Home > Bold Faith Type > A Brave Catholic Pastor Defends Nuns, Blasts Vatican Crackdown

A Brave Catholic Pastor Defends Nuns, Blasts Vatican Crackdown

May 30, 2012, 3:23 pm | Posted by John Gehring

It’s not every day (or decade for that matter) the pastor of a Catholic church is willing to stick his neck out and take on the powers that be in his own Church. But the recent Vatican crackdown on Catholic nuns has landed with a thud on the conscience of many faithful Catholics and inspired righteous indignation in unlikely spots.

Writing in the parish bulletin of Blessed Trinity Catholic Church in Cleveland under the simple headline “From the Desk of Fr. Doug,” the pastor unleashes a thunderous defense of Catholic sisters and a withering critique of Vatican power.  A parish bulletin has rarely crackled with such scorching prose. Read the whole thing here. I’ve pulled some paragraphs that jump off the page and grab you by the hair.

The Vatican sounded like the Pharisees of the New Testament;—legalistic, paternalistic and orthodox— while “the good sisters” were the ones who were feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, educating the immigrant, and so on. Nuns also learned that Catholics are intuitively smart about their faith. They prefer dialogue over diatribe, freedom of thought over mind control, biblical study over fundamentalism, development of doctrine over isolated mandates.

Far from being radical feminists or supporters of far-out ideas, religious women realized that the philosophical underpinnings of Catholic teaching are no longer valid. Women are not subservient to men, the natural law is much broader than once thought, the OT is not as important as the NT, love is more powerful than fear. They realized that you can have a conversation with someone on your campus who thinks differently than the church without compromising what the church teaches.

The Vatican is hypocritical and duplicitous. Their belief is always that someone else needs to clean up their act; the divorced, the gays, the media, the US nuns, the Americans who were using the wrong words to pray, the seminaries, etc. It never occurs to the powers that be that the source of the problem is the structure itself.

US nuns work side by side with the person on the street. They are involved in their everyday lives. Most cardinals spent less than five years in a parish, were never pastors, are frequently career diplomats. Religious women in the US refuse to be controlled by abusive authority that seeks to control out of fear. They realize that Jesus taught no doctrines, but that the church, over time, developed what Jesus taught in a systematic way.

This investigation is not about wayward US nuns. It is the last gasp for control by a dying breed, wrapped in its own self-importance. It is a struggle for the very nature of the church; who we are, how we pray, where we live, who belongs, why we believe. The early church endured a similar struggle. The old order died. The Holy Spirit won.

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious is meeting this week to discuss how they will respond to the Vatican’s move. Catholic sisters are true heroes of our church and need little inspiration to firm up their already steely convictions, but they clearly don’t stand alone.



51 Responses to “A Brave Catholic Pastor Defends Nuns, Blasts Vatican Crackdown”

  1. Phil Lunney says:

    Well said Father Doug. These changes begin with whispers.

  2. Floyd Miller says:

    The Vatican became the Pharisees before, which brought about the Reformation. The time, American conservative Christianists (not Christians, though they claim it) are joining them; look at how they flocked to Gingrich and then Santorum. Many right wing Christianists who did so only years before were denouncing Catholics as not Christian; they had even called Billy Graham the AntiChrist for meeting with Pope John Paul II.

    The Pharisees returned to America 30+ years ago and now are dragging the Vatican down with them. Perhaps a new Reformation is needed.

    • David says:

      The new reformation is alive and well in the Independent Old Catholic Churchs. very much alive indeed…

  3. Gloria Enoch OFS says:

    I believe that the SPIRIT is winning. Everywhere within the Ruling Elites there is a command to shephard more thoroughly, as it were. The sisters will go on as is usual and if the clergy “Supervising” them cannot understand their work that will become clear, won’t it. We are at a time in history where we all feel the stirings of the SPIRIT. We probably won’t be sidtracked from the commands of Jesus Christ in a world of Mammon. In this words: “Feed the Hungry, care for widows (elderly people) visit the imprisoned (physical and spiritual) Heal the sick, and so on as we all know. We won’t be distracted from the economic failures of this time and we will regain our calling and mission from Christ. Optimistic yes, and remember that this church was built on the blood of the martyrs and not how many prs of shoes one has or how many Anti Abortion/Pro Live marches or diatribes we engage in. We will be judged and judged we will be by how welcoming we have made the planet to new birth. We will just keep on keeping on. Hopefully even Catholics who are not liberal,-social-justice will be involved and I think we will all be moving toward our mission. As we Securar Franciscans say: Pax et Bene

  4. Claire says:

    Yay for Fr Doug. We need push back against the Catholic hierarchy. Fr Doug speaks the truth. The nuns are truly the prolife in our country!

