Madison diocese bans nuns from teaching at Catholic churches

Diocese memo expresses 'grave concern' about teachings of 2 nuns
Madison diocese bans nuns from teaching at Catholic churches

Differences in interfaith dialogue are prompting the Catholic Diocese of Madison to ban two of its nuns from teaching in Catholic churches.

Leaders of the faith on both sides of this issue agree finding the right message is key. At the heart of this debate rests the letter of spirit versus the letter of Catholic law.

A confidential memo, now made public by the diocese, sent to local priests, expresses “grave concern” regarding the teachings of sisters Maureen McDonnell and Lynn Lisbeth. The document bans both nuns from holding workshops or providing spiritual guidance at any of the churches in the diocese.

“This happens in our diocese occasionally,” said Monsignor Jim Bartylla, “Of course, across the country this happens all the time. The church monitors and makes sure the teachings in its parish are authentic and conformed to the Catholic teaching.”

At issue is the sisters’ involvement with Wisdom’s Well, an interfaith center, where the diocese said the message does not follow Catholic doctrine.

“This idea of relativizing or saying no religion has a hold on objective truth or to try to minimize that in a way that we call syncretism, where everything is about the same, nothing’s really different. There’s a problem there,” Bartylla said.

“I’m very saddened by it,” said Trudi Jenny, a Wisdom’s Well participant and friend of the nuns. “This is a year of celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Vatican II Council, which encourages interdenominational and interfaith conversations.”


Jenny, a practicing Catholic, said she’s found deeper spirituality through the Wisdom’s Well teachings of McDonnell and Lisbeth.

“I would hope there would be dialogue between the diocese and the sisters, and that there will be good resolution,” Jenny said.

The nuns are part of the Sinsinawa Dominicans. The Sinsinawa Dominicans released a statement saying they “wholeheartedly support our sisters and hold them in prayer.”