By Cathy Lynn Grossman
(USA TODAY) - The guardians of doctrine for the Catholic Church met with the leaders of most U.S. sisters and nuns Tuesday and, for all the talk of openess and cordiality, the message was clear:
"Neither side is prepared to budge," said John Allen, Vatican expert for the National Catholid Reporter and CNN who met with the top Vatican authority for doctrine, Cardinal William Levada, after the so-called "sisters summit" on Tuesday.
According to the Associated Press, the American nuns were told they ...
... must faithfully promote age-old church teachings, after the women were accused by Rome of flouting core doctrine and taking an overly liberal "'feminist'" bent.
Sister Pat Farrell, president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, and the group's executive director, Sister Janet Mock, met with Levada, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Archbishop Peter Sartain.
Sartain was appointed in April to take over the LCWR's management and programming after a report by a committee of bishops concluded that the group was straying toward ''radical feminist themes'' and views that didn't fit Catholic doctrine.
Allen told CNN on Tuesday afternoon that Levada told him this is "not an attack on nuns," but the Vatican must insist that any organizaton bearing the recognition of the Church has to must promote its authentic teachings.
The LCWR, however, feels that it is being called to "blind obedience," Allen said.
The sisters were startled by the harsh assessment, calling it a scandal and cause of pain. They requested the meeting in Rome to address what they called "misconceptions." According to the Associated Press:
''It was an open meeting and we were able to directly express our concerns to Cardinal Levada and Archbishop Sartain,'' Farrell said in a statement. Stopped by reporters outside Levada's office, Farrell said she was ''grateful for the opportunity for open dialogue'' and said she and Mock would now report back to the LCWR board ''to decide how to proceed from here.''
The Vatican said the meeting was conducted in an atmosphere of ''openness and cordiality.'' But in its own statement, it stressed that the LCWR must promote church unity by stressing core church teachings.
(Rocco Palmo has the Church's full statement from the "sister summit" at his blog, Whispers in the Loggia for those fluent in Vatican-speak.)
The group will remain under the bishops' control for the next five years. Last week a spokesman for the group said they would consult with membership between now and August on what to do next.
The LCWR has few options, says theologian and critic of the group George Weigel.
The LCWR only exists because the Holy See says it exists. The question of who decides what it is or is not is up to the Church. There's not a lot of room for to-ing and fro-ing.
Ultimately, Allen said, this is not simply about the Vatican vs. the nuns, it is "about what it means to be Catholic in the 21st century."