The liberal host of the public radio show Interfaith Voices, Sister Maureen Fiedler has cheered for the Occupy protests, railed against the Ryan budget, advocated for single-payer healthcare, and pined for the Obama of 2008 – and it is now her taking umbrage at the Vatican that got her a nice soft interview on CNN, Tuesday morning.
Anchor Carol Costello actually made light of the Vatican's announcement last month to reform the U.S. Leadership Conference of Women's Religious (LCWR) – of which Sr. Fiedler is a part – by asking her, tongue-in-cheek, if she wasn't the "kind of radical, feminist nun the bishops are concerned about?" That prompted a chuckle from her guest, followed by her liberal lines.
The Vatican, after a lengthy investigation of the LCWR – during which CNN helped promote the cause of the liberal nuns – found a doctrinal "crisis" within the organization. And Sr. Maureen Fiedler herself has knocked the U.S. bishops for being behind the times on same-sex marriage.
"Same-sex marriage is defined these days as a civil rights issue, and there will come a time when the bishops will not want to be cited in history as against civil rights for gay and lesbian people," she wrote in the wake of Maryland's legislature legalizing same-sex marriage.
Toward the end of the soft interview, Costello teed up her guest once again. "The Catholic Church seems to be a mission, 40 some Catholic universities are suing over Obamacare, Catholics are investigating the nuns, the Girl Scouts. What's next do you suppose?" she asked.
That teed up Sr. Fiedler to quip that it might be "puppies and kittens next, you know?"
A transcript of the segment, which aired on May 29 on Newsroom at 9:32 a.m. EDT, is as follows:
CAROL COSTELLO: It is a showdown, although a prayerful one, between Catholic nuns and the Vatican. The Leadership Conference of Women Religious is meeting in Washington to determine how nuns will respond to allegations of radical feminism. Bishops accuse America's nuns of fighting for the poor, but not fighting against contraception, abortion, and same-sex marriage. The church is demanding major reforms.
Sister Maureen Fiedler is host of "Interfaith Voices," a public radio show. And she's worked for social justice and gender equality issues for many, many years. Sister Maureen, welcome.
Sister MAUREEN FIEDLER, nun: Thank you. It's good to be here, Carol.
COSTELLO: I'm glad to have you. I'm going to ask you a tough first question. Aren't you kind of radical, feminist nun the bishops are concerned about?
FIEDLER: You know, I had to laugh when I read that part of the document. I mean, if these men really want to beat some radical feminists, I can introduce them to them. But I don't think the women of LCWR are that. I certainly am a feminist. I believe in the fundamental equality of women and men – which by the way the Second Vatican Council does as well. It says and I'm quoting, "Every type of discrimination based on sex is to be overcome and eradicated as contrary to God's intent," close quote.
COSTELLO: Okay. So, you came out. You say, yes, I am a feminist. But doesn't that mean you're not a good Catholic in the bishops' eyes?
FIEDLER: Oh, absolutely not. I don't think you can be a good Catholic and not be a feminist, not be someone who believes in the fundamental equality of the genders.
FIEDLER: Pardon me?
COSTELLO: That's not what the bishops are saying.
FIEDLER: Actually, I think if you scratch the surface and talk to a lot of bishops, particularly those who have not joined this recent lawsuit on the contraceptive issue – and there are most that have not joined – there is a lot of dissent on those issues in the Bishop's Conference. It just doesn't always make it publicly.
COSTELLO: Okay. So, I know what the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the gathering of most of the nation's nuns, they will pray for a solution. But you know many of these women who are attending this conference – are they angry enough to actually consider splitting from the Vatican, turning their orders into nonprofits and working with the poor on their own?
FIEDLER: I don't think that quite is the issue. I think there's a possibility. It has been suggested by some former leaders that LCWR itself, which is the leadership conference, the elected leaders of nuns in America, to become a nonprofit on their own. That's one of the ideas on the table, so to speak. But I do think they are going to go about this thoughtfully, prayerfully and intelligently -- which is the way they have always gone about business.
COSTELLO: The Catholic Church seems to be a mission, 40 some Catholic universities are suing over Obamacare, Catholics are investigating the nuns, the Girl Scouts. What's next do you suppose?
FIEDLER: I don't know. I keep saying is it puppies and kittens next, you know? But what's really at stake here in the larger significance of this is the future of the church.
Whether we're going to go back to the old church before the Second Vatican Council, which was male and dictatorial and not collaborative, obsessed with issues of sexuality, or whether we're going to go forward with what Second Vatican Council called us to, which was collaborative leadership and dialogue and a church where the laity really have a place. And a place where social justice issues are in the forefront of the agenda that we're carrying forward.
And I think the laity of this country want the second. In fact, I think it would be a tragedy for the American church if we ever went back to that old model. And unfortunately, that's represented in this Vatican document.