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At the Vatican, Sister Simone Campbell blasts ‘male power’

A general view is seen of Pope Francis leading the Easter Mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on March 27, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Catholic activist Sister Simone Campbell has suggested that senior clergy at the Vatican are more preoccupied with power than confronting issues that affect the faithful, like clerical sexual abuse.

Sister Simone Campbell at the Vatican on March 7, 2017. RNS photo by Josephine McKenna

The U.S. nun, leader of the “Nuns on the Bus” campaign that has toured America during recent election cycles, spoke frankly in an interview ahead of a conference being held at the Vatican on Wednesday (March 8) to celebrate women’s contributions to peace.

“The institution and the structure is frightened of change,” Campbell told Religion News Service. “These men worry more about the form and the institution than about real people.”

Referring to Marie Collins, who last week resigned from the panel appointed by Pope Francis to look into allegations of past Vatican obstruction of child sex abuse investigations, Campbell said: “Blocked by men. Isn’t this the real problem within the church?”

RELATED: Irish abuse victim lashes out at Vatican bureaucracy as she quits panel

“The effort to keep the church from stopping this sort of thing is shocking,” she added. “It is about male power and male image, not people’s stories. The real trouble is they have defined their power as spiritual leadership and they don’t have a clue about spiritual life.”

Campbell said she was shocked, and also moved, to have been included on the guest list for the Vatican conference.

Sister Simone Campbell speaks during the 2012 Nuns on the Bus tour. Photo courtesy of Network

She was among the American nuns targeted in the controversial investigation of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious that was authorized in 2012 under then-Pope Benedict XVI. The Vatican investigators charged that the American sisters were straying too far from traditional doctrines, but Pope Francis, who was elected in 2013, put an end to the investigation in 2015.

Campbell noted that senior members of the Curia, or Vatican administration, were at a spiritual retreat outside Rome all this week and so unable to attend the women’s conference.

“I don’t know if it’s a slap in the face or evidence of how much power they think we have,” she said.

Campbell heads Network, a social justice organization currently lobbying U.S. legislators in both houses of Congress to protect and maintain affordable health care.

She acknowledged the church was changing but said it was “outrageous” that it was failing to respond to the sex abuse crisis more effectively. While noting that Francis was seeking to create a more inclusive church, Campbell expressed concern about the church hierarchy and the response to clerical abuse.

“Most of the guys who run this place haven’t dealt with an ordinary human being who’s been abused, an ordinary woman or a boy who has been abused,” she said.

“If you don’t deal with the people you don’t have your heart broken open. The bureaucracy is so afraid of having their heart broken that they hide.”

No Vatican officials are scheduled to speak at the conference, which has drawn leaders and activists from around the world.

At a media conference on Monday, Kerry Robinson, an American who is global ambassador of the Leadership Roundtable, said her foundation, which promotes best practices and accountability in Catholic Church management and finances, was working to help churchmen solve challenges and ensure women advance in the church.

“I think the conversations we are having with cardinals are having an impact,” Robinson said.

This is the fourth consecutive year that the Vatican has held the women’s event to coincide with the U.N.-sponsored International Women’s Day.

(Josephine McKenna covers the Vatican for RNS)

About the author

Josephine McKenna

Josephine McKenna has more than 30 years' experience in print, broadcast and interactive media. Based in Rome since 2007, she covered the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and election of Pope Francis and canonizations of their predecessors. Now she covers all things Vatican for RNS.


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  • It would be unreasonable I think, to deny that the hierarchy of the RCC has failed miserably to address the history of abuse within the church. That said, there are a number of high profile cases outside the RCC and within evangelical/mainline churches that have not been handled with the proper discipline and care as well.

  • 1. Pope Francis ended the investigation in 2015 only after the sisters capitulated to his demand for more oversight and that they disengage from social justice issues. In June 2016, the Sisters of Loretto were called back to the Vatican for further “correction.”
    2. Sr. Campbell was invited because, like Collins, she refuses to state that the misogyny in the Church – like refusing to protect children from sexual predators – comes from the top, the pope. When sex abuse commission member Peter Saunders stated the obvious he was booted out last year.

  • This is an extremely misleading headline. She did not make the comments “in a blunt talk at the Vatican.” She made them during an interview with Religion News Service. Accuracy matters more than clickbait. That’s unfortunate.

