The latest remarks from the Vatican official overseeing the attempts to reform women religious in the United States show how far apart the two sides are, prominent sisters say.
The prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, told L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's semiofficial newspaper, that the congregation's five-year reform agenda for the Leadership Conference of Women Religious is in place not because the Vatican hates women, but to help them regain their identity. The LCWR is made up of the leaders of 80 percent of the nation's approximately 52,000 sisters.
"Above all we have to clarify that we are not misogynists, we don't want to gobble up a woman a day!" Müller said in the newspaper's Sept. 1 edition.
LCWR has been under the shadow of a Vatican-ordered doctrinal assessment since 2009. In 2012, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith ordered it to reform its statutes and appointed a bishop to oversee changes.
LCWR officials declined to respond to Müller's comments.
Social Service Sr. Simone Campbell said the comments show Müller is feeling pushback.
"It's clear he's getting some negative pressure. And I know from my own spiritual life, if I have to say I'm not something, it's kind of a defensive stance. I wonder if he thinks he is a misogynist?" Campbell said. "I don't think he hates women, I think he's frightened of us, and that makes him want to put us back into a very narrow perspective."
Campbell repeated what several speakers at LCWR's annual assembly in Nashville, Tenn., last month said: The tension between the church and its missionaries is nothing new.