(Reuters) - When Pope John Paul II arrived in the United States in 1979, the president of the nation's most powerful organization of nuns met him with a challenge.
In a bold welcoming address, Sister Theresa Kane called on the pope to include women "in all ministries of our church," including the priesthood. The pope sat silent, his expression stony.
That moment did not change Vatican policy.
But it unveiled growing tensions between the Vatican and American nuns. The conflict would continue to mount for the next three decades, until this week the Vatican finally moved to reassert control over the aging but still ferociously independent conference of Catholic sisters.
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This was a petty surprising story. No, I don't mean all of the details about decades of radical nuns thumbing their nose at Rome. That is hardly a news bulletin for Catholics of either the conservative or liberal stripe. Rather I am shocked, indeed almost stunned, by the at least somewhat balanced tone in the story. I can't imagine how it got by the editor.