  5. SusanSchurman says:

    Amen! Well said! Holy Spirit is alive and well and speaking up courageously. Thank you!

  6. If you all want to know how I think nuns should train… Watch OZ on netflix or something, and study the nun on that TV show…. Hollywood knows more about the freaken gospel than the freaken vatican! —signed “Left the Church to follow Jesus!”

  7. I have been estranged from the Catholic Church for several years, and have at times missed the community and faith of the Church. It comes as encouraging news that the sisters of the Church, priests like Father Doug, and even prelates such as Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Germany are defying the conservative, reactionary, and downright bigoted policies of the Vatican and the majority of the Church hierarchy. This courageous stance is truly inspired by faith in the resilience and survivability of what the Catholic faith is all about: love, compassion, freedom of expression, equality, acceptance and understanding.

    Thank you, Sisters, Father Doug, and all of the clerics and faithful who are spearheading the fight (something I’m sure Jesus would endorse, just as he drove the money changers out of the Temple, and condemned the false doctrines of the Pharisees) against the brutally reactionary, and power-serving Vatican.

  8. Mary says:


  9. Paul French says:

    I think the Vatican overreached when they went after the nuns. The nuns are the face of the Catholic Church. They are in the front lines at the hospitals and schools.

  10. Domnica says:

    Thank you for our support.

  11. John says:

    Could this br the begining of a Catholic Reformation?
    The time seems right.

  12. Deacon Dennis Brown says:

    Thank you, Fr. Doug…well said!!!

  13. catholic women's voice says:

    He is right on- I am calling for Vatican III- My pastor gave almost the same holmily- I am over 70~ but the young I speak to alos know it is time to change and not just in the US Sensus Fidelium- The Holy Spirit is calling the faithful PEOPLE OF GOD to SPEAK

  14. V.Stuart says:

    Thanks,Father Doug,We need more clergy-bishops included-
    speaking out in favor of the nuns

  15. Thank you for your support

  16. linda spearnak says:

    brilliantly said

  17. Mari says:

    Thank you, Fr. Doug! I am a cradle Catholic who is very disillusioned by the hierarchy! They are indeed the Pharisees that JESUS spoke of!

    I pray and look forward to the day that we, American liberal Catholics break away from the Vatican!

    The churches are emptying out just like they did in Europe.

  18. Lucy says:

    Its about time we heard from our pastors on this. Bravo, Fr. Doug! I only wish the priests in the New York Archdiocese were as brave as you. We are withering on the vine here and are in desperate need of the voice of reason.

    I support our sisters and have withdrawn my donations to anything Archdiocese or Vatican related – and will be sending those funds to the LCWR. I call upon my fellow Catholics to do likewise.

    Enough is enough. Its time for the laity to rise up and speak with the only voice we have, the only voice that will be recognized … our wallets. Turn off the taps until the hierarchy topples.

  19. Mary says:

    As a former Roman Catholic, and a former member of an RC community of nuns I was not surprised to see what the Vatican is doing now. Clearly the all malel heirarchy is fearful of losing power. History teaches us that institutions that abuse power will not survive in their opressive state. I find solice in the awareness that God and the church are not synonomous. Too bad the Vatican does not recognize the distinction.

  20. David Philippart says:

    Thanks, Doug!

  21. novy says:

    Thank you, father. I am emailing this to my children who find it increasingly hard to bring themselves to go to a church that they see set against them (they are women), instead of the one their elders were raised in that followed Jesus’s teachings of love and compassion. They wonder why Bishops and priests are so vocally against women’s health care while they say nothing about the evils of immoral war. They wonder why priest doggedly persecute nuns and girl scouts while sheltering the child rapists in their ranks. Thank you for speaking out and reminding us what the church can stand for; this is real pastoral work.

  22. Jan says:

    What a good and brave man. If I could find a priest like him, I might go back to church for the comfort.

  23. Andrew Raymond says:

    Wow. You go Fr. Doug! I feel there is a necessary reformation coming, and you are on the leading edge of it. May God bless and grant you the strength and wisdom to proceed.

    • Patti says:

      Dennis Miller, hard to believe you’re defending the Vatican while it’s attacking sisters who are out there fighting on the front lines. Benedict is NOT a good shepherd–more accurate to call him a “GERMAN Shepherd”!!! It’s ppl like you (and your German Shepherd) who are driving good ppl OUT of the Church. Shame on you!!!

