‘Radical Grace’ | A Documentary About Three Feminist Nuns
This film comes at a major crossroads in the Catholic Church, and the nuns are everything that’s right with the institution. They stand with the marginalized, and won’t be bullied by the hierarchy. I feel a deep connection to the women featured in ‘Radical Grace’. ~ Susan Sarandon, ‘Radical Grace’ Executive Producer
In 2009, the Vatican launched two sweeping investigations of American nuns, headed by Mother Mary Clare Millea. The investigations were launched by Cardinal Franc Rodé, then prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (aka Congregation for Religious), who was concerned about “feminist spirit” among American sisters as well as “irregularities or omissions in American religious life.”
Luckily for the sisters, Rodé retired in January 2011 before the visitation was completed. His replacement, Braz de Aviz, who took a softer approach to the visitation even before Pope Francis assumed leadership at the Vatican. The National Catholic Reporter wrote in Dec. 2014 that even though Mother Millea was traditional by nature, she had reluctantly agreed to head the visitation team, because of her nonauthoritarian style and respect for the more secular sisters.
AOC tracked the story of the American nuns and Sister Simone Campbell, who famously took the media stage in Nuns on the Bus, as her NETWORK ministry hit the road in 2012 campaigning for America’s poor.
Note that in April 2015, the Vatican abruptly ended its takeover of the main leadership of American nuns two years ahead of schedule, in anticipation of a visit to America by Pope Francis in Fall 2015.
‘Radical Grace’ follows the extraordinary lives of Sister Simone Campbell, Sister Jean Hughes, and Sister Chris Schenk, American nows who believe more strongly in a vow of obedience to God than to the patriarchal Vatican hierarchy.
In America, the hearts and minds of ordinary Catholics were with the nuns, as protests spread on their behalf. From their cross country Nuns on the Bus tour, to serving those on the margins, to a continued struggle for Catholic women’s religious equality, these courageous and defiant sisters seek to transform American politics in the 201 elections — and the Church itself.
The ‘Radical Grace’ website affirms that the documentary seeks to launch a social impact campaign that will help reframe faith and morality as a force within America’s progressive movement.
When asked if the hard-line patriarchal hierarchy will dominate the Church in the 21st century, or will the sisters’ values of social justice and inclusion prevail, Sister Campbell answers: ‘I think the Holy Spirit makes mischief in surprising ways.’