Religion: Surprise and Pain in the Cloister

The Vatican intervenes in a dispute among contemplative nuns

Roman Catholicism's religious orders prize their independence, especially when it comes to writing the constitutions that govern their lives. Thus it was no routine matter last week when the Vatican confirmed that it is usurping this traditional prerogative and writing a new constitution for the Discalced* Carmelite nuns.

Pope John Paul has a longstanding personal interest in the order. He refers to its founder, the mystic St. Teresa of Avila, and her colleague St. John of the Cross, as "the spiritual teachers of my interior life," and as a young priest he unsuccessfully sought permission to join a related Carmelite order....

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