The Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration is standing with its parent group in a spat between the Vatican and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an organization that represents more than two-thirds of U.S. nuns.
Catholic bishops have scolded the nuns for focusing on social justice issues instead of speaking out more strongly against abortion, homosexuality and women priests. The Vatican has also said the nuns suffered “a prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”
Members of the La Crosse-based FSPA declined to be interviewed for this story, saying the Leadership Conference of Women Religious had asked they not speak on its behalf. But the local nuns issued a statement Wednesday through the umbrella group calling the Vatican’s accusations “misrepresentations of LCWR and U.S. Catholic Sisters.”
“The FSPA mission and ministries remain unchanged — from ministering with the poorest of the poor in Zimbabwe to meeting the health care needs of the people in La Crosse through our works at St. Clare Health Mission,” the statement read.
The squabble reached a boiling point in April, when the Vatican gave three American bishops authority to overhaul the Leadership Conference. Catholics across the country responded with vigils and petitions in support of the nuns.
For their part, the Leadership Conference called the Vatican’s accusations “the result of a flawed process that lacked transparency,” saying that Rome’s two-year investigation into the group “caused scandal and pain throughout the church community.”
Members of the Leadership Conference flew to Rome to meet Tuesday with top Vatican officials, who seemed unwilling back off their assertions. The Vatican issued a statement after the meeting reminding that the group “remains under the supreme direction of the Holy See.”
Locally, the FSPA has in the past sponsored events like the Social Justice Stations of the Cross, which involve group prayers on topics such as immigration, incarceration, greed, health care, non-violence, power, war and patriotism.
The Leadership Conference plans to hold a national gathering later this summer, when the group will discuss a response to the Vatican mandate.