U.S. Nuns and the Vatican
An American nun crosses her hands in front of her Rosary Beads as more than 40 American Catholic nuns stroll through Hide Park in Sydney, Australia, Tuesday,A nun crosses her hands in front of her Rosary Beads as she attends World Youth Day celebrations in Australia. (AP).

An American nun crosses her hands in front of her Rosary Beads as she attends the 2008 World Youth Day celebrations in Australia. (AP)

In recent decades, the number of Catholic nuns in the United States has fallen dramatically, but their perspectives on spirituality, calling, and the Roman Catholic Church have broadened dramatically.

Many have left convent and habit — and some, Church teaching — far behind, to live more deeply in the world.

Now, the Vatican is investigating whether American nuns have strayed too far — whether they are “living in fidelity” to the religious life as prescribed by Rome. Some sisters are pushing back, charging inquisition.

This hour, On Point: What’s going on with America’s Catholic nuns.

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Joining us from New York is Laurie Goodstein, national religion correspondent for The New York Times. She’s covered American Catholic life for more than a decade. Her recent article, “U.S. Nuns Facing Vatican Scrutiny,” has stirred up some debate.

From Berkeley, Calif., we’re joined by Sister Sandra Schneiders, professor emerita of New Testament studies and spirituality at The Jesuit Theology School at Berkeley. She is a member of Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, an order in Monroe, Michigan. She has expressed concern publicly over the Vatican’s inquiry into American nuns, but makes clear that she’s speaking for herself, not her order or theology school.

From Pittsburgh, we’re joined by Sister Mary Traupman, a practicing attorney a member of Sisters of Divine Providence, an order in Allison Park, Pennsylvania. In her legal work she helps senior citizens with issues from guardianship to social security. She has also worked as a teacher and as a health care administrator.

And from Gallup, New Mexico, we’re joined by Mother Mary Quentin Sheridan, Superior General of The Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, Michigan. She is also a founder and current president of the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, which supports more traditional roles for women in Catholic religious orders.

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