Bishop Leonard Blair, Appointed By Vatican To Oversee US Nuns, Says Sisters Are Promoting 'New Kind Of Theology'

One of the three bishops appointed to oversee the group which represents the majority of U.S. women religious took a hard line Wednesday towards the Vatican’s criticism of the organization, saying the sisters are “promoting, unilaterally…a new kind of theology that is not in accordance with the faith of the church.”

Toledo, Ohio, Bishop Leonard Blair, who was appointed with Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain and Springfield, Ill., Bishop Thomas Paprocki in April to oversee the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) made the comments Wednesday during an extended interview on the popular public radio program “Fresh Air.”

His interview comes a week after LCWR’s president, Sr. Pat Farrell, also appeared on the program, saying that a key question facing the faithful today is "Can you be Catholic and have a questioning mind?"

At points during the interview Wednesday, National Public Radio host Terry Gross played back some of Farrell’s responses from her interview on the show July 17 [4], when the LCWR president directly addressed the Vatican's condemnation of her organization, which represents some 80 percent of women religious in the U.S.

In a document known as a "doctrinal assessment," first released April 18, the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said there was a "prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith" in the group's programs and ordered it to revise and place itself under the authority of three bishops.

After hearing Farrell’s response from last week to the Vatican’s criticism that LCWR doesn’t focus enough on speaking against abortion, in which the sister said she thought the criticism was “unfair” because the group works on a range of pro-life issues, Blair said Farrell’s answer left him with “great disappointment.”

“No one is questioning the fact that many sisters” are involved in those issues, said Blair. But, quoting Blessed Pope John Paul II, the bishop said that “all other human rights are false and illusory if the right to life…is not defended with maximum determination.”

“One would expect the LCWR to stand up and be counted in upholding this right and working for its defense,” said Blair. “There’s been nothing really said by the leadership conference on this issue.”

At one point during the interview, Blair also specifically mentioned LCWR’s lack of statements regarding opposition to gay marriage, saying that “the defense of the God given institution of marriage as between one man and one woman” is a “great issue of our society today.”