Ever since the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith announced its crackdown on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, a group that brings together the leadership of 80% of US women religious, many outraged Catholics and supporters have spoken out in the defense of the nuns. The LCWR itself waited to respond until after a board meeting in late May, issuing a strongly-worded statement last week.

The Vatican-appointed overseer, Archbishop Peter Sartain, offered this response. (If you’d like to read the kinds of criticisms the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith unleashed on America’s women religious, the “Doctrinal Assessment” is available here.)

It will be a while before this goes anywhere; LCWR has a general membership meeting coming up in August. But one of the things LCWR is being condemned for is their association with groups that Rome sees as having “radical feminist tendencies.” On that list is NETWORK, a National Catholic Social Justice Lobby, which The New York Times reports is hitting the road later this month with – yup, a bus full of nuns:

In a spirited retort to the Vatican, a group of Roman Catholic nuns is planning a bus trip across nine states this month, stopping at homeless shelters, food pantries, schools and health care facilities run by nuns to highlight their work with the nation’s poor and disenfranchised.

The bus tour is a response to a blistering critique of American nuns released in April by the Vatican’s doctrinal office, which included the accusation that the nuns are outspoken on issues of social justice, but silent on other issues the church considers crucial: abortion and gay marriage.

The sisters plan to use the tour also to protest cuts in programs for the poor and working families in the federal budget that was passed by the House of Representatives and proposed by Representative Paul D. Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican who cited his Catholic faith to justify the cuts.

“We’re doing this because these are life issues,” said Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a liberal social justice lobby in Washington. “And by lifting up the work of Catholic sisters, we will demonstrate the very programs and services that will be decimated by the House budget.” (Read more)

As the American Catholic Bishops prioritize a battle against the “loss of religious freedom” in the United States with costly lawsuits challenging the Obama administration’s HHS contraception funding mandate, exemptions and all, as well as with a “Fortnight for Freedom,” the bus will bring women religious and their message of social justice for all persons to a number of cities, starting June 18th in Ames, Iowa. Radical, indeed!

Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK, was our guest on State of Belief Radio right after the LCWR story hit the headlines. You can hear that moving conversation and read the transcript here.

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