Nun Justice Project
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1. Cardinal Gerhard Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith makes statement on LCWR

2. LCWR Statement on Meeting with CDF

Issued by: Sister Carol Zinn, SSJ; Sister Sharon Holland, IHM; Sister Florence Deacon, OSF; and Sister Janet Mock, CSJ

May 8, 2014

[Silver Spring, MD] Over the past several days, there has been much public commentary on the opening remarks of Cardinal Gerhard Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to the presidency of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) at their annual meeting April 30, 2014. In a public statement after the promulgation of the Cardinal’s beginning remarks, in separate releases, both Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, archbishop delegate overseeing the implementation of the CDF mandate, and the LCWR presidency affirmed the accuracy of the Cardinal's remarks and commented on the positive conversation that followed. For LCWR, this conversation was constructive in its frankness and lack of ambiguity. It was not an easy discussion, but its openness and spirit of inquiry created a space for authentic dialogue and discernment.

The meeting with CDF must be viewed within the context of LCWR’s entire visit to Vatican dicasteries. In our first visit on April 27 to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Monsignor Paul Tigue, Secretary, shared that Pope Francis insists upon creating, as part of the New Evangelization, a culture of encounter, marked by dialogue and discernment. We experienced this culture of encounter in every Vatican office we visited in the Curia, an encounter marked by genuine interaction and mutual respect.

We also experienced the Church Universal as we learned about the many international meetings the Holy Father has convened and is planning to convene, addressing global issues like the economy, environment, family life, hunger, poverty, water, violence, human trafficking, and the desire to engage all people – the young, the old, the rich, the poor -- in communion, working together for the common good of the planet. We felt the energy flowing from these initiatives which are not new for the Vatican but have a renewed sense of urgency and possibility.

In our meetings at CDF, LCWR was saddened to learn that impressions of the organization in the past decades have become institutionalized in the Vatican, and these institutionalized perceptions have led to judgments and ultimately to the doctrinal assessment. During the meeting it became evident that despite maximum efforts through the years, communication has broken down and as a result, mistrust has developed. What created an opening toward dialogue in this meeting was hearing first-hand the way the CDF perceives LCWR. We do not recognize ourselves in the doctrinal assessment of the conference and realize that, despite that fact, our attempts to clarify misperceptions have led to deeper misunderstandings. This is a very complex matter, yet LCWR was heartened by the attempt of both CDF and LCWR to find a way through that honors the integrity and mission of both offices.

Passion for all that the Church can be deepens our commitment to stay at the table and talk through differences. We want to be part of the universal Church rooted in the Gospel, a Church that hears the cry of the poor and is united in its response. At the same time, we cannot call for peace-making in Syria, the Middle East, in South Sudan, unless we too sit at tables with people who hold varying views and work patiently and consistently for a genuine meeting of minds and hearts.

In some ways, for LCWR, nothing has changed. We are still under the mandate and still tasked with the difficult work of exploring the meaning and application of key theological, spiritual, social, moral, and ethical concepts together as a conference and in dialogue with the Vatican officials. This work is fraught with tension and misunderstanding. Yet, this is the work of leaders in all walks of life in these times of massive change in the world.

At our meeting with the CDF officials, we experienced a movement toward honest and authentic conversation on some of the matters that lie at the heart of our faith and our vocation. We have come to believe that the continuation of such conversation may be one of the most critical endeavors we, as leaders, can pursue for the sake of the world, the Church, and religious life.

No interviews will be given at this time.

Sister Annmarie Sanders, IHM
Director of Communications
Leadership Conference of Women Religious

3. NunJustice Media Release

For Immediate Release
May 15, 2014

15 Catholic Organizations Pen Open Letter to Pope Francis, Launch Petition Calling An End to Attack on U.S. Nuns

Washington, DC – The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), an umbrella group representing 80% of the 57,000 nuns in the United States, remains under scrutiny from the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).

In the spring of 2012, the CDF issued a statement accusing LCWR of promoting "radical feminist themes" and "corporate dissent," causing outrage among Catholics around the globe. On April 30, 2014, the Vatican chief of doctrine, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, accused U.S. nuns of not abiding to the harsh and unjust reform agenda imposed on them by the Vatican. In addition, the document personally attacked renowned theologian Dr. Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ.

The following is a letter sent to Pope Francis signed by representatives of The Nun Justice Project, a coalition of 15 progressive Catholic organizations based in the United States. In addition, the group has launched a Groundswell petition for individual signers to take action.

The letter reads as follows:

Dear Pope Francis

We write with respect and gratitude for your extraordinary leadership in our Church.

Sadly, we also write with concern and dismay at the behavior that Cardinal Gerhard Müller recently exhibited toward women leaders of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) and especially toward Dr. Elizabeth Johnson CSJ.