  24. Dennis Miller says:

    I’ve worked with several “nuns” (probably more accurate to call them “sisters”) and I believe the Vatican report was long overdue. Many have completely lost the attitude of Matthew 20:26-27 “…whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.” For many, Jesus is just one savior among many, not THE savior of the world. And, the real telling point is that they are dying, no young women are willing to join them. Sometimes a good shepherd needs to be honest with his sheep even if the sheep don’t particularly want or like to hear it. Thank goodness the Pope is willing to be a good shepherd.

  25. Lorraine says:

    God bless you Father Doug for speaking out …the Holy Spirit is with you…for this you have spoken in truth. The Vatican has always been predjudiced against the nuns in the US. just because they are American and considered too extreme…avant garde…ahead of their time..leaders..
    not followers…leaders because they are among the best educated in the world and we are all blessed to have them.
    Thank you for raising your voice in their favor..

  26. CKH says:

    It’s about time the Vatican cracked down on the dissident sisters.

  27. Natalie says:

    Bravo, Fr. Doug, and thank you heroes of the Church — aka our loving nuns who truly do the work of Christ. I was just telling my husband this morning that I attribute what i love most about my faith to the simple truth of: “Preach the Gospel at all times… and when necessary, use words.” These Sisters live this simple and beautiful command.

  28. Theresa Loebl says:

    Bravo Fr. Doug, Bravo!

  29. Stephen says:

    Fr. Doug:
    You and those like you are a credit to Christianity!

  30. Katherine says:

    If all priests were like this, I might still be Catholic. I was taught by nuns all through elementary school. They still terrify me, and they are all awesome.

  31. Bobtr900 says:

    AMEN Fr. Doug! Jesus central message was one of love, peace, tolerance and ” Do unto others… You are doing what HE did.


  32. Kenny says:

    The Vatican is indeed all that Fr Doug says and more.But he is completely wrong about these once Holy Sisters. They have lost their way, are getting no vocations as a direct result of that,. There are some that even support abortion! How is that even vaguely Christian?
    You have a point Father, but you are so wrong about these nuns.

  33. Marilyn Cahill says:

    Brilliantly stated, Fr Doug!
    Need more like you …to go out on a limb!

  34. Much of what makes my Christian life meanigful came from Sisters. In grfade school, they reinforced the message I was receiving at home, in high school kept me somewhat focused on what was important, and in college encouraged me to question, critique, discuss, listen. I owe them collectively so much. I pleases me to support the LCWR with my heart and all my best efforts!

  35. Anthony says:

    ‘The early church endured a similar struggle. The old order died. The Holy Spirit won.’

    Fr Doug needs to look at that last statement. The early church was successfully led by the Holy Spirit, and was unconquerable until it was subverted by a new order led by Constantine. As a consequence the Holy Spirit was quenched until after the Reformation. Only now is the Spirit being given fuller expression in diverse denominations.

  36. Theresa says:

    It is not courageous to take a left wing view these days. It is courageous to take a conservative view and speak for the wisdom handed down to us through the ages. Yes, the nuns do great work but if they are espousing views antithetical to their church, to which they took a vow, they should leave. There are other churches sympathetic to their views. Be an Episcopalian!

  37. Mariann says:

    Way to go Fr. Doug.. I think the Pope thinks he is God and he’s far from it. He is no closer to God then i’am..

  38. Natalie Cornell says:

    Thanks, Fr. Doug. I wish every priest in America would give a similar sermon. A lot of lay people also have righteous indignation and will be showing their feelings when the collection plate is passed. It unfortunately is the only way the hierarchy has left us to protest. I propose donations to various orders of nuns. They will get our support and hopefully the Vatican will get the message.

  39. Mary beth says:

    Thank you Fr. Doug. Finally someone says what’s in my heart. I love my faith. It’s only my faith, not the religion prescribed by the Vatican, that keeps me Catholic.

  40. JCF says:

    I can’t believe just HOW AWESOME this “From the Desk” memo is. That, brothers & sisters, is the Gospel!

    Thank you, Fr Doug! May you prosper in (by way of changing) the RCC, but if not: “the Episcopal Church Welcomes You”

  41. Dorothy says:

    Thank you Fr. Doug for your frank statement. I agree totally with everything you said. The many Nuns I had as teachers growing up, as well as those I have become friends with today, are all strong, faith led women who see Christ in the least of us everyday. Who could possibly see that as a bad thing? Certainly not Jesus!
    I believe this to be another way the vatican is seeking complete control over the faithful. Vatican 11 taught us how to form a true conscience, this Vatican thinks we are not capable of thinking for ourselves. Especially women! They continue to seek control over women in the bedroom through birth control condemnation. That approach does not work with Nuns, so they go after their “radical actions” of standing with the poor, oppressed, those incarcerated, abused, and those who have no voice. Just the type of thing Jesus did. He was indeed a “radical” in His time, and would be today. He is the Gospel, these holy and brave women are simply living it. And shouldn’t we all?

