With allegations of a ‘nun crackdown,’ the Vatican goes spring cleaning

If everyone could just calm down for a moment regarding the Vatican and nuns, perhaps we could all consider some … Continued

If everyone could just calm down for a moment regarding the Vatican and nuns, perhaps we could all consider some facts.

First, the notion that the Vatican is only investigating the women within its ranks is incorrect. In fact, nuns are rather late in a string of investigations and internal changes the Vatican has been making in America over the past few years. In 2005 and 2006, the Vatican completed an apostolic visitation, or an investigation and evaluation, of American seminaries.



Pope Benedict XVI arrives to lead an ordination mass at St Peter’s basilica at the Vatican on April 29, 2012, to mark Vocation Day.

With both the priests and sisters, church officials were looking into some core questions:

Are there rogue clergy contradicting church teaching? Is there a lack of good dogmatic teaching in some spots? Is there “widespread dissent . .
. particularly in institutions run by religious”?

You bet.

Seminaries and mother houses are far from the only places where some church members have strayed so far from church teaching and tradition as to distort the faith.

Last year, the Vatican established a commission to ensure that church architecture and liturgy are in line with church doctrine. Anyone who has tried to find a tabernacle, or follow the liturgy of the Mass for that matter, in a post-1960s, suburban parish knows why.

Also last year (after nearly 20 years of review), the Vatican required that all American parishes begin adhering to a more correct interpretation of the Latin translation of the liturgy of the Mass. In most other parts of the world, for example, they have been saying “And with your spirit,” instead of “And also with you,” since Vatican II. We Americans citizens may get to keep Fahrenheit, feet, and pounds. But American Catholics are not special in the eyes of the church. So they made sure we say the words of the Mass the same way they do in an African village.

Yes, over the past few years, the Vatican has investigated and cracked down on priests and seminaries, architects, missals and choir directors, to name a few. Now they are checking into the nuns. Big whoop.

The Roman Catholic Church is just doing some spring-cleaning, something she is fully entitled to do. And something she has been doing every now and then for, oh, just a couple thousand years. Think of it like an audit. Any company that doesn’t do an audit is bound to fail. Any religious institution that doesn’t check the dusty corners from time to time is bound to start unraveling. For those who loathe the Catholic Church and her teachings, this is, no doubt, something they wouldn’t mind seeing happen.

To be sure, there are some nuns who work to directly undermine church teaching. The LCWR report was full of specific examples of ways that some nuns have “moved beyond” Jesus. I encountered one just the other day at a political lunch. Though I never would have known she was a nun because, whereas everyone else showed up in suits, she showed up in a velour tracksuit and spoke at length about how the Catholic Church must ordain women and endorse artificial contraception. So yes, the Roman Catholic Church is entirely within her rights to check in on the activities of men and women who have made solemn vows to uphold and propagate church teaching.

Which raises the third point: The Roman Catholic Church is not a democracy. It’s not a dictatorship either. No one is forcing nuns to live lives of obedience, chastity, and poverty. If they change their minds about the life they’ve signed up for, they can take off their habits and walk out the door. But the church is quite upfront about the fact that doctrine and Scripture are not up for personal interpretation. When people speak of nun oppression, it only bespeaks ignorance of just how the Catholic Church operates.

And if people want to draw Mary into the fold, they are best off recalling that Mary is most famous for her first and last lines in the Bible: “Let it be done to me according to thy word,” and “do whatever He tells you.”

Mary is the embodiment of obedience. A Catholic life is one that follows that model. Clergy and nuns are a special example of that model within the church. The point is this: A Catholic life is an obedient life. But it’s an obedience by choice. That’s what makes it a Christian life. Our obedience is modeled after the ultimate obedient choice, Christ’s death on the cross.

