washington D.C. based nuns called Network. While the timing really looks like an act of defiance, the group said the protest tour is simply “continuing the work on poverty and economic injustice that has been its focus for 40 years.” Executive director Sister Simone Campbell says, “We’re doing this because of what’s happening on the Hill.”
This isn’t the first time politics have sparked tension between the Network nuns and the Catholic establishment. The New York Times notes that in the healthcare reform debates of 2010, “American bishops came out in opposition to the health plan, but dozens of sisters, many of whom belong to the Leadership Conference, signed a statement supporting it — support that provided crucial cover for the Obama administration in the battle over health care.”
The “disobedient” nuns are further angering the Vatican by protesting the GOP’s budget proposals, which they see as cutting off critical support to those in need. What’s more, the rift is highlighting a disagreement on which values are Christ-like and which aren’t. The nuns are attracting support from Catholics, pulling loyalty away from the Vatican.
The AP quotes one churchgoer who describes the nuns as “women of courage” and says, “they [the Vatican] want to bully these nuns and shut them down and tell them: `Get back in your place, ladies.’ No, it’s not going to be that way anymore.”
With the ranks of the clergy suffering crises of faith and coming out as atheists in record numbers, you’d think the Vatican would want to encourage the nuns, who are at least spreading their message within the context of their faith. But the Vatican has never exactly been quick to embrace change.