Marie Stoline, a 72-year-old former Catholic nun, joined several dozen other protests outside St. Augustine Cathedral in Kalamazoo MI to express support for Catholic nuns in the United States. According to Mlive, the lifelong Catholic woman said "I was taught for eight years by the Sisters of Mercy, and they taught me to stick up for people who were being picked on. Well, I think feel the nuns are being picked on" by the Vatican and the Catholic hierarchy.
The protest was organized by Kim Franke, a former nun, among others. "I've had a love-hate relationship with the Church for so long, and the sisters have been a bright light for me for so long," Franke said. "I'm horrified that it's the sisters who are being investigated by a hierarchy that did not do anything in response to sexual abuse of our children," she said. "As a Catholic community, we need to speak out. We're not sheep and we're not happy with what's going on. The sisters need to know they are not alone," Franke said. "We've got their back." Most of the protesters were women in the 50s and older.
The grey-haired protesters stood across the street from the cathedral as worshippers filed out after the morning Mass. Few worshippers offered support as the protesters sang ‘Be Not Afraid’, a song composed by singer John Michael Talbot that is frequently used in Christian worship services. However, associate pastor Father Ted Martin did sign a poster offered by the protesters to thank specific nuns for their service to the Church.
This was one of numerous such protests all over the United States in which supporters of the Leadership Conference of Catholic Women Religious – an umbrella group that brings together various congregations of Catholic nuns – expressed their opposition to a finding by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that expressed concerns over the group’s "serious doctrinal issues" and "radical feminist themes." This came about following a months-long process of interviews and investigations by a commission from the Vatican. The LCWR is expected to reform, while Bishop Peter Sartain of Seattle is to oversee the process. The LCWR represents approximatelely 80 percent of the 57,000 American nuns in the Catholic Church. These include the Congregation of St. Joseph of Nazareth, which is based near Kalamazoo MI.
The Doctrinal Assessment released by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith criticized the LCWR and noted:
While recognizing that this doctrinal Assessment concerns a particular conference of major superiors and therefore does not intend to offer judgment on the faith and life of Women Religious in the member Congregations which belong to that conference, nevertheless the Assessment reveals serious doctrinal problems which affect many in Consecrated Life. On the doctrinal level, this crisis is characterized by a diminution of the fundamental Christological center and focus of religious consecration which leads, in turn, to a loss of a “constant and lively sense of the Church” among some Religious. The current Doctrinal Assessment arises out of a sincere concern for the life of faith in some Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
The document from the CDF has sparked widespread debate among Catholics, while even some non-Catholics and secular newspapers such as the New York Times have been critical of the doctrinal assessment.