  • The Conference is always scheduled for the same time each year. Somehow, the MEN in Rome manage to schedule a retreat or some other excuse to avoid facing the women. It seems that many of the men in charge of this church from Rome to the parishes, are afraid of dealing with women, working WITH women, and even cut and run from attending this conference.

    The men hide, indeed they do. . Sr. Campbell is right on that, but it’s not because they are afraid of having their hearts broken, it’s because they don’t really care at all, and they are also afraid of what facing up to what they did, and facing up to how they treat women as well as children in this church, might do to their un-well-formed consciences, consciences that seem to have died long ago..

  • I’m really shocked that people avoided spending the afternoon listening to the sanctimonious ranting of this old man-hating leftist dyke parading as a Catholic religious.

  • Oh, we are so scared of you bus riding feminist activist political nuns. Oh, we are so scared.

  • Well, we learned from Wikileaks quite convincingly that all these fake left wing supposedly Catholic organizations are in fact set up by Democratic operatives to influence the Catholic church and to change it to make it more like they want it to be. I believe George Soros was also funding the Nuns on the bus, was he not? So no, no serious Catholic pays any attention to these rambling old political activists pretending to be nuns.

  • What a holy and humble individual. Her Lord and Savior George Soros will soon be calling her to Himself in the globalist rapture.

  • Wow. Makes me wonder why model of Christ’s church you’d promote. One in which basic decency and respect aren’t requisite?

  • The trolls are out in force today. It’s important to remember that trolls don’t care about anything except getting a rise out of the rest of us. They will say literally anything, especially if it gets an angry response. That’s how they get their best jollys.

  • The “decency” boat sailed on this dyke and all like her about 50 years ago. The good news is that the biological solution is afoot and the new vocations are orthodox. Pray for “sister” Campbell.

  • You can’t hear anything. Your antenna is only tuned to what you feel comfortable with.

    This dyke has been abusing the truth, and sullying the holy role of women’s religious for decades, all to purvey her nefarious, leftist, secular feminist bile. She’s crapped on Holy Mother Church from day one and doesn’t care how many souls she bulldozes in the process.

    Take the wadding out of your ears, if you have the guts.

    You want to genuinely love her? Pray for her repentance, and conversion to orthodoxy before it’s too late. She’s getting a little long in the tooth.

  • I have no idea what “biological solution” means, but I think you’re scaring me. Blocked.

  • Thank you for the reminder. That blocking tool is helpful. Lets you read only those things which further the conversation. Not the insults.

  • Use of the word “dyke” demonstrates your loathing for her. Thank you for demonstrating that I was correct in what I said.

  • If men are so afraid why do they still hold the power? Why? Christ chose 12 Apostles. Go finish ruining the Anflicans and Episcopalians and then come see us.

  • It is because men are afraid that they still hold the power.
    As for the 12 apostles he chose, let us never forget The apostle to the apostles.

  • There is a reason they don’t recycle tinfoil hats to fashion crosses.
    Or maybe, they do.

  • There is plenty of religious abuse of others– always called God’s holy word– to go around, Edward.
    God’s word is often used to justify what cannot be justified by any other means, including god’s word.

  • Trump lovers hate Sr.Simone. Congress is going to obey Trump since they are in servile fear of a Tweet Iie Bomb from him. We need to support Sister and all who are going to undergo the “carnage”of lost healthcare

  • May be its you Who needs the repentance so much hatred and vitriol n your. Comment.

  • Yes you are hiding behind the Internet like that. Scaredy cat scaredy cat chicken little.

  • JTliza do not forget that you are part dyke yourself. Biology doesn’t respect persons either.

  • That said was you think unreasonable but the hierarchy isn’t there to be its servant. The RCC is certainly in too many self-inflicted struggles from which it needs to self-cleanse from the inside out. That is where handling with discipline and care is within what is known to be past the power struggles internally. The case is very visible and hurts them more and more.

  • The one where all the “true believers” are called at the end times to the socialist paradise that they believe in.

  • Ah yes, the ubiquitous Mary Magdalene, buried everywhere. Just because she was the most gossipy just makes her a woman. The Church has no authority to change what Christ taught and did. What women (nuns) did not realize is that they were forming the Church by their students in the schools. Now they work for the Democratic party. Well the 100 left do.

  • As a student of oenology, your last statement is untrue – unless you like tons of sugar in it.

  • I do have trouble finding that precise reference in what Christ taught and did to justify misogyny and treating women differently then men.

