WASHINGTON — High-ranking Vatican officials will meet soon with at least six of 24 nuns threatened with expulsion from their religious orders in an attempt to resolve the long-simmering dispute over a newspaper ad, sources said this week.
U.S. church officials had no immediate comment on the report that six members of the Sisters of Loretto and "some others" would meet with an official of the Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes and Papal Pro-Nuncio Pio Laghi in an effort to close the cases related to whether Catholics may dissent from church abortion teachings.
But other sources, including nuns involved in the case, said, "A meeting is scheduled in the near future and a number of the cases could be resolved."
Curran in Jeopardy
The Vatican-nuns meeting comes at a time when the church also is threatening to move against one of the most prominent moral theologians in the United States, Father Charles Curran of Catholic University of America in Washington.
Curran also has publicly dissented--much more specifically than the nuns--from the church teaching that all abortions are evil.
The Vatican has threatened to strip Curran of his status as a Roman Catholic theologian but stopped short of threatening to strip his clerical orders as well, unlike in the case of the nuns.
The sources also said two more cases--those of Sisters Jeanne Grammick and Margaret Traxler--had been resolved, bringing to 11 the number of reportedly closed cases.
Sister Clarifies Stand
Sister Margaret Farley, one of the closed cases, has taken issue with a Vatican statement that she "retracted" her statement, saying that she had simply "clarified" her views to the leader of her religious order.
At issue are the signatures of 24 nuns on an advertisement that appeared in the New York Times on Oct. 7, 1984, which argued, "A diversity of opinion with regard to abortion exists among committed Catholics."
Following publication of the advertisement, the Vatican threatened to expel the 24 nuns and four male members of religious orders if they did not retract. The four men quickly met the Vatican demand but the cases of the 24 women have dragged on more than a year.
Earlier this month, more than 1,000 Catholics signed a second advertisement expressing solidarity with the nuns and their right to dissent in conscience.
Swift Discipline Pushed
That prompted a number of conservative Catholic leaders to urge the Vatican to swiftly discipline the nuns, warning, "The revolt (against church teaching) is spreading."
Leaders from nine Catholic lay organizations last week made public a letter they sent to Cardinal Jean Hamer, head of the Vatican's Congregation for Religious and Sacred Institutes, urging the Vatican make good its threat to oust nuns who disagree with the church's abortion position.
"Surely the time has arrived when the provisions of the church law must be allowed to take their salutary course," the conservatives said.