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Catholic Nuns Press for More Decision-Making Power

May 21, 1994|From Religious News Service

VATICAN CITY — Catholic nuns, preparing for a major Vatican meeting this fall on religious orders, have asked to be included in decision-making positions in the church.

More than 425 heads of women's religious orders responded to a survey about the October Synod of Bishops in Rome, the theme of which is religious life.

A summary of their responses was published in the latest bulletin of the International Union of Superiors General, a federation of the heads of women's religious orders.

"The synod is viewed as an ideal opportunity to explore avenues and Gospel reasons for full inclusion of consecrated women in decision-making roles, in reflection processes and in ecclesial ministries," the article said.

There are nearly 1 million Catholic nuns worldwide.

The article, written by Sister Marguerite Letorneau of the Montreal-based Sisters of Charity, or Gray Sisters, did not mention specifically the demand for ordination to the priesthood.

But the nuns are asking for more power in the church, and the October meeting promises to be a lively one.

"A first step might be the presence of qualified women religious in major positions of the Curia (the Vatican hierarchy)," Letorneau wrote. Although hundreds of women religious work at the Vatican, none hold major positions.

She also cited "a growing impatience with the persistent use of exclusive language" in the church.

The superiors charged that bishops frequently are insensitive to women's religious orders, which for decades have provided the bulk of low-cost teachers for Catholic schools worldwide.

"Emphasis tends to be placed on the utilitarian aspect rather than on the intrinsic value of the apostolic religious life," the article said. "In addition, the token salaries given to women religious render more acute the existing financial problems of institutes."

Although they have made a call for more power and participation in the church, the nuns also acknowledged an identity crisis among women's religious orders.

"Women religious seem to be searching for a place and recognition in the actual structure of the church," Letorneau wrote.

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