But here we are. The Catholic Church is going about her business — and now all of a sudden when it affects nuns — everyone cares. From a Catholic point of view, it’s hard to wonder if the media and society picks their Catholic victims based on political expediency. Sure, it was sloppy timing for the Vatican to make a move on the nuns amidst the fabricated ‘war on women.’ But now The New York Times editorial board enters the realm of theology, writing that the Vatican “misreads the very fine work” of Catholic women religious. After they’ve hung the nuns and their fine and very jeopardized work out to dry throughout the HHS mandate debate? What about those nuns whose work would be shut down because they cannot in good conscience include the Nuva Ring in their health care plans? What of them? And for those who think this is retribution for Sister Keehan bucking the bishops on health care, kindly do us all a favor and do a date check. The apostolic visitation on women religious began in 2009.

As a Catholic woman, allow me to make a simple plea: Please stop victimizing Catholic women when it suits your social or political agenda. It’s really unbecoming for us both.

Ashley McGuire is editor-in-chief of AltCatholicah and a senior fellow with The Catholic Association.

  • cricket44

    Well, since the War on Women is far from fabricated and has been happening for at least the last decade, you’ve shown your ignorance. Rather puts the rest of your piece in doubt.

  • usapdx

    When it comes to educated women, the Vatican boys are lost. When it comes to P.R., the Vatican boys are great at shooting them self in the foot. Mean while they are setting the Vatican clocks back to Dark Age standard time. Where is the likes of JOHN XXIII who is greatly needed.

  • ccnl1

    Why the Vatican is running scared:

    The “vomit-inducing” ped-ophilia and coverup will simply hasten the decline of all religions as they finally go extinct from their own absurdity.. It is time to replace all religions with a few rules like “Do No Harm” and convert all houses of “worthless worship” to recreation facilities and parks.

  • ashleybone

    Ms. McGuire,

    The introduction and passage of “personhood” amendments, fetal pain laws based on psuedoscience, laws mandating the involuntary ramming of ultrasonic probes into women’s bodies, the proliferation of TRAP laws, the elimination of women’s health services across the nation, laws in multiple states allowing doctors to lie to their patients about birth defects, the repeal of pay equity laws, and the desire of particular religious institutions to be given special exemptions from generally applicable health legislation is not a fabrication. The War on Women is real, and the hierarchy of your church is helping conduct it.

    One final question for you: who watches the watchers?

  • JenniferMinicus

    Ms. McGuire-Finally an accurate portrayal of what is really happening in the Catholic Church! There are many of us who greatly appreciate your response to each of the erroneous and prejudiced accusations thrown at the Church, which has consistently taught the same dogma and morals for over 2000 years. Christ said He would be with us always. Time will prove that God keeps His promises.

  • mmoschel

    Finally, an article that offers a clear and unbiased account of the facts! Thank you!

  • DavidJ9

    I find it very disappointing that women who have been completely shunted to the side of the Roman Catholic Church, told to sit down, shut up and get pregnant, would spend time defending their oppressors. Religion makes no sense to me.

  • lufrank1

    Simply look at the Lead photo….ANYONE who actually believes that there is any relationship to that reagaly robed, gold encrusted MERE MAN with Jesus is absolutely stupid!

    Infallible…Spokesman for God/Jesus? Madness..Dark Age Madness!

  • lufrank1

    Please don’t try to associate the Pope with Jesus. There is NOTHING about him or his lifestyle that reflects Jesus. He is simply a throwback to Dark Age superstition.

  • tony55398

    Basicly the Vatican is saying keep your mouth shut and do what your told, to put it bluntly, if you don’t like it find a different church. Not the big tent the Church should be, the good as well as the bad, but there really is salvation outside of the institution, but never outside of Love, the universal Christ.

  • cricket44

    Huh. You must have read a different article.

  • FreetoThink

    Ms. McGuire is absolutely correct. Her church is simply doing some spring cleaning, checking the dusty corners, just as it has been doing for two thousand years. If you failed to notice, you can be forgiven. Stamping out heresy isn’t as dramatic these days as it was when the church could torture heretics and burn them at the stake. In the good old days of church power, that was heavy duty spring cleaning!

