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Toledo bishop to be guest on NPR show 'Fresh Air'

Interview follows one with leader of nuns group

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Toledo Bishop Leonard Blair helped lead a 'doctrinal assessment' of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, whose teachings on homosexuality and ordination of women were found 'problematic.'

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Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo is to be on the NPR show Fresh Air next week.

He follows a leader of an organization representing 80 percent of American Catholic nuns. As a guest , she discussed a Vatican review of the nuns organization. The bishop is a leader of the review.

The interview by Fresh Air host Terry Gross with Sister Pat Farrell, president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, was broadcast Tuesday. It focused on the organization's response to the findings of a two-year "doctrinal assessment" of the nuns group.

The assessment found the group's teachings to be "problematic" in certain areas, including the organization's position on homosexuality and the ordination of women and its "silence" on some foundational Catholic doctrines.

That assessment led to the reform initiative, headed by Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle and assisted by Bishop Blair and Bishop Thomas John Paprocki of Springfield, Ill.

Diocese spokesman Sally Oberski said Thursday that Bishop Blair would not comment on Sister Farrell's interview.

While saying she hoped there was a way the nuns and the Vatican could rectify the dispute, Sister Farrell defended her organization's stances. Nuns, she said, spend much of their time in "very close proximity of people at the margins" and experience situations that are not always black and white. Elements of the church can be removed from those real life situations, she said.

Teachings of faith shouldn't be static, she said, and can be informed by those experiences.

"Can you be Catholic and have a questioning mind?" she said. "That's what we're asking."

When Ms. Gross asked Sister Farrell how her organization's attempts to increase the role of women in the church were met in response by the Vatican appointing three men to review and reform the nuns group, she said it made her "deeply saddened and angered, and I think that's just offensive."

"And I think it reflects a serious misunderstanding and misinterpretation of who we are," she continued, "and I think it reflects the impoverishment of the church that has not held the leadership and the voice of women in a place of equal prominence … and to call that concern 'radical feminism' I just think reflects the fear of women in the church and the fear of what could happen if women were really listened to and taken seriously. "

Bishop Blair's interview will be taped Tuesday, said Arthur Ellis, executive director of communications and brand of WHYY, the Philadelphia station where Fresh Air originates.

Mr. Ellis said the earliest the interview will air is Wednesday, though the editing process or world events could delay that.

Locally, the interview is to be broadcast at noon Wednesday on WUOM-FM, 91.7, Ann Arbor (michiganradio.org) and at 3 p.m. Wednesday on WDET-FM, 101.9, Detroit (wdet.org).

Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: nrosenkrans@theblade.com or 419-724-6086.

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