More than 200 Kansas City Catholics took a public stand Tuesday in an international dispute over the practices of U.S. nuns.
They gathered at the J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain in white shirts, and with white balloons, to protest what organizers said was an unfair criticism of U.S. nuns published by the Vatican’s doctrinal office in April.
Some of their signs read: “Nuns rock” and “Some of my best friends are nuns.”
The Vatican report rebuked U.S. nuns for promoting radical feminism and for focusing too much on social justice issues at the expense of church teachings on abortion and human sexuality. Alleging a problem of obedience among nuns represented by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the assessment called for the assignment of an archbishop to reform the Leadership Conference, which represents roughly 80 percent of nuns in the U.S.
The vigil in Kansas City followed similar demonstrations in New York, Atlanta and Washington, D.C., all promoted by Nun Justice, an umbrella group of Catholic groups that oppose the Vatican’s efforts to reign in U.S. nuns.
Janelle Lazzo of Kansas City helped organize the vigil. She said she grew up in Catholic schools and saw her children educated by nuns.
“I owe them everything,” she said. “I’m enraged at the Vatican coming down on the sisters, of all people.”
Jeanne Christenson, a Kansas City nun, said she and others believed they were living in the best tradition of Catholicism by working with the poor and vulnerable in hospitals and schools.
“This is a venue for people to say ‘we disagree with the bishops,’ ” she said.
The office of the papal nuncio in Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops did not respond to requests for comment.
Jude Huntz, chancellor of the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese, said he knew of no organized participation by area churches or parishes in Tuesday’s vigil. He said the diocese was appreciative of Kansas City’s nuns, but the current debate was beyond its authority.
“Certainly, the sisters feel like they have been treated unfairly,” he said. “And those are issues they’ll have to address directly with the Vatican.”