Sister Joan Chittister, 83, says she was informed by email telling her not to come as Archbishop Peter Comensoli of Melbourne had not endorsed the invitation
La Croix International staff
June 25, 2019
A well-known American nun, feminist and scholar has been rejected from speaking at a Catholic education conference in Melbourne apparently at the behest of the local archbishop.
Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister, 83, is in possession of an email telling her not to come as Archbishop Peter Comensoli of Melbourne had not endorsed the invitation.
Apparently, leaders of the Church in Australia, where roughly one in five children are educated by Catholic schools, don't like her ideas of empowering women and laypeople, reports The New York Times.
"It is pathetic," Sister Joan said in an interview from Erie, Pa., where she has lived and worked with the poor. "These teachers for the next generation of thinkers are being denied the right to pursue ideas," The New York Times quoted her as saying.
"I see it as a lot bigger than one conference… I see it as an attitude of mind that is dangerous to the church."
Jim Miles, acting executive director of Catholic Education Melbourne — one of the groups organizing the National Catholic Education Commission's annual conference where Sister Joan was expected to speak in September 2020 characterized the dispute as a communications failure.
He says no one had yet been formally invited to address the gathering.
"It is regrettable that Sister Joan Chittister may have been given the impression that she was invited to speak at the conference," he said. "The conference organizing committee is working to ensure that this type of miscommunication does not occur again," he said.
However, Sister Joan said that she had clearly been invited and that she later received an apologetic email rescinding the invitation.
"I am very saddened to say that while our organizing committee strongly supported the inclusion of Sister Joan as a speaker at the conference, the Archbishop of Melbourne has failed to endorse her inclusion," the email said.
The Archdiocese of Melbourne is yet to comment.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that many Catholic scholars were not surprised by the dispute as "Comensoli is a conservative moral theologian" who previously served as an auxiliary bishop in Sydney under the now incarcerated Cardinal George Pell when he was the archbishop there.
"His views generally reflect the widening divide between the church's leadership and many everyday Catholics," The Sydney Morning Herald said.