Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!

The Vatican’s Crackdown on Renegade Nuns

Anybody can be pope; the proof of this is that I have become one.

— Pope John XXIII,  Letter to a young boy

He’s two for three.  Earlier appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, there are things that can really upset Pope Benedict. Abuse of children isn’t one of them. Nuns and press commentary on perceived internecine warfare are.  Benedict’s indifference to tales of sexual abuse is well known.  Cardinal Bernard Law serves to make the point.

Cardinal Law was Archbishop of Boston from 1984 to 2002.  During his tenure many priests under his supervision engaged in inappropriate conduct with children. Although told of the abuse, he did not act on the information.   In December 2002 he tendered his resignation as Cardinal and moved out of the $20 million church-owned house in which he had been humbly living, as befitted a man of the cloth.  The house was sold to help pay for the judgments entered against his diocese because of the sexual abuse.

Two years later the Pope appointed him Archpriest of St. Mary Major Basilica, one of the four most important basilicas in Rome where he was in charge of the administration of the priests and anything related to the basilica. As archpriest he reportedly receives a monthly stipend of about 4,000 Euros a month, an amount that permits him to walk humbly with his God yet live fairly well.

Upon learning of the transfer, Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston lawyer who represented more than 130 victims of sexual abuse by priests under Cardinal Law’s supervision, said:  “The Vatican either doesn’t understand the problem of clergy sex abuse, or it doesn’t care.” No one will say that about the most recent events.  The Pope clearly cares.  One involves his administration and one involves nuns.

In January 2012 documents were leaked to the press (perhaps by the Pope’s butler) that disclose, among other things, power struggles over management of the Vatican Bank and corruption in the awarding of contracts that cost the Vatican millions of Euros. Responding to the leaks Benedict showed himself to be sufficiently concerned that he  appointed a commission of cardinals to investigate the leaks but also saw fit to blame the media for the scandal.

At the end of his general audience on May 31 he said:  “Nonetheless there has been increasing conjecture, amplified by the communications media, which is entirely gratuitous, goes beyond the facts and presents a completely unrealistic image of the Holy See.”  Even more upsetting to Benedict than the media’s portrayal of the Vatican corruption was the outlandish behavior of some renegade nuns in the United States.

In April 2012 it was announced that the Vatican had begun a crackdown on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) , an organization for nuns that represents about 80 per cent of the 57,000 nuns in the United States.  According to a  statement that was issued by the Vatican’s “Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith”(CDF) following a  two-year investigation,  nuns in the LCWR  have “focused their efforts on serving the poor and disenfranchised, while remaining virtually silent on issues the church considers great societal evils: abortion and same-sex marriage.” The nuns also  sponsored speakers who “often contradict or ignore” church teaching and never revoked a 1977 position statement that questioned the male-only priesthood.

LCWR’s shortcomings will be addressed by a group of men led by Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain who will spend five years overhauling  LCWR’s governance and will  review “its plans and programs and its relationship with certain groups that the Vatican finds suspect.” The men will revise the statutes of the organization, vet the speakers and publications and address the fact that LCWR has issued public statements that “disagree with or challenge positions taken by the bishops [men], who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals. . . .”  Nuns in LCWR were not the only women whose shortcomings the  men in the CDF have identified.  Sister Margaret Farley and her writing is another.

Sister Farley is a past president of The Catholic Theological Society of America and an emeritus professor of Christian ethics at Yale Divinity School.  In 2006 she wrote a book on sexuality that the Vatican’s doctrinal office got around to reading in 2010 at which point it let her know of its disapproval, saying her book had “been a cause of confusion among the faithful.”   It was so upsetting to the men in the CDF that they took two more  years to review the book, not out of prurient interest (although the New York Times says they quoted liberally from its racier passages)  but out of a desire to be thorough.   At the conclusion of their study in December 2011 they issued a report that said Sister Farley had a “defective understanding” of Catholic theology.  In March 2012 Benedict approved their report and on June 4, 2012 a formal censure of the book was delivered  saying it was “not consistent with authentic Catholic theology.”