Cardinal Müller’s preemptive public criticism of LCWR leadership and Dr. Johnson, one of the most beloved and respected theologians in the world, eclipsed any opportunity for public dialogue.

This communicates that faithful Catholic female leaders are disrespected and discounted in our Church.

On numerous occasions you have expressed a desire to expand leadership opportunities for women. We respectfully suggest that the place to begin is to listen to faithful women who are already exercising leadership.

We ask you to personally intervene with Cardinal Müller and Archbishop Sartain and remove the unjust mandates imposed on LCWR over two years ago.

In addition, a public apology to Dr. Johnson and LCWR leadership would speak volumes about the institutional Church’s intent to truly listen to women and honor their voices.

In closing, we express our love and solidarity with you as together we joyfully proclaim the rich diversity revealed in the Good News of Jesus Christ, a message ever ancient yet ever new.

Sincerely yours,
The Nun Justice Project

American Catholic Council
Association of Roman Catholic Womenpriests
Call To Action
Catholics Speak Out / Quixote Center
Federation of Christian Ministries/RCFCC
National Coalition of American Nuns
New Ways Ministry
Pax Christi Maine
Roman Catholic Womenpriests - USA
Southeastern Pennsylvania Women’s Ordination Conference
Voice of the Faithful
Women’s Ordination Conference


4. NunJustice Media Release

For Immediate Release
December 16, 2014

Organizational media contacts: See list below
For general background: Kate McElwee:(Rome) +39 06 320 3331
Jim Fitzgerald (USA) 773 404 0004 x262

Catholic Groups Applaud Vatican Report as “First Step” in Reconciling with U.S. Sisters
Demand immediate removal of sanctions against LCWR leadership

Statement from the Nun Justice Project:

It is praiseworthy that the Vatican’s Congregation for Religious issued a generally positive report about the outcomes of its three year apostolic visitation of U.S. Sisters. The Nun Justice Project is encouraged by Sr. Sharon Holland’s characterization of the report as “affirming and realistic.” Holland is the president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) an umbrella group representing 80 percent of U.S. women religious.

Nevertheless, the visitation process was both demeaning and a huge waste of time and energy for the Vatican and especially for the sisters who had to divert precious resources away from ministries to the marginalized just so Rome could discover what Catholics have known all along: U.S. women religious are among the most inspiring and faithful of Catholics and led the way in implementing Vatican II reforms.

While the report is a positive first step, reconciliation will not be fully accomplished until the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith removes its unjust mandate against the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

We renew our call to Cardinal Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), to immediately rescind the mandate and apologize to LCWR sister leaders, especially in light of Pope Francis’ recent praise for diversity of theological views, pluralism and reading the “signs of the times.” Until the mandate is removed, the faithful and creative leadership of U.S. sisters remains under unjust Vatican scrutiny.

Over the past five years, the Nun Justice Project organized massive support for women religious. Tens of thousands of Catholics petitioned the Vatican and participated in hundreds of public demonstrations, prayer services, vigils, and media events. Their voices have been instrumental in advancing due process, raising up women’s leadership voice and promoting justice in the church. They will not desist until the LCWR mandate is removed.

We believe it is important to learn what sisters themselves have to say about their experience of the Visitation. Power of Sisterhood: Women Religious Tell the Story of the Apostolic Visitation is an inspiring narrative told from their perspective. For example, Sr Addie Lorraine Walker reflects "... within a context of subjugation women religious found a unique sense of liberating power along with the meaning and purpose of their prophetic voice." (Full review can be found here)

For background on the Nun Justice Project's work addressing the LCWR mandate visit

Media Contacts for the Nun Justice Project Organizations

American Catholic Council
Sheila Peiffer 518.334.6076 (cell)

Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church
Joseph Boyle 484.480.8311(home) 610.462444 (work)

Call To Action
Ellen Euclide 773.404.0004

Linda Pinto 570.618.2120 (c)

Marianne Duddy-Burke 617.669.7810

Deb Rose-Milavec 513-673-1401 (c) 216-228-0869 x 4 (w)

New Ways Ministry
Frank DeBernardo 301.277.5674

Catholics Speak Out Quixote Center
Dolly Pomerleau 301.699.0042

RAPPORT (Renewing a Priestly People, Ordination Reconsidered Today)
Gloria Ulterino 585.455.0389 (c)

Voice of the Faithful
Nick Ingala 617-291-3495 Cell,

WATER: Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual
Mary Hunt 301 589-2509

Women's Ordination Conference
Erin Saiz Hanna 401.588.0457 (c)
Kate McElwee +39 06 320 3331 (Italy)