|Fr. Francis Sullivan, S.J.|
Distinguished commentators in the New York Times and elsewhere wrongly interpret the assessment as "a stinging reprimand of American nuns," or an attempt "to muzzle American nuns." Contrary to these misguided critiques, the assessment expresses concerns about aspects of the conference itself. It is critical of the conference's silence on certain key issues facing the church and society, e.g., the dignity of human life from its conception to natural death, the biblical view of marriage and the family. It also expresses apprehension that the conference fails to support the church's official teachings on such issues as women's ordination and homosexual activity.
Jesuit theologian Francis A. Sullivan points out that all Christians share the apostolic mandate to proclaim the good news of Christ to the world. Bishops have inherited the apostolic ministry of pastoral leadership with a fullness that others have not. Because of this charism, it is the bishops who speak for the church. At the same time, the voices of other members of the church - for example, women religious - need to be heard because they speak in the church.
As the U.S. bishops, the Vatican and the conference embark on their "patient and collaborative renewal," there must be a reverent respect and mutuality between those who speak for the church and those who speak in the church.