One can be sure that the nuns are grateful for the enlightened guidance the men in the Vatican have given them.  The fact that they need the guidance is ample evidence, if evidence were needed, why women are not admitted to the priesthood.

Christopher Brauchli can be emailed at For political commentary see his web page at


More articles by:
October 23, 2018
Dean Baker
Looking for the Next Crisis: the Not Very Scary World of CLOs
Binoy Kampmark
Leaking for Change: ASIO, Jakarta, and Australia’s Jerusalem Problem
Chris Wright
The Necessity of “Lesser-Evil” Voting
Muhammad Othman
Daunting Challenge for Activists: The Cook Customer “Connection”
Don Fitz
A Debate for Auditor: What the Papers Wouldn’t Say
October 22, 2018
Henry Giroux
Neoliberalism in the Age of Pedagogical Terrorism
Melvin Goodman
Washington’s Latest Cold War Maneuver: Pulling Out of the INF
David Mattson
Basket of Deplorables Revisited: Grizzly Bears at the Mercy of Wyoming
Michelle Renee Matisons
Hurricane War Zone Further Immiserates Florida Panhandle, Panama City
Tom Gill
A Storm is Brewing in Europe: Italy and Its Public Finances Are at the Center of It
Suyapa Portillo Villeda
An Illegitimate, US-Backed Regime is Fueling the Honduran Refugee Crisis
Christopher Brauchli
The Liars’ Bench
Gary Leupp
Will Trump Split the World by Endorsing a Bold-Faced Lie?
Michael Howard
The New York Times’ Animal Cruelty Fetish
Alice Slater
Time Out for Nukes!
Geoff Dutton
Yes, Virginia, There are Conspiracies—I Think
Daniel Warner
Davos in the Desert: To Attend or Not, That is Not the Question
Priti Gulati Cox – Stan Cox
Mothers of Exiles: For Many, the Child-Separation Ordeal May Never End
Manuel E. Yepe
Pence v. China: Cold War 2.0 May Have Just Begun
Raouf Halaby
Of Pith Helmets and Sartorial Colonialism
Dan Carey
Aspirational Goals  
Wim Laven
Intentional or Incompetence—Voter Suppression Where We Live
Weekend Edition
October 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jason Hirthler
The Pieties of the Liberal Class
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
Paul Street
“Male Energy,” Authoritarian Whiteness and Creeping Fascism in the Age of Trump
Nick Pemberton
Reflections on Chomsky’s Voting Strategy: Why The Democratic Party Can’t Be Saved
John Davis
The Last History of the United States
Yigal Bronner
The Road to Khan al-Akhmar
Robert Hunziker
The Negan Syndrome
Andrew Levine
Democrats Ahead: Progressives Beware
Rannie Amiri
There is No “Proxy War” in Yemen
David Rosen
America’s Lost Souls: the 21st Century Lumpen-Proletariat?
Joseph Natoli
The Age of Misrepresentations
Ron Jacobs
History Is Not Kind
John Laforge
White House Radiation: Weakened Regulations Would Save Industry Billions
Ramzy Baroud
The UN ‘Sheriff’: Nikki Haley Elevated Israel, Damaged US Standing
Robert Fantina
Trump, Human Rights and the Middle East
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
NAFTA 2.0 Will Help Corporations More Than Farmers
Jill Richardson
Identity Crisis: Elizabeth Warren’s Claims Cherokee Heritage
Sam Husseini
The Most Strategic Midterm Race: Elder Challenges Hoyer
Maria Foscarinis – John Tharp
The Criminalization of Homelessness
Robert Fisk
The Story of the Armenian Legion: a Dark Tale of Anger and Revenge
Jacques R. Pauwels
Dinner With Marx in the House of the Swan
Dave Lindorff
US ‘Outrage’ over Slaying of US Residents Depends on the Nation Responsible
Ricardo Vaz
How Many Yemenis is a DC Pundit Worth?