'Maverick' Catholic Nun Banned From Speaking To Australian Church Over Progressive Views

Sister Joan Chittester, a powerful voice for female empowerment within the Catholic church, claimed her invitation to speak at a conference in Melbourne next year has been withdrawn.

Sister Joan Chittester has advocated on behalf of peace, human rights, women’s issues, and the renewal of the Catholic Church for over 40 years.

Chittester was set to visit Australia to speak at The National Catholic Education Conference next year, but claims she was recently told the invite had been rescinded.

In an interview with The New York Times, the nun, 83, alluded to her voice being suppressed in Australia due to having progressive views.

Sr Joan Chittister speaks during a pre-tape of "Meet the Press" in April 2006 in Washington, DC. Image: Alex Wong/Getty Images

"It is pathetic. These teachers for the next generation of thinkers are being denied the right to pursue ideas," she said.

Chittester, 83, maintains she had officially been invited to the event, but Catholic Education Melbourne told 10 daily this wasn't the case.

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"No one has [yet] been invited to speak at the September 2020 event," Acting Executive Director Jim Miles said.

Miles added it was "regrettable" Chittester was under the impression she had been invited to speak.

According to Chittester's interview with the NYT, she was booked for the event and later notified the offer had been revoked via an apologetic email.

“I am very saddened to say that while our organising committee strongly supported the inclusion of Sr Joan as a speaker at the conference, the Archbishop of Melbourne has failed to endorse her inclusion,” the email reportedly read.

Melbourne's Archbishop, Peter Comensoli, presides over the country's biggest diocese with 1.07 million Catholics in the city, according to the 2016 census.

He is a defender of the church's rigid stance on issues like euthanasia and same-sex marriage.

Chittester, on the other hand, has been described as a "maverick" of the church. She told The National Catholic Reporter in 2012 she "came to feminism through faith", and her work focuses on civil rights, education and healthcare.

In 2001, she was forbidden by the Vatican to speak on discipleship at a women's ordination conference in Ireland. She went and spoke anyway.

Last month, Oprah Winfrey said Sr Joan's message in her new book The Time Is Now was a "wake up call".

"I read this and I thought, gee, I am not doing enough. And you're going to see a change, even with me," Winfrey said, breaking into tears.

With the National Catholic Education Conference in Melbourne next year, Chittester told the NYT the church was in danger of doing "everything alone".

“It’s the last act of a dying mentality. All we can do is go on, go on.”