Pope condemns economic inequality while the Vatican continues to censure nuns' anti-poverty work

There is a growing rift between Pope Francis' words and the entrenched positions of the Vatican

Published September 23, 2013 4:35PM (EDT)

Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, during the "Nuns on the Bus" tour.     (Associated Press)
Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, during the "Nuns on the Bus" tour. (Associated Press)

Pope Francis on Sunday strongly condemned economic inequality and what he called a global financial system that worships a “god of money.”

"We don't want this globalized economic system which does us so much harm," he said in remarks delivered during a trip to the Sardinian capital of Cagliari. "Men and women have to be at the centre [of an economic system] as God wants, not money."

Francis' unscripted remarks were prompted by a question from a married father of three who said he had been unemployed since losing his job with an alternative energy company four years ago. Unemployment "oppresses you and wears you out to the depths of your soul," Francesco Mattana told the pope.

"Excuse me if I use strong words, but where there is no work there is no dignity," Francis replied.

But Francis' increasing outspokenness on issues like economic inequality only further illustrate a growing rift between the pope's words and the entrenched policies and bureaucracies within the Vatican -- and church leadership in the United States.

Network, one of the most active groups within the Catholic church on issues of social justice and economic equality, is also one of the most marginalized by the Vatican and American bishops.

And the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an umbrella organization that represents 80 percent of Catholic nuns in the United States, also fell out of the Vatican's good graces for focusing on community-based anti-poverty efforts instead of gay marriage and abortion, precisely the kind of work the pope called for on Sunday.

As previously noted, "In the [Vatican] report admonishing the sisters, and stripping them of the independent authority to develop their own charter and conduct their own business, the Vatican said they were undermining 'issues of crucial importance to the life of Church and society, such as the Church’s Biblical view of family life and human sexuality” and promoting “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.'"


By Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

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