President of Women Religious Responds to Vatican on Fresh Air

By Joshua Witchger 07-17-2012

Last month, Sister Pat Farrell, president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, traveled to the Vatican to discuss the not-so-favorable assessment of her group.

If you’ll remember, the verdict was that the LCWR – which represents 80 percent of Catholic sisters in the U.S. – undermines Roman Catholic teaching on homosexuality and birth control, while promoting “radical feminist themes.”

Today on WHYY’s Fresh Air, Sister Farrell talks with Terry Gross about how to deal with conflict. She tells Gross that as the sisters prepare for the national assembly in August, they are busy dialoging and gathering perspectives, hoping to “somehow, in a spirited, nonviolent strategizing, look for maybe a third way that refuses to define the mandate and the issues in such black and white terms.”

In a near 40-minute conversation, topics move from questioning doctrine to women’s ordination and feminism to abortion and human sexuality.

On the phrase “radical feminist themes,” Farrell responds:
"Sincerely, what I hear in the phrasing ... is fear — a fear of women's positions in the church. Now, that's just my interpretation. I have no idea what was in the mind of the congregation, of the doctrine of the faith, when they wrote that. But women theologians around the world have been seriously looking at the question of: How have the church's interpretations of how we talk about God, interpret Scripture, organize life in the church — how have they been tainted by a culture that minimizes the value and the place of women?"

Take a listen to the insightful dialogue below:

+ Stay tuned next week for Gross’ interview with bishop Leonard Blair, one of the delegates who will work with the sisters to carry out the proposed reforms.

Joshua Witchger is an online assistant at Sojourners.

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