“There were two investigations of Catholic sisters undertaken during Pope Benedict’s era,” Sister Florence Deacon, the current president of the [Leadership Conference of Women Religious], told The Daily Beast after Pope Benedict’s resignation announcement. One damning report quoted Pope John Paul II’s gratitude for the sisters’ “deep love of the church and generous service to God’s people” but then lashed out at the sisters for not toeing the Vatican’s party line. “While we appreciate this expression of gratitude, we found the whole process of the investigation flawed and question the findings and the mandate given to LCWR,” Deacon says. “We hope a new pope would be open to dialogue with the U.S. Catholic sisters and work with us to support our mission.”
Laudable optimism, but the Vatican doesn’t exactly have a rich history of proactively empowering under-represented or oppressed groups. I’m guessing the first papal retirement in nearly 600 years doesn’t indicate impending upheaval; you can bet that someone with the pope’s power and responsibility only retires voluntarily if he has an ironclad succession plan in place, and people generally want their successor to behave as much like themselves as possible.