Catholic sisters gather for a national meeting in St. Louis this
week as the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which
represents 80 percent of U.S. nuns, faces a sweeping overhaul from
the Vatican. The organization has been scolded for promoting
"radical feminist themes" and focusing on social justice ministries
at the expense of speaking out against same-sex marriage and
The Vatican's decision to pick a high-profile fight with nuns is
a curious move. The Catholic Church still is reeling from clergy
abuse scandals and faces a disquieting exodus of those baptized into
the faith. Nearly 10 percent of U.S. adults are former Catholics - a
figure that would make lapsed Catholics the second-largest U.S.
It's hard to see how Catholic leaders restore a tarnished image
and appeal to a new generation of spiritual seekers by cracking down
on nuns who care for the sick, feed the hungry and welcome the
immigrant. "Preach the Gospel always and when necessary use words,"
St. Francis of Assisi instructed. These courageous women embody what
it means to put faith into action. You can find them advocating for
ethical business practices in corporate boardrooms, running Catholic
hospitals and lobbying for the most vulnerable on Capitol Hill.
Catholic nuns' tireless support for health care reform, living-wage
jobs and effective programs that help struggling families
underscores that being "pro-life" doesn't stop with defending life
in the womb.
Catholic sisters in St. Louis are bringing light to dark places.
In a blighted area of north St. Louis, Sister Carol Ann Callahan and
other nuns have made St. Augustine Wellston Center a refuge of hope
in a tough neighborhood. Along with committed volunteers, the center
provides food, job skills training and legal assistance to people
struggling to overcome poverty, drugs and the legacy of
incarceration. Sister Sharon Neumeister directs Mercy Neighborhood
Ministries, which connects vulnerable immigrant families to
community health agencies and other vital social services. Sister
Ann Crouse founded McAuley Counseling services to help a low-income
population access mental health care. These stories are echoed
across the country as Catholic sisters exemplify moral leadership
that is earned by walking with the least, the last and the lonely in
The Vatican's crackdown on nuns is the latest sign that the
Catholic hierarchy is in danger of alienating even faithful
Catholics like us who are troubled that our religious tradition's
centuries-old commitment to the common good is being crowded out by
a narrow culture war agenda. …