  • Because one has different tasks does not oppression make. Women have had vast managerial positions and honors for millenia but renounced them to be “relevant” in polyester. Now, in effect, they are meaningless in the life of the Church unless they are part of a resurgent congregation, such as the Sisters of Chaity or various Dominican congregations. As to WHY Jesus did what he did, we have only his example – the Gentile world was full of priestesses which custom he rejected as he did divorce and remarriage. Quick, tell the Pope!!! As to why He did what, you can ask him when you meet him, maybe!

  • Dearest Hinesy – Sometimes does not a truth make. Name one BEST or GREAT wine made by bitter grames — And BTW, a typo does not a great comeback make.
    Talk about showing off. As far as lugubrious, most Episcopalians have plenty of reason, except for the ortyhodox who have broken away.

  • No one cares about sexism but professors and nuns – So where’s the wine – speaking of bullshit. And I assume tiny is female sexist or penis envy.

  • Do not know where you received your philosophy degree but your theology is messed up. Christians do not accept all the old testament, certainly not pigs eating anyone’s flesh.and there is certainly no metion of sexist pigs being subjected to pig cannibalism nor does Christ speak of vengeance.
    Why not just admit you are making it up as you go along and no good wine comes from bitter grapes and boy are you bitter!

  • My “METION” ? Is English your first language or are you translationg from the sanskrit. A little Irish Whiskey before the Solemnity? I think you hasd etter go find either AA or English as a second language.

  • Well Dear, too bad you cannont think of anything better than invective and insult. I guess you are fascinated by typos that other people would ignore. If that is the only way you can amuse yourself and attack others, I do not know how you made it through Oxford. BTW, I really enjoyed my dinners at the Feathers and spending time at Chatworth.
    Have another Jameson’s, you will feel much better!
    Were you using money from that slaver Rhodes? $ trump principles in “academic circles”.

  • Bitter Boy Bucci, you are making “metions” of yourself drunkenly
    there again, and you clearly “cannont” restrain yourself from boasting.

    Look back through your posts and you will see that the words I’ve used are actually your own, dummy, so there is your own invective and insult dripping down your face again.

  • Bitter boy Richard as you by Emmauel hasd etter take responsibility
    for your English second language metion. The ortyhodox words are your
    own and so worse even than Anflican but yours too.

    That is your metion as you said and you hasd etter not deny or you will face God’s burning from lowest parts up.

    Now that we have you fully compromised you are made with bad attitude metions only now and beyond, just as you show above.

  • Bitter Boy Bucci is a disgusting, poorly educated, sexist pig. He will burn in hell by Jesus’ wrath soon, from his lowest parts up.

  • Bitter Boy Bucci is a disgusting, poorly educated, sexist pig.
    He will burn in hell by Jesus’ wrath soon, from his lowest parts on

  • Bitter Boy Bucci is a disgusting, poorly educated, sexist pig.
    He will burn in hell by Jesus’ wrath soon, from his lowest parts

  • “I remember you insisting that I use only the documents of the Council of Trent to define transubstantiation, and did not accept Aquinas’ definition. Of course, as we both knew, Trent did not define it, because everyone knew that Aquinas had already done so.”

    Trent is part of the Magisterium.

    Aquinas had personal opinions, some of which were adopted by the Church, others of which were not.

    A discussion of transubstantiation in the context of Catholic teaching, then, would reference the Magisterium – Trent – not personal opinion – yours or Aquinas’.

    I recall also that because the word was the same, you wished to make Aristotle part of the Magisterium as well.

    You couldn’t debate your way out of a paper bag.

  • If anyone is reading this, Ebel is responding to a post of mine on an entirely different blog. He is, as is his wont, simply being an ar$ehole.

  • No, your current problem is that you wish refight old battles you’ve lost numerous times but will only do in fora where it is both off-topic and you’re surrounded by a phalanx of protectors.

    The adjective is “ch-cken-sh-t”.

    You appear to have passed your “sell by” date three decades ago.

  • This bill is a tax cut for the wealthy, and the actual lie is your pretense that it is not. Ever since I first came across you on-line 20 years ago, I knew you were ignorant, stupid and dishonest. Once again, you give me no reason to change that opinion.

  • The health care bill, no matter what the conservative propagandists say, is STILL simply a major tax cut for the rich, paid for by gutting healthcare for the poor. No one claiming to be a Christian can possibly support it.

    You continue to be stupid, ignorant, arrogant and dishonest, Marty. No wonder you are a Republican — you fit right in.

    You are now soloing in this conversation, since talking to liars is weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable.