One of the women at the heart of the Vatican investigation into the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the umbrella group for 80 percent of US nuns, says she and her sisters feel vindicated now that the investigation has ended.
“The fact that the Vatican ended up affirming the work that we do,” said Sister Simone Campbell, the executive director of NETWORK who gained a following with the Nuns on the Bus, “is a huge affirmation. It says we’ve been on the right road all along, they just didn’t understand our road map.”
Speaking for a series of videos promoting the documentary Radical Grace, Sister Campbell credits the early end to the investigation to the support from lay Catholics, Pope Francis, and even the bishops. She said the nuns representing the LCWR avoided approaching the talks “in an adversarial way,” and instead started from a “place of concern and care.”
Last month, the Vatican’s doctrinal watchdog, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, concluded the investigation of the group. Started under Pope Benedict XVI, Catholic traditionalists had worried that US nuns had split from church teaching, engaging in liberal advocacy, and promoting“certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”
As part of the agreement between the CDF and the LCWR, both sides agreed not to speak publicly about the process for one month, which ended May 15.
Now that they are free speak, representatives for the LCWR praised the dialogue that ultimately led to the investigation’s early ending.
“The collective exploration of the meaning and application of key theological, spiritual, social, moral, and ethical concepts must be an ongoing effort for all of us in the world today,” LCWR leaders said in a statement.
Sister Campbell expressed a similar sentiment in her video interview.
“Speaking our truth then got bishops to speak from their place of truth,” she said. “It was a huge risk but it paid off.”
She said she believes Pope Francis’ leadership helped move the investigation to its conclusion.
“I think Pope Francis sets the bar high for loving engagement even of those people he disagrees with, and that’s the challenge he exemplifies in his being,” she said.
Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, Ill., one of three US bishops asked by Rome to direct the LCWR overhaul, told The New York Times that no one wanted to see the process drag on.
“My impression was that everybody involved, from the pope to the congregation officials in the Vatican to the bishops and the nuns, wanted to see this get resolved as quickly as possible,” he said. “We were treating one another as fellow Christians, and nobody liked the idea that the outside world saw us as adversaries.”
Radical Grace, which premiered in Toronto last month, will make its US debut in June. The full slate of videos containing Sister Campbell’s thoughts on the end the investigation is available here.
Material from the Religion News Service was used in this report.