    When the sheep don’t act sheepish these days, the hierarchy is limited to wrist-slapping and an occasional excommunication for their transgressions. (Who knew that Jesus insisted on a particular architectural aesthetic for his churches?)

    And Ms. McGuire is also correct that no one is forced to stay in the RCC, a point not lost on the millions of Europeans and Americans who have left. The RCC is becoming increasingly irrelevant.

  • clancy5

    Re: “Nun Crackdown”: Yes the Church is NOTa democracy, but Yes it IS a dictatorship. It has been for oh…”…just a couple thousand years” – ever since its man-made rules began subjugating women (i.e.: Council of Laodicea (364 AD), Canon XLIV: “Women may not go to the altar.” That being said however, it does not mean that one may not protest a dictatorship. I have no idea of why the nuns,or any woman for that matter, would want to remain part of such a misogenistic organization, but it is certainly their right to remain enrolled and still work for any change they see as beneficial to one half of mankind. Here at the Oracle Insitute, we are working to help update the spiritual codes of all religions – and wish them well in their efforts.

  • tony55398

    The Vatican should clean house against many of its early Christian fathers for their venom spewing hatreds against our brothers, the Jews.

  • miller_g

    “Irrelevant”? LOL! Only someone who’s delusional thinks a worldwide organization of 1.1-1.3 billion people is “increasingly irrelevant”.

    Catholics operate the largest school, hospital, and charitable systems in the world. It’s largely responsible for the creation of them.

    In the U.S. alone they run the largest hospital system, treating 93 million+ per year. The Catholic school system is the second largest in the country. There are more Catholics on the Supreme Court than any other one denomination, and the continued hate and strident denials prove the Church’s power and relevance.

    Freetothink, I think thou dost protest too much!

  • csintala79

    This conflict and the Church telling its congregants to like it or leave it isn’t new. Luther tried to get the Church to reform some of its practices. The Church didn’t budge; so, he had to leave it. The nuns and others trying to get the Church to modify its dogma regarding sexual issues are wasting their time. They are at a Luther moment. The good monk faced more far more danger in staying true to his beliefs than any of today’s dissidents; there was a time when excommunication was a death sentence.

  • ccnl1

    One more time:

    Why the Vatican is running scared:

    The “vomit-inducing” ped-ophilia and coverup will simply hasten the decline of all religions as they finally go extinct from their own absurdity.. It is time to replace all religions with a few rules like “Do No Harm” and convert all houses of “worthless worship” to recreation facilities and parks

  • Mathew25

    Ashley I am not surpised that there are people like you in the Catholic Church, nor should anyone else be taken aback by your comments. The problem lies not with what the results of what nuns and other people in the Church are doing it lies squarely with your commentary based on church dictum. People are not leaving the church because of what the LCWR has been doing for decades they have been leaving because of the absurdities of Catholic doctrine which you support. How many Catholics do you know that are against contriception? How many Catholics do you know that are against divorce? Ashley if you would refllect and turn a logical eye toward what is happening to the Church it is you. And you and the catolc Hiierarchy will, I am sad to say , end up in the dust bin of history.

  • tieege

    What an unfair representation of an American Sister in this article. You can feel McGuire’s anger issues just seeping off this page. How Ann Coulter of you to lump and judge all of the Sisters into one encounter. As a Church administrator for close to four decades, we loath and avoid the McGuire catholics who know nothing of the Gospel, know nothing about the Church’s history, but love to promote a conservative agenda that is nothing less than cruel. We know who you are McGuire catholics, and we only placate you because we have to.

  • FreetoThink

    “Increasingly irrelevant” describes a trend, not a destination. Yet.

    And how ironic to be called delusional by an apologist for a religion that believes in virgin births and transubstantiation.

  • Luwarn2


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