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Sister Lavinia Byrne
"I'm being silenced at the moment"
 real 28k

The BBC's Emily Buchanan reports
"Her obedience is only to God"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 12 January, 2000, 06:07 GMT
Nun 'bullied' by Vatican

The Vatican The Vatican opposes the ordination of women


An eminent Catholic nun has resigned from her order, saying the Vatican has been "bullying" her to abandon support for women priests.

Dr Lavinia Byrne, 52, a teacher at the Cambridge Theological Federation and a regular on BBC Radio 4's Thought for the Day, has been a member of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary for 35 years.


They are behaving like the Inquisition. I feel bullied
Lavinia Byrne
She said she had a "dilemma of conscience" after asked by senior figures at the Vatican to state publicly that only men should be ordained as priests.

"I remain a loyal and committed member of the Roman Catholic Church," she said. "My quarrel is not with the Catholic church in this country but with...Rome.

"They are using techniques that seem to belong to another age. They are behaving like the Inquisition. I feel bullied."

Her book Women at the Altar, which set out arguments for women priests, was condemned by the Vatican when it came out seven years ago and its distribution banned, she says.

She has also argued in favour of contraception for married Catholics.

Vatican figures subsequently called on her to declare her opposition to women priests and back the Catholic church's stance against artificial birth control.

'Deeply sad'

She said she finally decided had no choice but to leave the religious order she joined at the age of 17.

"I am deeply sad to have to leave a religious congregation which has a splendid record of championing the place of women in the church and do so with great regret," she said.

"Women do some of the most bold and adventurous work in the church the world over, working with the poor, needy and disadvantaged as well as in universities, hospitals and schools.

"It is too easy to make them a sitting target by questioning their integrity and undermining their commitment to the Gospel.

"(I wrote the book) in total good faith at a time when discussion about women priests was the subject of open debate, especially in the UK."

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See also:
11 Jan 00 |  UK
Pope 'unlikely' to resign
07 Jan 00 |  UK
New archbishop faces emptying pews

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