American nuns were in the crosshairs of the Vatican hierarchy this year. As John Cloud wrote in TIME:
“The Vatican [on April 18] criticized the largest association of U.S. nuns — the Leadership Conference of Women Religious — for allowing ‘radical feminist themes’ to permeate its meetings. The Holy See said the leadership conference had hosted speakers whose ‘rejection of faith’ and ‘silence’ on abortion had become ‘a serious source of scandal.’ The Vatican appointed three bishops to supervise the leadership conference.”
At the same time, the Holy See also took on an American scholar—who is also a nun. Sister Margaret Farley faced censure after Vatican bureaucrats denounced her book Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics. As Tim Padgett wrote on TIME.com:
Farley, a retired Yale divinity professor and a past president of the Catholic Theological Society of America, condones practices that have been morally acceptable to most U.S. and European Catholics for quite a while, including divorce, homosexuality, nonprocreative intercourse and masturbation. But Rome’s doctrinal bulldogs are sternly reminding her that those acts are ‘disordered,’ ‘deviant’ and ‘depraved.’”
Farley did not buckle—nor did other nuns. Most prominent of the “rebels” was Sister Simone Campbell, who backed Obamacare because it extended benefits for poorer Americans. The Catholic church hierarchy in the U.S. mainly opposed the reform because of its provisions regarding reproductive rights. Campbell would speak at the Democratic National Convention (as well as appear as a guest on The Colbert Report), further fueling the church’s confrontation with the liberal women in its ranks.