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Texas Catholics Protest Vatican’s “Misuse of Power”

May 9, 2012

SAN JUAN, Texas - Catholic nuns in Texas and around the nation held public demonstrations Tuesday night against what they call the Vatican's "misuse of power."

Tuesday night vigils will continue each week in May. On May 29, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious - which represents most U.S. nuns - will begin deliberating its next steps after last month's decision by Rome to tighten its grip on the conference. The church says nuns have been drifting away from established doctrine.

While nuns mainly want to help the needy, says Sister Moira Kenny of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, the church seems more interested in enforcing its rules and preserving its power structures.

"Bishops try to say it's more important to talk against abortion than it is to feed the hungry and educate children, but we have to respect the mandates of the Gospel: helping the poor and the people that Jesus reached out to."

While the current fallout mirrors today's political debates over health care and women's issues, Kenny - an organizer of the San Juan vigil - says there's also deep frustration among nuns that the church refuses to consider ordaining women at a time when there's a shortage of priests.

Some nuns predict the Leadership Conference of Women Religious eventually will declare independence from the Vatican. Dominican Sister Maureen Gallagher says women in the church long have been dealing with discrimination, adding that women's ministries typically receive very little financial support.

"Catholic women were walking away because they could no longer stay in a church that was oppressing them."

The Second Vatican Council in 1960 allowed nuns to focus more on social-justice issues, but the Vatican has been investigating whether faith and doctrine are being ignored. Many nuns openly supported the Obama health-reform plan, while the American bishops opposed it.

Edwina Gately, a poet and founder of Genesis House in Chicago, which helps women move out of lives of prostitution, says she doesn't plan to leave the church, but she will stand up against the Vatican's reprimand.

"For me, being Catholic is a very important dimension of all my activities, and I'm going to stand up for what real Catholocity means. It's universal, it's inclusive, and it goes back to the gospel of Jesus."

Organizers of the Tuesday protests have launched a website called "Nun Justice" which lists vigil sites around the nation and hosts an online petition against the so-called "crackdown" on nuns by the Roman Catholic hierarchy.

More information on the Sisters of Mercy is online at sistersofmercy.org..

Peter Malof, Public News Service - TX