  42. Peter says:

    We are living through a period when the Vatican seems intent on nullifying or reversing the guidance we received from Vatican II. Change came too fast for too many bishops and now we suffer the consequences of their intransigence. The shortage of priests does not coincide with the huge vocations to the priesthood. Women are often better prepared for priesthood than are men, yet so many Catholics think that having married (male) priests would solve the problem. The problem is the failure to recognize the inherent qualities of both men and women for a priestly vocation, not chastity.

    The fear that the Vatican’s message conveys should be a basis for our prayers to heal.

  43. Jeffrey Boyce says:

    I was a cradle Catholic and left when I found out that pedophiles were joining the seminaries. I have recently discovered the joy and non-judgemental sharing of Christ in the Episcopal Church. Oh yea, we have woman clergy.

  44. Mr. C Birkington says:

    The Nuns will either reform, leave or be thrown out.

    Do they take wonderful care of the needy and poor?
    Yes, and they do a fantastic job.

    However, they are supposed to be Catholic Nuns not Episcopalians.
    They must, despite good works, believe as we believe. If they won’t reform their beliefs that abortion, gay marriage and women in ministry are right then they can leave the church.

    Good works without true faith will get you membership in all the liberal dying churches, but without the correct faith you will not inherit eternal life.

    They Nuns need our prayers to return to orthodoxy.

  45. Mr. C Birkington says:

    By the way, we have 140,000 plus Seminarians. We are going through a vocation boom, so we don’t need women or gays in the ministry. We have plenty of Priests today and will have even more in the years to come.

    Just FYI, the more liberal churches are all dying out fast and they are all extremely old. So they are literally and figuratively dying out. They have the least amount of vocations, and they are less faithful and more relativistic. Conservative churches are busting at the seams with tons of faithful. They ate vibrant churches that conserve orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

    You will know them by their fruit or lack of fruit. Only conservative churches grow because they are attached to the Vine who is Christ Jesus. They don’t try to change the faith because Truth never changes.


  46. Corinne DellaVilla says:

    Wow! Another apostate preacher. There is nothing paternalistic about maintaining the docrines and dogmas of the church.

    Do you follow the works of the Saints in our Catholic history?

    Christ forgave the sinner, but NEVER the sin. I agree that God is love, however, John Paul II warned us all about falling into the travesty of liberation theology.

    Do you believe in the sanctity of life, or are you a Pro-choice catholic. Note that I used the little c because you are attempting to overturn 2,000 years of Catholic teaching.

    Religion is not an evolving proposition. It is NOT a democracy and you can’t just ignore what you don’t like.

    You can live your lives as you chose, but don’t have the right to dictate what the church should teach about sin.

    I do have one issue with the Catholic Church and that is the Bishops ignoring the apostate behavior of the likes of the Kennedy clan, Andrew Cuomo, Nancy Pelosi, Kathleen Sebelius, etal. Note the similarities. They are ALL Democrats.

    Each one has tried to circumvent Catholic teaching. The Kennedy alone have broken all 10 Commandments!

    Ted Kennedy, however, must have realized that he needed some absolution from being part of the Senators sandwich, Chappaquidick, abortion, etc. When Presiemt Obama met with the Pope he brought a letter from Ted. The Pope stated that he should make his peace with God. Granted, Ted was all for helping the poor?” Lets just say, as with Joe Biden, he was a little cheap with charitable giving. He must have thought this was Rome of the Middle Ages where he could buy his way into heaven. We all know that Jesus stated that a rich man getting into heaven is like a camel going through the eye of a needle.

    Too many Bishops have looked the other way, to have the best seats at the table of the Democrat party. Terence Cardinal Cooke was the annulment guru to Kennedy family.

    I suggest you read the Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska. She was a nun in 1930′s Poland who perpetuated the Divne Mercy Chaplet. I am not sure that Father Doug is aware of her. But, I suggest he read up on what she had to say through Jesus. He referred to those Priests and Religious who would stray.

    You cannot deny your total political agenda. Jesus Christ spoke of many things beyond social justice.
    From what I have seen of the liberal agenda there is no accountability. We have a push for oil companies to use cellulosic ethanol within the next year. One problem, that doesn’t exist! You might “convert” some people, but for must of us, what you are selling, we aren’t buying.

  47. DOROTHY CONWAY says: