Order Declines to Expel 2 Nuns Over Abortion Stand

Associated Press

Superiors are declining to expel two American nuns from their religious order for taking a widely publicized abortion stand contrary to church leaders’ views.

The two nuns, Barbara Ferraro and Patricia Hussey of Charleston, W.Va., apparently are the only two nuns whose cases had not been resolved out of 24 U.S. nuns threatened by the Vatican since late 1984 in connection with an abortion statement they signed at the height of that year’s presidential campaign.

Published as a paid advertisement in The New York Times, in part to counter U.S. Catholic leaders’ criticism of the position of Democratic vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro on abortion, the ad said staunch opposition to abortion was not the only legitimate Catholic stance. Ferraro is not related to the sister.


The Rome-based Sisters of Notre Dame “have grave concern” about the nuns’ public stands in recent months, including their appearance at a Washington rally in favor of women’s choice to have abortions, leaders of the religious order said. Despite such concern, after more than a year of consideration and discussion of the Times ad, the superiors told the Vatican, “We do not see in this action sufficient cause to initiate a process for dismissal.”

There was no immediate indication whether Vatican officials would press for such action.

They had said in December, 1984, that nuns among the ad’s 97 signers must retract in public or face expulsion from their orders.

However, leaders of the Sisters of Notre Dame noted that since then “this demand has been reduced to a request for the sister to say that she accepts the teaching of the church on abortion. The two sisters have refused to make the statement,” their superiors said, leaving the next step, if any, to Vatican officials.

Those officials have had little to say about any of the cases up to now, but sponsors of the original ad say 22 of the cases have been settled far short of retractions.

In a telephone interview from Charleston, where both she and Sister Patricia Hussey work in a shelter for the homeless, Sister Ferraro read a joint statement saying:

“The Sisters of Notre Dame, in relation with the (Vatican) Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes, have acted with integrity. We are glad that our congregation has claimed their autonomy as a religious community.”